With all the hubbub surrounding Theo Epstein’s defection to Chicago, I almost completely failed to realize that the Arizona Fall League is now well underway. Never fear, though… today the AFL will receive it’s due.
The Cubs have eight farmhands representing the Mesa Solar Sox in Arizona this year. They include pitchers Jeff Beliveau, Chris Carpenter, Andrew Cashner, Marcus Hatley and Trey McNutt as well as infielders Junior Lake, DJ LeMahieu and Josh Vitters. There are some familiar names, and a few not-so-familiar. I, for one, had never heard of Marcus Hatley in my life. And I try to be up on my Cub prospects. So, let’s give these boys a look-see:
Jeff Beliveau: Jeff, an 18th round selection from the 2008 draft, worked his way to the Solar Sox by putting up some sparkling stats between high-A and AA in the 2011 season. Seriously. In 74.1 innings, his ERA was a microscopic 1.57. He struck out 89 batters and walked just 19. You’ve got my attention, Mr. Beliveau. Beliveau. That’s fun to say, isn’t it? Beliveau, Beliveau, Beliveau.
Jeff hasn’t pitched for Mesa yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
Chris Carpenter: Chris was the star of a Farm Boy Files posting here at The FBB about a year ago. He also got a shot in Chicago this season, pitching 9.2 innings and allowing three earned runs. He has been solid for the Solar Sox so far, logging a 2.70 ERA in five appearances. He has also struck out 10 to only one walk in his 6.2 innings. Keep it up, Chris!
Andrew Cashner: Cash is basically in Mesa for a sort of rehab stint. He is limited to relief appearances of two or fewer innings. He’s made three thus far, all one-inning deals and allowed two runs. Baby steps, Cash, baby steps…
Marcus Hatley: As I mentioned already, I’d never heard of Marcus until Saturday. Yet he has, apparently, been in the Cubs system since 2006. I am sorry, Marcus. I am better than that.
He missed some time between 09-10 due to Tommy John surgery, but came back strong in 2011 (which, I assume, is how he earned himself a berth in the prestigious AFL.) He bounded from low-A Peoria, to high-A Daytona, all the way to AA Tennessee this year, performing very well as a reliever at each stop. In 59.2 total innings, he registered a 3.32 ERA with 60 strikeouts and 11 saves.
Marcus has had a rougher go of it this fall (it should be noted that the AFL is notoriously hitter-friendly) putting up an unsightly 17.05 ERA in 6.1 IP. He’s allowed at least one earned run in each of his five appearances.
He’s got time to bounce back, however. And now that I know he exists, I will be cheering Marcus on all the way.
Trey McNutt: You probably already know that Kenneth Trey McNutt is regarded as the #1 pitching prospect in the Cubs system, but did you know that his real first name was Kenneth? I’m betting not. I only do because I covered him earlier this year. His name has been swirling about in the Boston compensation-talk rumors, but the Cubs won’t be letting go of the kid any time soon.
Trey’s numbers with Mesa thus far won’t blow you away (4.05 ERA in 6.2 IP, 1 K, 4 BB) but he appears to be working on a pretty sweet beard. So, there’s that.
Junior Lake: Junior has put up a great showing in his first 13 games as a Solar Sock. The young, toolsy short stop is batting .340/.407/.979 with four home runs, 11 RBI, and 13 runs scored. Add in his 10 stolen bases and you can definitely say that Lake is making a splash (pun totally intended.) He has done more than enough to move well up on my personal “watch” list.
DJ LeMahieu: You know DJ. He’s wore the Cubbie blue already (he’s the skinny one.) He’s batting .286 in Mesa, with a .375 OBP in 14 games. He has driven in 11 runs, and also scored 11. He may be figuring heavily into the Cubs plans in 2012, whether anyone likes it or not.
Josh Vitters: Joshy V. may finally be proving why he is perenially atop the list of Cubs top prospects. He is currently sitting at 4th in the AFL’s top batters with a .375 average. He’s knocked in 10 runs with two homers and three doubles, also recording six runs, four walks and two stolen bases in 11 games.
I’ve been a bit backed up blog-wise this week due to busy-ness and technical difficulties. Let us hope for smooth sailing from here on…
Today I thought I’d just fling around a few thoughts on the Cubs season thus far. It’s only been five days, but there is already plenty to talk about.
My scatter-brained thoughts on…
Tyler Colvin: Did you get a load of Tyler at first base yesterday??? He looked like a pro. I never would have expected as much, especially given the standard (years of Derrek Lee and, now, the very adept Carlos Pena) I can’t help holding him to. It was really a delight to behold. He’s had some delicious at-bats, too.
Carlos Pena: Speaking of Carlos Pena! How much do we love him already? Who could resist such gloviness or such smiles? I am happy he is on our team.
The Defense, in general: Much better, so far, than I expected. Starlin’s gems have outnumbered his hiccups. Mr. Pena has been great. Geovany Soto’s arm has saved us a number of times already. Nothing truly atrocious has happened in the outfield. Now if they can only keep it up…
Andrew Cashner: Cash put up a hey of a showing in his first ever major league start yesterday. Of course, given the Cubs fortune, his health is now in question. I am hoping and praying, for his sake and ours, that the shoulder tightness which forced Cash’s early exit proves to be nothing serious.
Matt Garza: Was very enjoyable to watch in his 12-K Cubs debut. Is even more fun to watch in the dugout during games he is not pitching.
Starlin Castro: I’ve tried to be objective when it comes to our young shortstop. I can’t do it anymore. I love this kid. He has thrilled me to my very tippy toes since I first watched him taking batting practice in Cincinnati last May. I can’t recall having as much satisfaction watching any single player as I have had watching Starlin. Of course, it is less than a week into the season. He probably is not going to maintain a batting average of over .500. Just the same, you have to think that we are going to have a whole lot of fun rooting for Starlin this year. And, hopefully, many many more years in the future.
The BIRDS: The droves of seagulls and low volumes of people have made Wrigley Field something of a sight these past few days, dontcha think?
Hopefully it doesn’t come to anything like this…
I shall conclude all my prediculating this week with an “in-depth” peek at the Chicago Cubs. Come to think, I’ll probably due some more once October hits, but no worries! That is many months off.
For now the end (mercifully, of both Predictorama! 2011 AND the off-season) is in sight. What better to do with these few remaining days than taking a stab or two at what the future may hold for Chicago’s North-siders?
This is Part One… look for Part Two on Thursday, Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise. To help measure my expectations, I have instituted a “system” of baby sloth hugs. The more hugs, the better, obviously. It’s not an exact science, though, so don’t read too much into it.
In 2010, I predicted that the Cubs would be neither as bad and people generally expected nor as good as they secretly hoped. Don’t think it cheap of me, but I pretty much expect the same for 2011. That’s about all I have to say on the team as a whole. I’ll take the rest of this preview player-by-player, going in alphabetical order. Ready? Here we go.
Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney, Blake DeWitt: It is hard to say who will see the most playing time at second base. I consulted a magic-8 ball, but it was noncommittal, so I am lumping these gentlemen all together. Their names are conveniently close together alphabetically. I am strongly of the opinion that we need something cool to call this infielding trio. “Killer B’s” has been done… do you think “Bakey, Blakey & Barney” works, or does it sound too much like a law firm of babies? I am wide open to any better-suited suggestions.
Marlon Byrd: I am prepared to award Mr. Byrd 5 baby sloth hugs per web gem he makes. That should add up to something like 7,000 hugs, right? I forecast a slight drop-off from the offensive stats he put up in 2010. Nothing drastic. Byrd will continue to be the Wyrd.
Additional Note: Baby sloth would highly approve bringing back the post game victory hug that was instituted for a time last season.
Andrew Cashner: I am delighted that Cash was awarded a spot in the starting rotation and have every hope of his holding his own there. I expect we’ll see some flashes of brilliance interspersed with a few rough periods. Don’t lose heart, though. He’s gonna be alright, in the long run.
Starlin Castro: If Darlin’ Starlin continues to play in the regular season like he has in the spring, and improves a bit in the field, I will buy him a pony and grant him infinite baby sloth hugs.
Tyler Colvin: Will easily become the most popular “TyCo” in the Midwest since beanie babies. With any luck, he will hold onto his value better. Speaking of which, what will anyone give me for a Patti the Platypus (near-mint condition)?
Ryan Dempster: I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that Demp will have another solid year. Who could ask for a steadier, more reliable pitcher? Or a more genuinely like human being, for that matter? Baby sloth hugs: lots and lots.
Kosuke Fukudome: I would be no more surprised to see Fu put up respectable numbers than I would be to see him wearing a different team’s uniform by August. Doesn’t really need any baby sloth hugs, as he has an adorable Asian child of his own to embrace at his leisure.
Matt Garza: Matt gets two baby sloth hugs for every different muppet he will remind me of this season. That’ll add up to more than a few. Pitching-wise, I am going to be optimistic and predict 14-15 wins and an ERA in the mid 3’s.
John Grabow: I honestly believe that John G. will exceed expectations this season. I’m not saying he won’t eat a few kittens along the way, but I have a generally positive feeling. 12 baby sloth hugs, one for each hold I predict John will record.
Koyie Hill: I hear more lamentations about Koyie than any other individual on the team. I’ll stick up for him, not just because I like him, because I don’t find it entirely fair. There aren’t more than half a dozen really good starting catchers in the major leagues. It’s almost funny that people seem to expect so much from a back-up. I can only owe it to the fact that we were spoiled for several years with Henry Blanco, who was exceptional for a second string guy. I am sorely tempted to do a bit of a study on back-up catchers. I may well do it, if I continue to be provoked by peoples treatment of Koyie. Really, I would just implore that folks be a bit more realistic. That’s all.
I grant Mr. Hill one baby sloth hug per insult he receives this year. I hope they are less than in 2010.
Happy Wednesday, one and all, and a belated happy beginning-of-spring-training! All I’ve got for you today is some photos I’ve scavenged up from around the web and a few thoughts on the spring’s early goings-on.
A familiar face at Yankees camp.
A first glimpse of Matt Garza in Cubbie blue, courtesy Tim Sheridan.
It seems the Cubs have gotten new warm-up jerseys for this year. I like the old ones better.
Buzz!: Mr. Carlos Marmol and the Cubs reached an agreement on a three year deal worth 20-million smackeroos this week. Congratulation, Marmee. Please, please live up to this.
Tyler Colvin is ready to go. Notice the patch on his sleeve.
Buzz!: Carlos Silva has no intentions of yielding “his” spot in the starting rotation. Says he, “For [the other candidates] it’s open, or whoever is competing. For me, there’s only one spot open. I am one of the starters, you know what I mean. Whatever they think, they think that, not me.” Confidence is nice, but you still gotta go earn it, Carlos #3.
-The Cubs traded infield prospect Tony Thomas to the Boston Red Sox for right-handed pitcher Robert Coello yesterday.
Coello was drafted as a catcher, but was converted to a pitcher in 2007 while in the Angels organization. He made his major league debut with Boston last September. He made relief appearances in 6 games, compiling a 4.76 ERA. He has pitched 242.0 innings in the minor leagues and racked up 286 K’s (to 109 walks) to go along with a 2.98 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
-Brett Jackson launched a home run on Tuesday that broke the windshield of a passing car outside of Fitch Park.
-Kiddo James Russell had the following pearl to offer when asked about himself and fellow Texan Andrew Cashner: “We’re young and dumb and ready to throw strikes.” That’s what I like to hear.
-Albert Pujols. Sigh. I’m not one for speculation, but if I had to, I’d speculate that Mr. Pujols and the Cardinals will end up working it out in the end.
Think of what I’m saying, they can work it out and get it straight or say goodnight. They can work it out. They can work it out! Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.
Cough. Anyway, it isn’t that I wouldn’t like to have Albert on our side or anything. Even so, signing players to contracts for lots of years and obscene amounts of money hasn’t really worked for us and I think it would be a very rash thing to do (on the chance that the opportunity should present itself.)
A good chunk of this post ought to have been put up yesterday. Since that didn’t end up happening, however, I’m just gonna cram it all in today. Double your pleasure, double your fun!
I’m going to plunge right in and try to hit on the highlights. If you’re interested in a more comprehensive recap, look no further than ChicagoCubsOnline.com. They’ve got days 1, 2, AND 3 covered, with actual play-by-play of many of the seminars. So three cheers for the folks at CCO and their fantastical work!
The boys in blue look on during Opening Ceremonies on Friday. Continue reading
I can’t count the number of times during 2010 when I heard someone say, “[Fill in the blank] has been the only good thing about this Cubs season.” Or, “[Fill in the blank] has been the only bright spot this year.” The funny thing is, there were about five or six different things that filled in the blanks. Truthfully, there were at least five good things about the Cubs 2010 season.
Now that the season is over, I imagine that the average Cubs blogger will be dwelling on the bad things (Heaven knows there were plenty of them) and what needs to be done to remedy them. I want to dedicate at least this one post to the not bad stuff.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Sean Marshall
2. Carlos Marmol
Some people would complain that Mr. Marmol’s control is too erratic for him to ever be considered a good closer. Personally, I think 38 saves in 43 opportunities is pretty solid, and I’ll take that 52-to-138 walk-to-strikeout ratio. 138 strikeouts is a record number for a reliever in one season. Also, his WHIP was 1.18 and opponents only hit .147 off of him. Yep. I’ll take that any day of the week.
3. All the ‘C’ rookies
Tyler Colvin. Starlin Castro. Andrew Cashner. Casey Coleman. The Cubs may not have led the National League in many categories, but I’ll wager no one else came close in production of young talent with names that begin with the letter “C.”
4. Ryan Dempster
5. Geovany Soto
6. Marlon Byrd
I saved the best for last. Dear Marlon… clear-cut team MVP, our lone All-Star representative, instigator of the celebratory outfield hug, center-fielder extraordinaire. I severely chastise myself (and any other fans) who may have ever doubted him, because he was one of the best things about the Cubs in 2010.