A Trip Around the Minors

Posted by Lionel on August 14, 2009.

Maybe it's about time to be focusing on what guys could impact the team in '10...
Steve Clevenger-Only 3 games and 7 AB's for Clevenger this week. He went 1 for 7 with 2 RBI's and a run. The former 7th round pick is hitting just .188 in the month of August. Despite having less than half the AB's against lefties than he does against righties, he has the same number of extra base hits and RBI's.
Bonus-Clevenger's offensive struggles have been counterbalanced by catcher Chris Robinson's strong bat. He started 4 games this week and went 9 for 16 with 4 RBI's and 3 extra base hits. On Wednesday, he went 4 for 4 with an HR. His season batting average is up to .339, which would be tops in the league if he had 37 more AB's (enough to qualify him for the batting championship).
Welington Castillo-2 for 17 for the week for Castillo. For as well as he was hitting, he's certainly headed back toward his old habits and consequently, his BA is back down to .212. He is struggling even more with runner's on base; he's hitting just .197 with 18 K's in 76 AB's.
Tyler Colvin-After snapping his 11 game hitting streak a week ago Thursday, Colvin had a mini 3 game hitting streak that made it 14 out of 15 games with a hit. That's the good news. The bad news (there always seems to be good news/bad news with Colvin) is that he's 0 for his last 9. He is sporting a healthy .292 batting average since the All Star break and .310 for the month of August.
Starlin Castro-Castro has slowed down a little bit at Tennessee. After back to back two hit games to start his Smokie career, Castro had 4 straight 0'fers. But he's back to hitting, garnering a single in each of his last 3 games. What is amazing is that he's showing great discipline at the plate; after walking only 19 times in 277 plate appearances at Daytona (or roughly 1 per 20 PA's), he's already collected 5 walks in 9 games and once per 7.6 PA's. He has also yet to K at Tennessee.
Andrew Cashner-Cashner had his worst professional outing on Saturday. In just and inning and a third, he yielded 8 earned runs. His 0.88 ERA entering the game was 3.09 when he left. He rebounded nicely yesterday, giving up one earned run in 5 innings. Despite the one run, he took his second consecutive loss of the season.
Bonus-A 21st round pick in 2007, Dustin Sasser was promoted to Tennessee just over a week ago. He gave up an earned run in his first appearance, a 3 inning relief stint, but hasn't allowed a run since. His ERA at Tennessee is currently at 1.35, down from the 1.60 he logged at Daytona.
Josh Vitters-Vitters returned from his hand injury on Sunday. He pinch hit and promptly hit a double and later scored. Since then, he's 0 for 10 with 5 K's. The Cubs are taking it slow with Vitters because they plan on playing him in the Arizona Fall League and with a Daytona team having lost 7 straight and being in the FSL cellar, I think we may see a few more off days for Vitters as the season winds down.
Jay Jackson-I hope Jackson learns something from his demotion for conduct detrimental, because that's about all that's holding him back. Another start at Daytona, another dominating performance. 7 innings pitched, 2 hits, 1 walk, 4 K's, no earned runs. Unfortunately for him, the D-Cubs didn't score either, so he had a dominating no decision. He's allowed 1 earned run in 18 and 2/3 innings at Daytona (a 0.48 ERA) and has a WHIP of 0.75.
Bonus-From all signs, the 2008 draft was solid for the Cubs. The fastest guy of their class was probably Tony Campana, their 13th round pick. He started the season at Peoria, but was promoted to Daytona in May. Since his promotion, he has 48 stolen bases, good for 2nd in the FSL and especially impressive given that he was in Peoria for 18 games, stealing 11 bags there. For the year, he's 59 of 73, or over 80%.
Ryan Flaherty-Finally, Flaherty seems to be figuring things out. He was 10 of 25 for the week with 9 runs and 6 RBI's. He cranked his 16th HR of the year (putting him 5th in the league) and had a 4 for 4 game with 4 singles. He's hitting .333 for the month of August and is batting 60 points higher in the second half.
Brett Jackson-Given the history of rankings, Jackson will be a top ten prospect next year and given his on field performance, I decided to add him to ATAtM permanently for the remainder of the year. Jackson has an 8 game hitting streak in which he's hitting an even .400. On Wednesday, he added 2 HR's. His Peoria OPS is nearly 1.000.
Bonus-A frequent addition to the Bonus section this year has been Kyler Burke, part of the Rob Bowen-Michael Barrett trade. In his last 7 games, Burke is hitting .571 with 7 RBI's. He had a 2 HR night last night, giving him 11 on the season.
Hak Ju Lee-Lee hit his second HR of the season for the Hawks last night. Other than that, he had a relatively below average week for him. He was just 5 for 21 (.238) with 6 K's. In his only stolen base attempt, he was caught. He's now fallen one stolen base behind his teammate Jose Valdez for the team and the league lead. Not to pile on, but Lee still has some glove work to do; he has 19 errors in 48 games.
Bonus-The Cubs 28th best prospect, Logan Watkins, had a solid week for the Hawks. He hit safely in all 5 of his games, batting .409 with 4 runs and 3 RBI's. On the year, Watkins is hitting .316 with a .377 OBP. He's stolen 8 bags in 12 attempts.

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Cubs Roster Update

Posted by Lionel on August 12, 2009.

Trying to keep up with the roster seems like an exercise in futility, but here we go...

The Cubs selected the contract of Esmailin Caridad from Iowa on Monday. While that's not breaking news at this point, it brings the Cubs 40 man roster to 38. That becomes relevant when September 1 rolls around and the Cubs can expand their roster. You can only call up guys from your 40 man roster, so the Cubs now only have 2 spots if they want to add guys not on the 40 man roster. Chad Fox could be moved to the 60 day D.L., which would clear up a 3rd roster spot if needed.

ARam had a cortisone injection yesterday which should prevent a D.L. stint. The Cubs expect him to able able to play on Thursday. He'll play the remainder of the season in pain and he'll probably undergo surgery in the offseason, although he's already had conflicting doctor's opinions as to whether it'll help. If he does, it may mean a delayed start to spring training and/or next season.

Tedders will make a rehab start today and is expected to return to the rotation on Monday, assuming all goes well. I would assume that unless a move is made between today and Monday, Esmailin Caridad would be the odd man out and returned to Iowa.

Speaking of starters, it is expected that Z will only miss the minimum on his 15 day D.L. stint, meaning he would be ready to come off the D.L. on Tuesday. The "problem" is that that's Dempster's normal day and Wells would be scheduled to pitch the next day. I would imagine that given the time of the season and the number of injuries to the staff, Lou might consider letting Z start on Tuesday and pushing the other two back a day, moving Dempster to Wells spot, Wells to Gorzelanny's spot, and pushing Gorz out of the rotation. My guess would be that Jeff ND will be sent down when Z returns.

But as I've mentioned before, that still doesn't solve the numbers problem when David Patton must return; which has to be within 30 days after he started his rehab, or roughly August 21st. One option is that the Cubs could offer to return him to the Rockies, but at this point in the season and the fact that they are battling the Rockies in the wild card race (with the Rox needing all the relief help they can get), I doubt the Cubs want to do that.

The other option is to send someone out to Iowa. Sam Fuld is probably the only elgibile candidate, but with a semi-injured ARam and no other outfield options, are the Cubs going to want to play short-handed on the bench?

Obviously, you'd like to send down a reliever, but the 'pen is full of guys who'd have to clear waivers...except Carlos Marmol. With all the command issues Marmol has had, would the Cubs consider sending him to AAA to rest his arm for a few days and try to work on some things before bringing him back up September 1? Technically, your 25 man roster on August 31 is your playoff roster, but you can get around that if there's an "injury." I think this would be an ideal solution to the problem.

Speaking of roster expansion, I don't know how much the Cubs will add when roster expand; rather it may just be a matter of getting guys off the D.L. without making a corresponding move. Guys like Andres Blanco and Reed Johnson will come back in September.

I'm sure they'll add a couple of arms to their bullpen. It's almost certain one will be Jeff Stevens and you'd figure Mitch Atkins and/or Esmailin Caridad (assuming he gets sent down when the pitching staff normalizes). Justin Berg has pitched well for Iowa and was technically on the Cubs roster for 4 days in late July, but never reached the mound.

A couple of bullpen guys may warrant addition to the 40 man roster. Blake Parker has been the I-Cubs closer and has a 2.37 ERA. He has also been nearly as effective against lefites as righties; righties are hitting .192 off him while lefties are hitting just .226. If the Cubs are looking for a 3rd leftie out of the 'pen, John Gaub could get added to the mix. Gaub was part of the DeRo deal and has been outstanding at Iowa. In 20 innings, he has a 0.45 ERA, a 0.70 WHIP, and has struck out more than a batter per inning. Righties have 3 hits off him in about 50 plate appearances.

You'd figure the Cubs would add a 3rd catcher, but then again, they didn't add a catcher to their 40 man roster when Soto went on the D.L. Either Chris Robinson or Steve Clevenger could be added, if nothing else to allow Geo Soto to pinch hit in games where Koyie Hill starts. Robinson has better offensive numbers, but Clevenger is a better prospect, which sometimes comes into play when adding guys to your 40 man roster.

Bobby Scales may head back to bring some more depth to the infield defense, especially if the Cubs need to rest ARam. Micah Hoffpauir is almost certainly going to return to give Lou a left-handed power bat off the bench.

I don't know that the Cubs will add any outfield help. First, they'll have Hoffpauir and Fox to play the corners if need be. Second, they should get ReJo back in mid September. Third, and maybe most importantly, they don't have anyone to add. The current OF alignment in Iowa averages 32 years old.

The best possibility is adding Brad Snyder, the youngster of the group at 27. He's hit well at Iowa, batting .325 with an OPS of over 1.000. He's also left-handed. The Cubs got him off waivers from the Indians and then last spring put him through waivers to clear him off their 40 man roster. I believe they'll have to add him again this fall to avoid having him plucked in the Rule V draft.

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A Trip Around the Minors

Posted by Lionel on August 7, 2009.


Steve Clevenger-Clevenger played in 4 games this past week. He only went 3 for 13, but two of those hits went for doubles, he added 2 walks, and he scored 2 runs. He's hitting only .220 since the All Star break.
Bonus-Esmailin Caridad has struggled this year after going 13-7 last year with a 3.73 ERA between two stops. That includes a 12 start stretch during June and July in which he went 0-8. But Wednesday night, he may have one of his better performance of the year. Despite giving up
2 runs over 6 innings, he gave up only 3 hits and 2 walks and he struck out 12 of the 22 batters he faced.
Welington Castillo-The Cubs seem to be giving Castillo all the AB's he can handle in an effort to improve his stats. He played in 6 games this past week, logging 18 AB's. His hitting streak ended at 12 after 5 consecutive games of 2 hit performances. He's now 0 for his last 6, but he's hitting nearly 200 points better since the All Star break.
Tyler Colvin-While people continue to criticize Colvin being a 1st round pick, he continues to show flashes of what he can do when he's hot. He had hits in 11 consecutive AB's, tying a Southern League record. He had an 0 for 3 yesterday that snapped an 11 game hitting streak, one in which he hit .545 with 11 RBI's, 8 runs and 6 extra base hits. His batting average at Tennessee has jumped nearly 50 points over the past 10 days.
Starlin Castro-Castro was promoted to AA on Tuesday and started off where he left off in Daytona. In his first AB (as Ryne Sandberg's leadoff hitter), Castro hit a line drive single to right. He's now 4 for 12 in his first three games in Tennessee. Personally, I think Castro is a star in waiting and let's hope Sandberg can teach him some good stuff about being a middle infielder.
Andrew Cashner-Geo Soto was able to get a first-hand look at the Cubs 1st rounder from last year when he caught Cashner on Monday. Cashner was his usual fantastic self, pitching 6 innings of 2 hit, 1 walk, 0 run baseball, while striking out 8. His ERA for the year now sits at 1.24 with a WHIP a tick under 1 and a K/W ratio of 2.5 to 1.
Bonus-Joining Castro on the trip to Tennessee was Robinison Chirinos. A little bit of weird timing on this one, with Geo Soto making rehab starts in AA, but maybe the idea was to allow Chirinos to soak up some knowledge from a big leaguer. Chirinos has yet to play in a Smokies game.
Josh Vitters-hasn't played since July 27th, when he left the game with a left hand injury. It's not expected to be serious and he should be back in action soon. The Cubs haven't D.L.'d him.
Jay Jackson-As I mentioned yesterday in Cubs Bits, Jackson was demoted for conduct detrimental to the team. I'm sure opposing hitters in the Florida State League were none-too-happy to hear that news. He threw 6 innings of 1 run baseball on Wednesday, striking out 4 and walking only one.
Bonus-A 30th round pick in 2007, Luke Sommer isn't pitching like it. The left-handed reliever has a 2.07 ERA over 61 innings of relief this year. He has 57 strikeouts and only 9 walks on the year (better than a 6 to 1 ratio).
Ryan Flaherty-Flaherty hit safely in 6 of his 7 games this week and 9 of his last 10. He isn't dominating offensively, but he has seen his BA jump 7 points in the past 10 days. He has driven in 8 and scored 8 times. Unfortunately, he's also K'd 12 times during that stretch.
Bonus-Welcome to the Midwest League, Brett Jackson. The Cubs first round pick 2 months ago has been promoted to Peoria after hitting .330 at Boise. He's struck out 7 times in 7 games and he's only hitting .258, but he's also scored 7 times and has 5 RBI's. He also brought his wheels to the Chiefs, as he's swiped 5 bags without being caught.

Hak Ju Lee-5 hits in 6 games for Lee this week, but he reached base in all 6 games and had his first HR of the season. That dropped his BA to .325 on the season, but he remains 6th in the league in hitting. His .394 OBP in 10th in the league. Because he wasn't on base much, he only stole one base, bringing his total to 15 and dropping him into a tie for 1st place in swiped bags.
Bonus-The Cubs are taking it slow with their 4th round pick Christopher Rusin, who made his third start for Boise yesterday. After pitching a total of 5 and 1/3 innings in his first two starts, Rusin pitched 5 strong yesterday, giving up just 2 hits and no walks while striking out 6. But Rusin was a tough luck loser in the game, giving up an unearned run on a HBP, followed by a passed ball, followed by one of the two hits allowed.

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Cubs Bits

Posted by Lionel on August 6, 2009.

  • I think I am going to get out of the roster guessing business, because I continue to suck. But at least I'm not alone in thinking this is a mess. Instead of Jeff ND, the Cubs demoted Jeff Stevens. No one seems to have an answer as to why the Cubs chose to keep Jeff ND and demote Stevens. The Cubs will have another move to make on Friday. The Cubs infield has suddenly become crowded with Aaron Miles, so that would likely be where the demotion happens. So, I will stand by my prediction that Micah Hoffpauir is the odd man out. I think Mike Fontenot's 7 hits in his last 27 AB's saved him from a possible late season demotion.

  • The other news on the roster front was the release of two players. B.J. Ryan asked for his release yesterday, roughly a week before the Cubs deadline to make a decision on him. They told him he wasn't likely to be called up. The Cubs also released Jason Waddell who has been on the D.L. since June with a non-baseball related injury. The Cubs 40 man roster now sits at 37, but really it's 36 because if needed, the Cubs would put Chad Fox on the 60 day D.L.

  • I am late on this news, but I finally found out why Jay Jackson was demoted to Daytona (Advanced A Ball). According to the Cubs, he was demoted for "failure to comply with club policy" i.e. he was demoted for breaking team rules.

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Cubs Bits

Posted by Lionel on August 5, 2009.

  • I obviously don't rush to admit I was wrong, but of course, after I posted on the upcoming roster moves yesterday, the Cubs didn't follow suit by sending down Jeff ND. Instead, they placed Andre White (Andres Blanco) on the D.L. That gave them an extra arm last night, which was important with the tired 'pen, but nearly blew up in their face when The Riot got plunked. I would expect that the Jeff ND move would happen today with Aaron Miles ready to be activated...and we may even see him in the lineup following The Riot's beaning. I forgot to mention it yesterday, but Blanco would have to clear waivers, because he's out of options. My guess is that his left calf strain may be healthy again about September 1, when the rosters expand.

  • Over the past week, the Cubs have signed 3rd round pick Austin Kirk and 6th round pick Brooks Raley, closing out their top ten picks. The Tulsa World has the story on Kirk, who signed for around $400K and according to the article, the package included a trip for him and his family to come to Wrigley. I chuckled when I read this, then realized how much I forked over this year in Cubs tickets and decided that was an important clause in the contract. The Raley contract is said to be about $750K, according to BA. It is the highest signing over slot to date, but Raley was ranked as the 82nd best prospect heading into the draft and was considered a tough sign when the Cubs drafted him.

  • In former Cub news, Mark Prior was released by the Padres. Prior's last and likley final MLB appearance was August 10, 2006. It was a 3 inning, 5 ER performance in Milwaukee that sent his record for the year to 1-6 with a 7.71 ERA.
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Upcoming Roster Shuffle

Posted by Lionel on August 4, 2009.

The Cubs should probably just keep a plane on the tarmac at O'Hare for all the shuffling they'll be doing in the next 30 days or so. If everyone stays healthy, they also will be one over their limit by the end of the month...

Today will start the festivities, when Tom Gorzelanny is called up from AAA. The Cubs are expected to send down Jeff Samardzija to clear the spot for Gorz's first start in a Cubs uni.

Sometime this week Geo Soto will make his return. How quickly is unknown. Lou would love to have to him by Wednesday, but sources keep saying Friday. JH is currently in Tennessee getting a first-hand look at Soto. But what the corresponding move will be is the big question. My best guess is Micah Hoffpauir. He's started only once in the past week and he's 1 for his last 15. Plus Jake Fox gives the team more flexibility and is hitting better (I regret to mention that he now has more RBI's than Milton Bradley).

It's either Hoffpauir or Andres Blanco, but I would guess Blanco stays around until Aaron Miles returns. I heard a couple of different numbers in how many days/games you can rehab before having to be recalled, but the number I've heard most consistently in 30 days. Miles is currently at 21 games, so he's close. Miles had a 6 game hitting streak broken last night and is only hitting .253 at Iowa. The other option the Cubs would have is to simply release Miles or try to trade him, but Miles is under contract through next year (his '10 contract is for 2.7M).

That probably gets the team through the end of the week, but things don't get any easier. B.J. Ryan made his fourth appearance last night for the I-Cubs and he's yet to allow a run. That's the good news. The bad news is that reports say his velocity is still sitting in the mid-80's. Rumor has it Assistant GM Randy Bush was in Iowa to watch Ryan first-hand. The Cubs have to make a decision on Ryan by next week; he either gets added to the 25 man roster or he can declare free agency. You have to wonder if his velocity is low whether declaring free agency would work for him. In any case, if gets added to the roster, you'd guess Jeff Stevens is the odd man out. If not, they roster issue is solved (which may play a role in this decision).

Before the month is over, the Cubs will still have two decisions to make.

When Ted Lilly returns, you'd figure the Cubs would move Tom Gorzelanny out of the rotation. While the Cubs would probably like to keep him in the bullpen as a left-handed reliever, they will probably option him to AAA until after September 1, becuase they simply won't have room for him.

David Patton is currently rehabbing and the Cubs will almost assuredly let his 30 days of recovery run. His first outing was the 22nd of July, so if my numbers are correct, he would be slated to return around the 21st of August. By then, who knows what the Cubs will do if everyone remains healthy, because there won't be any open spots. Certainly, the Cubs aren't going to want to have to offer Patton back 10 days before roster expansion after doing everything in their power to keep him on their team. If I had to guess, I would say a phantom injury may befall a reliever, like say an injury to Kevin Gregg (who is admitting to a tired arm) or Angel Guzman (who has pitched 45 innings this year after only pitching 25 last year and 30 in '07). If nothing else, it would give the Cubs a chance to rest a guy before the final push and the playoffs. If Patton beats Lilly back, Gorzelanny may be sent out and the Cubs could rearrange the rotation until Lilly gets back, assuming it's just a few days, but that doesn't solve the problem.

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Schedule Situation

Posted by Lionel on August 3, 2009.

The Cardinals have played 5 more games than the Cubs (which will drop to 4 after tonight) and both teams are almost even in home v. road games (again, the Cubs will be at 50/50 after tonight's game). So, who had the advantage going down the stretch?

The Cubs have 7 games against the division leaders (3 v. PHI, 4 @ LA) while the Cards only have a 3 gamer at Chavez Ravine. In the Wild Card bunch of teams (Florida, Colorado, and San Fran), the Cubs have 4 at Colorado and 4 at San Fran, while the Cards have 3 at Colorado and 3 against Florida.

Then we move to the .500 teams. I define .500 teams as teams that are within 3 games of .500 (Atlanta, Houston, Milwaukee, plus the White Sox). I think the "games against teams with winning records" is a cheap stat, because any day these 3 teams could be on the other side of the equation. The Cubs have 11 of those games left, 8 of which are at home. The Cards have 18 games left, 12 at home and 6 on the road.

That leaves the bottom feeders. The Cubs have 30, 18 at home. The Cards have only 23, but 15 are on the road.

Of course, the Cubs and Cards play each other as well, one 3 game tilt in the new Busch stadium.

Beyond the actual teams, the Cards have 8 off days before the end of the season. The Cubs? 4. The Cubs roughest stretch appears to be 4 at home v. the Brewers, then the three at St. Louis, then 3 in Miller Park, then a strange and random 4 game series at San Fransisco (without the normal second west coast city stop). The Cards most difficult run will be 3 games at Miller Park, then 9 games in 10 days against the Braves, Marlins and Cubs, but all 10 will be at home.

In other words, at the moment, the Cards have an easier schedule to close things out.

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