Cubs Trio Help Solar Sox Glow to Victory

Starlin Castro jacked-up his AFL league-leading batting average to .423 as he ripped two singles, knocked-in two runs, and scored one, Josh Vitters tripled and scored, and John Gaub tossed a 1-2-3 7th, leading the Mesa Solar Sox (Cubs, Marlins, Red Sox, Angels, and Twins) to a 7-2 victory over the Peoria Saguaros (Padres, Reds, Indians, Braves, and Astros) in Arizona Fall League action this afternoon at sunny HoHoKam Park in Mesa. 

box score

AFL leading hitter Castro was the Solar Sox DH today and hit 2nd, getting four ABs.

Facing Saguaros starting LHP Mike Minor (Braves 2009 #1 draft pick out of Vanderbilt) with a runner at1st base and no outs in the bottom of the 1st. Castro lined a single to LF on the first pitch he saw, advanced to 2nd uncontested on the back-end of a double-steal, and then scored on a two-out two-run RBI single to CF by Hank Conger (Angels).   

Castro bounced out weakly to the third-baseman in his second PA against Minor in the 3rd, before lacing a two-run RBI single past the SS into left-center off RHP Mike Leake (Reds 2009 #1 draft pick out of Arizona State) with two outs in the 5th. In his final AB of the day, Castro struck out looking to end the 7th, only his 5th K in 55 AFL Plate Appearances.  

Vitters played 3B and hit 6th, grounding out on a first-pitch broken-bat roller to the second baseman his first time up leading- off the 2nd. before popping out to short RF in his 2nd PA the 5th. But the 20-year old really tagged one leading off the bottom of the 7th against Padres RHP Mike DeMark, juicing a laser-liner stand-up triple into the right-centerfield gap that rolled all the way to the fence. He then scored on an error. In his final AB, Vitters flied out to CF.

Vitters had only one chance in the field today, handling a routine grounder without incident, as he back-handed the ball, squared himself, and made a strong & accurate throw to 1st base to nail the batter by two steps. .

LHP John Gaub entered the game in relief in the top of the 7th and was unhittable, striking out Mitch Canham (Padres) swinging and Josh Rodriguez (Indians) looking, before retiring Lance Zawadzki (Padres) on a lazy pop up to the 1st baseman in foul territory. This was certainly Gaub's best AFL outing (so far), as he alternated a 94 MPH heater and filthy breaking ball.

The 24-year old Gaub was one of the three minor league pitchers the Cubs acquired from the Cleveland Indians in the Mark DeRosa trade last-off-season. He figures to get added to the Cubs 40-man roster on 11/20, because otherwise he would be eligible for selection in next month's Rule 5 Draft. .  

And Michael Brenly made his AFL debut this afternoon, entering the game as a defensive replacement at catcher in the top of the 9th. Brenly replaces Welington Castillo (DL retro to 10/23) on the Solar Sox roster.

RHP Andrew Cashner is scheduled to make his 4th AFL start tomorrow, as the Solar Sox travel to Peoria Stadium for a rematch with the Saguaros. 

 

Comments

Phil, have you been invited to the organizational meetings that begin today at Fitch? You have as much knowledge of the Cubs minor lges as anybody.

Phil -

After watching Castro, do you think he can be ready to contribute at mid year or do you think 2011 is much more likely? If the hype is real, it seems to me the Cubs brass has to be thinking that they can slide Theriot over to 2B when he is ready. I'm assuming Castro would be an upgrade over Theriot at SS defensively (at least range and arm wise) and personally I would love to have Theriot back at 2B with the ability to slide him over to SS when necessary (or for double switches). Let me know your thoughts on where Castro stands after seeing him in person.

Submitted by Cubs Win on Tue, 11/03/2009 - 10:26am.

Phil - After watching Castro, do you think he can be ready to contribute at mid year or do you think 2011 is much more likely? If the hype is real, it seems to me the Cubs brass has to be thinking that they can slide Theriot over to 2B when he is ready. I'm assuming Castro would be an upgrade over Theriot at SS defensively (at least range and arm wise) and personally I would love to have Theriot back at 2B with the ability to slide him over to SS when necessary (or for double switches). Let me know your thoughts on where Castro stands after seeing him in person.

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CUBS WIN: I think the Cubs will let Starlin Castro's performance on the field determine when he is ready for the big leagues. That could be sometime in 2010 or 2011.

Castro will certainly get an NRI to Spring Training next March, where Lou Piniella will have an opportunity to evaluate Castro's progress, and where Castro will have a chance to work with Alan Trammell and Ivan DeJesus on his fielding and with new Cubs hittng instructor Rudy Jaramillo on his hitting.

I also would not be too quick to dismiss 2007 4th round pick Darwin Barney (Oregon State), another SS who has rocketed through the Cubs farm system. Barney played in the AFL a year ago and got an NRI to ST this past March, and played well enough at AA Tennessee (hitting 317/368/409) that he got a mid-season promotion to AAA Iowa. While Castro is probably the more-talented of the two (or at least has a higher ceiling), Barney isn't exactly chopped liver. He's a very polished player, a "true" shortstop, and a legitimate MLB prospect.

So Ryan Theriot will have to fend-off competition from both Barney and Castro at some point in the not-too-distant future, and it certainly is possible that Theriot will get moved to 2B if and when Barney or Castro make it to The Show. Or as an arbitration-eligible player who will likely get about $2M for 2010 and perhaps considerably more in 2011, The Riot could get traded sometime next off-season.

I am trying to remember and drawing a blank... what did Sandberg do when he was assisting at spring training? Has that changed a lot over the last couple seasons?

It would be nice if we could instill the organization with some of the baserunning, fielding and batting smarts Sandberg used to display.

Just wondering what the scoop is on Cashner. I see that he didn't make his scheduled start today, and he has been declared "unable to participate" in the AFL Rising Stars game. Hopefully it isn't an injury. Anybody know of anything?

Phil -

Agree....as much as I like Theriot, he turns into a pumpkin when his arbitration number gets too high (or worse, when he is a free agent). It is key for the Cubs to replace players like him with young talent and not overpay for mediocrity. Theriot at $750k is a steal but Theriot at $5MM Year (or more) is not good business.

Knowing that Castro (and possibly Barney) is coming up the ladder, what would you do if you were the Cubs brass in looking at SS and 2B options the next 2 years? Would getting a Short term 2B option (O Dog or Adam Kennedy for 1 year) knowing that you can slide over Theriot if Castro forces his way up in 2011 be smart?

Submitted by The Real Neal on Tue, 11/03/2009 - 7:57pm. I am trying to remember and drawing a blank... what did Sandberg do when he was assisting at spring training? Has that changed a lot over the last couple seasons? It would be nice if we could instill the organization with some of the baserunning, fielding and batting smarts Sandberg used to display.

========================================

REAL NEAL: Before Ryne Sandberg became a Cubs minor league manager in 2008, he was a Spring Training Instructor. As a STI, he worked with the infielders (mostly at 2B, but also at SS and 3B) and did some baserunning instruction with Bob Dernier. I don't recall him doing any hitting instruction on the field, but he may have worked one-on-one in the cages with certain hitters who weren't responding to Gerald Perry or Dave Keller.

As a minor league manager at Minor League Camp, he was very hands-on with his players (Peoria group in 2008 and Tennessee group in 2009), but he did not become involved with the other squads.

BTW, Sandberg is VERY intense and vocal as a manager, while Jody Davis was very laid-back when he was manager at Daytona. That might be one of the reasons Sandberg got promoted to AA manager, while Davis was reassigned to organization catching instructor duties.

Submitted by Cubs Win on Tue, 11/03/2009 - 3:59pm.
Phil -

Knowing that Castro (and possibly Barney) is coming up the ladder, what would you do if you were the Cubs brass in looking at SS and 2B options the next 2 years? Would getting a Short term 2B option (O Dog or Adam Kennedy for 1 year) knowing that you can slide over Theriot if Castro forces his way up in 2011 be smart?

===============================

CUBS WIN: Given the Cubs tight payroll right now, I can't see them signing or acquiring any middle infielders from outside the organization anytime soon.

I think they are probably a lot more concerned about the pitching staff (Ted Lilly is a FA after next season), and available payroll will probably be moved in that direction.

There also is the problem of Derrek Lee becoming a FA after next season with no replacement ready in the organization. The Cubs need to decide pretty soon whether to re-sign D-Lee.

Also, Aramis Ramirez can be a FA after next season (player option), and that would be a huge hole to fill if he were to leave. Josh Vitters is a third-baseman, but he needs a LOT of work on his defense before he will be ready to play in the big leagues. Marquez Smith will be the 3B at Iowa in 2010, and is a borderline MLB prospect right now, but if he proves he can hit at AAA and can hit some HR, he could become a Top 15 Prospect by this time next year. M. Smith is a better all-around player than Vitters, although Vitters has a much higher ceiling (as a hitter).

you know if Lee wants to take a contract that addresses his aging skillset and likely decline, then I'm all for bringing him back...

since that won't happen, see if they can trade him this offseason or cut bait next year...

Ramirez would be tougher to lose, but he's also on the wrong side of the bell curve.

Submitted by Rob G. on Wed, 11/04/2009 - 12:45pm.
you know if Lee wants to take a contract that addresses his aging skillset and likely decline, then I'm all for bringing him back...

since that won't happen, see if they can trade him this offseason or cut bait next year...

Ramirez would be tougher to lose, but he's also on the wrong side of the bell curve.

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ROB G: With no real 1B prospect in the upper levels of the organization pipeline, I strongly suspect the Cubs will re-sign D-Lee to a contract extention past 2010 for the same money he's making now ($13M per year), probably for two years (2011-12) with a third year vesting option based on games played and/or PA.

I don't disagree that the Cubs will probably go that route and maybe he can keep it up, just got my doubts he can stay on the field enough to justify it...especially with the lingering neck problems.

although I found it interesting that even in his down years, he justified his salary using Fangraphs value tool and dollars tools..

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=525&...

a $10-$12M base contract with incentives on games played or PA's would be acceptable probably...

 

Recent comments

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  • If he puts up Soriano numbers I will be ecstatic

    jacos 1 hour 25 min ago view
  • I think Javy is learning--but he's learning to make contact, not learning to lay off pitches out of the zone. A quick glance at his plate discipline numbers on Fangraphs shows that his contact rate is up, especially his contact rate out of the zone, but his swing rate is up too, especially his swing rate out of the zone.

    Charlie 2 hours 13 sec ago view
  • I definitely saw ballpark radar guns go up to 102 on Kerry Wood back when he was still a starter, but who knows how accurate they were.

    Charlie 2 hours 13 min ago view
  • They've mentioned Henry Rodriguez (2013), Chris Carpenter, and Andrew Cashner as Cubs who have gone 100+. They said Rodriguez was tops at 100.8. Who knows before 2008?

    QuietMan 3 hours 37 min ago view
  • Regarding Heyward--

    He'll play regardless of what he does, just like Soriano played for seven years before they finally ditched him.

    What can they do? All I can think of is they can keep hiring and firing hitting coaches until they find one who can get him to stop hitting balls with the handle of the bat.

    (All those broken bats added to his paycheck is just a bit much.)

    VirginiaPhil 3 hours 38 min ago view
  • Lester will probably be all right.

    I think Arrieta might have added too much muscle preparing for that butt-naked ESPN photo shoot. Pitchers are supposed to be loose, not muscled up.

    Seriously.

    VirginiaPhil 3 hours 44 min ago view
  • I have basically written off Heyward for this year -- if you are working on major swing changes in late July, you are going to struggle. Hopefully, he can be more productive at the plate next year. It will be interesting to see what they do with him if the Cardinals keep winning and close the gap. Heyward is dead last in the NL in slugging and in the bottom 5 in OPS -- yet still has a positive WAR. Hunh.

    billybucks 3 hours 48 min ago view
  • Has anybody in a Cub uniform ever thrown a ball 103 before?

    VirginiaPhil 3 hours 51 min ago view
  • He certainly looks better, no doubt, and is a different player than what we saw when he first came up. Full credit to him for changing his approach and saving his career.

    But he has zero walks in 35AB since the break, and 10 in 251 AB all year. He does seem to be able to hit some pitches out of the zone, but, a guy with his pop should be drawing more walks. However, it's easy to forget he is still only 23, and probably trying to make an impact to prove he should be an everyday player.

    billybucks 4 hours 46 sec ago view
  • The usual suspects, Molina and Wong. Gyorko drew a walk with two outs, none on. I recall us (particularly Szczur and Bryant) swinging at everything Familia threw.

    VirginiaPhil 4 hours 2 min ago view
  • Yup. Thanks Q

    The E-Man 4 hours 8 min ago view
  • QuietMan 4 hours 16 min ago view
  • I for one hope that Sosa comes back soon.

    Rob Richardson 4 hours 35 min ago view
  • O/B interesting you should mention that. Google ESPN Science Aroldis Chapman and you'll be treated to how his mechanics and delivery are possibly historic. It's the 120% of his body stretch plus the torque. They compare him to the Unit and NRyan.

    The E-Man 5 hours 13 min ago view
  • Amazing how much lower the production gets when Bryant runs into a mini-cold streak. He doesn't stay cold for long. If just one of Zobrist or, gulp, Heyward, gets hot, they oughta have one more really nice winning streak in them. Having a closer that you have absolute confidence in can't hurt.

    Old and Blue 5 hours 57 min ago view
  • I hope they hold onto Jimenez. Outfield depth is questionable, especially with McKinney, who struggled this year but still, gone.

    Old and Blue 6 hours 8 min ago view