A Trip Around the Minors

Posted by Lionel on May 29, 2009.

Jake Fox comes off the ATAtM board, Josh Vitters is hot, and my bitching finally pays off...

Steve Clevenger-Welcome to Iowa. After weeks of my bitching about why the Cubs had their two best catching prospects on the same team, the Cubs finally promoted Clevenger. It was a well-deserved promotion, as he was hitting .364 with a .443 OBP and an OPS nearing 1.000. He got his first taste of AAA last night, going 0 for 3 with a walk and two K's.

Kevin Hart-As mentioned in last week's ATAtM, Hart has made his return to the rotation after struggling mightily in the 'pen. He got 2 starts this week and showed why this was a smart move. He only pitched 4 innings in each start because he's still being stretched out, but the results were outstanding. Last Friday, 1 earnie on a hit and a walk. The run scored on a single, a stolen base, a groundout moving the runner to third and a wild pitch. On Wednesday, no earned runs on 3 hits and 2 walks, including 5 K's. The only bad part was that he had no clean innings.
Jeff ND-Samardzija had his worst start of the season on Monday, giving up 4 earned runs over 4 and 2/3 innings pitched. He gave up 8 hits and 5 K's. Former teammate Eric Patterson had one of each. Jeff ND took his first loss of the season, while another former teammate Sean Gallagher took the W.
Bonus-With all of the movement between Iowa and Chicago, the I-Cubs rotation has had to add and subtract. Just as Hart moved back to the rotation, so did J.R. Mathes. As a starter, Mathes is 4-1 with a 2.37 ERA over 6 starts with a 1.05 WHIP and he has struck out 4 times the batters he's walked. In his latest outing on Sunday, he threw 7 innings, giving up a run on 3 hits and 2 walks.
Welington Castillo-With Clevenger gone, Castillo can get some regular PT and hopefully get his swing back in the groove. He had a modest 4 game hitting streak heading into game 2 of Tuesday doubleheader (he had a pinch-hit single in game 1), but has gone 0 for 9 since. The righthander is now batting .185 on the season, including a surprising .107 against lefties. The only good news is that he only K'd twice this week.
Jay Jackson-Jackson turned in another strong performance on Sunday, going 6 innings, giving up a run on 3 hits and 3 walks and striking out 8. He earned his third W of the year. Over his last 5 starts, he is 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA. He's struck out 35 batters in 32 innings pitched and has a 1.09 WHIP. He starts tonight and with another strong performance, he could be looking at pitcher of the month honors.
Bonus-The "centerpiece" of the Cubs return in the Michael Weurtz trade, Richie Robnett, is struggling, and that's putting it nicely. He started the season at Iowa, where a .184 BA sent him to Tennessee. He still is looking for his swing. In the 8 games since his demotion, he's 3 for 21 and has 6 K's. On the season, he has more triples (3) than doubles (1).
Tyler Colvin-With the constant rain in Daytona preventing the D-Cubs from playing 7 games, Colvin essentially had an extended layoff from his D.L. stint, playing only once in 7 days since being removed. But the last three days have been clear, allowing Colvin to get into the swing of things. Over the last 3 games, he went 3 for 10 with a triple and 2 RBI's. In what's been a shortened month for him, he's hitting .298 in May.
Starlin Castro-Again, only 3 games this week, so limited stats. 3 for 12 with a walk, 2 K's and 2 caught stealing attempts. He's hitting .384 for the month of May with 8 extra base hits, after hitting only singles in April.
Andrew Cashner-Cashner started on Tuesday and pitched well. Over 5 innings, he gave up a earned run on 3 hits and no walks while K'ing 5. His 5 innings were his first start over 3 and 1/3 this year. He was in line for the win before 2 ninth inning runs crossed the plate, leaving him without a record on the season.
Bonus-Alberto Alburquerque (who prefers to go by Al, meaning his name is Al Alburquerque) has been a nice reliever for the D-Cubs this year. In 14 relief appearances, he has a 2.14 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He's given up just 2 runs in his past 13 and 1/3 innings. He has an impressive 22 K's against 8 walks in 21 innings pitched. The lone issue with Al Al seems to be the longball...he's given up 3 HR's, accounting for 4 of the 5 earned runs he's allowed.
Josh Vitters-As mentioned earlier this week on TD, Vitters is now the #1 hot prospect on BA's Prospect Hot Sheet, released last Friday (he was also the Midwest League hitter of the week last week). He's likely to stay on the list, if not at the top of the list, when it's released later today. Vitters has a 7 game hitting streak and has hit in 11 of his last 12. 3 more HR's this week, bringing his total to 11 (he is trying to go after Fox now that he's in the Bigs?). In April, he hit a respectable .302 but had 4 extra base hits (including 1 HR) and 7 RBI. In May, he's hitting .400 with 10 HR's (15 XB's in total) and 21 RBI's.
Ryan Flaherty-Flaherty is in a funk. 2 hits this week in 24 AB's (.083 BA). Both hits were singles. He didn't add any walks and he struck out 6 times. So much for his stat of getting more walks than K's. He did add a stolen base, making him 4 for 5 on the season.
Bonus-For all those who are ready to lynch JH for trading DeRosa, maybe part of the return will calm you. Chris Archer, considered the weakest prospect of the three, has blossomed in his first season in the Cubs organization. 9 starts, a 2-0 record, a 1.29 ERA, and a 1.11 WHIP. He's struck out 47 batters in just 35 innings (12.09 per 9). The righthander is equally effective against lefties (hitting .160 off him) as righties (.176). In his last 5 starts, he's given up just 2 runs total (a 0.78 ERA).

The Rest

No word on Dae Eun Rhee or Hak Ju Lee.

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Roster Moves Afew

Posted by Lionel on May 28, 2009.

Bobby Scales trip back to Iowa was a short one...in fact, he never saw the cornfields. With Ryan Freel coming up with a strained hammy in the 4th inning yesterday (yes, there was more to yesterday's game than Mt. Z's eruption), the Cubs held Scales in Chicago while Freel was being evaluted. It is now believed the Cubs will D.L. Freel and recall Scales.
For those interested in the rules of this situation, a player who is sent to the minors must stay in the minors for at least 10 days. But there is an exception to the rule that allows a team to recall a player in less than 10 days if there is an injury that requires a player to go on the D.L., as in this case.

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Roster Moves Aplenty

Posted by Lionel on May 27, 2009.

Wow. I decided to check the Cubs website before the start of today's action just to review the standings after last night when I was blindsided by roster moves. Let's take a look at the 6 players affected.
Off the 25 Man
Aaron Miles-Miles was put on the 15 day D.L., retroactive all the way back to yesterday, with what's being called a right shoulder strain. I don't know if that's actually the case or if he has some mild discomfort and they convinced him he could use a 2 week vacation to get his head on straight and try to get his swing back.
Neal Cotts-Cotts was sent back to AAA. Cotts has been the latest in the long line of relievers in Lou's doghouse, although Lou has given him every chance to work himself out on the mound. 3 earnies against the Pirates on Monday probably sealed the deal. Cotts had a 7.36 ERA and 9 walks in 11 innings.
Bobby Scales-Scales was sent back to AAA, which was a bit odd given the fact that Miles was D.L.'d, but with the addition of Ryan Freel, the Cubs probably had a INF too many. Scales wild ride lasted 24 days, but after opening up his MLB career with a 7 game hitting streak, Scales was 1 for his last 17. Despite that, his .257 average put him 6th on the team, ahead of D.Lee, Soriano, Fontenot, Soto, Bradley, Miles, and Freel.
On the 25 Man

Jake Fox-There isn't much to say about Jake Fox that hasn't already been said. I think Fox will take the potential loss of his minor league Triple Crown (which he was holding) for an upgrade to some new digs. Fox can play a little bit of everything. After being moved from catcher (because he was an all stick, no defense catcher) he's played mostly 1st and the corner OF spots, but they've even tried him out at 3rd this year. Mostly though, he's going to be a stick off the bench unless he gives the team a huge offensive spark.

Andres Blanco-Blanco was added to the 25 man after being added to the 40 man roster. Who, you might ask? Blanco is a 25 year old SS who signed as a minor league free agent after the '07 season and re-signed this offseason. He hit .285 in 298 AB's with Iowa last year and went 9 for 12 in the stolen base department. This year, he's off to a .314 start and despite hitting only 1 HR all of last year, he has 4 this year. With Miles out, the Cubs needed a backup SS so Blanco was added. Blanco actually has nearly 250 plate appearances in the Bigs, but all were with hapless Royal teams in the middle part of this decade.

Jason Waddell-Same deal with Waddell. Added to both the 25 and 40 man roster, and another who? guy. If Waddell stays up for 15 days or so, he'll celebrate his 28th birthday in Chicago (OK, so technically he'll be flying back from Houston after a day game, but you get the idea). Waddell was called up for his handedness, not surprisingly. The leftie has been far from dominant at Iowa, giving up 10 earned runs in 16 and 2/3 innings. However, he is the definition of a situational leftie...lefties are hitting just .205 off him, compared to righties hitting .346. He was a minor league free agent signing this offseason and his first appearance this year will be his first MLB appearance.

This moves the Cubs 40 man roster up two notches to 38. Chad Fox's career seems to be in jeopardy, so he'll be transferred to the 60 day D.L. if needed. Technically, they could also move ARam to the 60 day D.L. if the situation gets dire, but then would have to put someone on waivers when he returned. If you were wondering why the Cubs added Waddell instead of calling up a leftie already on the 40 man roster, it's because they don't have another one who wasn't already on the 25 man roster.

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Rumor Mill Starting to Churn

Posted by Lionel on May 27, 2009.

It seemed like the sleepy baseball writers and reporters were caught off guard last week when the Jake Peavy to the White Sox deal popped up, so now they are all scrambling to start some rumors, even if they are absurd...

  • Obviously, the first rumor out there is that the Cubs will try to go after Jake Peavy. The Daily Herald gave some thoughts on this, basically saying it either had to be done now or never. I would love Peavy, but this rumor just needs to die. First, the Cubs problem isn't the starting rotation. In fact, I don't think I'm providing any major insight when I say that the SP's are their strongest suit. Second, it would take a Josh Vitters (currently #1 on BA's hot prospect sheet) plus 3-4 other players to get Peavy. The Cubs farm system is weak enough, we don't need it weaker to get another SP. Third, Peavy is a 6 inning pitcher, meaning that you have to have a good 'pen behind him. That also means that he isn't going to give you those long outings you may need in September.
  • Speaking of rekindling old trade rumors, Dayn Perry of Foxsports.com decided to spark up a classic: Brian Roberts. Like most writers, he didn't actually go as far as saying he had anything concrete, rather he was just throwing names out there. That much is clear when he gets to the part where the Cubs are trading Jeff ND. Samardzija has a full no trade clause, according to various reports, so his trade proposal is just an armchair GM picking names. But I would welcome a trade for Brian Roberts. I wasn't sold on the Mike Fontenot experiment from the start and if he wasn't needed at third, I would say it's time to put lil Mikey to bed. Roberts would spark the offense and could be used in the two hole, since Sori refuses to try if he's not hitting leadoff.
  • Gordon Wittenmeyer jumped in with the thought that the Cubs could use Kevin Kouzmanoff to fill in until ARam returns. Is it just me, or does everyone seem to have a solution for replacing ARam with another light-hitting 3 sack? I think the Cubs have enough of those already on the roster. Instead of further weakening the farm to get a .231 hitting Kouzmanoff, maybe they should just stick with their .200 hitters until ARam comes back for the last 70 games or so.
  • From the ridiculous, the Berryessa Sun (San Jose, CA paper) points that the A's will be trading Matt Holiday and the Cubs (among other teams) are good trading partners with the A's and could make them an offer they couldn't refuse. Really? Where, pray tell, would Matt Holiday play? Good idea, though. Let's just name every team that the A's have previously traded with and say they could land Matt Holiday.

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