Canada-USA

Need something to watch this afternoon, with all N.L. games scheduled for tonight? Yeah, me too. I suggest checking out the Canada-USA baseball matchup. While there are no Cubs prospects suiting up for the Red, White and Blue, check out the man behind the dish with the maple leaf on his sleeve. It's Chris Robinson, one of the Tennessee Smokies backup catchers. Robinson was acquired by the Cubs in the trade of Neifi Perez to the Tigers. In 49 games with the Smokies, Robinson has hit .214.

Rain Delay at Wrigley: Elvis...he likes

As a resident of Chicago I had the great pleasure of experiencing the great showers of August 08 last night (8/4/08). With down trees on my street and windows rattling I was amazed to find out this morning that the Cubs had played 7 innings. Congrats!

What really got me excited this morning is that everything I have told my friends about Elvis is still true: "HE IS ALIVE" and he is well. check him out above...his slide is top notch and his understanding of authority is terrific.

What's next? TuPac reappears for the 7th inning stretch during the Cubs World Series?

A Trip Around the Minors...

In this week's edition, Andrew Cashner finally throws like a first round pick, Donnie Veal throws like a 50th round pick, Vitters and Atkins keep streaking, and MORE Hoffpauir Extrapolation!

Iowa

Felix Pie-Pie returned to action last Friday after sitting a little over a week with a wrist injury. Since his return, he is hitting an even .300, thanks in large part to last Saturday's game. In that game, he went 4 for 6 with a HR and 2 RBI's. With Iowa in line to head to the playoffs (currently a 7 game lead), it will be interesting to see if the Cubs call up Felix Pie when rosters expand or continue to let him get some playoff experience with Iowa.

Kevin Hart-Hart pitched 3 and 2/3 in 3 appearances over the past week, allowing an earned run on a hit and a walk, while striking out 4. He also earned a save. He has a 2.53 ERA as a reliever at Iowa and has only walked one batter in the last 6 and 2/3 innings pitched.

Mitch Atkins-The winning streak rolls on. Atkins didn't have a particularly great night last Saturday, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks in 6 and 1/3, but he nonetheless recorded the win to extend his streak to 11. Last night, he was better, allowing only one run over 6. But he allowed 6 hits and 4 walks, so it was more the ability to get himself out of jams that gave him his twelfth straight winning start.

Bonus-Micah Hoffpauir (why not, right?) was named the PCL hitter of the week for last week, thanks in large part to his 4 HR game last Saturday. That's right, 4 HR's. Ironically, he had 4 RBI's and 4 runs (meaning he hit 4 solo shots). He followed that up with an 0 for 7, which is possibly the worst 2 game span for him on the season (he still managed an RBI). But don't worry, he's back on the horse, going 7 for his last 10, including his 20th and 21st AAA HR of the season. His updated extrapolated numbers: .377 (up 10 points), 55 HR's (up 3), 218 RBI's (up 3), 140 runs (up 8), 78 doubles (down 2), 468 total bases (up 10), and a .458 BA with runner's in scoring position (up 37 points).

Tennessee

Tyler Colvin-Colvin had another big offensive Sunday last week. Although he wasn't able to top his 2 HR, 6 RBI performance, he did manage to go 3 for 5 with 2 doubles, a HR, 4 RBI, and a run. Colvin continues to be an all or nothing guy, having 8 multi hits games and 3 no hit games in the last 11. He hit an impressive .385 for the week and has an RBI in each of his last 5 games, totalling 9 for the week. His streak has brought his average up to .251 on the year.

Welington Castillo-Castillo only played in 4 games this week. He went 3 for 14 (.214 average) with 6 strikeouts. He's hitting a mere .192 for the month of August, has produced 1 run and no RBI's, and has more strikeouts (10) than hits (6).

Jose Ceda-Ceda continues to pitch the 8th inning for the Smokies. Last Saturday, he pitched an inning, giving up a run on a hit and 2 walks, while getting a K. He failed to clean up the 8th inning on Tuesday, entering the game with runners on first and second and only one out. He gave up a single and a double, allowing 3 runs to cross the plate before retiring the final two batters. One of the runs scored on a throwing error, so he wasn't charged with an earned run, but he allowed an 8-2 game to become competitive again.

Donnie Veal-Donnie Veal's last W came on June. June 17th to be exact. Since then, he has gone 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA. He threw last Saturday, taking the loss in a 5 inning, 5 hit, 5 walk, 5 K performance (giving up 3 earned runs). Veal's ERA is now 4.27 on the year and has a WHIP of 1.55, thanks in large part to 72 walks in 25 games (averaging almost 3 walks per start).

Bonus-Sam Fuld (10th round, 2004) was expected to compete for the starting CF spot this year. After not making the team, he struggled out of the gate in Iowa, and in May was shipped to Tennessee. He was hitting .236 as he entered August, including a month of July that saw him hit .219 despite a .383 OBP. Since the calendar changed, he is taking a more free-swinging approach and he has produced. He's hitting .333 for the month while maintaining a healthy OBP of .407. He has already struck out more this month than any previous month with the Smokies, but it has resulted in more balls being safely put in play.

Daytona

Tony Thomas-Thomas returned to action on Sunday after about a week off. You have to wonder if things are still bothering him, as he has gone 1 for 13 since his return. The highlight for Thomas' week was swiping his 20th stolen base of the season, coming on his 27th attempted steal (and 74% success rate). A 3 K performance last night moved him up to 99 on the year in 100 games played.

Bonus-Ryan Harvey was the 6th overall pick in the 2003 draft. This year, he has taken a similar path to that of Sam Fuld, except on a lower level. He began the season at Tennessee, where he hit .216 before being demoted. Things didn't get much better for him at Daytona, where he was hitting .222 coming into the month of August, including a dreadful .162 in July. While he hasn't thrown up huge numbers, he has managed a .280 batting average for the month of August and already has more hits and as many RBI's as he did in July. This may be the end of the road for Harvey in the Cubs organization, but at least he's showing some signs of life.

Peoria

No Top Ten Prospects

Bonus-With stories on Fuld and Harvey, I felt I needed to give the organization a boost in this Bonus slot. In 2005, the Cubs used their 8th round pick on Jake Muyco, a catcher out of North Carolina State. After a couple of seasons muddling in the low A ball, the Cubs decided to make him a reliever. That decision has worked out perfectly. Muyco is 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA at Peoria. Half of his runs have come via the dinger, all of them solo. He has a 1.06 WHIP and strikes out 3 and a half batters per walk allowed.

Boise

Josh Vitters-The Cubs must be focused on keeping Vitter's confidence high, because there is no reason for him to still be facing Northwest League pitching. Vitters hitting streak now stands at 20 games. He collected multiple hits in 4 of the 5 games he played in this week. He has a .343 batting average at Boise with a .899 OPS.

Bonus-Andrew Cashner, the Cubs top pick from June, had struggled out of the gate at Boise, giving up 8 earned runs over 5 and 2/3 innings pitched in his first 3 appearances. He had walked 12 men. But hopefully Wednesday night's performance was a sign of what's to come. He started the game for Boise, going 4 innings. He didn't allow a hit, walked 2 (obviously still a concern) and struck out 4.

Minor League Movers

Angel Guzman continues his rehab, Brian Schlitter finds a home, and the coaching staff adds a player.

Iowa

No Moves

Tennessee

After making two starts for Daytona, the Cubs promoted Angel Guzman to Tennessee in his rehab. Guzman pitched 3 innings last Thursday, giving up a run on a hit and a walk.

Daytona

Brian Schlitter, the pitcher acquired by the Cubs in the Scott Eyre trade, was sent to Daytona. He hasn't allowed an earned run in 3 innings pitched over two appearances since being acquired. Schlitter took the spot of Adam Harben, who was placed on the D.L. Leo Perez, mentioned as a curiosity in last week's MLM, was deactivated this week and rejoins the Cubs in a coaching role. Perez was a fill in at catcher and was no longer needed with the return of Blake Lalli from the D.L.

Peoria

No Moves

Boise

David Cales, a 24th round pick of the Cubs in June, was promoted to Boise this week. Cales, a native Chicagoan and lifelong White Sox fan, struggled with a 5.87 ERA at Arizona before being promoted. But in his 3 innings of work on Saturday, he only gave up one hit and struck out 5. 5th rounder Justin Bristow and 13th rounder Tony Campana were sent back to Arizona. Bristow had a 9.00 ERA in 5 games at Boise and Campana was 0 for 3 in a short stint.

Fukudome is Fukun Strugglin'

.327/.915
.293/.792
.264/.789
.236/.688
.107/.330

It's safe to say that Cubs RFer Kosuke Fukudome has, well, cooled off a bit since his hot start to the season. The above numbers are Fukudome's batting average and OPS in order from April to August. The numbers are pretty staggering.

The spotlight has been turned on Fukudome and his recent struggles this week when Lou Piniella made a comment about sitting Fukudome a bit until he starts to produce. Said Lou:
"We need him to start hitting. If not, I'm going to have to start looking for other options." "I'm going to put the best lineups that I can out there to win baseball games, period."
Lou has backed off those comments a bit today, but his concerns certainly didn't come, um, out of right field. Fukudome is clearly struggling.

The "common knowledge" on this seems to say that Fukudome started hot because none of the pitchers knew him. The pitchers have adjusted to Fukudome as they have learned his tendencies and have begun to throw to him accordingly. Fukudome has failed to adjust as well to the pitchers. I'm not sure that's true. Fukudome is clearly a good hitter. I'd like to think that he has the ability to adjust and hit bad pitching. I'm more inclined to believe the problems are coming from Fukudome and that's why he's struggling. Why? I don't know-but something is up. (A quick look at Fukudome's Fan Graphs didn't turn up much in my eyes-yours?)

It's possible that the grind is just getting to Fukudome. The Japanese season is significantly shorter than MLB's. Perhaps his body is just wearing down. He's not getting any younger. Perhaps he's being affected by being away from his family? Last I heard, his family was still in Japan. Maybe he changed his approach at the plate? Maybe the coaches tried to change something? Who knows-but Fukudome isn't playing as well as he could, and should be right now.

So where's that leave the Cubs? I say-let's get the guy some time off and give a guy who clearly deserves one a shot. In 80 PAs on the year, "pinch hit professional" Darly Ward is hitting just .221 with a .720 OPS. He's got 2 HRs and just 9 RBIs. And Ward has just 32 PAs since July 1st. Ward just hasn't put it together this year. I don't know if it's the end of the line for him, but I'm damn certain that he's a waste on the Cubs bench.

James Micah Hoffpauir is a beast right now. Set aside that in only 39 PAs on the year across a few stints with the Cubs that Hoffpauir is hitting .378 with a .951 OPS. Dude is hitting .371 with a 1.151 OPS and 19 HRs at Iowa in 224 ABs. That's downright Bonds-ian. As Lionel likes to do, if you extrapolate his numbers out over a full season at Iowa-you get something like this (stats a few days old):

.367 BA
52 HR's
215 RBI's
132 Runs
80 Doubles
457 total bases
.421 BA with RISP

Hoffpauir's hot spring has carried over into the year. And he's kept it rolling. So why is he not up helping the club? At the very least he should replace Daryl Ward on the Cubs bench immediately. Imagine a guy like this coming in late in a game off the pine? And Hoffpauir should be used as a "good-enough" replacement in RF to allow Fukudome a couple of days off a week. If you need the defense-bring Fukudome in. But otherwise, let the kid play a bit.

Going back to Lou's comment...playing Hoffpauir over Ward and Fukudome right now is the best lineup. Period.

Impact of Dunn Trade, C.Lee injury on Cubs

Breaking news out of Cincinnati (OK, more like out of Phoenix)...the Reds have traded the Big Donkey, Adam Dunn, to the D-Backs for prospects. Dunn is tied for the MLB lead in HR's, but is currently hitting .233. This will fill the hole left in the lineup by the O-Dog (Orlando Hudson for those tiring of the nickname game). This news is combined with the news that the reigning N.L. player of the week, Carlos Lee, is done for the season with a broken bone in his pinkie. So, with the Reds and Astros down (see picture...get it? both teams are down? Moving on...), how will these stories impact the Cubs, both in the division race and in the pennant race?

First, the El Caballo injury. The Stros have 6 games left against the Cubs and only 3 left against the Cards and Brew-Crew. Advantage Cubs. But, the bigger story with this one is the fact that Lee is at least in the starting lineup for the Cub Killer team, if not the poster child. He's a career .313 hitter against the Cubs with 27 HR's (8 more than any other opponent). I certainly am not going to miss seeing him crank HR's off the Cubs the remainder of the year.

As for the Dunn impact on the race? Well, the Cards have 9 games left against the Reds, 3 more than either the Cubs or the Brew-Crew. But hold on there, sports fan. While the Cards seem to have the advantage by playing more games against the Reds, they also have 7 games left against the D-Backs, while the Cubs and Brewers have already finished there season series. As it turns out, the Big Donkey also is a Cub Killer. 38 career HR's, 7 more than his HR total against Milwaukee (his second best team to hit against). But of the teams he's played more than 40 games against, he's hit for a higher average against the Brewers and stolen more bases against them. All in all, probably a draw.

The biggest issue, in my opinion, is what this does to the D-Backs, the team the Cubs would play if the playoffs started today. Obviously, the .305 batting average of Hudson doesn't compare well to Dunn's .233, but then again, Hudson only had 8 HR's. But this makes the job of Bob Melvin's (or Bo-Mel, as I once heard in called (I swear, I'm not making that up for the sake of nicknames)) really hard. They don't have a 2-sack and too many 1-sacks. The D-Backs are probably going to have to rely on a combination of Chris Burke and Augie "How do I still play MLB" Ojeda to fill the 2-sack spot, thanks in part to their trading of their #6 prospect Emilio Bonifacio to the Nat's for Jon Rauch. In the short term, they are OK in getting everyone PT because Justin Upton is on the D.L. But he's on a rehab, meaning that once he returns, they have Conor Jackson, Adam Dunn, Tony Clark, and Chad Tracy to fill 1st and LF. OK, so TC probably isn't going to be logging a lot of innings, but they still have to find a way to get 3 guys in 2 spots. Things could get messier if Eric Byrnes comes back from injury before the end of the season, althought that doesn't seem likely.

While this moves gives the D-Backs a deeper bench, the loss of Hudson isn't going to be replaced by Dunn. Hudson was one of only two D-Backs with an average above .280. Dunn gives them some thunder in the lineup when he gets a hold of a ball, but now you've created more trouble in your clubhouse as guys vie for playing time.

Insider Report:Carlos Zambrano

How does Carlos Zambrano spend his off-days? Well, according to an inside source for TD, the Big Z spent Thursday at Six Flags Great America Amusement Park. The good news is that he was reportedly enjoying one of the water rides, although with the way he pitched on Saturday, maybe he spent a little too much time on the Dark Knight Coaster.