Transactional News


Posted by Lionel on July 10, 2009.

The Cubs curse appears to be back, as just when the Cubs seem to be getting healthy, things start falling apart...

It started with Ryan Dempster, who as most of you know by now, caught his back leg hopping over the small "fence" that separates the dugout from the playing field. He thought he'd just bent the nail back and was going to pitch on Tuesday, but a precautionary X-Ray revealed a break in his big toe. He is saying 3 weeks, most people are saying it'll be more like 6.

To take Dempster's spot, the Cubs recalled Kevin Hart, who'd been sent down the day before when the team was healthy for a day. Hart started on Wednesday and pitched well. As a starter, he'd been pitching well at Iowa, with a 3-0 record and 1.41 ERA over 6 starts.

But with the transactions from Monday, the Cubs were playing a man short in the 'pen, so despite Hart's performance, he was sent back to Iowa yesterday. The Cubs called up Jeff Stevens to fill the vacant bullpen spot. With the All Star break upcoming, the Cubs won't need a fifth starter for a while, so there was no real need to keep Hart around. Stevens, of course, was the centerpiece in the Mark DeRosa trade. He had a 2.18 ERA over 30 relief appearances for Iowa and had struck out 43 in 41+ innings.

Additionally, Jason Waddell came off the D.L. and was sent to Iowa. If you remember, Waddell was called up to be another leftie in the 'pen, but was sent to the D.L. after 3 appearances with a non-baseball related injury.

In yet to be determined news, Geo Soto was scratched from Wednesday's game with a strained oblique muscle, which he pulled during BP. Another freak injury for the Cubs. The Cubs were supposed to review the MRI today to see the severity of it, but most people think they'll send him to the D.L. It'll give him a chance to get it back to 100%, instead of trying to play through it and possibly injuring it more. With the All Star break and the retroactivity to Wednesday, Geo would be able to come off the D.L. by the 22nd, which means he would only miss 11 games in total, and they'd probably hold off on activating him until the 24th, because of an off-day the 23rd.

The problem becomes what the Cubs do if Geo goes to the D.L. Koyie Hill slides into the starting spot and the current plan is to have him start and Jake Fox to be the emergency catcher (Fox was drafted as a catcher but moved a few years ago because he didn't have the tools of a major league catcher). But if Geo goes to the D.L., I'm assuming the Cubs will have to add a catcher to their 25 man roster. To do that, they will actually have to add one to their 40 man roster, because they only have Soto and Hill. The Cubs are only at 38 on their 40 man roster, so they have room, but then it becomes whether they add the AAA All Star Chris Robinson or Steve Clevenger. Robinson is the more experienced catcher, having spent the entire year at Iowa, while Clevenger is considered the 11th best prospect in the organization and excelled when he was with Tennessee. My guess is that Robinson would get the call, if the Cubs add a catcher, but I could see Clevenger added if the Cubs expected to protect him this fall by adding him to the 40 man.

And a quick little rumor for you, related to the roster. JH said yesterday that he's already talked to his scouts and spoken to the agent for B.J. Ryan, the former closer who was released by the Blue Jays yesterday. It could mean that JH is doing his due diligence, but it could mean he is considering adding Ryan to the mix. Ryan had a 6.53 ERA for the Jays this season.

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A Trip Around the Minors



Posted by Lionel on July 10, 2009.

Iowa



Steve Clevenger-Clevenger's slow start at the plate since since promotion seems to be over. He has a 6 game hitting streak in which he's batting .417. Last night, he went 3 for 4 with his first triple since joining Iowa (he has 4 on the year).


Bonus-After a solid month in Tennessee, the Cubs promoted Blake Parker to Iowa to see how he'd handle pitching in AAA relief. In the closer's role, Parker has 9 saves and a 1.66 ERA. He's striking out more than a batter per inning and righties are hitting a mere .185 off him. You have to think the Cubs may consider adding the former 16th round pick to the roster come September.


Tennessee


Welington Castillo-Until last night, Castillo had one hit this month in 23 AB's (that's an .043 batting average). But he went 1 for 4 and watched his monthly BA jump to .074. He now passes other Smokies in July hits, namely Marcus Mateo, Jay Jackson, Jake Muyco, and Andrew Cashner. Of course, there all pitchers (but to be fair, Muyco used to be a catcher). Castillo pulls into a tie with Casey Coleman.


Tyler Colvin-Last Sunday, Colvin had a very Colvin-like performance. In 5 AB's, he had 2 doubles and a HR with 2 runs and 2 RBI's. Unfortunately, that was surrounded by 5 0'fers. He went 1 for 4 as last night's DH, but is still hitting below .200 for the month of July.


Jay Jackson-Jackson took his first loss since April on Tuesday in his worst outing since April. 5 and 1/3, 4 earned. It was a bit of a weird night for Jackson. After giving up two singles in the first and having the runner's advance on a fielder's choice, Jackson balked in a run. He gave up a solo shot in the 3rd, but that was all the hits he surrendered. He was pitching pretty well until the 6th inning, where he walked the bases loaded before being removed.


Andrew Cashner-Cashner had two starts this week. On the 4th of July, he yielded one run over 5 innings pitched while striking out 6. Cashner's outing last night was an interesting one, because he took his first loss of the year despite not giving up an earned run. After 4 scoreless frames, he had runners on first and second with two outs. Nate Samson commits a throwing error, allowing one run to score. Cashner leaves the game with runner's on second and third, both of whom score.


Bonus-Make it 7 All Stars for the Smokies, as Tony Thomas was added as an injury replacement. The former top 10 prospect is hitting .261 with 8 HR's and 8 stolen bases, but has committed 13 errors this year and has been caught stealing 12 times (yes, a 40% success rate). He's also struck out 78 times in 81 games.


Daytona

Josh Vitters-Vitters hasn't quite adjusted to FSL pitching just yet. In his first 8 games, he's hitting .194, including 0 for 5 against lefties. His season average is still above .300 and I'd expect this is just a slump for Vitters.

Starlin Castro-For the week, Castro is hitting .353 with 3 extra base hits. One was his third HR of the year and first since May. Castro has an impressive 10.5% strikeout ratio, and with only 11 walks, he's putting almost every ball in play.

Bonus-A 24th round pick last year, David Cales struggled at Tennessee but is lighting it up at Daytona. The last time the D-Cubs closer gave up a run, it was May. He has a WHIP of an even 1.00 and righties are hitting .176 against him at Daytona. He has struck out at least one batter in his last 8 appearances.

Peoria

Ryan Flaherty-Flaherty has hit safely in his last 4 games and 7 of his last 8. He's scored 7 runs in during that stretch and he's hitting .346. He also hit his 10th HR of the year, which is 2nd on the team to former Chief Josh Vitters.

Bonus-Hopefully, Kyler Burke can turn his warning track power into HR power. He leads all of the minor leagues in doubles, with 30. The 21 year old's doubles are helping him to an .801 OPS and he's a perfect 8 for 8 in the stolen base department. He was the player thrown in in the Michael Barrett for Rob Bowen trade.

Boise

Hak Ju Lee-Lee has a 4 game hitting streak and is hitting .286 for the year. He is 6th in the league in runs scored, with 16 in 18 games. He is also 2nd in the league in stolen bases, with 7. The bad news continues to be his defense...he has 11 errors in 18 games (that would be nearly 100 over a 162 game season).

Bonus-In the 2nd inning of his first appearance, Jeffry Antigua gave up a 2 run HR. In the 11 1/3 innings since then, he hasn't allowed a run. In fact, that HR was one of only 6 hits Antigua's allowed in his 13 innings of work. He's walked 5 (giving him a WHIP of 0.85) and struck out 11 (giving him a K/W ratio of over 2 to 1). Righties are hitting .097 off him so far this season.

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Angel Guzman's Story

Posted by Lionel on July 8, 2009.

Name the only top prospect (according to BA) in the last 7 years to be in a Cubs uniform today.
Yes, it's an easy answer since Angel Guzman's name and photo are above, but it's also a pretty remarkable story and one I think often gets overlooked.
Guzman originally signed with the Kansas City Royals in 1999 before having his contract voided and later signing with the Cubs. Guzman made his professional debut with the Cubs Rookie club in Venezuela as an 18 year old, making 7 appearances with a 1.93 ERA. Guzman made his stateside debut as a 19 year old with Boise in 2001. He went 9-1 in 14 starts with a 2.23 ERA, leading the league in victories and being named an All Star. In '02, he played in his first full season of professional baseball. He pitched 156 innings between A and Advanced A ball, going 11-4 with a 2.19 ERA.
It's notable that he pitched 150+ innings as a 20 year old because of the way things would go after that. After being a major league spring training invitee, he opened '03 at AA, where he went 3-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 15 starts (89 2/3 innings). He was selected to the Futures Game. But, he felt shoulder discomfort after a start in late June and Dr. James Andrews performed labrum surgery on him on July 8. Despite the surgery, the Cubs added Guzman to the 40 man roster at the year's end.
Guzman got started late in 2004 following surgery, making his first appearance mid-May. The Cubs started him in Advanced A ball while he rehabbed his shoulder. After a 3-1, 4.70 ERA performance, he was promoted to AA. After 4 starts in which he went 0-3 with a 5+ ERA, he went to the D.L. with shoulder tendonitis. He would remain on the D.L. for the rest of the year.
In 2005, Guzman went to EST (extended spring training) and remained there until August 10, when he returned to the mound in a rookie league game. He would only pitch in 6 contests that year between Rookie ball and Class A. He would get some additional work in in the Arizona Fall League.
Despite having missed the better part of the last two seasons, Guzman broke camp with Dusty Baker's Cubs in 2006. After 4 starts, he'd head to Iowa for the first time with a MLB ERA of 7.00. He'd bounce between Chicago and Iowa for the rest of the season, ending up with a 0-6 record and 7.39 ERA in the Bigs and a 4-4 record with a 4.04 ERA at Iowa.
In '07, he broke camp with the big club again as a reliever. But with Wade Miller struggling, the Cubs sent Guzman down to get in some more innings and prep him to start. He was back as a starter in May, until cramping issues sent him to the 'pen. At that time, Ryan Dempster was supposed to prepare Guzman to be the team's closer of the future. But two weeks after going to the 'pen, Guzman headed to the D.L. with a strained elbow. It was supposed to be a mild sprain, but after throwing a couple of relief appearances in rookie ball in July, Guzman was shut down again and underwent reconstructive elbow surgery late in the year.
His '08 campaign began in August after rehabbing from surgery. It also began in Daytona. He would climb up the rehab ladder to AA and AAA before being called up in September last year.
This year, on April 19, he earned his first career victory in his 21st major league appearance. He went to the D.L. in late June with a triceps strain and recently returned after rehabbing in Peoria (A Ball) and Iowa (AAA).
Since joining the Cubs in 2000, Guzman has undergone 2 major surgeries and has only had 2 full seasons of injury-free baseball. He has spent at least a portion of every season in the minors, albeit sometimes in rehab roles. After skipping Iowa on his way to the Bigs, he was sent there after his first MLB stint and has been there every year since (4 years in total). He threw more innings in his first three years stateside (2000-02) then in the 6+ years since.
Even with all that adversity, he's now the team leader in ERA (among those with more than 10 innings pitched).

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Who gets the Boot?


Posted by Lionel on July 6, 2009.
UPDATED 4:23 CT-The Cubs avoided making three moves by placing David Patton on the D.L., but I was 2 for 3 anyways. Sam Fuld and Kevin Hart are headed back to Iowa.

With ReJo, ARam, and Guzman slated to return to Wrigley tonight, who is most likely headed out of Chicago? Let's take a look:

Jeff Baker-That anyone even mentioned his name is ridiculous. Baker is out of options, so the only way the Cubs would get to keep him is if they sent him through waivers. Why would JH trade for a guy, only to put him on waivers 3 days later? The Cubs added Baker for versatility, not for 3 days of bench warming.

Sam Fuld-Look, the kid's got spunk. There's no doubt about that. And yes, he's leading the team in hitting, at .364. And he's played a more than solid OF. But...he's basically taking ReJo's spot. The Cubs haven't played with 5 true OF's since they traded Joey Gathright, and Lou never used Gathright when he had him (14 AB's in 20 games played over 6 weeks).

Andres Blanco-Andre White is the kind of guy you'd have on your team as the late-inning defensive replacement in the 80's. But it isn't the 80's. Blanco's hitting .225 and has the 2nd lowest OPS among all position players still on the 40 man roster. He could stay or go; he's out of options, so again, the Cubs would need to get him through waivers. Then again, you'd have to wonder if teams are desparately seeking defensive replacements. He could also stay until Aaron Miles returns.

Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox-It's just easier to discuss these two at the same time. Both have options, but it's highly unlikely both would be sent down. Hoffpauir has the advantage in being left-handed, but Fox has the advantage of being able to play third. Hoffpauir has been mired in a terrible slump (8 for 47 since the calendar hit June 1), but the Cubs may see the need to get Fox consistent PT at the 3-sack to make him more a reliable backup.

Mike Fontenot-Remember when the Cubs traded DeRo and JH said they did so in part to get lil Mikey more AB's? Well, he's had those AB's and has shown that that wasn't the right move. Fontenot is hitting .236 and has lost PT to Fox and Blanco. Because Fontenot was with the Big Boys all of last year, he actually still has options left. He has made his case to stay by amassing 7 hits in his last 4 games.

Kevin Hart-Hart was just called up 2 weeks ago. He has an impressive 1.59 ERA, with the one earnie coming off a solo HR, but Lou can't like the 5 walks in 5 and 2/3 innings pitched. Hart struggled at the beginning of the season, which may have been the reason we hadn't seen him earlier, but given the fact he has options, he would be the easiest to move.

Jeff ND-Samardzija was called up even more recently than Hart, but is making his second tour with the Cubs this season. He pitched a scoreless inning against the Pirates, but gave up 2 on the 4th of July to the Brew-Crew. Like Hart, he was starting in Iowa and the Cubs have been reluctant to call him up so he can work on second and third pitches, because they still project him long term as a starter. His contract may dictate whether he stays or goes, given that he makes $2M/year.

David Patton-There has been talk that it's time to end the David Patton experiment. He has a 5.63 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP on the year and he pitches roughly once per week. But despite the high overall ERA, Patton has a respectable 3.52 ERA after the first month of the season. The bigger question is whether the Cubs are going to continue to hold on to him through the rest of the year or whether it's time to cut bait and go with the young arms they have in the system.

My Predictions

I think Sam Fuld is the most likely to get sent down out of all these options. Sure, he was great for those two days. But the Cubs brass needs to be honest with itself. Fuld isn't going to supplant any of the starters and the Cubs have a more successful (long-term) option in Reed Johnson. The Cubs have 5th outfielder options in Baker, Fox, and Hoffpauir.

As for the other spot, it's really up in the air. Most experts think that Fox's bat and ability to play the 3 sack will keep him in the Bigs. While Fontenot has struggled, his back came around of late, and I think Lou likes him enough to keep him. Plus, of the group, lil Mikey's ego would take the biggest hit if sent down, and while the Cubs aren't in the ego business, they could lose him forever if he gets demoted. I think the Cubs are leaning towards Hoffpauir, because they have a thunder stick off the bench and because Blanco can keep the bench warm until Miles returns. With ARam back, the need for sticks shouldn't be as great as a gloveman.

I think it's really a toss up with the relievers. Hart's 5 walks in 5+ IP would make him the leading candidate. But if the Cubs see Jeff ND as a long term starter who needs to work on certain pitches, he isn't getting that experience in the Bigs as a reliever. And I wouldn't think they have plans to keep Patton and be a contender, but they've held on to him this long and the Cubs 'pen hasn't been overworked. So, I'll have to guess and say Hart.

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