Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cubs Rule 5 Recap

As usual, none of my Rule 5 predictions were even close. Most of the targets I thought the Cubs would consider with the 2nd pick weren't even selected by any other teams. I feel a little better since only 4 of top 20 rule 5 prospects on the were selected. It's a crap shoot. Anyway, here is a brief scouting report on the Cubs Rule 5 selection, RP Hector Rondon, and an overview of who the Cubs lost.

Hector Rondon  
Throws: Right, Position: RP Age:24
Height: 6' 3", Weight: 180 lb.

Rondon is a former top 10 prospect of the Indians who has struggled to stay healthy the last three years. Rondon made it to AAA in 2010 before his season was derailed with TJ surgery, so before his injury at least he was close to big league ready. Reports have Rondon throwing in the high 90s in winter league ball with good movement so barring another injury, Rondon should be ready to go in spring training and has a good shot to break camp with the Cubs as a power bullpen arm. Here is a scouting report from Scouting Book:
A relatively unknown pitcher hidden in the Cleveland system, righthander Hector Rondon uses his darting 93mph fastball and MLB-ready breaking ball heavily, and both are highly effective when he commands them... which is most of the time. He stumbled in an injury-riddled 2010, however, and reinjured his elbow again in 2011. He's being rebuilt this spring, and should begin rehab work in late summer. We won't know if he really has anything left until winter, 2012. (

I figured the Cubs would select a power arm, but had never heard of Rondon before today. From the reports I've read I'm happy with the pick and excited to see him pitch. On a sad note here is a list of players  the Cubs lost in the Rule 5 draft (majors & minors):

Straling Peralta (Diamondbacks)
Throws: Right, Position: SP Age:22
Height: 6' 4", Weight: 180 lb.

This hurts. Peralta is a high ceiling SP prospect with mid 90s heat and a + slider as his out pitch. He pitched well this year in low A (3.44 ERA, 7.9 K/9) but wasn't dominant and low A is a long way from the bigs. I'm hoping he's far enough away that he doesn't stick on the D-Backs roster, but with 2 + pitches he could be good enough out of the bullpen to stick as a long relief / mop-up guy.

Minor League Rule 5 draft: The double & triple A sections of the draft are basically used for teams to fill organization depth. 

Matt Cerda (Cardinals) - A utility infielder with a great eye (.394 OBP) and little else. Certa has no power (3HR) and little speed (4STL) but can play anywhere in the infield and is a grinder. He'll probably end up making the Cardinals and being an annoying Skip Schumaker type. Just because it's the Cardinals.

Michael Burgess (OF) - A power hitting outfielder with contact issues, Burgess actually cut down his strikeouts considerbaly in 2012 (111 to 56) but it effected his power as his homers dropped from 20 to 10 (90 less ABs). The Cubs are short on power hitting OF prospects, but I don't predict Burgess ever making it to the show.

Alvido Jimenez (RP) -  Put up good numbers in rookie league ball as a reliever (2.64 ERA, 8.8 K/9) but it's his 3rd year in the league and he's already 21. Never heard of him before today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cubs Rule 5 Prospects

As we saw last year with Lendy Castillo, Rule 5 players rarely make an impact but there have been a few exceptions over the years (Joakim Soria, Josh Hamilton, Dan Uggla). It's also been rumored that the Cubs have been fielding offers for the 2nd pick, so maybe they will trade the pick for a better prospect that is a few years away and fits better into their competitive timeline (2015 baby!).

As for organizational depth, the Cubs biggest areas of need are starting pitching and corner outfielders. There won't be many starting pitchers available that are even close to major league ready though, so I would expect the cubs to target a lefty hitting OF who could be a bat off the bench this year or a relief pitcher who is almost ready for the bigs (preferably a lefty).

For those unfamiiar with the Rule 5 draft, the player taken has to remain on the team's 25-man roster for the whole season or he is sent back to thier original team. There is some wiggle room though as players can be stashed on the IR with an "injury" or bought from the original team.

The Cubs have the 2nd pick, but unlike most drafts their really is no relaible way to predict who they will take. Last yeat they shocked everyone with thier selection of Lendy Castillo and also lost Ryan Flaherty (Orioles) & Marwin Gonzalez (Astros).

Here is a breakdown of players in order of preference that the Cubs could select:

Ryan Chaffee (RHP)
Throws: Right Age: 24 Team: Angels
After struggling as a starter since being drafted in 2008 (3rd round), Chaffee was switched to the bullpen full-time in 2012. His numbers out of the pen were elite (5.9 H/9, 11.5 K/9, 1.17 WHIP) across high A and AA. It is a small sample size (65 IP) but he throws in the low to mid 90's with a + breaking ball so the stuff and pedigree are there. The Cubs could use him as a mop up guy to start off and eventually transition him into high leverage roles if he continues to pitch well out of the pen.

Josh Fields (RHP)
Throws: Right Age: 27 Team: Red Sox
At 27 he can barely be considered a prospect, but some guys just figure things out a little later than others. Fields averaged 6.2 BB/9 in his minor league career before a subtle change in his delivery allowed him to cut his walk rate to 2.4 BB/9 in 2012 while actually increasing his K rate to 12 per 9 and posting a miniscule .967 WHIP in AA & AAA. If Fields can keep throwing strikes he could be a 6th-7th inning guy right away.

Jeremy Hazelbaker (OF)
Bats: Left Age: 25 Team: Red Sox
Intriguing mix of power and speed (19 HR, 36 STL in 2012), who Epstein should be familiar with since he was drafted by the Red Sox in the 4th round of the 2009 draft. Hazelbaker can play all three OF position and has the physical tools to be an all-star, but lack of plate discipline and inconsistent numbers in the minors make this a high risk / high reward pick When you consider how few Rule 5 players make an impact, all the picks are high risk so why not take the player with the most offensive upside?

John Keck (RHP)
Throws: Left Age: 24 Team:Royals
 A big lefty (6'6) whose plus stuff hasn't translated to solid minor league numbers (career 4.54 era). Keck throws a heavy mid-90s fastball which from a lefty should be enough to keep him on a roster till he's about 38 years old. In the short term he has had some control issues and doesn't strike out as many people as a hard throwing 6'6 lefty should (7.9 K/9 in '12) but his unique skill-set is worthy off a flier and the Cubs are in need of a lefty arm out of the pen to keep Russell's arm from falling off. There are options with higher upside available but Keck fills an immediate need and has the talent to become a valuable lefty out of the pen.

Carlos Perez (LHP)
Throws: Left Age: 21 Team:Braves
 An electric lefty who was a former top prospect in the always loaded Braves system (#5 in 2011), Perez has struggled to harness his dominant stuff. The main problem, as it is with most young pitchers, is control. Perez gave up 6.2 free passes per 9 innings last year which isn't acceptable in the majors. The only reason Perez is on this list is that he was moved to the bullpen in 2012 and responded by striking out 14.7 batters per 9 innings! Those are Rich Hill numbers! (still hurts) Like Lendy Castillo last year, Perez will be hard to keep on the 25-man roster all year but lefty relievers who can strike people out are a premium commodity so it may be worth the gamble.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cubs win again!

Cubs win again. One more and that's a winning streak. I know it's just spring training, but we might as well enjoy it because winning streaks may be few and far between once the season starts. Here is what went down in Surprise:

 - Jeff Samardzija threw a three inning gem today! He gave up a bloop single, had three strikeouts, and didn't walk anybody. I know it's wrong, but I'm excited.

- Bryan LaHair got his first 2 hits of the spring today going 2-3 with two singles and an RBI. He did leave a couple runners on base, but it's a start.

- Darwin Barney continued his hot spring with another RBI double.

- Joe Mather had another hit and his team leading 3rd steal of the spring. I'm hearing that he doesn't have much of a shot to make the team, but if he keeps stealing bases (pinch runner) and plays solid defense what makes Campana or Sappelt any better? The ability to play CF is one edge they have on him, but Reed Johnson can play CF if needed. Mather gives the Cubs a power bat off the bench which is one thing Campana / Sappelt can't do.

- Sappelt got a chance to lead off today and went 0-3. Despite my mini-Mather rant, I hope Sappelt wins the 5th OF job because I think he has the most upside of the three.

- Raphel Solis pitched two innings without giving up an earned run. He wasn't as dominant as in the opener, but didn't hurt his chances of earning a bullpen spot either.

- 2 K's for Steve Clevenger. At least he's a good bunter.

- Speaking of bunting... Campana bunted home a run with a runner on 3rd and 1 out in the 6th. Old school baseball. Holy cow!

- Josh Vitters walked for the second game in a row. Who says he can't take a pitch? (besides everybody). In his next at-bat, Vitters came up with runners on the corners and no one out and worked an 8 pitch AB before striking out swinging. Disappointing, but at least it was a tough out.

- Brett Jackson RBI single in first AB. Trade Byrd! (kidding)

- Trey McNutt gave up a run in one inning of work and struggled to throw strikes (11 strikes, 13 balls). He did get a strikeout, but the control issue is concerning.

- Jeff Beliveau got rocked again. He came on in the 9th with a 4 run lead and gave three singles & two runs before retiring a batter. He got out of the jam without allowing any more runs, but it was lucky. Two of the three outs were on a rocket liner and deep fly out. Whew. Not impressed so far.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cubs Win!

The Cubs got their first win of the spring with a 11-4 victory over the Rockies.


No one was booing Alfonso Soriano today as he hit 2 homers and ripped a double to the wall in 3 at-bats. Trade value increased 1% (from 0).

Matt Garza had a rough start (2 IN, 3 H, 2 ER) but I don't put much stock into veteran pitcher's spring stats. Usually they are working on a specific pitch, mechanics, etc. Garza will be fine.

The LRP bullpen spots are wide open after the Sean Marshall trade, but no one is doing anything to claim one so far. James Russell (the favorite) gave up 3 hits and a run in his one inning today. I considered the bullpen one of the Cubs only strengths coming into the season, but it's been ugly.

David DeJesus got caught stealing. I like the aggressiveness, but at little success would be nice. 

Ex-Cub Tyler Colvin had a nice day for the Rockies going 2-3 with a run & rbi.


Brett Jackson continued his strong spring by hitting a three run homer and taking a walk. He also struck out, but I'm focusing on the positives today.

Anthony Rizzo went 2-3 with a run & rbi. He's not going to break camp with the team, but I think a strong start is an important step in erasing any bad mojo from his brutal stint in the majors last year

Junior Lake went 1-3 with a double (1 K).

Wellington Castillo continues to hit well, going 2-3 with double, a run scored, and an RBI.  Based on his spring last year and strong numbers in AAA (.286/.351/.524), I think he's ready.

Josh Vitters took a walk (discipline!) and stole a base.


Joe Mather had a triple in his only at bat. Strong start for Mather.

Andy Sonnanstine closed out the game for the Cubs with a scoreless innings, but did give up a hit and a walk. 

Cubs ST Game 2 Recap

The Cubs blew another late lead and lost to the A's 8-7. I have yet to see any correlation between spring training record and regular season performance, so I could care less about winning games in the spring. My primary concern is how our prospects look and who is going to be a factor in 2013, so that will be the focus on my recaps.


Josh Vitters went 1-2 with an RBI double and didn't make an errors at third. Most scouts question Vitters ability to hit and field at a major league level, so the pressure is on Josh to prove to the new regime he can do both. Good start!

Blake DeWitt hit a 3-run homer in his first AB of the spring. Looks like the 2nd base competition is going to be more heated then I thought. I have very little faith in DeWitt after last season, but I am willing to give him another shot (begrudgingly).

Joe Mather - I mentioned Mather as an underrated signing in my off-season breakdown and he did nothing to prove me wrong today. Mather went 2-3 with 2 steals and a run scored. He's a long shot to make the team out of camp, but if Soriano or Bryd get moved during the season he could get some time in the bigs.

Steve Clevenger went 1-2 with a run, rbi, and a sweet sacrifice bunt. That contest is paying dividends already!

Bryan LaHair went 0-3 with a K and is hit-less this spring after 2 games.


Casey Weathers pitched a perfect 5th for the Cubs. Nobody is talking about Weathers as part of the deal that brought Ian Stewart from the Rockies, but he is a former top 10 pick with a plus fastball. Weathers could be a part of the Cubs bullpen this year with a solid spring.

Kevin Rhoderick pitched a scoreless 8th with 1 K. Not much is written about Rhoderick since he falls into the 25-30 range on the Cubs prospect lists, but he struck out over a batter per inning between high A-AA in his first year with the Cubs. He'll start the year in AA, but is a sleeper candidate for the 2013 bullpen

Tony Zych is another guy to watch for next year, but he didn't fare as well in the 9th. Zych got the loss after giving up a game winning homer to Yordy Cabrera (Who?).

Manny Corpas & Marco Carillo got rocked in the 6th & 7th innings giving up a combined 6 runs on 6 hits and 2 BB. Not much is expected from Carillo, but Corpas has a legit shot to make the team out of camp. Today's performance didn't help his cause.


No errors today and no runners picked off first. Fundamentals are back!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cubs Spring Training Opener

Today reminded me why I left Chicago and moved to Arizona few years ago. 81 degrees on March 4th? Not a bad day to watch the Cubs spring training opener. It sucks that they lost 12-10 to A's, but sitting on the grass watching Cubs baseball and pounding Old Styles is tough to beat.

Here are my notes from the game:

- The collective attitude of the fans seems different this year. The usual anger and frustration over "Cub plays" has been replaced with a sense of amusement, an acceptance that the Cubs are going to suck this year so we might as well have fun with it. I'm pretty sure rooting for the Cubs has permanently raised my blood pressure and taken a few years off my life, so I'm on board with the laid-back vibe (at least for spring training).

- Rodrigo Lopez & Marmol combined for 3 perfect innings to start the game. It was good to Marmol not walk anybody for a change. Hopefully Bosio can get him back to his 2010 form. Lopez was solid. Who cares.

- Rafael Dolis was the most impressive arm out of the pen today (not much competition). He has an intimating presence on the mound and his stuff looked filthy

- Jeff Beliveau's stuff was the opposite of filthy (clean?). He walked the only 3 batters he faced, but it was due more to not being able to miss any bats then being wild. All three batters fouled off multiple strikes before eventually drawing walks. Dae Eun Rhee came on in relief and promptly gave up a grand slam to Brandon Allen and then gave up another bomb to the next batter. Rhee feel behind almost every batter he faced and then got shelled when forced to throw strikes. I was excited about seeing both these guys live and was disappointed. I know it's only 1 game, but they didn't pass the eye-test today.

- It looks like the battle for the 2nd base job could be exciting. Darwin Barney had an impressive all around game. He drove in the first two runs of the game with a 2 out double in the gap, stole 3rd a few pitches later, and made a great defensive play before being pulled for Adrien Cardenas. Cardenas first AB as a Cubs came with the bases loaded in the 6th and he delivered a bases clearing triple. He made an out in his next at-bat but hit the ball hard. Defense is supposedly his weakness, but he made a nice catch on a foul ball in shallow right and didn't embarrass himself out there. Blake DeWitt still blows.

- The talent level on the field is questionable, but in the lawn section it's outstanding. 

- Cub fans got a glimpse of the future in the 6th inning. Rizzo led off with a single, Brett Jackson walked, Jimmy Aducci singled to load the bases, Dave Sappelt singled in a run, and then Cardenas cleared the bases with a triple. Jae Hoon-Ha added another RBI single to cap off a 5 run inning. Good times. 

- I hope Jae Hoon-Ha eventually gets some time in the big leagues. Fun name. Ha. 

- Rule 5 pick-up Lendy Castillo gave up a run and was wild, but his stuff looks legit.

- Brett Jackson made an impressive sliding catch in CF.

- The Cubs had two runners (Dejesus & Barney) picked off first base in the same inning by the A's catcher, Kurt Suzuki. Frustrating, but it's not like the Cubs are going to be a fundamentally sound team overnight. 

- No boos for Soriano today! No applause either, but I guess all the "good guy / hard worker" press he's getting lately has softened up the fans. Or maybe everybody was just in too good of a mood to boo.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Carpenter to the Red Sox

The Cubs & Red Sox (not Bud Selig) decided that RP Chris Carpenter is fair compensation for Theo Epstein leaving Boston 1 year before his contract expired. My initial reaction is that the price seems pretty steep. Carpenter has been listed as high as 6th and as low as 15th depending on whose prospect list your reading. He pitched in the majors last year and was expected to be a part of the Cubs bullpen in 2012. I was expecting the compensation player to be a low-level minor leaguer with potential, not a major-league ready arm capable of hitting triple digits on the radar gun.

On the bright side, the strength of the Cubs minor league system is power bullpen arms, so it's not as damaging to the system as losing an SP prospect like McNutt would of been. Carpenter has a great arm, but right now is a two-pitch reliever with control issues. Looking at the big picture, losing a 7th or maybe 8th inning guy for the amount of excitement the new regime has brought to Cubs fans this off-season seems about fair.