Your 2018 AZL Cubs #1! (and Your 2018 AZL Cubs #2, too!)

Here are the 2018 Opening Day rosters for AZL Cubs #1 and AZL Cubs #2 as of Monday morning 6/18. Since both teams are based at the same location (the Cubs Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ), moving a player from one AZL Cubs team to the other will be very easy and so it could occur fairly often (including anytime any day prior to game time). 


All of the MLB clubs that have Spring Training in Arizona (except the Colorado Rockies) field at least one team in the Arizona League (AZL). Along with the Giants and the Indians, the Cubs have added a second AZL team this season. (The Padres added a second AZL team last year). So there are 18 teams in the AZL in 2018. 

On nights when only one of the AZL Cubs teams is playing at home, that team will usually play in Sloan Park (the MLB Cubs Spring Training stadium). On nights when both AZL Cubs teams are playing at home at the same time (as is the case tonight on AZL Opening Day, when AZL Diamondbacks are at AZL Cubs #1 and AZL Reds are at AZL Cubs #2), one team will play in the stadium and the other will play across the street on Field #1 at the Riverview Baseball Complex (RBC Field #1 being the only Riverview "backfield" with lights).  

Teams that play in the AZL have a 35-man Reserve List limit - AND - a 35-man Active List limit (with 30 players designated "active" for each game, of which ten must be pitchers). 

Also, there is no restriction on minor league service time for players in the AZL until July 1st, at which point there can be no players with three or more years of MLB and/or minor league partial or full active seasons accrued (VSL/DSL seasons excluded) on active rosters.

A player on an Article XIX-C minor league rehab assignment from the MLB club or on a short-season rehab assignment from a Cubs minor league affiiate of a higher-classification do not count against the AZL team's reserve list or active list, and while there is no limit on the number of players on an MLB DL who can be assigned on an Article XIX-C minor league rehab assignment with any one minor league affiliate, a maximum of three minor league players can be assigned on a rehab assignment to any one AZL team and to the short-season Eugene affiliate at any one time.  

NOTE
: 2018 Rule 4 Draft picks and Rule 4 NDFA are in italics 

* bats or throws left 
# bats both


AZL CUBS #1
: 37+1

SS-R

PITCHERS: 18+1
* Jonathan Bruzual 
Fernando Calderon 
Alfredo Colorado
Danis Correa
Jeremiah Estrada
Emilio Ferrebus
Fauris Guerrero
Braxton Light 
Riley McCauley
Ivan Medina
* Pablo Ochoa (INACTIVE - 60-day DL - April 2018 TJS)
* Jack Patterson
Yunior Perez 
Peyton Remy
Paul Richan
Andry Rondon
* Didier Vargas
Carlos Vega
Blake Whitney 

CATCHERS: 4
Eric Gonzalez 
Alexander Guerra
Raymond Pena
Franklin Tineo 

INFIELDERS: 7
Clayton Daniel
Grant Fennell  
Luis Hidalgo
# Josue Huma
Orian Nunez
Herson Perez  
# Yonathan Perlaza (ACTIVE REHAB - on South Bend 7-day DL - off-season knee surgery)

OUTFIELDERS: 8
D. J. Artis
* Chris Coghlan (ACTIVE REHAB - on Iowa DL 7-day DL - shoulder)
Yovanny Cuevas
Brennen Davis
* Tolly Filotei 
# Jose Gutierrez
Kevin Moreno
* Abraham Rodriguez
MANAGER
Carmelo Martinez 

COACHES
Steve Janssen (Pitching Coach) 
Wes Long (Hitting Coach) 
Leo Perez (Assistant Coach) 

ATHLETIC TRAINER
Ike Ojata 

STRENGTH & CONDITIONING COACH
Mike McGrew

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


AZL CUBS #2
: 28+2

SS-R

PITCHERS: 15
Yovanny Cruz 
* Riger Fernandez
Hector Alonso Garcia
Jose M. Gonzalez
Chi-Feng Lee
Junior Marte
Brady Miller
M. T. Minacci
Erling Moreno (ACTIVE REHAB - on Myrtle Beach 7-day DL) 
Eduarniel Nunez
Carlos Ocampo
Raidel Orta
* Luis Silva
Nathan Sweeney
Jesus Tejada

CATCHERS
: 3+1
Richard Nunez
Henderson Perez
Malcom Quintero (RESTRICTED LIST)
Kevin Zamudio

INFIELDERS: 4+1
# Reivaj Garcia 
# Fidel Mejia 
Juan Mora (RESTRICTED LIST)
Henrry Pedra
Luis Verdugo

OUTFIELDERS: 6
Jose Alonso Gaitan
Jamie Galazin
Jose A. Gonzalez
Carlos Pacheco 
Luis Ubiera
Drew Wharton

MANAGER
Jonathan Mota 

COACHES
Claudio Almonte (Hittng Coach)
Mike Carter (Assistant Coach)
Jamie Vermilyea (Pitching Coach)

ATHLETIC TRAINER
Matthew Hussey 

Comments

Looks like two powerhouse teams to me!

AZ Phil: What can you tell us about Chi-Feng Lee? What kind of stuff does he have? I don't remember seeing or hearing anything about this signing - Thanks!

WRIGLEY BUMM: RHP Chi-Feng Lee was signed by the Cubs as an IFA out of Taiwan ($30,000 signing bonus) in July 2016. He was initially assigned to the MLB Australian Academy and then was invited to Cubs Minor League Camp in 2017, but he missed the entire 2017 season with an elbow injury (I don't know if it was TJS or something else). Lee is back pitching again in 2018, however, and he threw in several games at Extended Spring Training. He features a 90-MPH sinker, a solid curve, and a decent change-up, and he has outstanding command of all of his pitches. I don't think he's that much of a prospect at this point, but time will tell. Right now he just needs to pitch and stay healthy.

Phil, if a team wishes to remove an injured player from their 40-man roster by placing him on the 60-day DL but he’s currently on a minor league DL, would they be able to activate him for the sole purpose of recalling him and immediately putting him on the 60-day? Do minor leaguers need certification to return to active status? Is any of that even ethical? Thanks!

jdmym: If a player on Optional Assignment to the minors is placed on a minor league affiliate's 7-day DL, he can be reinstated from the minor league affiliate's 7-day DL (even if he is not healthy enough to play), recalled from his Optional Assignment, and placed on the MLB club's 60-day DL once he has spent at least seven days on the minor affiliate's 7-day DL.  

If that were to happen, the player's DL assignment "clock" would be reset because although time spent on an MLB 10-day DL can be applied toward the minimum number of days a player must spend on the MLB 60-day DL before he is eligible to be reinstated, time spent on a minor league DL cannot be applied to a subsequent MLB DL assignment.

Also, the player would begin to accrue MLB Service Time as soon as he is recalled and placed on the MLB 60-day DL, and that could eventually affect when the player becomes eligible for salary arbitration and free-agency.

In addition, a pre-arbitration player on Optional Assignment to the minors has a "split contract," meaning he is paid one salary while he is on Optional Assignment and a different (much higher) salary if he is on the MLB 25-man Active List or MLB 10-day or 60-day DL. 

So (for example), if Adbert Alzolay were to be reinstated from the Iowa 7-day DL, recalled from his Optional Assignment, and placed on the Cubs MLB 60-day DL, he would begin to accrue MLB Service Time - AND - his salary would immediately increase from his first-year minor league "split salary" ($44,500) to the MLB minimum salary ($555K) which would be pro-rated based on the number of days left in the MLB regular season (which as of today would be 103 days), meaning an increase from about $240 per day (minor league split salary daily rate) to roughly $3,000 per day (Major League daily minimum salary), or by the end of the MLB regular season an overall increase from about $25,000 to $300,000 (a difference of $275K) if the player remains on the MLB 60-day DL for the balance of the MLB regular season. 

So if it happened today, it would cost the Cubs about $275K in additional 2018 payroll to recall Alzolay and place him on the MLB 60-day DL (not to mention starting Alzolay's MLB Service Time "clock"), presuming he remains on the MLB 60-day DL for the remainder of the MLB regular season. 

Now that does NOT mean the Cubs wouldn't do it if they need Alzolay's 40-man roster slot at some point, just that there are a couple of "hidden costs" involved if they do. 

The Cubs are new to this "two teams in the AZL" thing, so much so that they had to use position players as pitchers to finish both of their AZL games Friday night (Eric Gonzalez and Raymond Pena for AZL Cubs #1 and Luis Ubiera for AZL Cubs #2), and neither game was a blow-out.

Fact is, the Cubs simply miscalculated the number of pitchers they would need to field two AZL teams during the first week of the AZL season (while their draft pick pitchers are still in the indoctrination throwing program), and they just didn't have enough healthy and rested pitchers to fill the entire nine innings in either game (fortunately neither game went into extra nnings or I might have had to pitch!). 

So the Cubs put up the "bat signal" and flew-up two pitchers from their DSL Academy Saturday morning that they had not intended to bring up until post-season AZ Instructs (RHPs Maikel Aguiar and Elias Herrera). 

Odd they'd miss something that basic. I wonder how soon they get Hoerner on a flight to join South Bend, who has no healthy SSs.

TIM: I would think either Ramsey Romano (an experienced multi-positional super-sub who is presently at Eugene), Yonathan Perlaza (who had knee surgery during Spring Training and is on the South Bend DL but who has been playing fairly regularly at 3B-2B-SS both at Extended Spring Training and now for AZL Cubs #1 on a "rehab assignment"), or AZL utility infielder Henrry Pedra (who can competently play 3B-2B-SS) would probably get the call-up if Rafael Narea is not ready to be reinstated from the DL.

TIM: The Cubs signed four second-contract minor league free-agent pitchers (Acevedo, Augusto, Guante, and Parra) to bolster their two DSL teams, but they decided not to do that for their two AZL teams because there will be as many as eight pitchers the Cubs selected in the 2018 draft (Richan, Casey, McCauley, Mort, Vega, Whitney, Patterson, and Sanders) who should be activated in the next day or two and the Cubs thought they could finesse their way through the first week of the AZL season with just the pitchers they'd had at Extended Spring Training. In hindsight they probably should have kept a couple or three of the pitchers they initially assigned to Eugene back at AZL until the draft picks were ready to pitch in games, especially with Ryan Williams assigned to Eugene.

Somebody sent me an e-mail to confirm that Didier Vargas struck out 11 in 7 innings(!) for AZL Cubs #1 at AZL A's last Saturday night (which was apparently reported at several different Cubs blogs and message boards), and no, he did not. I was at the game, and for some reason the official scorer combined Didier Vargas and Maikel Aguiar into one pitcher (even though Vargas is a LHP and Aguiar is a RHP). Hopefully it will be corrected at some point. 

So the actual "unofficial" pitching lines were: 

1. Didier Vargas: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R (1 ER), 4 BB, 5 K, 3/1 GO/AO, 70 pitches (33 strikes)   
2. Maikel Aguiar: 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 WP, 4/1 GO/AO, 54 pitches (39 strikes) - also committed a throwing error on an errant pick-off attempt at 1st base that allowed another runner to score from 3rd

If Vargas had pitched seven innings he was on pace to throw 150 pitches! 

After poor outings in his first two AZL starts, AZL Cubs #1 Opening Day starter LHP Didier Vargas retires 12 of the first 13 batters he faces and pitches five strong innings vs AZL White Sox Saturday night at Sloan Park. Game also featured the pro debuts of 2018 draft picks Luke Reynolds (at 3B) and Dalton Hurd (in CF). 

The Cubs have released OF Daniel Spingola (Cubs 2015 31st round pick - Georgia Tech) and IF-OF Ramsey Romano (Cubs 2017 31st round draft pick - Long Beach State). Spingola was at AA Tennessee and Ramsey was at Eugene. 

Ironically both Spingola and Romano were drafted by the Cubs twice. Neither signed the first time around.

No trade value on July second for IFA trade wedges, and away they go.

OF Tolly Filotei, 1B Luis Hidalgo, and OF Luis Ubiera have been released from AZL Cubs #1. With Cubs short-season affiliates' roster slots at a premium right now because of draft picks signing and needing to be activated, this was to be expected. It was just a matter of time. 

First actual postponed game due to rain yesterday for an AZL Cubs team as a monsoon storm passed through the Valley of the Sun at about 4 PM. Skies were clear by game time at 7 PM, but only the pitcher's mound and home plate area are covered by a tarp when the field is not in use so the infield was unplayable even though it had stopped raining at 5 PM.  

There was one other AZL Cubs game postponed last month (vs AZL Angels at Diablo Stadium in Tempe), but that was because the infield was flooded and unplayable after a member of the Diablo ground crew left the sprinkler system on too long prior to the start of the game. 

Despite wearing shin-guards, AZL Cubs #1 catcher Jonathan Soto suffered a left lower-leg injury and had to be carried off the field after crashing at full speed into the three-foot high brick wall behind home plate while attempting to catch a pop foul fly in the top of the 7th inning of Friday night's game between AZL Cubs #1 and the AZL Athletics at Sloan Park in Mesa.  

Why Soto was running at full speed at that particular location on the field is unclear, but it appeared that he did not see the ball in the air immediately, and then once he found it (and it was a catchable ball) he gallantly tried to make up for lost time by running at full speed to try and catch it, except the wall got in the way. 

And when I say Soto was carried off the field, I mean coach Leo Perez actually picked up Soto in his arms and loaded him on his back like a firefighter rescuing a smoke inhalation victim at a fire, transported Soto to the trainer's room behind the third base dugout, and then returned to the field about 30 seconds later and sprinted out to the Cubs bullpen in LF to warm-up reliever Fauris Guerrero (bullpen catcher Franklin Tineo was called-into the game to replace Soto behind the plate), doing a back-flip upon arrival in the pen.

It was probably the most impressive performance by a coach during a game I have ever seen. You had to see it to believe it. 

As for Soto, he was writhing in pain on the ground after colliding with the wall. The injury appeared to be in the left knee/left tibia area. Hopefully it isn't as bad as it looked. Soto is considered the Cubs #2 catching prospect (behind only Miguel Amaya). 

The AZL regular season concludes on Monday and then the playoffs start on Tuesday or Wednesday. It is a single-elimination process so it goes real fast (three days).

As far as the AZL playoffs are concerned, the Dodgers won both halves of the AZL West so they are in, AZL Cubs #1 have won 2nd half in AZL East (tied with D'backs for 1st half) so they are in, Indians #1 won 1st half of the AZL Central (and are tied with Indians #2 for 2nd half) so AZL Indians #1 are in, D'backs will be in with best Wild Card record (because Dodgers won both halves in the West), leaving the last two slots between AZL Indians #2, White Sox, and Cubs #2 (any of the three could still win AZL Central 2nd half although Indians #2 are ahead), and Indians #2, A's, or Giants Orange could get in as a 2nd Wild Card if Indians #1 don't win 2nd half in Central but two of the three would get in if Indians #1 wins 2nd half in the Central.  

And then Indians #1, Cubs #1, and Dodgers are in a virtual tie for best overall AZL record, so two of the three will get a bye the first day and the other one will host a first day game. The Diamondbacks (who are locked in with the 4th best overall record in the AZL) will host the other first day game. And the two teams who will play road games the first day will be (in most-likely order) either Indians #2 (in very good shape right now either as 2nd half West winner or Wild Card), A's, Giants Orange, White Sox (long-shot), and AZL Cubs #2 (extreme long-shot).   

Because of the importance of both games I attended the AZL Cubs #1 game at Angels and then the last part of the AZL Cubs #2 versus Indians #2 game Sunday night. I went to the Cubs #1 at Angels game at Diablo Stadium first, and then after that game ended (Cubs won easily 7-1), I hustled over to Sloan Park for what ended up being the 9th inning and two extra innings of the Indians #2 at Cubs #2 game. And the game at Sloan had one of the most exciting finishes to an AZL game I've ever seen.

The game was tied 5-5 after nine (Cubs blew a 4-0 lead in the middle innings before I got there and were even down 5-4 briefly only to tie it up in the bottom of the 7th), and the Indians and Cubs both scored a run in the 10th, and then after the Indians scored three in the top of the 11th to seemingly put the game away (scoring capped by a two-out two-run double by Brayan Rocchio), the Cubs scored four in the bottom of the 11th, the game ending on a walk-off E-6 (by that same Brayan Rocchio) on a two-out 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded, Cubs down 9-8, and all the runners on the move as the Indians shortstop fumbled a weak chopper (I would have scored it an infield hit + E6) as pinch-runner Jose Alonso Gaitan scored the tying run from third and then seeing the shortstop drop the ball, Fidel Mejia (who had made a costly throwing error in the top of the inning) made a Javy Baez-inspired mad dash home, too, scoring the winning run all the way from second base as the Indians infielders stood around looking at each other and wondering what just happened and where is the bus?

And I have to tell you, those AZL Cubs #2 kids really went wild, since it kept their playoff hopes alive for at least one more day.

So the way the AZL playoff picture shapes up going into the final day of the AZL regular season (Monday), Indians #1 and Cubs #1 now have the best overall records and so the winner of Monday's late afternoon game (5 PM local start) between Indians #1 and Cubs #1 at Sloan Park will definitely get the #1 seed, meaning a first day bye and home field in the second day game and then home field advantage in the Championship Series. The loser might get a first-day bye or might have to host a first-day game, depending on how the Dodgers fare Monday morning (10 AM local start) at Camelback Ranch versus the White Sox.

The Dodgers (right now with third best record among the division winners) and Diamondbacks (best record among Wild Card teams) would host a first day game - UNLESS - the Dodgers beat the White Sox on Monday, in which case the Dodgers would be the #2 seed (and would get a first-day bye and a second day home game) and the loser of Monday's Indians #1 at Cubs #1 game would drop to the #3 seed (but again, only if the Dodgers beat the White Sox, because if the Dodgers lose, they remain the #3 seed no matter what happens between Indians #1 and Cubs #1 at Sloan Park). But the D'backs are definitely the #4 seed no matter what.

Meanwhile, Indians #2 (despite losing a heart-breaker to Cubs #2 in Mesa on Sunday) are in as a Wild Card because the D'backs beat the A's at Fitch Park Sunday night and the A's and White Sox were the only teams that had a mathematical chance to catch Indians #2 for a Wild Card slot going into Sunday's action, but the A's loss on Sunday also eliminates the A's from playoff contention entirely because the A's don't play on Monday and Sunday's loss to the D'backs means the winner of Cubs #2 at Giants Black in Scottsdale Monday morning (11 AM local start) will for sure have a better overall record than the A's by the end of the day.

But the White Sox are actually the AZL team that is in control of its own destiny because they will get in as a Wild Card if they beat the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch Monday morning. That's all they have to do. If the White Sox beat the Dodgers, they would have a better overall record than the A's and the winner of the Cubs #2 at Giants Black game (and the White Sox even own the tie-breaker over Indians #2 if those two teams finish with identical records, which could happen), but if the Dodgers beat the White Sox, then not only do the Dodgers get the #2 seed and a first day bye (with the loser of Indians #1 at Cubs #1 dropping to the #3 seed), but the winner of Cubs #2 at Giants Black Monday morning will get in as the final Wild Card (and #6 seed) and the White Sox will be eliminated because the winner of the Cubs #2 at Giants Black game will have a better overall record than the loser of that game as well as a better overall record than both the A's and the White Sox (but again, that's only if the Dodgers beat the White Sox).

So here are the AZL seeds going into Monday's action:

FIRST DAY BYE THEN SECOND DAY HOME GAME:
1. Winner of Indians #1 at Cubs #1 on Monday late afternoon (this slot is locked-in)
2. Dodgers (but only if they beat White Sox on Monday morning), otherwise it's the loser of Indians #1 at Cubs #1

FIRST DAY HOME GAME THEN SECOND DAY ROAD GAME (SECOND DAY GAME ONLY IF STILL ALIVE)
3. Dodgers (if they lose to White Sox on Monday), otherwise it's the loser of Indians #1 at Cubs #1
4. Diamondbacks (this slot is locked-in)

FIRST AND SECOND DAY ROAD GAMES (SECOND DAY GAME ONLY IF STILL ALIVE):
5. Indians #2 (if Indians #2 win at Angels Monday late afternoon, or if Indians #2 lose at Angels and Dodgers beat White Sox), otherwise It's the White Sox if White Sox beat Dodgers and Indians #2 lose at Angels
6. White Sox (if White Sox beat Dodgers and Indians #2 win at Angels), otherwise it's Indians #2 if White Sox beat Dodgers and Indians #2 lose at Angels, but it's the winner of Cubs #2 at Giants Black game Monday morning if Dodgers beat White Sox.

The first two days of the AZL playoffs are single-elimination win-or-go-home games (probably on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week), leaving two teams standing. Then those two teams play a best two-out-of-three series for the AZL Championship (alternating HOME-ROAD-HOME based on best record) probably on Thursday, Friday, and (if necessary) Saturday. That's unless the powers that be (not sure who they are) decide to add an off-day at the beginning of the playoffs and/or prior to the Championship Series. NOTE: There were no off days before or during the AZL playoffs last year.

I really like the AZL's fast compact playoffs with no off days and where it's a March Madness style win-or-go-home to get to the Championship Series and then a nice short best two-out-of-three once two teams get there. It makes every game super-important. Some of the other minor leagues have playoffs that drag and drag and seem to take forever to conclude.  

MLB should take a cue from the AZL as well. Unlike some fans I really love the single MLB Wild Card Game (it's a "Game 7" without the first six games getting in the way), and I would like to see a best two-out-of-three LDS and LCS at the home parks of the clubs with the best records and with no off days as well. Just get it over with and get to the World Series already. And then the World Series can remain best four-out-of-seven with a couple of off days in between the 2-3-2 format game schedule.  

Also, I never, ever thought I would say this, but I really like the extra-inning rule where a runner (the batter who made the last out the previous inning) is placed at 2nd base to start an extra inning. I've been watching it in the AZL and it actually is really cool.

The pace of the game picks up at a point (extra innings) where it normally starts to go into a deep freeze and every inning has a sense of impending action and energy. There is even strategy involved, because the visiting team has to decide whether to play for one run with a sac bunt or go for more (especially if the heart of the order is due up to start the inning), and sometimes a manager will use a pinch-runner to replace the batter who made the last out the previous inning and that decision could impact a team's chance to score later in extras. 

I wouldn't want to see it used prior to the 10th inning, but I do like it in extra innings. Maybe in MLB it could be delayed until the 12th or 13th inning, but It does create a better chance that the game will end sooner rather than later, which (to me) beats watching some position player try to pitch in the 16th inning of a meaningful game. 

Interesting take, Phil.  I assumed most teams would sac bunt and play for one run.  

I'm with you -- maybe start it in the 11th or 12 inning.

For those of you who are wondering about AZL Cubs #1 LHP Danny Hultzen's stuff, he is featuring a plus-CH, a solid breaking ball (can't tell if it's SL or CV), an upper 80's two-seam FB that tops out at 90 MPH (he may be cutting it, too), and fairly decent command. He is eligible to pitch in the AFL if he is signed for 2019, so that does remain a possibility if the Cubs still have him under control post-2018. He presently projects as an MLB LHRP (possibly in 2019) if there are no medical setbacks going forward.   

Thanks, as usual, for the information.

 

Is there any official official word on what the Rangers are willing to "pay for" regarding Cole Hamels. The news fish-hooked, perhaps, over the last day or so. The Cubs may get less, if Hamels' option is picked up. Perhaps and maybe. Allegedly.

Phillies won’t pay anything for Cole Hamels. The Rangers are another story.

Edited.

It was a wild and wacky ending to the Cubs win-or-go-home AZL playoff game played at Sloan Park in Mesa Wednesday night.

The game was electric from the start. Both teams were hooting and hollering, whistling, banging bats against the benches to create a drum-effect, just making as much noise as they possibly could. Even the two bullpens were alive, carrying on like the Bleacher Bums at Wrigley Field. 

RHP Yunior Perez got the start for the Cubs, and he had a lot of difficulty throwing strikes. The Rangers loaded the bases on two walks and a single in the top of the 2nd, and then the fun began. A Beder Gutierrez bloop single over the shortstop's head plated two runs, but Cubs LF Ezequiel Pagan quickly picked up the ball and fired a laser to 3rd base to cut-down the runner attempting to advance from 1st to 3rd, except the throw short-hopped third-baseman Christopher Morel and bounced past him and off the fence in front of the Cubs third base dugout. Pitcher Perez was in a back up position directly behind home plate, so 250+ pounds catcher Alexander Guerra retrieved the ball, and made a 180 mid-air spin & throw to Perez (who was headed toward home plate but hadn't exactly gotten there yet), but the ball caromed off Perez's glove and bounded up the first base line and into right field, allowing Gutierrez to score, and thus completing the rare "Little League Grand Slam."

Meanwhile Rangers RHSP Billy Layne Jr was handling the Cubs without much bother, although the Cubs did score a run on a Yonathan Perlaza RBI single in the bottom of the 4th.

But things went south again for the Cubs in the top of the 5th.

With runners at 2nd & 3rd and one out, Cubs second-baseman Yonathan Perlaza caught a line-drive right behind 2nd base that would have been a slam-dunk sure-fire inning-ending unassisted L-4 double play... if he hadn't dropped the ball and then kicked it. So the runner scored from third, and the inning continued, eventually resulting in still another unearned Ranger run.

The Cubs made it 6-2 in the bottom of the 5th on a Kwangmin Kwon RBI ground single to right, and then things got really interesting in the bottom of the 6th. 

Perlaza doubled to lead off the inning (Perlaza is probably the best pure hitter on either of the two Cubs AZL squads, although defensively he's a train-wreck), and then Josue Huma drew a walk. Rafael Mejia grounded a sharp single through the 5.5 hole and into LF to drive-in Perlaza with the third Cub run, and then Orian Nunez drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. 

At this point Ranger manager Matt Siegel brought in LHRP Braden Pearson because the next three scheduled Cub batters hit from the left-side. Rather than put up a RH hitter to counter the Rangers move, Cub manager Carmelo Martinez elected to let offensively-challenged Ezequiel Pagan hit for himself, and he popped-up weakly to the Rangers third-baseman in foul territory near the Cub dugout. It looked like the Rangers would escape the jam with an inning-ending 3-2-3 DP when Edmond Americaan chopped a one-hopper to Ranger 1B Stanley Martinez, but the throw home was errant and pulled the catcher's foot off the plate, allowing Huma to score and leaving the bases loaded. Kwangmin Kwon struck out on three pitches for the second out, but then Christopher Morel (on an 0-2 pitch) crushed a ball over the centerfielder's head and off the warning track in CF, but unfortunately the ball bounced over the fence for an automatic double (Morel would have had a three-run bases-clearing stand-up triple if the ball had remained in play). 

So the game was now tied 6-6, and it remained that way through nine innings, as Cub relievers Dalton Geekie and Fauris Guerrero absolutely handcuffed Rangers hitters in innings 6-7-8-9.

The top of the 10th began with fireballin' Cub RHP Niels Stone on the mound and a Rangers runner placed at 2nd base. A sac-bunt moved the runner to 3rd, and after a HBP, SS Josue Huma made an outstanding catch on a line drive and then attempted to double the runner off first, but the throw sailed past first-baseman Rafael Mejia and bounced off the fence in front of the Rangers dugout, allowing the runner to score from 3rd with the go-ahead run. Carmelo Martinez came out on the field and argued that the runner at third did not tag up after the catch (and he was right), but none of the four umpires saw it (they could have asked me, I could have told them what happened), and so Carmelo was left steaming as he returned to the Cubs dugout with the Rangers taking a 7-6 lead. 

So with the Cubs down 7-6 and their season hanging in the balance, Yonathan Perlaza (who made the last out in the bottom of the 9th) was placed on 2nd base to begin the bottom of the 10th. Josue Huma squared to bunt but took two balls, and then bunted foul. On the 2-1 pitch, Huma laid down a bunt in front of home plate that was fielded by pitcher Erne Valdes. There was no play at third, so Valdes threw to first, and Huma would have (should have) been out easily, except Valdes delivered a one-hopper that the second baseman (covering 1st) could not pick cleanly, and so Huma was safe at 1st on a SH-E1.

With the potential tying run at 3rd base and the potential winning run on 1st base, Rafael Mejia took two strikes and then popped-up to the first-baseman in foul territory. The Rangers then pulled their infield in to try and cut down the tying run at the plate, but they had their outfielders continue to play "no doubles" (that is, deeper than normal), creating a huge gap between where the infielders were positioned and where the outfielders were stationed. And so what do you know, Orian Nunez looped a pop fly double right into that gap, allowing Perlaza to score the tying run, and advancing Huma to 3rd with what could be the winning run. 

This time Carmelo did not allow Pagan to face a LHP, instead sending up right-handed hitting Dalton Hurd to PH. The Rangers walked Hurd intentionally to load the bases and set up a force at any base, and then Edmond Americaan struck out on three pitches. So with two outs and few other options available, Carmelo sent up 18-year old Cuban Kevin Moreno (whose favorite player is Kris Bryant) to pinch-hit for Kwon, and somehow, someway, Moreno (who rarely plays because he is overmatched by AZL pitching) drew a game-winning walk-off four-pitch walk, sending the Cubs to the AZL Championship Series versus the AZL Dodgers (who also overcame a five-run deficit in their semi-final game victory against AZL Indians #2 on Wednesday).  

The Cubs immediately went into World Series level celebration mode after Huma crossed the plate with the winning run, jumping around on the field, dancing, singing, chanting, all the while Morel and Kwon were chasing after Moreno with coolers of Gatorade whose contents were eventually dumped over the young man's head.

Combined 2-0 two-hit 12-K shutout by LHSP Didier Vargas and RHRP Fauris Guerrero for AZL Cubs #1 at AZL Dodgers Friday night in what was an elimination game for the Cubs.

So the best of three AZL Championship Series is now tied 1-1 with the deciding game to be played Saturday at 5 PM (local time) at Sloan Park. RHP Jesus Tejada will get the start for the Cubs.

Friday's game was a scoreless tie "pitchers duel" through seven innings before the Cubs push across a run in the top of the 8th on a lead-off opposite field single to right by Christopher Morel, a walk, a fly out (both runners advance), and a Josue Huma sac fly (scoring Morel), and then the Cubs add an "insurance" run in the 9th as Dalton Hurd reaches 2nd base on a lead-off two base missed catch E-7, then an L-8 advances Hurd to third with the potential go-ahead run, and (with the Dodgers infield playing in) PH Franklin Tineo puts the ball in play and collects an RBI GO to short (no play at the plate as the speedy Hurd gets a great jump on contact), while Cubs relief ace Guerrero is retiring seven of the last eight Dodgers hitters (including five on strikeouts and a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th). 

Holy CRAP PHIL! Is there anything to get excited about re Vargas and Guerrero? BTW - Are they Mexican Intl. signings, by chance?

Not Phil, but 19 year old lefty pitchers that "show up" when needed are worth paying attention to.

 

Both have enough upside to reach and succeed in full-season ball in due time. And more. Full-season success can get you traded for MLB talent.

The follwing Cubs minor leaguers have used-up their eligibility to play in the DSL and so it will be "AZL or Bust" for them in 2019: 

C Daniel Diaz 
RHRP Wander Feliz 
RHRP Julio Guante 
RHRP Ronaldo Lopez
INF Ignacio Otano  
RHRP Omar Ventura

As such, D. Diaz has been already been assigned to AZL Cubs #1 and Ventura has already been assigned to AZL Cubs #2.   

With Wander Feliz and Ronaldo Lopez heving been released yesterday, only C Daniel Diaz, RHRP Julio Guante, INF Ignacio Otano, and RHRP Omar Ventura are DSL-excluded in 2019, and as I mentioned last September, D. Diaz and Ventura have already been assigned to Cubs AZL reserve lists (D. Diaz to AZL Cubs #1 and Ventura to AZL Cubs #2). 

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  • Eric S 1 hour 39 min ago (view)

    Not a hill I’m going to die on for sure, but compare the 2019 defense vs 2016, I believe Cubs are bottom half on defense.  Also, last info I saw on the topic, Cubs lead the majors in outs recorded on the basepaths.  At six games over .500, Four teams in the NL have better records than the Cubs, who are now tied with the Phillies and just a game ahead of the Brewers. I think it was Bill Parcells who said you are what your record says you are - have to agree here too. 

     

  • CubbyBlue 2 hours 13 min ago (view)

    I've lost the joy of making this Cub fan blow himself up.

    If I had continiued today, Dan would have dragged himself back into frame as a bloodied Leonardo DiCaprio and said, "I ain't afraid to die any more. I done it already."

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 5 hours 42 min ago (view)

    I wonder if Joe will talk about how he feels re: next years contract to media today?

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 5 hours 43 min ago (view)

    I don’t think Kintzler threw a single pitch where a Pirate swung and missed. All swings led to foul balls or that walk off hit. It was obvious he had nothing. The guy hadn’t pitched in over a week, so I can’t really blame him.

     

  • Jackstraw 6 hours 40 min ago (view)

    Cubs at home = Roadrunner

    Cubs on road = Wile E. Coyote

     

  • crunch 13 hours 33 min ago (view)

    23 years old and carving up the hopes and dreams of the very young kids he was pitching against...

    hard to take a 23 year old in DSL too seriously, but his numbers were filthy.  0.87 era, 0.48 whip, 11.6 k/9

     

  • Arizona Phil 13 hours 48 min ago (view)

    RHRP Marcos Encarnacion (DSL Cubs #2 closer) busted for PED (the ever-popular stanozolol), gets 72-game suspension that will carry through the 2020 season (he will be 25 in November 2020). Encarnacion formerly pitched in the Reds organization and was signed as a 23-year old second-contract FA by the Cubs in June. 

     

  • crunch 14 hours 15 min ago (view)

    truth.

     

  • Charlie 14 hours 22 min ago (view)

    By the end of this road trip, Bill might really have seen some things. No shortage of stuff to discuss in therapy.

     

  • crunch 14 hours 28 min ago (view)

    obligatory farnsworth flashback video...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZbG5MPsfYM

    some nice bonus "pissed off sarge" gary matthews in there, too...and dusty baker handling shit.  say what one wants about his lineup construction, dusty put up with some insane baseball attitudes with players he managed.  i still can't believe a clubhouse with jeff kent and barry bonds didn't result in attempted murder at the very least.

     

  • Charlie 14 hours 39 min ago (view)

    I think they are better than slightly above average in every area but the bullpen. Fangraphs WAR numbers suggest they are top 4 offense in the NL, top 5 rotation in NL, and bottom 5 bullpen in the NL. But that still suggests they should be right where they are, struggling to stay in the back of the pack of contenders for the postseason. So, that's probably close to what you are saying, but we could maybe attribute it mostly to one flaw--the bullpen.

     

  • Eric S 14 hours 47 min ago (view)

    Brandon Morrow says hello too re the front office’s best laid plans

     

  • Charlie 14 hours 56 min ago (view)

    Started to feel like I was watching Kyle Farnsworth and just knowing that he didn't have a way of getting the batter out.

    For those looking to identify the particular nightmare I was reliving: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/2004...

     

  • Charlie 15 hours 1 min ago (view)

    Kyle Ryan and Brandon Kintzler handling a 1-run lead in a 9th inning following a sweep to the Phillies. This is not the bullpen the front office has been trying to assemble. The closer, the setup man/backup closer (Strop), the future closer (Edwards), and the replacement closer (Kimbrel) have all fallen through in one way or another. If they can make the playoffs, I suppose we expect Kimbrel and Cishek as reinforcements? It's still going to be rough with Strop underperforming.

     

  • crunch 15 hours 30 min ago (view)

    this has been a particularly rough set of losses...ow.

     

  • Eric S 15 hours 31 min ago (view)

    The thing is, this Cub team has so many flaws you really can’t take the inevitable  meltdowns too harshly. The Cubs are a slightly above average team - that’s all