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):


LINEUP:
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)


PITCHERS:
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)


ERRORS: (2)
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)


CATCHERS DEFENSE:
Engel Santana: 1 PB


=================================================


ATTENDANCE: 15 (mostly scouts)


WEATHER: Overcast & VERY breezy, with temperatures in the 80’s

Comments

Cubs 2010 5th round pick OF Matt Szczur, who returned to Villanova to play football, is suffering from a high ankle sprain and missed Nova's last game at Bill & Mary. Szczur must decide prior to the NFL combine next February whether he wants to play football or baseball, or at least he has to choose baseball at that time if he wants to collect the $500K bonus he gets if he opts for baseball over football.

AZ Phil, Thanks for these reports. There's no substitute for on-site observation and analysis, and you obviously have some contacts in the organization. Going thru the updated Roster Info, would you hazard an educated guess on how much of a reduction from $145M they're looking at for 2011? If Archer, Brett Jackson, and/or Carpenter have a ST like Colvin this year, do you think they would break camp with the team? Besides a LH 1B, would their next highest priority be a RHRP or a 3rd/4th SP? Thanks!

Submitted by George Altman on Tue, 10/05/2010 - 11:05am. AZ Phil, Going thru the updated Roster Info, would you hazard an educated guess on how much of a reduction from $145M they're looking at for 2011? If Archer, Brett Jackson, and/or Carpenter have a ST like Colvin this year, do you think they would break camp with the team? Besides a LH 1B, would their next highest priority be a RHRP or a 3rd/4th SP? ========================================= GEORGE A: Although the 2010 payroll was announced as $144M, the salaries paid out (including minor league players on optional assignment and money owed to players who were no longer with the team) was actually about $132.5M. One thing that MLB clubs do is spread signing bonuses evenly over the length of the contract for the purpose of determining luxury tax and revenue sharing, even if the bonus is actually paid in a lump-sum when the player signs his contract (as is usually the case). I would expect the Cubs actual 2011 payroll to be around $130M (announced as $135M), which means that with $119M the estimated projected 2011 payroll right now (see right sidebar), Hendry probably--right now, today--has about $11M in available 2011 payroll he can spend on free-agents (or veteran players acquired in trades), but with more $$$ available once players are non-tendered or traded. I think a LH 1B will be the Cubs #1 priority and a RHRP with some MLB closer experience is #2. I would be surprised if Hendry allocates any of the available 2011 payroll toward adding another starting pitcher, especially a #3 or #4 starter. If an ace somehow drops into his lap he'll probably reconsider, but otherwise I just can't see the Cubs adding a veteran MLB SP during the off-season. As for whether any of the Cubs top prospects (B. Jackson, J. Jackson, Archer, et al) break camp with the big club at the end of Spring Training 2011, it all depends on what needs the Cubs have at that time, and how the youngsters perform in ST. Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner were in a slightly different position in 2010, because the Cubs wanted an upgrade at SS so that they could move Theriot to 2B, and Cashner had been the #1 closer in college baseball (at TCU) in 2008 and so he was considered a good bet to be able to adjust to bullpen life in the big leagues with minimum difficulty, plus he throws about 2-3 MPH harder when he pitches out of the bullpen than he did as a SP.

Thanks, Phil.....this OF needs a trade involving Fukudome or Ricketts willingness to eat a lot of Soriano's contract with the latter being the least likely to ever happen.

Sorry if this is 3/44, but Matt Murton broke Ichiro's single season hits record in Japan. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5...

I figured they were just going to start walking him like they did Tuffy Rhodes... I bet there's an * in the record books for Ichiro. He is, after all, the second greatest player of all time.

Ichiro did it in 130 game season Murton in 144 games. /maris-ruth thing

When Murt made the move to Japan I thought it was a great opportunity for him to develop his power which could mean a ticket back to major league baseball. But nope. He's a dope. At least so far. It looks like he's pretty much producing at a rate like we saw in 2006 just with more at bats, a lower walk rate--and of course more hits. Here's all I could find in the way of stats for him this year: Murton, Matt (Tigers) .352 BA 17 HR 86 RBI .396 OBP 605 AB

one of the best AAAA players in quite a while.

Meh...could still be a decent bench player for soomeone.. .286/.352/.436 career. Good for Murton.

Reminds me of Fukudome's numbers before he came over.

The video reels of his hits look extremely familiar. He's not hitting the ball drastically better. Lots of ground balls through the infield and line drives to right that don't have very much threat behind them. I can't figure out why hasn't developed power, but sometimes I forget that it's not an easy thing to learn.

Ballpark Digest comments today on the Cubs-Mesa deal:
The Cubs and Mesa have described the lease as running 30 years, but that's not quite right: it's a 25-year lease with two five-year options, and the Cubs can leave after 20 with a buyout, as spelled out in the current Memo of Understanding between the team and Mesa. It is quite the doozy: Mesa pays for everything (including water and trash service; the Cubs will pay for electricity) and receives literally no revenue from the project past normal sales-tax* revenues. The Cubs retain everything, including naming rights, suite revenues, concessions and parking revenues. Which, apparently, was the price for keeping the Cubs in Mesa.
*Mesa Sales Tax is 1.75% which is added onto the Arizona state sales tax of 6.6% and the Maricopa county sales tax of 0.7% when you purchase retail items. All of which means that the average household in Mesa is on the hook (if voters approve) for $1000 plus interest to finance this deal but the State of Arizona, which contributed nothing, will be the beneficiary of most of the tax revenue generated by keeping the Cubs in Arizona.

What about the tax-free income that the area residents get from selling concessions and parking? Also, the residents of Mesa all luckiliy live in Arizona, and Maricopa county, so they've been benefitting from the sales taxes at HoHoKam, as well as the various other ballparks in the Phoenix area for years. It's not like the government takes the money out of Phoenix and spends it all in La Paz.

That ARZ mining money isn't coming in anymore like it was for decades...especially now that copper prices have become more sane and mining projects are being abandoned. ARZ still enjoys a relatively low taxation rate compared to most of the nation...which is probably part of the reason they have insane as hell redlight/stoplight/traffic fines to help pay for city services in the larger cities.

I should have also added that since I started going to ST games in the early 90's, Cubs tickets have increased in price 2 to 5 fold - yet the park hasn't had a great number of improvements made during that period.

tim hudson (nl) francisco liriano (al) comeback players of the year.

AZP - speculate please on the landing spot & contract terms for tr lilly...

Recent comments

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  • 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.