Prepping for the first game of 2nd Round WBC play in San Diego on Sunday, Team Japan edged the Chicago Cubs 3-2 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park on a cool & breezy Thursday afternoon in Mesa, AZ.
Brad Snyder smacked a grand slam home run and Bobby Scales batted twice and drove in three runs with two singles to highlight a nine-run 7th, as the Cubs shutout the White Sox 13-0 before an all-time record crowd of 13,010 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in hot & sunny Mesa, Arizona.
UPDATE: The Cubs lost three players in the 2008 Rule 5 Draft this morning, one in the Major League Phase and two in the AAA Phase.
1. Donald Veal, LHP - selected off AAA Iowa roster by Pittsburgh Pirates with 4th overall pick in Major League Phase.
2. Yusuf Carter, OF - selected off AA Tennessee roster by Oakland A's in AAA Phase.
3. Mark Holliman, RHP - selected off AA Tennessee roster by Milwaukee Brewers in AAA Phase
The Cubs did not select any players, but they did acquire RHP David Patton from the Cincinnati Reds in a cash transaction after the conclusion of the draft. Patton was selected from the Colorado Rockies by the Reds with the 8th pick in the 1st round of the Major League Phase, and so the Cubs will assume the Rule 5 obligations (Patton must remain on Cubs 25-man roster for the entire 2009 season--or at least 90 days on the active roster if he spends time on the DL--before he can be optioned to the minors).
The 24-year old Patton is 6'3 175, and was selected by Colorado in the 12th round of the 2004 draft out of Green River CC in Washington. He struggled as a starter his first two years in pro ball before turning his career around after a move to the bullpen in 2006. He throws a hard breaking ball and has an above average fastball, and so he could project as an MLB reliever. The only problem is, he spent the last two years pitching in the California League (Hi-A), and has yet to throw even one inning of AA ball, although he did get into nine games with the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the AFL post-2008 (an atrocious 9.24 ERA and 2.13 WHIP in 12.2 IP).
All three of the Cubs players selected in today's Rule 5 Draft were 2005 Rule 4 Draft picks (Veal in the 2nd round out of Pima CC, Holliman in the 3rd round out of Ol' Miss, and Carter in the 12th round out of El Paso CC), and this was the first Rule 5 Draft for each player.
Veal is still only 24, and was rated one of the Cubs top pitching prospects for most of his time with the Cubs, before falling out of favor in 2008. Veal has a plus-curve and a 93 MPH fastball, but he has struggled with his mechanics throughout his pro career and tends to hit his pitch limit before he can get through five innings. To help him throw fewer pitches-per-inning, the Cubs had him junk his curve in favor of a more-pedestrian slider in 2008, and that could have led to his downfall. I suspect the Pirates will have Veal try and get back to where he was before the Cubs started messing with him. I have projected Veal as a future MLB reliever for some time now (I would compare him to Arthur Rhodes), and I believe that is his best chance to have success at the MLB level. He is very effective against left-handed hitters, and pitching more often but without a pitch limit (as will be the case if he works out of the bullpen) should help him find more consistency with his posture, release point, and arm slot.
The 25-year old Holliman was a "Friday Night Starter" (ace) at Ole Miss in his college days, and he had some success as a rotation starter the first half of 2006 and 2007 with the Cubs at Daytona and Tennessee. But then he would hit a wall at about 110 IP and was unable to finish strong. With it becoming increasingly obvious that Holliman lacked the stamina to throw the 180 innings per season needed to remain in the starting rotation, he was moved into a middle-relief role at AA in 2008, and that appears to be his future.
Drafted out of JC ball as a catcher, 23-year old Yusuf Carter was moved to RF his second year with the Cubs. He has a plus-arm and plus-power, but he is also a very raw hitter (226/275/409 hitter in 298 career minor league games) who strikes out a lot and rarely walks. He would have had to win a job as the 4th outfielder at Tennessee in 2009 if he had remained with the Cubs. He is the nephew of retired MLB star outfielder (and ex-Cub) Joe Carter.
When a Rule 5-eligible player is placed on a AA reserve list in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft (as was the case with Holliman and Carter), it usually means the player's club sees the player as having a 50/50 chance of getting released in Spring Training, and so the club is happy to get $12,000 for the player. And since they were selected in the AAA Phase of the Rule 5 Draft, Carter and Holliman will not be offered back to the Cubs. They are gone.
Veal's situation is a different matter, however, as he has to remain on the Pirates 25-man roster for the entire 2009 season (or a minimum of 90 days if he spends time on the DL) before he can be optioned to the minors. So it is possible that the Cubs could get Veal back, if the Pirates decide they can't afford to keep him in the big leagues for an entire season and if the other MLB clubs aren't interested in assuming the Rule 5 requirements.
-- AZ PHIL