1/15 Cubs rookies notebook

The 15 prospects taking part in the Cubs’ Rookie Development Program took a break from their baseball studies to attend a Blackhawks’ game on Tuesday. For many of them, it was their first NHL game, and also a chance to see how rabid Chicago fans are about their team.

“Being at the stadium and watching all the people go crazy during the national anthem, that was awesome,” pitcher Pierce Johnson said Wednesday of the rousing performance before every home Blackhawks game. “I can just imagine what it’ll be like when we turn it around and actually win a World Series. I’m excited. It gives me chills.”

The Cubs are counting on the talent participating in this week’s program to get them that championship.

Joining Johnson were pitchers Kyle Hendricks, Neil Ramirez, Eric Jokisch, C.J. Edwards, Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino; outfielders Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Rubi Silva; and infielders Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Christian Villanueva, Mike Olt, and Arismendy Alcantara. Eleven of the players rank among the Cubs’ top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com. Hendricks, who completed his economics degree at Dartmouth, was the Cubs’ 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

The week-long program includes drills, a hospital visit, and seminars, and will end with the Cubs Convention this weekend. The guest speakers included Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein, manager Rick Renteria and former player Rick Sutcliffe.

“It prepares us for what’s coming,” Almora said. “They’re teaching us about what to get ready for, what to expect, what they expect from us. We’re taking it to heart, we’re taking notes. We’re in this for the long run.”

* Jason McLeod, head of scouting and player development, said Baez will open the season at Triple-A Iowa along with Villanueva and Alcantara. Bryant could be at Double-A Tennessee, and it was still to be determined where Almora and Soler will start the year.

* Two of the five Cubs prospects injured in a car accident Jan. 6 in the Dominican Republic remained hospitalized. Kevin Encarnacion and Jose Zapata were both doing well but still receiving treatment. Encarnacion played at Class A Boise last year.

* Jorge Soler is 100 percent healthy after a leg injury shortened his season. Soler played in the Arizona Fall League but was told to take it easy, McLeod said. The outfielder has been impressive in his approach at the plate. On Wednesday, Soler said he missed too many games last year, and was eager to get back to playing.

* C.J. Edwards is trying to gain weight. At the Blackhawks game, the skinny pitcher ate an Italian sausage, cheese fries, and a hot dog with cheese on it. Said Edwards: “Anything I see, I eat.”

* Javy Baez knows fans are clamoring for him to get to the big leagues. He’s doing everything he can but everyone wants to know when.

“As soon as possible,” he said.

– Carrie Muskat

22 Comments

Carrie, nice article, very good read. :)

Is CJ Edwards the pitcher we received in exchange for unloading Soriano on theYankees? If not, who was that we acquired in that deal, as I recollect he did have a large upside?

Also Jhosk, CJ Edwards, Grimm, Olt and a player to be named later were traded to the Cubs from Texas, for Garza.

The player to be named later turned out to be, NEIL RAMIREZ who is also part of this program.

That amounted to a potentially very profitable deal, Jasper. Do you know if Olt’s vision issues have been resolved? I believe he can be very productive if healthy.

The Cubs seem pretty positive on Olt as well as some experts. Like you, I have no way of knowing, but Spring training is around the corner, we will see. :)

jhosk, your thinking of Corey Black. Lots of upside and heped Cubs Daytona to the Championship.
In 5 starts after the trade, Black pitched 25 innings, striking out 28 hitters and had a 2.88 ERA.

The 2013 D-Cubs championship rotation should be interesting to watch as they progress through the minors. CJ Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Ivan Pineyro, Matt Loosen, Corey Black, and Ben Wells all put up some decent to good numbers at high-A. Edwards and Johnson will probably be listed as top 10 prospects going into 2014. While it’s hard to say if there’s a future ace in the bunch, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2017 Cubs rotation has a couple of those guys firmly in it.

Agree Doug and good post. There are a couple at AAA knocking on the door, Loux and Hendricks. I know Loux had some problems, injury last year, but I am not giving up on him yet.
Still don’t know why they want to put Caberra in the bullpen, he was very successful in AA has a starter. Epic failure at AAA and winter league out of the bullpen.

We’ll see about Loux. He was a former first round pick, so if he can get healthy then maybe you’re on to something.
As for Cabrera, my only guess is maybe the scouts saw something that they didn’t like and figured he would be better off in the bullpen at the higher levels. Or maybe he just doesn’t project higher than some of the other Cubs pitching prospects and his fastest way to the Majors, and ability to stay there for more than a cup of coffee, is through the bullpen. He reminds me of another guy they had a few years ago named Jay Jackson. He rose quickly through the lower minors, but stalled out at AAA. The Cubs tried moving him to the bullpen, but that didn’t work. Now I see he spent 2013 in the Marlins organization, where he put up decent numbers at AA, but worsened when moved up to AAA in July.
About a month until pitchers & catchers report and a little over a month until the first actual spring training games begin. As much as I like talking about organizational depth charts and hot stove stuff, it’ll be nice to see them actually take the field and have some recent statistics and scouting reports to go by. Can’t wait!

Thanks for that, Jasper.

Anytime jhosk.

I for one am really excited about this young crop of Cubs. While I do not know as much about the pitching prospects the idea of having a lineup of Almora, Castro, Rizzo, Baez, Bryant, Soler, Olt and Castillo with such quality backups as Lake, Schierholtz, Barney, Alcantara and Villanueva is an exciting prospect for the future.

I think we are closer than most fans think if we get some quality pitching too.

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Your optimism is refreshing, Richard. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian is predicting the Yankees will win the Tanaka sweepstakes. Said New York has made it clear it will not be outbid for his services. Am hoping money is not the only criterion the Japanese phenom is considering. Yankees are last team I want to see him land with.

Note on Mike Olt: I talked to him in October, and doctors wanted him to take allergy medication, which cleared up — pun intended — his vision problems. He seemed very positive on Wednesday. He could be the Opening Day 3B

Should Olt make the starting day line up, that would make things very interesting. With Barney, Valbuena, Watkins, Murphy all fighting for positions or back up positions.
Rizzo 1B, Castro SS, Olt 3B, possible Barney/Watkins or Barney/Valbuena platoon at 2B. Murphy plays all INF positions, I could see him staying. Valbuena plays 2B & 3B, but Murphy could back both those positions.
They cant go with a Valbuena/Watkins at 2B, they are both LH hitters.
If you give Rizzo a break once in awhile against tough LH Pitchers, they could go Murphy 1B or 3B and Olt 1B or 3B.
Barney has two things going for him, he bats RH and he can also play SS.
I can see either Valbuena or Watkins being moved. That’s just to many infielders on the roster should Olt become the regular 3rd Baseman.

Olt is the key in my estimation. I hope not only for the Cubs but for him that his vision will be fixed. If he can be the hitter he was from what I understand he was ready for the Bigs. With his bat and defense at third that would allow Bryant to move to the OF and maybe put Baez at 2B where his defense would not be as weak and his huge bat would be a major plus. We could keep Barney for defensive backup. I guess time will tell.

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Pingback, your article pretty much states everything that’s been reported here the last couple days. Being open minded, another perspective is cool.
Your last paragraph, you state, the Cubs should add veteran talent to help take pressure of the younger prospects?
The Pitching staff has, Russell, Samardizja, Wood, Jackson and Veras. They have all been around awhile. Some still young, but enough time to place on veteran status.
The regulars have, Sweeny, Murphy, Kottaras and Schierholtz. All of those being signed in the last year or so. So I really don’t understand your complaint?
Who exactly are you speaking of signing? When you sign whoever you are speaking of, who gets dropped from the 40 man roster? I would be very interested in your answers or opinion?

Cabrera could be stretched out to be a long reliever. Villanueva could make a better trading chip come mid season. Not much of an upgrade i think but playing time will tell.

I want to compliment Richard on his most recent post. I agree in spades with your insightful remarks, all of them. I’m very high on Olt myself. He played at the U. of Connecticut and he must have made a helluva impression, because there is a residual interest in his career by the residents of that state. Whenever anything of significace transpires with his situation, it is reported in the Hartford Courant. I was once a resident of that state, and can tell you that is extraordinary. I’m convinced, if healthy, he will be an impactful major leaguer.

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