A Trip Around the Minors...

In this week's ATAtM, Mitch Atkins finds a home on ATAtM, Ceda may be heading to Chicago soon, and a bunch of prospects vie for the best offensive game of the week.

Iowa

Felix Pie-Pie hasn't played in a week, after leaving a game on the 31st of July with an injured wrist, presumably from sliding into third on a triple. Unfortunately, this may cool him off after an outstanding July. For the month, he hit .373 with 17 RBI's and 16 runs in 25 games (which averages out to a little over 100 for a season). He had 5 doubles, 4 triples, and 3 HR's, giving him an OPS of 1.001. He struck out 14 times in 102 AB's, which isn't great, but is solid for him.

Kevin Hart-Hart made three relief appearances for the I-Cubs this week. Last Friday, he gave up a run on 2 htis and a walk in one inning of relief, but got the save. He had two more one inning outings, yielding only a stray hit. Since his return to Iowa (where he stayed a reliever), Hart is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA over 7 innings. The only concerning number is his 1.43 WHIP.

Mitch Atkins-The 22 year old is officially being added to ATAtM, thanks to a solid season and based on the projection that he will find his way onto the Top Ten lists after the season. As reported on Cubs.com this week, Mitch Atkins has been on a roll. After winning his last 5 games at Tennessee, Atkins moved up to Iowa and continued his success. He now has won 10 straight starts. Not 10 straight decisions, 10 straight starts. He has managed to win despite a couple of bad outings, but overall, he is 5-0 with a 3.90 ERA at Iowa.

Bonus-If Micah Hoffpauir was still considered a prospect, he'd have a permanent place on ATAtM. But since he isn't, he'll just have a semi-permenant place in the bonus section. Hoffpauir has a 12 game hitting streak and a 5 game RBI streak. Over the past 7 days, he is hitting .440 and has 12 RBI's. Adjusting the projected RBI numbers from ATAtM two weeks ago, Hoffpauir is now on pace to only have 241 RBI's if he played 162 at Iowa, not 245. He obviously needs to pick it up.

Tennessee

Tyler Colvin-Colvin continues to have those individual games that show why he's considered one of the Cub's top prospects. He hit .333 for the week, but it was last Sunday's game that jumps out. 3 for 5 with 2 HR's, 6 RBI's, 3 runs, and a triple to boot. That's 15 total bases and nearly 10% of his RBI total for the year. But he sandwiched that between an 0-3 and an 0-5.

Welington Castillo-A rough week for Castillo. After collecting a hit on Friday to extend his hitting streak to 6, he managed just two more hits on the week. His batting average for the week is .158. All of his hits were singles, he didn't walk, grab an RBI, or score a run and he struck out 4 times.

Jose Ceda-The Cubs may be getting Ceda ready for a call-up, as he pitched two innings of relief this week, both in the 8th inning. That makes three straight 8th inning appearances and since he isn't expected to be closing out games for the Cubs, I believe they may be grooming him to come in in a set up role. Ceda's first 8th inning out didn't fare so well; he walked 3 batters and gave up a run (without a hit) in one inning of work. He gave up an inherited runner in his outing on Wednesday, but induced a double play to get out of an inning that killed a rally.

Donnie Veal-The promotions of Jeff ND and Mitch Atkins may be weighing heavily on Veal's mind, as he seems destined to finish out his second year with Tennessee. Veal started on Monday, going 5 and 2/3 and giving up 4 earned runs. Veal's control or concentration was off, as he walked 5 batters, giving him 12 over the last 12 and 1/3 innings pitched. After a spectacular beginning to the season (2.60 ERA), he has struggled in the last two plus months (6.14 ERA).

Bonus-Jake Fox had a game on Wednesday that is comparable to Tyler Colvin's day on Sunday. He went 4 for 5 with 4 runs, 2 HR's, 3 RBI's and a double. Fox's season has turned around considerably, as he's now hitting .299 with 18 HR's and a .947 OPS at Tennessee. He has managed a solid 59 RBI's in 83 games, but is only hitting .238 with runner's in scoring position.

Daytona

Tony Thomas-Thomas left Saturday's game in the 5th inning with an unknown injury and has yet to return to action. In the game and a half Thomas played in since the last ATAtM, Thomas collected a single and a double in 6 AB's, to go along with 2 K's. The All Star break was not kind to Thomas, who went from hitting .278 before it to .253 after it.

Bonus-In an effort to top Fox and Colvin for the biggest game of the week, Russ Canzler (30th round, 2004) went 4 for 5 on Saturday with 2 HR's, 3 runs, 7 RBI's and a double. Those 7 ribbies have accounted for 13% of Canzler's total for the year.

Peoria

No Top Ten Prospects

Bonus-Brandon Guyer (5th round, 2007) was hitting .242 when July 1st hit. Since then, he has raised his batting average 33 points. A good blend of speed and power, Guyer has 16 stolen bases in 19 attempts to go along with 10 HR's in 66 games.

Boise

Josh Vitters-Vitters came back from his ankle injury and just kept on hitting. He now has hit in 15 straight games, bringing his batting average to .333. He has 6 RBI's and 6 runs for the week. The only concerning part is that he has 7 K's for the week. Hopefully, Vitters can continue his RBI production, as he is only hitting .222 with runners in scoring position on the year.

Bonus-Recently called up 33rd round pick Sean Hoorelbeke has started off his Hawks career well. In the 10 games since being promoted, he is hitting .370 with 9 RBI's and 7 runs, including a HR. Last Friday he went 5 for 7 with 2 RBI's.

Fallout from the Brawl

Minor League Baseball has handed down the suspensions from last week's brawl between the Peoria Chiefs and the Dayton Dragons. For the Chiefs, they are as follows:
  • Julio Castillo-the pitcher who threw the ball into the stands-60 games (the Cubs system had already demoted him to rookie ball, but suspensions follow a minor leaguer no matter where they are)
  • Carmelo Martinez-the manager who was subbing for Sandberg and the Cubs Latin America Field Coordinator-20 games
  • Brandon Guyer-3 games
  • Cliff Anderson-3 games
  • Jovan Rosa-3 games
  • Mario Mercedes-3 games
  • Steve Vento-3 games
  • Audy Santana-3 games

Eyre Traded to Phillies for Schlitter.

The Scott Eyre era is over in Chicago. The Cubs traded left-handed pitcher Scott Eyre to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor-league right-handed pitcher Brian Schlitter (man I like saying his last name).

Not much is known about Schlitter except that he went 4-3 with six saves and a 2.22 ERA (12 ER/48.2 IP) in 34 relief appearances for Single-A Clearwater this season. The righthander has limited opponents to a .213 batting average, including a .211 mark by right-handed hitters and a .216 mark by lefthanders. Schlitter has struck out 58 batters in 48.2 innings, an average of 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings, and has allowed just one home run in the 48.2 frames.

Clearly a move towards the future. Although trading our own to a team we may be facing in the playoffs always seems to haunts the cubs...This seems like a decent move. For Now.

Cubs - Cardinals...Man I hate St. Louis

That title is almost true. There are times that I root for the Cardinals. For example when they are playing the Brewers.

After a much needed day off today, the Cubs begin a simple series with the Cardinals. I call it simple because we seem to be running on 10 of the 12 cylinders that we have in the engine. Yea that's right I just said we have a V12 engine. I am not one to worry about global warming...well atleast I am not going to stop driving my V12s.

So here are the 12 cylinders and the 10 that we be running (these are my points and not that of the entire TD Staff):
  1. Defense - Running
  2. Clutch Hitting - Running
  3. Small Ball - Running
  4. Starting Pitching - Running
  5. Manager - Running
  6. Co-Managers - Running
  7. Fans - Running
  8. Leadership - Running
  9. Emotion/Drive - Running
  10. Depth - Running
  11. Schedule - Walking/Jogging
  12. Bullpen - Walking

Yes it is true that the last 10+ games the Cubs have put up some great numbers and most likely should continue it thru the rest of August due to our "at-home" schedule. Here are a few schedule notes (i hope i did my math right):

August (the remainder): 13 of 22 at home games, 9 of 22 against the NL Central

September: 9 of 25 at home games, 21 of 25 against the NL Central and 12 of 25 against the Brew/Cards.

That makes the month of August very important. Not only is it my birthday but it is also a month to pull away and to create a great cushion between us and the Brew/Cards.

Some TowelDrills staff and fans will be at the game this Saturday rooting for the Cubs to put a hurt on the Cards. There isnt a player on that team that I enjoy watching play baseball except maybe Pujols and Ankiel...but let's get real here. They have an arch and it makes no sense...

Mark Cuban: Cuban bowls with the team...

Yesterday, August 6, 2008, was Kerry Woods' annual charity bowling tournament. This year proceeds went to the Organic School Project (an organization who I ironically provided free legal services to for the first 2 years of my career). All the usual Cubs suspects were there: Lee, Soto, Cuban. WHAT??? CUBAN?

Yes that is right Mark "The Cub" Cuban. The USA Today article has Mark saying that "[t]he Cubs have got smart, smart people here. I mean they're winning, they're doing great things, I'll just stay out of the way," Cuban said. "Believe it or not, I can stay out of the way."

He went on to state that "[r]ight now I'm just a fan, supporting a great organization, and that's why I'm here," Cuban said.
Oh and don't worry about Kerry's hand... After Wednesday's Cub victory over the Stros, Wood said he would be bowling left-handed. "I've bowled a couple of times lefty," he said. "I'm not as good left-handed, but I can make it down the lane."

Mark Cuban: "The Lead Guy" in the Sale of the Cubs

I can think “of no one better suited to reverse the fortunes of the Cubs for the long term” than Mark Cuban. Boston Red Sox owner John Henry

Things have really heated up over the past week or so in the ongoing saga that is the sale of the Chicago Cubs. Specifically, the hype around Mark Cuban is really ramping up. Let's get caught up.

After whittling the list of wannabes from X down to 10 owners, the Sam Zell and the Tribune Company have now narrowed the list of potential purchasers of the Cubs down to 5. The remaining contestants in the Cubs beauty paegent are reportedly as follows:
  • Thomas Ricketts, president of corporate bond dealer Incapital LLC, whose father founded the TD Ameritrade brokerage.
  • A group led by real estate investor Hersch Klaff. He’s known for buying distressed properties, often from failing retailers.
  • Michael Tokarz, chairman of MVC Capital Inc. and onetime partner at the buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. Early in a finance career spanning more than 30 years, Tokarz worked at the old Continental Bank.
  • Sports Properties Acquisitions Corp., which has no operations but sold $200 million worth of shares to the public in January. The company intends to buy sports and entertainment businesses. It is run by New York taxi kingpin Andrew Murstein, and its chairman is former congressman and retired football quarterback Jack Kemp. Baseball great Henry Aaron is on its board.
That "dude" is now being reported as "the lead guy" in the negotiations as quoted by a fellow bidder. Cuban's bid (which includes the club, Wrigley Field, the stake in Comcast SportsNet, etc.) is reportedly the highest, weighing in at a hefty $1.3 Billion. The record for the sale of a baseball franchise is the $700 million John Henry paid for the BoSox in 2002. Not at all insignificant in that deal is the fact that Henry's bid was the third highest bid for the club and the widely held belief that Bud Selig and the other baseball owners orchestrated the deal.

Now the media vultures are circling. NBA Commissioner David Stern came out last week with public support of Cuban in his quest to purchase the club. Stories on Cuban purchasing the Cubs are popping up in media outlets and blogs everywhere. Even the New York Times got into the fold this week (great article at the NYT, worth checking out). But all the articles seem to have the same, tired message: Cuban is a loudmouth boisterous brat of an NBA owner who's constantly finding his way to the principal's office and acting as a persistent thorn in the side of his league and all its owners and who will get bullied out of MLB by it's stodgy straight laced owners. C'mon.

Time to move past this isn't it? We all know what Mark Cuban's done in the past. He is loud. He is outspoken. He has earned his share of fines ($1.7 M by the NBA, but none in the last two years). But he's also an absolutely fantastic owner who has an excellent chance at winning the bidding for the Chicago Cubs.

Since purchasing the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban has taken them from a perennial NBA doormat to one of the league's premier franchises and one whom any NBA player would want to play for due to the spare-no-expense treatment Cuban provides his players. Oh, and he's more than doubled the value of the franchise in doing so. What do you think that does to the value of the other NBA franchises?

Bottom line is this: if Cuban, despite any perceived flaws, bids in the $1.3 Billion or higher range for the Chicago Cubs, every other team's value jumps a minimum of $25 Million instantly. If Cuban truly wants to win this bid, which it really seems he does, he'll bid even higher. Higher to the point that he'll outbid any other bidder. And the higher he goes, the more money goes into every other owners pockets. Maybe he goes off one day and runs his mouth about an umpire. Why would the other owners care? That focus on MLB will earn them even more money at no cost to them or their team. Cuban, above all, will do whatever it takes to get his team to win. That's good for the players, good for the Cubs, good for baseball, and ultimately good for every other owner in baseball.

You can't tell me the owners are simply going to write this guy off because some don't like him. The owners may have tossed aside other potential owners in favor of those that were more well-liked in the past, but none of those other potential owners were Mark Cuban. None could bring what Cuban can, and I believe will, bring to the Cubs and MLB. Mark Cuban is great for the Cubs and great for baseball. Let him go.

Free Mark Cuban.

Minor League Movers

An Angel Guzman siting in Florida, a Jon Lieber siting in Peoria, and even some news on guys not making rehab starts.
Iowa

The I-Cubs, having a spot in the rotation open with Hart being moved to the bullpen, signed left-hander Jason Stanford out of the Mexican League last Wednesday. The 31 year old had spent time in the Indians and Nationals system this year. He had a couple cups of coffee with the Indians. Stanford has already started two games for the I-Cubs, going 1-0 with a 4.09 ERA over 11 innings. The big question I have is why the Cubs chose to sign a roamer to their rotation instead of calling up Donnie Veal. I think the answer comes from Veal's performances...over his last three starts prior to the signing, he had given up 14 earned runs in 11 and 2/3 innings.

Tennessee

Yesterday, Tennessee promoted Marco Carrillo (NDFA, 2005) from Daytona, while sending James Russell down to Daytona. Carillo's W-L record was an unimpressive 7-6, but he had a 2.88 ERA over 23 appearances, including 17 starts. Since June 1, his ERA (all in starts) was 2.57. Russell, a 14th round pick from last year, had started the season strong at Daytona (2.30 ERA), but had a 6.36 ERA at Tennessee. He had given up at least 4 runs in each of his last 6 starts.

Daytona

Late last week, the D-Cubs activated Leo Perez. Perez is a pitcher-turned catcher and will be used as the D-Cubs 3rd string catcher. The D-Cubs also received Jay Jackson from Peoria. Jackson, the Cubs 9th round pick from June, is on his third level of baseball in just two months.

This news is a bit dated, but the Cubs officially announced that they were transferring Rich Hill from Iowa to Daytona. Hill had been on rehab starts in Daytona, while officially listed as on the D.L. in Iowa.

The D-Cubs also announced watched the first official rehab start for Angel Guzman. Guzman only pitched two innings, giving up a run on three hits, but had 2 K's. Guzman has been out just over a year and isn't expected to contibute to the team this year.

Peoria

When Jackson was promoted to Daytona, the Chiefs received Josh Whitlock from Boise. Whitlock, a draftmate of Jackson, was selected in the 26th round this year. A part time starter for Boise, Whitlock has pitched once out of the 'pen for Peoria.

The Chiefs also had Jon Lieber stop in for a rehab start last night. Lieber started the game and threw 3 innings, giving up 3 earned runs on 5 hits and taking the loss.

Boise

Boise received Ryan Searle from the rookie team in Mesa as a part of the Jackson-Whitlock promotion. Searle, a 19 year old NDFA out of Australia, comes from Minor League Baseball's Australian Academy.

Scott Eyre Gets Designated for Assignment

Scott Eyre, the 36 year old lefty, has been DFA'd (designated for assignment) by the Cubs. The Cubs now have 10 days to trade him or he will be released.

Eyre only appeared in 19 games this season, thanks in large part to two trips to the D.L. He had given up 9 earned runs in just 11 and 1/3 innings pitched. Even against left-handed hitters, the sole reason Lou usually brought him in, Eyre had given up 7 hits in 7 innings pitched, good for a .259 BAA.

Eyre is on the tail end of a 3 year, $11 million dollar contract. If the Cubs have to release him, they will be on the hook for the remainder of his contract, less any prorated contract a team signs him to at the major league minimum after his release.

This leaves the Cubs with only 38 men on the 40 man roster (plus Angel Guzman, who doesn't count because he's on the 60 day DL). This isn't a major impact, as the Cubs would have a 3rd spot available, if needed, by moving Chad Fox to the 60 day DL.

It will be interesting to see if he garners much interest. He has only pitched in one game in the last 45 days and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits in 1/3 of an inning. Lou has obviously lost confidence in him, but a lot of teams may be willing to take a flyer on him. Whether they are willing to pick up the last million or so left on his contract to make sure they get him is to be seen. I imagine the Cubs would be willing to pay a portion of that if it means that a) they don't have to pay it all and b) get some minor prospect in return.

Rain may bring Wood

Kerry Wood tried to lobby Lou to allow him to return on Monday. Lou denied his request. But the forces of nature may force Lou to make the call on Tuesday. While the Cubs only used two relief pitchers (Gaudin and Cotts) in the rain-shortened game, a late night and a quick turn-around may force the Cubs to pull Wood off the D.L. out of need. Marmol had pitched in 3 consecutive games before last night and Jeff ND pitched over 2 innings on Sunday, meaning that the Cubs could use those guys, but may be better off with another day off. Curiously, Erye has only pitched once since his return and Marshall has only pitched once in the last 9 days, meaning that essentially Lou has gone with a 5 man 'pen. Presumably, it will be Cotts or Marshall who will head back to Iowa when Wood is activated.

1:10 PM CT UPDATE: The Cubs have indeed activated Wood, but instead of sending down one of their young lefty's, they DFA'd their old one, Scott Erye. More on the Erye situation to come...