Rockies Roll But Little Shows Off Big Arm at Talking Stick

Colorado Rockies 2021 15th round draft pick Benjamin Sems doubled, singled, walked, reached base on an HBP, stole a base, and scored a run, Rockies 2021 6th round draft pick Braxton Fulford drilled an RBI single, walked, reached base twice on an HBP, and scored a run, Rockies 2021 10th round pick Zach Kokoska singled twice, scored a run, and drove-in another, and RHSP Case Williams (Rockies 2020 4th round pick) fired five innings of one-hit shutout ball, leading the Rockies to a 6-1 victory over the Cubs in AZ Instructional League game action Saturday morning on Dust Storm Field at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick east of Scottsdale, AZ. 

All told, the Rockies collected nine hits (eight singles and a double) and stole four bases, but they also took advantage of nine walks, six HBP, amd nine WP to claim the victory.

Felix Stevens tripled to lead-off the top of the eighth inning and scored on a 6-3 GO to account for the lone Cub run. 

SP Case Williams has had an unusual ride since being drafted by the Rockies out of a Colorado HS in 2020. He was one of two pitchers sent to the Reds last November in the deal that sent RHRP Robert Stephenson from Cincinnati to Colorado, and then he was reacquired by the Rockies from the Reds in exchange for RHRP Mychal Givens in a 2021 MLB Trade Deadline deal. Obviously the Rockies like Williams, and were probably thrilled to be given a chance to get him back. I can see why. 

LHP Luke Little (2020 4th round draft pick out of San Jacinto JC in Texas) got the start for the Cubs and was virtually unhittable, hurling 2.2 IP with eight strikeouts (all eight outs he recorded were by punch-out), as the Rockies were able to put only one ball into play (a ground single through the 5.5 hole by the second batter he faced). But the 21-year old 6'8 230+ lefty also struggled to throw strikes, issuing three walks, hitting two batters, and uncorking three WP during the course of his outing.

Despite the command issues, Little's stuff was electric, as he mixed a 95-98 MPH FB, a 90-92 CH, an 88-91 SL/CT, and a slow CV, all thrown with a release point closer to home than is the case with the average pitcher because of his long arms. Count him as another success story from the Cubs Mesa Pitch Lab, where he has spent most of the past 16 months since signing in June 2020.

Given his pitch mix, velo, and size, I would think Luke Little -- not be confused with another Cubs minor league LHP, 2018 1st round pick Brendon Little -- is probably among the Cubs' Top 10 pitching prospects right now, with a 2022 Opening Day starting pitcher assignment at Myrtle Beach (if not at South Bend) a distinct possibility.     

The 2021 AZIL Cubs finished their schedule with a 5-11-1 record. 19 games were originally scheduled, but one game was rained-out when a severe thunderstorm hit Mesa just as the game was about to start, and another was canceled because the opponent (the Rockies) didn't have enough pitchers available to play the game.

Of course the final AZIL W-L record isn't important, but it is what it is. Fact is, the 2021 AZIL Cubs were not exactly the 1927 Yankees in terms of game performance. They were shut out four times. That said, individual player development and team building is why the players were down here, and in that respect, Instructs was a definite success.

Many of the players who were at Instructs will return on November 1st for a four-month long conditioning & development program (with time off for Thanksgiving and Christmas) that will lead-up to the start of Minor League Camp in March.        

Here is the abridged box score from the game (Cubs players only):

CUBS LINEUP:
1. James Triandos Jr, 2B: 0-4 (L-9, L-7,5-3, 4-3)
2. Christian Olivo, SS: 0-4 (K, F-9, K, 5-3)
3. Christian Franklin, CF: 1-3 (1-3, K, 1B)
4. Bryce Ball, DH: 0-3 (K, 4-3, P-6)
5. Felix Stevens, RF: 1-3 (F-9, K, 3B, R)
6. Ronnier Quintero, C: 0-3 (4-3, 5-3, 6-3, RBI)
7. Liam Spence, 3B: 2-3 (1B, 1-3, 1B, PO) 
8. Peter Matt, 1B: 0-2 (5-4-3 DP, HBP, K)
9. Frank Hernandez, LF: 0-3 (L-5, 6-4-3 DP, K) 

CUBS PITCHERS
1. Luke Little: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 3 BB, 8 K, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 60 pitches (33 strikes)
2. Luis Angel Rodriguez: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R (2 ER), 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 0/3 GO/AO, 56 pitches (32 strikes)
3. Eduarniel Nunez: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 0 K, 1 GIDP, 1/0 GO/AO, 21 pitches (9 strikes) 
4. Yovanny Cabrera: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R (2 ER), 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 26 pitches (11 strikes)
5. Nicholas Padilla: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 1 GIDP, 1/0 GO/AO, 19 pitches (11 strikes) 

CUBS ERRORS: 1 
P Yovanny Cabrera: E-1 (errant pick-off attempt at 1st base allowed runner to advance to 3rd)

CUBS CATCHERS DEFENSE
Ronnier Quintero: 1-5 CS, 1 PB

ATTENDANCE: 24 

WEATHER: Sunny and breezy with temperatures in the 90's 

Arizona 
Scoring 
Service 

"Just because it isn't official doesn't mean it didn't happen" 

Comments

Phil, now that instructional scare finished, which players impressed you the most and who are disappointments.

azbobbop: Certainly LHSPs Drew Gray and Luke Little have emerged as legit significant high-end SP prospects. RHSP Luis Devers has probably displaced Koen Moreno as the top "pitchability" SP prospect in the lower levels of the Cubs system. Tyler Schlaffer (another "pitchability" guy) also had an impressive Instructs, although Devers is a better SP prospect because he has a solid three-pitch mix and knows how to use it, while Schlaffer has just the 92-94 FB & CV (although both are solid offerngs) and isn't as polished as Devers is. So barring injury, Gray, L. Little, Devers, Schlaffer, and K. Moreno should form what could be an outstanding starting rotation at Myrtle Beach coming out of Minor League Camp next Spring.

Minus one outing from hell at Angels when he got bombed in his third inning of work when he threw mainly his below-average FB, LHP Chase Watkins had a good Instructs, showing a consistent plus-CV as a swng & miss pitch and good command. Also, he is an advanced college pitcher and can throw multiple innings, so he could begin the 2022 season at South Bend as either a SP or as a multi-inning RP. 
 
BTW, the 2022 Myrtle Beach Pelicans Opening Day roster should be absolutely loaded and could be one of the most exciting Cubs farm clubs in recent memory. I may even move to Myrtle Beach just to watch them play. Marquee should probably consider broadcasting Myrtle Beach Pelicans games next season instead of Chicago Cubs games, because Myrtle Beach is where most of the organizations's best talent will be in 2022. 

Besides the five SP listed above, this projects to be the Pelicans 2022 lineup (with player's defensive versatility listed):   

1. Reggie Preciado, SS-2B-3B-OF 
2. James Triantos, 3B-2B 
3. Kevin Alcantara, CF-RF-LF 
4. Owen Caissie, LF-RF
5. Felix Stevens, RF-1B
6. Christian Franklin, LF-CF-RF  
7. Ronnier Quintero, C 
8. B. J. Murray, 1B-3B
9. Yeison Santana, 2B-SS
 
BENCH: 
Miguel Fabrizio, 1B-C
Peter Matt, 1B-3B-LF-RF
Ismael Mena, LF-CF-RF 
Rafael Morel, 3B-2B
Ezequiel Pagan, LF-CF-RF 
Malcom Quintero, C 
Bryan Serra, C-1B-2B-3B
Liam Spence, SS-2B-3B  

So get yer 2022 Myrtle Beach Pelicans season tickets now! 

Although he has played mostly SS and can absolutely handle the position, I strongly suspect that the Cubs will convert Reggie Preciado to a multi-positional INF-OF defender just as they have done with Christopher Morel. (And Preciado is a better prospect than C. Morel).

I think OF Parker Chavers will likely open the 2022 season at South Bend (he is a VERY polished player and didn't really need to work on much at Instructs). It is also very possible that older guys like Felix Stevens, Peter Matt, Liam Spence and/or Bryan Serra could open the 2022 season at South Bend, but that's TBD at Minor League Camp.  

It's also possible that some position players will be left behind at EXST just because there isn't room for them at Myrtle Beach. 

I also am not convinced that Ed Howard, Kevin Made, Luis Verdugo, Matt Mervis, and Ethan Hearn have necessarily graduated Lo-A and will absolutely for sure move-up to South Bend at the beginning of the 2022 season. Probably they will, but not for sure (again, TBD at Minor League Camp). For example, the Cubs may want to separate Howard and Made so they can both get maximum reps at SS in 2022, in which case which one moves-up to South Bend and which one stays at Myrtle Beach would have ro be decided at Minor League Camp.   

As for the Instructs "disappointments," I guess Ronnier Quintero would be #1, just because of the expectations that go with a $3M bonus. He continues to struggle behind the plate and he is not a good hitter. B. J. Murray did not build on his solid ACL season and had a rough time at the plate in instructs, and defensively he looks more comfortable at 1B than at 3B. RHP Porter Hodge has not progressed like Devers and Schlaffer and could be a candidate to be left behind at EXST. Yovanny Cabrera, Angel Gonzalez, and Dominic Hambley are remedial and will almost certainly return to ACL in 2022.   

Did you have any occasion to observe Pedro Ramirez? Not sure if he got into any games or not (now that I think of it, you wrote up at least one game he played in). 

BRADSBEARD: Just one game, some BP, infield practice, and baserunning drills. So not much to glean from that so far. 

This is the first time I have heard about the four month program in November. 

minor league baseball has to provide housing for minor leaguers starting 2022 (paid for by MLB parent clubs).  this is HUGE news and will make it possible for guys to stick around longer without having to quit the game just to earn a basic living.  for minor league players working in expensive housing markets this is a life saver.

activist players from the OAK and LAA minor league teams as well as minor league player labor advocacy organizations were a huge part of making this happen.  good work.

CRUNCH: One of the MLB clubs with their Spring Training / Minor League Complex on the west-side (I think it's either Texas or Kansas City in Surprise) is building a dorm for their minor leaguers right at the facility, just like at the MLB Dominican academies, where all of the players live together in a dorm on site.   

Many of the Cubs minor leaguers in Mesa have been living in a hotel across the street from Sloan Park, but it's really not available for minor league baseball players during a traditional Spring Training when the stadium is 100% open to fans and fans stay at that hotel. So I wouldn't be too surprised if the Cubs maybe look to build a players dorm somewhere near the Mesa facility (if they can find any open land in the area). 

I also wouldn't be surprised if some MLB clubs either build a dorm or purchase a motel (not a seedy one, but a decent one) to house players in close proximity to their full-season minor league clubs' stadiums. What you don't want is players living too far away from the stadium and/or in a bad neighborhood and having difficulty getting to the ballpark safely and on time. 

After all, minor league baseball (at least up through Hi-A or maybe even AA) is a lot like being in college. 

I've seen and heard about way too many guys quitting their dream before it's time.

Getting someone pregnant, getting married, getting tired of not saving any money for the 4th/5th/6th year in a row isn't a long-term life.

Guys getting to hold onto even a few thousand more dollars a year saves mental and physical toll and lets dreams live longer.

Teams buying a nearby hotel makes all kinds of sense. Retain the mgmt; operate it as is 85% of the time, but the team has ultimate "dibs" for its needs. A few years back, the UW hospital bought the Best Western that is 2 blocks away for this exact reason. As a regional medical center, often they had patients coming for procedures who were unable to travel afterwards or needed to have follow up. Made more $ sense to buy the hotel that have those people stay in the hospital in-patient. 

for those keeping track of the heating-up Mets head of baseball operations search, theo has already ruled himself out.

mets want(ed) some heavy hitters (including b.beane and d.stearns), but none of them are on board...well, MIL took stearns off the board before he could chime in because he has a year left on his contract.

e.castillo and t.payne off the 40man in 100% totally expected moves.

both are/were catcher organizational depth.

Carter Hawkins introduced to the press...

https://youtu.be/X9RV6bAIIfw

k.schwarber is hella good at post-season baseball.

* except for playing 1st base

any estimates on the chances of the DH in the NL anytime soon?

a lot of people were all-in on it being a 2022 thing, but given how MLB has held the DH over the player's heads like it's some kind of extremely valuable chip worth more than the players seem to think it's worth...who knows...

Cubs Reportedly Sign Powerful Infielder Alejandro Rivero Out of Indy Ball: https://www.bleachernation.com/cubs/2021/10/21/cubs-reportedly-sign-powe...

The Cleveland Indians have built a dorm for players and coaches right by their minor league fields. I believe the Padres also have a dorm in Peoria.