Scoring a run in the bottom of the 7th to take the lead and then seven more in the bottom of the 8th to put the game away, the AZL Cubs closed out their 2010 Arizona League season by coasting past the AZL A's 11-4 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa Sunday night.
RHP (and ex-3B) Charles Thomas made his second AZL game appearance as a pitcher in tonight's game, throwing one scoreless inning (16 pitches - 12 strikes) and striking out two (both swinging). Thomas is no stranger to the mound, having been used as a "two-way" combination 3B/RHRP at Edward Waters College prior to being selected by the Cubs in the 10th round of the 2009 Rule 4 Draft. At 6'4 230+, Thomas is a load. He looks a bit like Lee Smith, and he throws just about as hard, too. He has good command of the strike-zone and he looks like he knows what he's doing out there. The son of a high-ranking U. S. Naval officer, Thomas spent most of his first two seasons in pro ball playing 3B, where he hit 244/297/357 in 88 games (342 PA) combined between the AZL Cubs (2009) and Peoria (2010), before getting sent down to Mesa from Peoria and making the move to the mound about a month ago.
In AZL Cubs roster news, RHP Tarlandus Mitchell (groin strain) has completed his rehab with the AZL Cubs and has rejoined Boise. and RHP Dallas Beeler (2010 41st round draft pick out of Oral Roberts U.) and RHP (ex-C) Alvaro Sosa have been moved up to Boise from the AZL Cubs, with more promotions possible tomorrow, what with the AZL season having concluded while Boise continues to play for another week. Beeler had TJS in 2009 and hadn't pitched much when he was selected by the Cubs in a lower round in this past June's draft, but he got an "overslot" bonus ($150,000) to sign. From what I have seen of him, he can throw three pitches for strikes, and he's a lot more polished than I would have expected for a guy who missed so much time over the past year.
The AZL Cubs finished the 2010 season 26-29, good for third place in the AZL East, 8-1/2 games behind the 1st place AZL Giants. The AZL Giants will advance into the AZL playoffs, playing the AZL Reds (AZL Wild Card) in a one-game playoff tomorrow night in Scottsdale to determine which team advances to the AZL Championship game Tuesday night against the winner of tomorrow night's game pitting the AZL Rangers (AZL North champion) against the AZL Brewers (AZL West champs) in Maryvale.
The 2010 AZL Cubs were not your typical Cubs offensive unit, leading the AZL in walks(!) and finishing 3rd in batting average and 4th in stolen bases, but only 10th in triples, and 11th in doubles and Home Runs, in a twelve-team league. The 2010 AZL Cubs were the epitome of an "opportunistic" offense, using walks, stolen bases, bunts, opponent's errors and mistakes, and situational hitting to score runs in drips and drabs (and watching this team was a bit like watching paint dry, too). Tonight's game was a perfect example, as the Cubs took advantage of seven walks, four errors, five wild pitches, and a passed ball, combined with ten singles (and no extra-base hits), to plate 11 runs.
Cubs 2009 5th round pick SS Wes Darvill (Canadian Junior National Team - Langley BC) is the most improved player, and 2B Pin-Chieh Chen is the best player down here who hasn't been promoted to Boise. (Darvill actually was demoted from Boise to AZL Cubs in July, at which point he started to play with confidence), and I would expect the Cubs to move them along together, just as they are doing with Hak-Ju Lee and Logan Watkins. Oddly, Chen has a shortstop's range and a strong arm, but it's scatter-gun so it plays better at 2B. while Darvill has a Ryan Theriot type arm that would probably be a better fit at 2B, but Darvill just plays better and with more confidence when he plays SS. Like Logan Watkins, Chen is a slap hitter and an outstanding bunter, but he needs to work on his base-stealing technique. Darvill looks like he might develop some power as his body matures (he's not there yet, but he's only 18), but he already can steal bases with ease. Both Darvill and Chen are very patient hitters (especially Darvill), and both are not afraid to go deep in the count and take a walk.
Another player who improved a lot during the course of the AZL season is 3B Dustin Geiger (Cubs 2010 24th round pick out of Merritt Island HS - Brevard County, FL). Drafted as a RF after playing 3B in HS, Geiger insisted on being allowed to remain at 3B before he would sign (he had accepted a scholarship to Central Florida and was expected to be a "tough sign"), and it looks like he knows himself pretty well. He has very good reactions to balls hit to 3rd base, and he has a plus-arm (a real cannon), too. If Josh Vitters could play 3B as well as Geiger does right now, the Cubs would not even be thinking about moving him to 1B. Geiger looks like he could develop HR power eventually, because he has plus-bat speed (he just needs to learn to elevate his swing a bit and maybe turn on inside pitches). He could really benefit from the coaching he'll get at the AZ Instructional League.
RHP Austin Reed (2010 12th round pick out of Rancho Cucamonga HS - Rancho Cucamonga, CA) is probably the top pitching prospect who finished the AZL season in Mesa. Reed's older brother Addison is the #1 starter at San Diego State and most scouts figured Austin would follow his brother to SDSU out of HS, but the Cubs enticed him with an over-slot bonus, and it looks like they got a good one. Reed has problems with his mechanics from time-to-time, but when he's got his release point & arm slot in the right places, he has electric stuff and is virtually unhittable. Looks like he might be another another Nick Struck.