Cub Pitchers and Hitters Shine under Overcast Arizona Skies
Hak-Ju Lee ripped a double and a triple, drove-in three runs, and scored another, Gioskar Amaya had three hits (two singles and a triple), two RBI, and two runs scored, and five pitchers combined to throw a four-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts, as the Cubs blanked the A’s Split Squad #1 7-0 in AZ Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this afternoon.
The game was halted with two outs in the top of the 9th after a severe thunderstorm came roaring into Mesa, causing BP screens and tarps to fly across Fitch Park amidst high winds, heavy rain, and lightning & thunder, as the Cubs ran for their clubhouse, the umpires hot-footed it for their dressing room, the A’s loaded up their gear (and themselves) into their two maxi-vans, and the scouts in attendance made a beeline for their cars parked in the lot across the street.
Josh Vitters got his first career start at 1st base today, a position he will supposedly be playing (at least occasionally) in the AFL (which begins play next week). He handled two chances flawlessly at the 1st sack, and also had three Plate Appearances during the course of the game, grounding out to second, rapping a single to RF, and lofting a pop out to 2B.
The Cubs got some really good pitching today, with 19-year old RHP Robinson Lopez (one of the pitchers acquired by the Cubs from Atlanta in the Derrek Lee deal) getting the start and throwing a shutout inning in what was his AZ Instructional League debut. Lopez mixed a 94 MPH fastball with a change-up and a hard-breaking slider to work through his one inning with a minimum of difficulty. He will probably be a rotation starter at Daytona next season.
22-year old RHP (and ex-3B) Charles Thomas (Cubs 2009 10th round draft pick) wowed the scouts in attendance, displaying a 98 MPH heater, a mid-80’s splitter, and a 82 MPH slider, and throwing all of his pitches with minimum effort. Thomas was a combination 3B/RHRP at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, FL (the alma mater of legendary Negro League player & manager and Cub coach & scout Buck O’Neil), but the Cubs drafted him as a third-baseman and played him there exclusively through most of his first two seasons in pro ball. But then he was moved to the mound this past July, and he had been working on his mechanics in side-sessions only for the past ten days after making his initial Instructs appearance in the first game on 9/23. At 6’4 230+ Thomas is an intimidating presence on the mound (he looks a bit like Lee Smith, or maybe Ray Lewis would be a better comparison), and he might be someone who could move very quickly up through the pipeline, as long as he can command his filthy stuff. At least he has a pitching background, so he won't have to spend as much time as some other conversion project would learning the basics of pitching.
RHP Aaron Kurcz continued to throw “lights out” in the AZ Instructional League, using a 95 MPH fastball and hard slider to strike out the first five men he faced (just blowing them away), before allowing a wind-aided double off the LF fence on what turned out to be the last pitch of the game (before the sky opened up and sent everybody running for cover). The 20-year old Kurcz was the Cubs 10th round draft pick out of the College of Southern Nevada (where his teammate was 2010 #1 overall draft pick Bryce Harper) this past June, and he has been absolutely mesmerizing no matter where the Cubs have sent him. He struck out 45 and allowed just 15 hits in 27.1 IP (with a 0.95 WHIP) combined between the AZL Cubs and Boise during the regular season, and he has allowed no runs on two hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts in just 7.2 IP over three outings so far at Instructs. I was told by a scout that Kurcz was overlooked because of his slight build (6'1 170), and while he might not have the physical intimidation factor of a Charles Thomas, his arm really packs a wallop.
Cubs Player Development Director and V. P. of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita arrived in Arizona this morning, and watched the game from the Observation Tower.
Here is today’s abridged box score (Cubs players only):
1. Hak-Ju Lee, SS: 2-4 (L-7, 3B, 2B, 5-3, 3 RBI, R)
2. Gioskar Amaya, 2B: 3-4 (K, 1B, 1B, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 R)
3a. Engel Santana, C: 1-2 (1-3, 1B)
3b. Sergio Burruel, C: 0-2 (L-8, 4-3, RBI)
4a. Josh Vitters, 1B: 1-3 (4-1, 1B, P-4)
4b. Ryan Cuneo, 1B: 0-1 (F-8)
5. Xavier Batista, RF: 1-3 (K, K, 2B)
6. Dustin Geiger, 3B-DH: 0-2 (K, F-8 SF, P-3, RBI)
7. Max Kwan, DH #1: 1-3 (2B, K, F-8, R)
8. Willson Contreras, DH-3B: 1-3 (1B, K, K, R)
9. Chris Huseby, LF: 2-3 (K, 1B, 1B, R)
10. Oliver Zapata, CF: 1-3 (K, 1B, 4-3, R)
1. Robinson Lopez: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 19 pitches (11 strikes)
2. Cam Greathouse: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HBP, 1 BALK, 1 GIDP, 51 pitches (33 strikes), 3/0 GO/FO
3. Dustin Fitzgerald: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 30 pitches (20 strikes), 1/5 GO/FO
4. Charles Thomas: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 12 pitches (7 strikes), 0/2 GO/FO
5. Aaron Kurcz: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K, 23 pitches (17 strikes)
1. 3B Dustin Geiger E-5 (fielding error allowed batter to reach base)
2. 3B Dustin Geiger E-5 (fielding error allowed batter to reach base)
Engel Santana: 1 PB
ATTENDANCE: 15 (mostly scouts)
WEATHER: Overcast & VERY breezy, with temperatures in the 80’s
JustSayin' 7 hours 45 min ago (view)
Solid % improvement for minor leaguers and nice to see the Cubs among the first organizations to break ranks to the upside. Three comments: 1. Yes, the bonus babies have already BEEN paid but that is the minority of these young men. 2.
crunch 10 hours 25 min ago (view)
more spring news...
i.happ expected to primarily play CF this spring. rizzo expected to primarily hit 2nd going into the season.
Charlie 16 hours 31 min ago (view)
That's fair. And the discussion would be different if Almora were heads and shoulders above Happ defensively, which seems (surprisingly) not to be the case.
bradsbeard 16 hours 44 min ago (view)
I'm not ready to write him off from the right side just yet. One of the things I believe about Happ is that switch hitters in general just take longer to establish themselves as hitters due to having to develop and maintain two separate swings. Given that he sees fewer lefties, you kind of have to give him a little more leeway to develop there I think.
Arizona Phil 16 hours 44 min ago (view)
jdrnym: No word yet on 2020 minor league active roster limits, but I doubt they will do anything new since the minor league 7-day IL with no doctor's note required (sometimes called the "phantom IL") allows clubs to easily rotate guys (especially pitchers) back & forth/on & off the active list.
Charlie 16 hours 51 min ago (view)
I didn't realize until today that the new network will be broadcasting almost every spring training game. Just a heads up for anyone else expecting the usual 4-6 broadcasts.
Charlie 17 hours 1 min ago (view)
I think he's going to strike out over 25% of the time, but he's shown that he can be an above average overall hitter even if he's only batting .230-.250.
I'm also not a big fan of the swing, and I'd be very skeptical of him if the ball is deadened. Stats suggest he'd benefit from a true platoon despite being a switch hitter. Sure would be nice if Almora could hold up the other end competently.
Hagsag 17 hours 3 min ago (view)
Kelly C. to the Braves. Damn it.
First.Pitch.120 18 hours 23 min ago (view)
Let us know if you see Dunderwood shagging flyballs in the OF...
First.Pitch.120 18 hours 28 min ago (view)
Re: 6-8, w/ JHey in the 6 hole there are a lot of interesting things that can happen 7-9. You have the 2B slot, Happ (CF), & P slot. Happ is a Switch hitter (though admittedly better LHH), roster looks to be long on 2B options from both sides (quality issues TBD, but promising IMHO), & a slot you with pinch hit for at least x2/gm. Lots of dbl switch possibilities (w/o jacking up the rest of your lineup)
That creates some brutal match up decisions for the opposing mgr right before recycling back to Bryzzo.
Dolorous Jon Lester 19 hours 12 min ago (view)
I think proving the K rate wasn't a fluke would go a long way toward convincing me.
bradsbeard 1 day 4 hours ago (view)
Hey, if you hate the swing there's probably nothing I can say to change your mind. I personally think it's one of the nicer looking ones on the team.
Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 5 hours ago (view)
Extended period of good hitting? Not striking out at deeply inopportune times? Some baseball IQ in regard to situational hitting?
I think I also just hate his swing. It's so long and loopy.
Wrigley Rat 1 day 6 hours ago (view)
C/1B Alberto Mineo (25) has re-signed with the Cubs organization according to: https://www.mister-baseball.com/alberto-mineo-mino...
bradsbeard 1 day 8 hours ago (view)
Happ has been an above average hitter every season he's been in the majors, and he killed it in his brief return from the minors last year (with better contact and lower K rates to boot). Aside from an extended period with the lower K rates, what else are you not seeing?
Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 8 hours ago (view)
Bote, for the moment, is adequate. Very unsold on the 2 LH hitting 2B options.
I have never seen it for Happ. I'd love for him to prove me wrong but I dont see it happening.