Cease Makes Snakes Desist Scoring Runs at Sloan Park
Alex Bautista slugged a two-run HR over the bullpen and onto the LF berm and Dylan Cease tossed three innings of shutout ball, as the AZL Cubs edged the AZL Diamondbacks 2-1 in Arizona League action Thursday night at Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ.
A Brooklyn native, 21-year old Victor Alexis "Alex" Bautista was the Cubs 22nd round draft pick out of Lindsey Wilson College (located in rural Kentucky, just down the road from the Dreamland Motel), and was a first-team NAIA All-American at LWC in 2015 after hitting a slick 371/466/728 with 19 HR & 72 RBI, 13 doubles, and 27 SB (9 CS) in 60 games (251 PA) for the Blue Raiders.
Bautista hit the game-winnig HR, but Robert Garcia went 4-4 for the Cubs, collecting four singles (including two bunt singles) to raise his batting average to .403 (good for second-best in the AZL). The 21-year old speedy switch-hitter almost always bunts once each game, but this time he decided to do it twice (and was successful both time). He is a real pain-in-the-ass to the opposition. Not satisfied with the four hits, Garcia also made two nice running catches in CF (he is an outstanding "flyhawk").
While AZL Cubs SP Dylan Cease did throw three shutout innings, he also continued to struggle a bit with command, throwing over 90% fastballs (35 out of his 38 pitches were fastballs) but only 53% for strikes, Still, he managed to work out of trouble in all three innings (he allowed a single, a double, two walks, and a wild pitch over the course of his outing), and was able to induce a high-percentage of ground balls (6/1 GO/FO) as well. He worked his fastball at 92-95 MPH in his first inning, and then got serious and elevated the FB velocity up to his more-typical 95-97 in his second and third innings.
RHP Trey McNutt (2014 shoulder surgery) had a poor outing (16 pitches - only 7 strikes), allowing a solo HR to the first man he faced (Ismael Pena) and then hitting two batters later in the inning. Now 25 (he turns 26 next month), McNutt's fastball continues to top out well below his one-time 96 MPH heater (it's 90-91 MPH at-best these days) and his once wipe-out slider is now a low-80's "show-me" breaking ball. McNutt is eligible to be a Rule 55 Minor League Free-agent (6YFA) post-2015, unless the Cubs offer him a 2016 minor league successor contract (and he accepts).
LHP (ex-OF) Ariel Ovando followed McNutt to the mound and worked ar 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. The 6'4 240+ Dominican was signed by the Houston Astros as a 16-year old slugging outfielder in 2010 (he received a $2.6M bonus, an Astro club-record IFA bonus at the time), but failed to develop as a hitter and was selected by the Cubs in the AAA Phase of the December 2014 Rule 5 Draft after Houston left him unprotected. The Cubs converted Ovando to a LHP at Minor League Camp this past March, but he did not pitch in any Minor League Camp games or Extended Spring Training games. He made his pro game debut as a pitcher versus the AZL Diamondbacks on June 23rd, and since then has allowed just one run on five hits and one walk with 13 strikeouts in 7.0 IP. But he doesn't rack-up the punch-outs with gas. Rather, Ovando mixes a mid-80's fastball with a slow curve (and a bit of decption), and in the process drives opposing hitters into raving, drooling, incontinent lunatics, crawling back to the bench with incredulous expressions on their faces that can best be described as grotesque.
Two more 2015 Cubs draft picks (both pitchers) made their pro debut in the game, as RHP Kyle Miller (19th round - Florida Atlantic) and RHP Scott Effross (15th round - Indiana U.) hurled an inning a piece. Effross throws harder than Miller (low 90's for Effross, upper 80's for Miller), and Effross also features a more-polished repertoire. While both pitchers are 21 (Miller is a week older than Effross), Miller appears to be more of a "project" at this point (he's a beanpole 6'2 165), while Effross should move quickly up the pipeline.
RHP Luis Hernandez collected the fairly rare two-inning save by protecting a narrow one-run lead in the 8th & 9th, easily retiring all six men he faced (striking out the last two). The 20-year old 6'5 Hernandez had a mediocre year last season with the AZL Cubs (5.11 ERA and 1.42 WHIP while moving back & forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation), and he did not pitch at Extended Spring Training this year. (He just began to throw bullpen sessions in mid-June). But since returning to game action earlier this month, Hernandez has thrown harder & harder each time, to where his fastball now runs the rails at 94-96 MPH. He mixes the upscale heater with an OK curve that keeps hitters off-balance, and so far he has been very effective in AZL games (he has yet to allow a run). This recent uptick in fastball velocity is especially noteworthy (and a bit odd), because Hernandez was throwing only 90-92 at Minor League Camp in March, before being shut-down for three months.
Here is the abridged box score from Thursday night's game (Cubs players only):
AZL CUBS LINEUP:
1. Robert Garcia, CF: 4-4 (1B, 1B, 1B+E5, 1B, SB)
2. Carlos Sepulveda, 2B: 0-4 (6-3, 6-4-3 DP, 4-3, 3-U)
3. Michael Foster, LF: 1-4 (L-9, 1B, F-9, K, R)
4. Alex Bautista, RF: 1-4 (K, HR, 5-3, 3-1, R, 2 RBI)
5. Jose Paniagua, 1B: 1-3 (1B, 5-3, 3-U)
6. Tyler Payne, DH: 0-3 (E-5, K, K)
7. Jhonny Pereda, C: 0-3 (6-4-3 DP, L-8, P-3)
8. Andruw Monasterio, SS: 0-3 (6-3, F-9, L-4)
9. Carlos Jimenez, 3B: 1-3 (K, 6-3, 1B)
AZL CUBS PITCHERS:
1. Dylan Cease: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 6/1 GO/FO, 38 pitches (20 strikes)
2. Trey McNutt: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 2 HBP, 1 HR, 0/2 GO/FO, 16 pitches (7 strikes)
3. Ariel Ovando: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GO/FO, 11 pitches (7 strikes)
4. Kyle Miller: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 GIDP, 2/0 GO/FO, 13 pitches (7 strikes)
5. Scott Effross: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GO/FO, 10 pitches (8 strikes)
6. Luis Hernandez: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/3 GO/FO, 31 pitches (20 strikes)
AZL CUBS ERRORS: NONE
AZL CUBS CATCHERS DEFENSE:
Jhonny Pereda: 1-1 CS
crunch 18 min 37 sec ago (view)
"Jeff Passan of ESPN writes that the players and league agreed that the 2020 season won't start until "there are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans, there are no travel restrictions and medical experts determine games will not pose a risk to health of teams and fans." Passan does add that the two sides "will consider the feasibility of playing in empty stadiums" and also at neutral sites.
crunch 6 hours 9 min ago (view)
i miss baseball. it could happen in june...it may happen in late may...it might not happen either way.
there's so many things getting messed up right now i would get lost making a list. there's some college guys making a serious "okay, we need to look at that guy" push that's dead. former cubs draft pick russell smith (2017, LHP highschool) took last season off for injury (TCU college) and returned with a low 90s fastball, impressive control, and a MLB-quality changeup. his "comeback" was 4 games and done thanks to this current situation...
JustSayin' 8 hours 37 min ago (view)
COVID 19 + a short draft + Manfred's obsessive drive to shrink the minor leagues will change baseball forever. It WAS still America's grass roots sport. Where I live, from June through August, you could see a quality live game any day of the week, within an hour's drive. I believe that era is over. What's going on will have ripple effects, contracting serious college ball, college summer leagues and independent pro ball just as much as the MiLB systems. With those changes, some of the game's charm will also go. I've seen a kid from Cape Cod play in the Ca
crunch 1 day 6 hours ago (view)
fyi for anyone who bought MLB.tv
for "some reason" getting a cancel+refund via phone is like pulling teeth, but if you contact them via a webpage contact request many people are getting a cancel+refund confirmation within an hour or 2...
bradsbeard 1 day 13 hours ago (view)
I imagine because the new labor agreement freezes rosters as of whenever the agreement is approved by the owners and it might affect what those guys are paid under the agreement.
Hagsag 1 day 15 hours ago (view)
AZ Phil. what was the reason that a whole bunch of teams optioned or assigned players to the minor leagues yesterday on March 26 ? Thanks.
Arizona Phil 1 day 19 hours ago (view)
jdrnym: Ordinarily, players on an MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) who are on Optional Assignment to the minors do not accrue MLB Service Time, are paid at the minor league rate rather than at the MLB rate if the player has a "split" contract, and if the player gets hurt or becomes sick after being optioned, he can be placed on a minor league IL instead of on an MLB IL (so that he cannot accrue MLB Service Time or be paid at the MLB rate while he is on the IL). Also, a player who is optioned to the minors for at least 20 days will burn an option year.
jdrnym 2 days 8 hours ago (view)
AZPhil, what are the technical ramifications of optioning/not optioning guys during this period of no baseball? Seems like some teams are more eager than others to trim their roster down.
crunch 3 days 11 hours ago (view)
"Major League Baseball has agreed with the MLBPA to grant a full year of service time to players in 2020 regardless of how many games the schedule includes.
Rosenthal adds, however, that the two sides have agreed to "table discussions" on how much service time the players would receive if the worst-case scenario plays out and the 2020 season has to be canceled entirely due to the coronavirus pandemic."
bradsbeard 5 days 6 hours ago (view)
This one has me scratching my head too. Surely they knew Lakins would have a hard time clearing waivers. Hate to just lose Pereda like that. Feels like they gave up more for Lakins than for Sadler, and I'm guessing Sadler might have been slightly more likely to clear waivers since he's out of options.
Arizona Phil 5 days 6 hours ago (view)
I think the most puzzling aspect to the Travis Lakins Caper is that the only plausible reason for the Cubs to have struck a pre-emptive trade with the Red Sox instead of waiting and hoping to win a waiver claim is that the Cubs believed that another club with a better waiver claim priority would almost certainly claim him. So to ensure that they would be able to acquire Lakins, the Cubs must have offered the Red Sox something more than the $50,000 waiver price, otherwise there would have been no point in the Red Sox agreeing to the deal.
crunch 5 days 9 hours ago (view)
RedSox acquire catcher Jhonny Pereda from the #Cubs, completing the January 21 trade for RHP Travis Lakins
...cubs lost lakins on waivers to BAL, btw
erich081 5 days 22 hours ago (view)
I wore my Rick Wilkins #2 shirsey today and kept thinking real baseball was only a week away. And then I remembered this weird alternate reality we've seemed to have slipped into. Hope everyone stays healthy and safe.
Hagsag 6 days 2 hours ago (view)
I am installing a padded room to sit in until this hell is over.
Charlie 6 days 7 hours ago (view)
Watched it yesterday with my girlfriend and while Skyping my dad. It was fun to give her running commentary since she's only been a Cubs fan for the last five years.
crunch 1 week 4 min ago (view)
MLB is sidestepping this "to the surface" pushing issue by choosing to "finacially support" minor league players according to a press release from a couple days ago. minor league pay has been a recent source of embarrassment for MLB...
i have no idea how robust this assistant will be, but anything less than 100% for most players (no matter the source) would be a disservice to future of the game.