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A Common Fan’s Guide to the Daytona Cubs

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

At 2-8 the Daytona Cubs have struggled out of the gate after much of the roster from last year has moved up to the Tennessee Smokies the Double A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Taylor Scott has been one to watch this year. In his first start of the season he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Scott allowed just two singles over his seven innings of work, walked one and struck out two.

The Cubs are led by five players that spent time with the Kane County Cougars the Low A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs this past season. These five players include Albert Almora, Bijan Rademacher, Gioskar Amaya, Marco Hernandez and Chen. Rademacher leads the way for the club registering 10 hits in his first seven games good for a .435 batting average. Rademacher split time between the cougars and cubs and seems to be an early candidate for a promotion later on in the season. Almora has shown great plate discipline through his first 40 at bats only striking out twice while having five extra base hits. If he can stay healthy throughout out the year we could see him at Tennessee by July.

Dan Vogelbach and Rock Shoulders two former Kane County Cougars have struggled early on registering .156 and .132 batting averages respectfully. As with before it’s very early only 10 games in but Shoulders already has struck out 14 times in 32 at bats which is concerning.

Everyone is talking about the possible bullpen piece in Arodys Vizcaino who is a former top prospect with the Atlanta Braves. Vizcaino dealt with injuries last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. So far through four innings of work he’s registered a 2.25 earned run average which is very encouraging as long as his health stays intact. Zach Cates and Andrew McKirahan have combined to pitch 11 and 1/3 innings of shutout baseball through six appearances out of the bullpen. Another impressive stat is their combined strikeout to walk ratio of 12 to 1 which is incredible.

Felix Pena has been the standout pitcher on the Daytona staff so far pitching to a 1.50 earned run average over his first two starts. He has pitched 12 innings only allowing eight hits and one walk to combine for a WHIP below 1 at 0.75. Pena’s strikeout to walk ratio is 8 to 1 and he’s poised for a big season with the chance to possibly move up to Tennessee in August.

As the season develops we’ll see a lot of movement between Kane County and Daytona as a lot of the young kids will start to develop a name to keep an eye on is Jeimer Candelario. He’s got a lot of potential and at 20 years old is another top cubs prospect. His only problem at the moment is he’s blocked by Kris Bryant at Tennessee and Christian Villanueva at Iowa. The best spot for him is Daytona as it’s a pitchers league. He’ll certainly continue to refine his swing and defense I see him starting next season off at Tennessee if he continues his development.


The Cubs make their first visit to new Yankee Stadium for a short, two game series, before coming home to face the Reds. Let’s just hope the snow melts before then.

Why the Yankees Will Crush The Cubs

by Michael Eder – www.itsaboutthemoney.net

The Yankees finally saw their first off-day of the season yesterday, but not before the early-season wear and tear caught up to them. With Mark Teixeira and Brendan Ryan both hitting the disabled list at the beginning of the month, the Bronx Bombers were forced to rely on young players like Yangervis Solarte, Francisco Cervelli, and Dean Anna, along with aging players like Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts for larger than expected roles. After 13 consecutive games, the Yankees barely made it through their latest game without using a pitcher in a position spot. Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts are currently day-to-day with quad tightness and back spasms, while Francisco Cervelli is headed to the disabled list.

The Yankees’ bullpen is also somewhat shaken up after losing their closer David Roberston to the disabled list after the first week of baseball. Shawn Kelley picked up the slack in his absence, but the rest of the depth in the bullpen is highly reliant on young unknown arms. Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, and Cesar Cabral are far cries from the big bullpen names often featured on the Yankees, but they’ve also been managed very efficiently thanks to Joe Girardi.

They’ve dealt with some tough luck in their infield and bullpen during the first few weeks of baseball, but those were also the expected weaknesses of the clubs. The strengths of the Yankees were the new names added to both the lineup and rotation.

The Cubs are unfortunate enough to face the Yankees’ two “new” starters. Masahiro Tanaka became a household name during the offseason, but regardless of his record in Japan, the Japanese pitcher has a lot to prove in the MLB. In his first two starts of the year, Tanaka showed that his splitter and slider translate to strike outs, while his fastball control is good enough to keep his walk rates miniscule. There was once a thought that Tanaka could not be the dominant strike out pitcher that Darvish has become due to his low-90′s fastball, but the consensus has now changed. From what the Yankees have seen from the 25 year old, he could very soon be the ace of their staff. Tanaka will start the first game of the series, and it’ll likely be a tough pill to swallow for fans hoping that the right-hander would end up in Chicago this January.

After Tanaka, the Cubs get to face the Yankees’ best starting pitcher thus far, Michael Pineda. Pineda was obviously a household name just a couple of years ago with the Mariners, but his 2 year absence from a shoulder surgery stifled most expectations in New York and around the league. Pineda returned this season with a mid 90′s fastball, his wipeout slider, and a new and improved change up. Even with the Yankees limiting his pitches, Pineda went 6.0 innings in both of his starts, and allowed just 2 runs total in his 12.0 total innings against the Blue Jays and Red Sox. Good command and whiffs have brought Pineda’s expectations back up to a possible top rotation pitcher, and the Cubs will likely find it difficult to combat both his slider and impressive new change up.

Offensively, the Yankees’ new hitters have been exactly what they expected and more. Not only have the big names of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran contributed with power and contact, but they’ve already started adapting to the confines of Yankee Stadium. Guys like Kelly Johnson, Brian McCann, Derek Jeter, and Yangervis Solarte have also contributed in unexpected ways.

After a slow start to the season, the combination of pitching and hitting upside on this team powered the Yankees to 3 wins outs of 4 games in their last series against the defending world champion Red Sox. The Yankees are starting to prove to many that they are not only a playoff caliber team, but after some injuries to the Rays and Red Sox, perhaps the favorites to win the AL East. Against a team like the Cubs, the Yankees should have no problem beating up an organization who’s best talent is probably still in the minor leagues.

Scouting Today’s Opposing Starting Pitcher

Masahiro Tanaka

MLB.com

Tanaka struck out 10 batters in his Yankee Stadium debut last time out against the Orioles, taking a no-decision as he allowed three runs on seven hits. The big blow was a three-run homer off the bat of Jonathan Schoop, coming on a hanging slider.

Wikipedia

Tanaka is a right-handed pitcher who throws from a high three-quarter arm slot in a drop-and-drive motion. He throws two fastballs (four-seam, two-seam) usually in the low-90s that top out at 97 mph. He also has a plus 84–88 mph splitter with late downward action, a plus slider in the low to mid-80s, and an occasional curveball.


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Bring on The Buccos

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

The Cubs finished out the weekend with a solid performance all around as the Cubs beat the Phillies 8-3 on solid performances from Ryan Kalish and Anthony Rizzo. Kalish got his first hits since September 2012 boosting his average to .286. Kalish doubled and tripled and drew a walk on the day showing great plate discipline with three quality at bats. Villanueva gave a solid effort pitching five innings on seventy one pitches. It was good to see Villanueva get the win as he suffered two losses in relief in the first series of the season he’s going to be a key piece to help save the bullpen and the pitching staff with his durability. Jose Veras continued to struggle not able to notch the save while increasing his earned run average to 16.20 in his two appearances.

 Get To Know Your Opposing Pitcher
Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton is on the bump for the Pirates a career 30-49 pitcher with a 4.66 earned run average. He’s pitched in 110 games including 109 starts over his seven year career and has a WHIP of 1.50 in his career. Morton pitched game two of the opening series against the Cubs pitching six innings in his debut giving up four hits and no earned runs. He also struck out six cubs and walked one which gives him a .83 WHIP for the season.

Why The Pirates Will Win The Series

As the Cubs saw in the opening series, the Pirates are all about pitching. The Cubs already saw Charlie Morton and Wandy Rodriguez – the first two starters of this series – but they are scheduled to get their first look at Gerrit Cole on Thursday. Cole is fourth in the rotation to start the year, but he definitely profiles as a top of the rotation pitcher with his elite fastball and often-devastating curve/slider that can reach the low 90′s. With Morton and Cole on the mound against a Cubs team that has struggled at the plate so far, I like the Bucs’ chances in those two games.

A player to watch at the plate for the Pirates is Pedro Alvarez. He was quiet in the first three games but woke up against the Cardinals over the weekend. He crushed two homers in his first two AB’s on Friday and took five walks over the rest of the series – a sign that he is seeing the ball well. Pedro is an extremely streaky hitter (when he’s hot, he can destroy baseballs out of stadiums and carry a team…but when he’s cold, he’s a strikeout machine) and it looks like he’s ready for a hot week or so.  ~ Brian (www.raisethejollyroger.com)

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Cubs Off-season still quiet

Monday, December 16th, 2013

After leaving the winter meetings without a splash the Cubs made some minor moves over the weekend. One of these moves was claiming an intriguing right hander Liam Hendricks from the Minnesota Twins. Hendricks is 24 years old and hails from Australia once regarded as a top 10 prospect with the Minnesota Twins as recent as 2012. The one problem for Hendricks has been the major leagues his numbers are quite pitiful at  2-13 with a 6.08 earned run average in 28 starts (30 games). The Australian righty has a 3.61 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 254 career innings at Triple-A and a career 2.99 ERA in the minors as a whole. Hendricks features a fastball that sits between 87-90 miles per hour a good slider and above average changeup. Baseball America had listed him with the ceiling of a number three starter if all were to pan out. At the very least this was a waiver claim and does not cost the Cubs very much which bares no risk money wise.

Bruce Levine tweeted this weekend that the Yankees may look to trade for Darwin Barney to add a second baseman to their roster. Barney batted 208/.266/.303 in 141 games for the Cubs this season. Although, offense isn’t Barney’s strong point as his defense is gold glove worthy the past two seasons. Barney was the recipient in 2012 and turned in another solid campaign in 2013. According to UZR or the Ultimate Zone Rating Barney’s defense the past two seasons is collectively worth three wins for the Chicago Cubs. I’m not exactly what the Cubs would demand in return in a Barney trade I’m assuming young pitching or catching prospects but obviously they wouldn’t be premier prospects as Barney doesn’t warrant that return. Presumably if Barney is traded this off-season it opens the door for Luis Valbuena and Logan Watkins to fight for the job in spring training.

Sean mentioned last Friday that the Cubs were interested in John Axford but news broke last night the Axford has agreed with the Indians on a contract. Other veteran relievers the Cubs have been linked to are Joaquin Benoit, Joba Chamberlain and Drew Storen. I still believe the Cubs should get a veteran reliever even though I’m weary that it might turn into another Shawn Camp situation where the said reliever is over-worked like Russell or out of gas. In other news it seems more and more likely that Ervin Santana won’t be signed until after the Tanaka situation is figured out. I spoke with his agent over the weekend and his words were that “he would guess Santana would sign after Tanaka”.

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MLB Transactions Galore and All We Got Was This Lousy First Base Coach

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

On Tuesday, Cubs manager Rick Renteria completed his coaching staff by naming Hinske as the first-base coach. Hinske just recently retired from the MLB playing with seven teams over his 1,387 games in the big leagues. As you may expect he won’t have any previous coach experience which makes this an interesting signing for the Cubs. Hinske joins pitching Chris Bosio, bench coach Brandon Hyde, third-base coach Gary Jones, hitting coach Bill Mueller, bullpen coach Lester Strode, catching coach Mike Borzello, assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley on Reneria’s staff. Hinske should provide valuable information and will be able to relate to the players right away as he just retired. He will however have to get adjusted to Wrigley Field as Muskat points out he has only played 12 career games at Wrigley Field.

Carrie Muskat the MLB.com reporter for the Cubs previews next week’s winter meetings suggesting that the Cubs are still after pitching but not flippable arms like they have signed in the past two seasons. They also will be looking for a closer as Carlos Marmol departed through trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kevin Gregg is a free agent. The key thing stressed throughout the article is the Cubs are on a tight budget and can’t do much with signing the top guys to long term contracts. Muskat also evaluates the third base options for next year including Luis Valbuena and Mike Olt.

Major Deals around the MLB: 

Yankees Sign Jacoby Ellsbury: Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees for 7 years and 153 million pending a Wednesday Physical: Ellsbury to the Yankees was a bit of a shocker as they still have Robinson Cano as a a free agent. Ellsbury resembled after mentioned Johnny Damon who also played with the Boston Red Sox then signed with the Yankees. The deal is 11 million more than Carl Crawford signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent in 2010. To put into perspective the Red Sox will be paying AJ Pierzynski and David Ortiz 22 million for 2014 while the Yankees will be paying 22 million for Ellsbury.

Athletics Trade Seth Smith for Luke Gregerson: Billy Beane has been very active this off-season already trading Jemile Weeks for closer Jim Johnson and signing free agent Scott Kazmir. The Athletics bolstered their bullpen by trading fourth outfielder Seth Smith for eighth inning man Luke Gregerson. Gregerson has been quite the reliever for the Padres as the past two season he has pitched 150 games out of the bullpen and registered a 2.55 earned run average. Gregerson is 29 years old and signed a 3.2 million dollar arbitration contract with the Padres which will be his salary with the Athletics for the 2014 season.

Athletics Acquired OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom from Texas Rangers for OF Michael Choice and INF Chris Bostick. This trade was made prior to the Seth Smith trade which made Gentry viable to replace Coco Crisp if he leaves via free agency after the 2014 season. Lindbloom has moved around a lot as he was drafted by the Astros in 2005. He was apart of the Shane Victorino trade which sent him to Philadelphia and the Michael Young trade which sent him to Texas. He struggled with Texas last year pitching to a 5.46 earned run average in eight games. Michael Choice is the real prize of the deal as he projects to be a great prospect and future MLB player. Choice last year in Triple A hit for a .302 average across 510 at-bats while registering 89 runs batted in and 44 extra base hits. Gentry is regarded as a defensive player with a strong arm and range in the outfield.

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Cubs Lose 6-1, Two Possible Gold Gloves on the Cubs?

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Anthony Rizzo nominated for Clemente Award – Pretty cool for Rizzo as it’s one of the greatest honors in baseball to win the Clemente Award. Rizzo is the Cubs nominee for said award and has put together a nice season on the field and off the field. The average isn’t there at .229 but a line of .229/.325/.420 isn’t to shabby nonetheless. Rizzo has been a big hit with the Cubs fan base as he hosted a cook-off for cancer on August 14th. CSN Chicago provides us with a great synopsis of the event.

Edwin Jackson Argument – The 16 million dollar man was unhappy that Dale Sveum pulled him after 76 pitches only pitching four innings. Jackson was pulled for a pinch hitter as Sveum wanted to tie the game at two by hoping to score the runner from third. It’s been a disappointing season to say the least for Jackson as he was the backup plan to Anibal Sanchez after his agent got greedy. I was happy to see him go since the rosters expanded I wanted to see extended looks of our recent call-ups Rosscup, Cabrera and Raley. With the season lost it doesn’t hurt to pull Jackson as he has been struggling mightily all year. Many regard his stuff as top 15 potential in the National League. He has never lived up to that potential or sustained success for a full-season.

Darwin Barney’s Fielding Percentage – Barney still is leading national league second baseman in fielding percentage at .993. The reigning National League Gold Glove winner at second base has provided stellar defense once again for the Cubs. Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins lead the MLB at .994 which surprised me at first. Anthony Rizzo is second in the National League at .996 behind Paul Goldschmidt and should get consideration for the award. The Cubs have shored up their infield defense with Rizzo and Barney and at some points Starlin Castro the mental errors still exist but the defense has improved overall.

Former Cub Andrew Cashner pitches a Maddux - After being traded for Anthony Rizzo both players will be closely watched by Cubs’ fans to see what each player turns into. For the Cubs they saw the opportunity to land a premier 1st Base prospect and felt that even giving up Cashner was worth it. As mentioned above Rizzo has turned in some nice seasons for the Cubs and finally played a full-season this year at 147 games to date. Cashner last night pitched one of the gems of the season as he pitched nine innings of one hit ball against the playoff bound Pirates. What’s more amazing is the efficiency in which he pitched walking no one and only throwing 97 pitches retiring the minimum after Jose Tabata singled in the seventh. If you want more information on all Maddux type of games I would highly recommend this link.

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