Results tagged ‘ Kris Bryant ’

12/30 A look back at 2013

The 2013 season was another step in the Cubs’ rebuilding process. For the second straight year, the Cubs dealt 40 percent of their starting rotation. They seemed to set a record for most deals in July as Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol and Scott Hairston also were traded. In August, David DeJesus was sent to the Nationals.

In return, the Cubs felt they strengthened the organization with players such as third baseman Mike Olt and pitchers Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Jake Arrieta, Ivan Pineyro, C.J. Edwards and Corey Black. It’s all part of Theo Epstein’s plan since taking over as Cubs president of baseball operations.

All the transactions didn’t solve the 2013 team’s problems, and the Cubs finished last in the tough National League Central at 66-96, the fourth straight year they’ve posted a sub .500 season.

As 2013 comes to a close, here are five storylines from the Cubs’ season:

5. Hot prospects

Every time Javier Baez hit a home run, or first-round Draft pick Kris Bryant won another award, there were questions about where the Cubs top prospects would fit in the big league lineup. Baez, the No. 1 pick in 2011, and Bryant, who was the second overall selection in June, stole some of the headlines from the big league team. The Cubs front office’s mantra is that the kids need time to develop but fans are eager for someone to cheer for. Baez, who belted 37 homers and drove in 111 runs combined at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, and Bryant, the college player of the year who was named the Arizona Fall League MVP, aren’t the only super kids. The list of potential impact players in the Cubs system also includes Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards, and Jorge Soler. Now, the question is when.

4. Marmol, Fujikawa and Gregg

Carlos Marmol lost the closer’s job one week into the regular season, and Kyuji Fujikawa took over but he was limited because of elbow problems. The Japanese pitcher eventually needed Tommy John surgery, and the Cubs had to scramble. They signed Kevin Gregg, who was released by the Dodgers April 3, and he proceeded to reclaim the job, finishing with 33 saves. Marmol was eventually traded to the Dodgers for Matt Guerrier, and didn’t get another save opportunity the rest of the season. The Cubs bullpen was a problem most of the season, ranking on the bottom of the National League in ERA, walks, and home runs allowed.

3. Alfonso Soriano is traded to Yankees

For the second straight year, the Cubs were busy at the Trade Deadline, but none of the moves affected the players the way the departure of Alfonso Soriano did. The veteran outfielder was dealt to the Yankees, where he began his U.S. pro career in 1999. He has one year remaining on the eight-year, $136 million contract he signed with the Cubs in November 2006. While fans were critical of Soriano’s defensive ability, he was revered in the Cubs clubhouse. Soriano topped the Cubs in home runs and RBIs at the All-Star break, and they struggled to fill his spot in the lineup after he left. The Cubs may have been the only team to use a backup catcher, Dioner Navarro, in the No. 4 spot.

2. Manager Dale Sveum is dismissed

Sveum was a no nonsense kind of guy. He held players accountable. He believed in face to face communication. In Spring Training, he organized a bunting tournament, and included himself in the bracket. When Sveum was hired in November 2011, Epstein trusted the manager and his coaching staff to compile “The Cubs Way” handbook, to be used throughout the organization.

The Cubs lost 197 games in two seasons under Sveum, but Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer said the record wasn’t the reason the manager was dismissed. There were issues regarding the development of some of the Cubs, and Sveum got his signals crossed with a few players and the front office.

“There has to be a clear, unified message, and [players] can’t be getting different signals from different directions and collectively — myself included — we failed to provide that,” Epstein said.

Sveum wasn’t out of work for long. Royals manager Ned Yost waited one hour after Sveum was dismissed before calling to offer him a job on Kansas City’s coaching staff.

1. Starlin Castro takes a step backward

Castro was disappointed when he didn’t bat .300 for a third straight season in 2012, finishing at .283. But no one expected the shortstop to struggle as much as he did in 2013, batting .245 — including a .167 June. What happened? The shortstop lost his aggressive approach, struck out a career-high 129 times, and often looked lost at the plate. He was dropped to eighth in the order in August.

“This year, it’s too many things to think about [and] I’m not supposed to think [up there],” Castro said. “Sometimes you have a tough season, and you want to please everybody. But it’s not right. You have to listen to the things that can help you — not everything. When you come to home plate, you don’t have any idea, because you listen to too many things.”

Toward the end of the season, Castro announced he was just going to “be me.” The shortstop may be the Cubs’ new leadoff man in 2014 — he batted .263 there this past season — and the team can only hope he regains his approach, especially since this is Year 2 of his seven-year, $60 million contract.

– Carrie Muskat

12/10 Bryant gets another honor

Cubs prospect Kris Bryant was named to the Arizona Fall League 2013 Top Prospects team. The players were selected by the AFL managers and coaches. Voters were asked to consider AFL performance and Major League projectability. Bryant won AFL MVP honors, leading the league with six home runs, .727 slugging percentage, and 1.184 OPS. He was tied for the league lead in extra base hits, runs scored and total bases.

11/16 AFL final

Cubs prospect Dallas Beeler gave up one run on two hits over five innings and struck out five but it wasn’t good enough as Surprise beat Mesa 2-0 to win the Arizona Fall League Championship on Saturday. The only run off Beeler came in the second when Henry Urrutia doubled with two outs and scored on Jorge Alfaro’s single to center. Cubs prospects Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler were a combined 0-for-7 for Mesa, which totaled five hits in the game, played in Scottsdale.

Beeler, 24, was a 41st round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Oral Roberts University. This season, he was 4-2 in nine starts for Double-A Tennessee, compiling a 3.13 ERA, and striking out 35 over 54 2/3 innings while walking 17.

– Carrie Muskat

11/16 Bryant named AFL’s MVP

Cubs prospect Kris Bryant was named the winner of the Arizona Fall League’s 2013 Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award on Saturday.

Bryant, the second overall selection in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, recorded an impressive six weeks in the AFL. He led the league with six home runs, hit .364 to rank fifth, started at third base for the East Division in the Nov. 2 Fall Stars Game, and notched a 20-game on-base streak that equalled the league lead.

In addition to home runs, Bryant also led the AFL in slugging percentage (.727), extra-base hits (15-tie), runs scored (22-tie) and total bases (56-tie). He ranked second in doubles (8), fourth in on-base percentage.

On Oct. 18, Bryant totaled three hits, including two home runs, and drove in four runs. The Las Vegas native has climbed the ladder quickly in the Cubs system. He batted .336 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 36 games with the rookie-level Cubs in the Arizona League, short-season Class-A Boise and High-A Daytona.

Joe Black MVP Award

In 2002, the AFL created the Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award, named after the former big league pitcher who was the 1952 National League rookie-of-the-year.

Arizona Fall League Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award Recipients

2013 — Kris Bryant (Cubs), 3B, Mesa Solar Sox
2012 — Chris McGuiness (Rangers), 1B, Surprise Saguaros
2011 — Nolan Arenado (Rockies), 3B, Salt River Rafters
2010 — Dustin Ackley (Mariners), 2B, Peoria Javelinas
2009 — Grant Desme (Athletics), OF, Phoenix Desert Dogs
2008 — Tommy Hanson (Braves), RHP, Mesa Solar Sox
2007 — Sam Fuld (Cubs), OF, Mesa Solar Sox
2006 — Chip Cannon (Blue Jays), 1B, Phoenix Desert Dogs
2005 — Eric Duncan (Yankees), 3B, Grand Canyon Rafters
2004 — Chris Shelton (Tigers), DH, Grand Canyon Rafters
2003 — Jason Dubois (Cubs), OF, Mesa Solar Sox
2002 — Ken Harvey (Royals), 1B, Scottsdale Scorpions

11/16 Extra bases – UPDATED

AFL Championship

The Mesa Solar Sox face the Surprise Saguaros on Saturday in the Arizona Fall League championship game. Cubs prospect Dallas Beeler is scheduled to start for Mesa, and Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora could be in the lineup. The game will be televised on MLB Network, starting at 2 p.m. CT. Bryant leads the AFL with six home runs and a 1.184 OPS.

“Anytime you play baseball, you want to be the last one on the field,” Bryant said. “A lot of us are swinging the bats well and our pitchers are throwing strikes. We’re pretty confident going into Saturday.”

Radio update

The Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, Ill.) reports Ron Coomer is being considered as WGN Radio’s new color man. Coomer played for the Cubs in 2001 and has done TV work for the Twins. Coomer knows Chicago — he’s a graduate of Lockport High School and has a baseball academy in the south suburbs. WGN Radio is looking for someone to partner with play by play man Pat Hughes after Keith Moreland announced he was not coming back for the 2014 season.

Winter League

Arismendy Alcantara had two hits, including a RBI single in the fifth, in Licey’s 6-2 victory over Oriente in Dominican Winter League play. Junior Lake was 2-for-4 for Oriente.

Luis Valbuena had his second straight two-hit game for Cardenales de Lara in Venezuela, which lost, 13-12, in 13 innings to La Guaira. Valbuena started at second base for the second consecutive game.

Roster moves

Infielder Walter Ibarra, who has been in the Yankees system since 2006, has signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs. Ibarra, 26, reached Triple-A level this season. He posted a .276/.308/.367 line combined at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He’s primarily played short and second.

The Cubs also have signed outfielder Aaron Cunningham, 27, to a Minor League contract. A sixth-round pick in 2005 by the White Sox, Cunningham has played 222 games over five seasons with the Athletics, Padres and Indians. He spent last season at Triple-A Round Rock, and posted a .247/.337/.401 line in 115 games there with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs.

The Cubs have signed free agent catcher Eli Whiteside, 34, to a Minor League contract, according to MLB.com transactions page. He spent most of last season with the Rangers’ Triple-A team, batting .187 in 67 games. He last appeared in the Majors with the Giants in 2012.

Also, infielder Jeudy Valdez, 24, has reportedly signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs, although he did not receive a Spring Training invite. He posted a .251/.300/.406 slash line in 125 games with San Antonio last season, hitting 10 home runs and driving in 49 runs with 16 steals.

Rick Renteria

Check out MLB.com’s Corey Brock’s story on Rick Renteria and how he was able to get the Cubs manager’s job wearing sweatpants. It’s on Cubs.com and a great read.

– Carrie Muskat

11/14 Congrats to Mesa

The Mesa Solar Sox clinched the East Division and reached the Arizona Fall League Championship Game with a 9-3 win Thursday over the Glendale Desert Dogs. Jorge Soler had two hits and Kris Bryant scored three runs for Mesa, which finished 19-11-1. Bryant went 1-for-3 and posted a .364 average. The Solar Sox will play the Surprise Saguaros on Saturday in Scottsdale for the AFL Championship.

11/14 AFL and winter league update

Arizona Fall League

Matt Loosen gave up two hits over two scoreless innings and Jorge Soler hit a double in a 3-2 win over Glendale on Wednesday in Arizona Fall League play. Albert Almora started and also had a hit. The Solar Sox play the final regular season game Thursday at Glendale and it’s a must-win if they want to get to the championship game.

Salt River rallied to win Wednesday with an 8-5 victory over Scottsdale, which means the Rafters trail Mesa by a half game in the East Division. To win the division, Salt River needs to beat Scottsdale on Thursday and for Mesa to lose to Glendale.

Winter League

* Junior Lake was 3-for-5 with a home run for Estrellas in a 5-4, 10-inning win over Aguilas.

* Daniel Bard had another rough outing. In his second game in relief for Caguas, he walked three of the four batters he faced, and all three scored. Caguas rallied for a 6-5, 13-inning win over Ponce.

– Carrie Muskat

11/11 AFL update

Albert Almora had three hits, including a double, and drove in a run with a RBI single in the sixth, and Kris Bryant hit two doubles in Mesa’s 4-0 victory over Peoria in Arizona Fall League action on Monday. Cubs prospect Dallas Beeler threw five shutout innings, scattering five hits and striking out two. On Tuesday, Mesa plays host to Peoria at HoHoKam Stadium. This is the AFL’s final week of games.

11/8 AFL update

Jorge Soler was 1-for-5 and scored a run in Mesa’s 6-1 victory over Surprise on Friday in Arizona Fall League play. Kris Bryant also started and was hitless in three at-bats, but drew two walks, and Albert Almora was 1-for-4 with a run scored. On Saturday, the same teams meet in Surprise. The Arizona Fall League wraps up its season next week.

11/6 AFL update

Albert Almora was 1-for-4 but five errors by the Mesa Solar Sox led to an 8-0 loss to Salt River on Tuesday night in Arizona Fall League play. Cubs prospect Dallas Beeler started, and was charged with seven runs, none earned, in 2 2/3 innings. He gave up four hits, walked two and struck out one. On Wednesday, Mesa plays host to Glendale at HoHoKam Stadium. Kris Bryant continues to rank among the AFL leaders with a .375 batting average, six home runs and 17 RBIs.

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