AZL Giants Best AZL Cubs in Arizona League Opener
Leonardo Ochoa singled three times, walked, scored two runs, and drove-in another, leading the AZL Giants to an 8-5 victory over the AZL Cubs in Arizona League Opening Night action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this evening.
Eduardo Gonzalez and Dustin Geiger provided much of the AZL Cubs offense, with E. Gonzalez ripping three singles, and Dustin Geiger stroking a triple off the right-centerfield fence to lead off the bottom of the second and a ground-rule double that bounced over the left-centerfield fence with one out in the 4th. Geiger also flied out to the warning track in CF in the 7th. The 19-year old Geiger hit 244/312/358 with just one HR but with a team-leading nine doubles for the AZL Cubs last year after signing out of HS, but he started to show some improved HR power in the latter stages of Extended Spring Training last month, hitting a walk-off three-run HR in one game, and a grand slam in another.
20-year old 6'4 Dominican RHP Starling Peralta got the start for the AZL Cubs and gave up three runs in the top of the 1st inning after allowing three straight hits (a triple and two singles) to open the game, but then settled-down and retired seven of the next nine men he faced (including five strikeouts). He gave up another run in the top of the 4th after allowing a lead-off walk and two consecutive singles with no outs, but overall he pitched better than his final line might indicate, striking out seven in just four innings of work (58 pitches - 44 strikes, 3/0 GO/FO).
Knuckleballer Joe Zeller was supposed to "piggyback" with Peralta and throw multiple innings, but he lasted only 1.2 IP, allowing four runs on three hits and a walk. Only one of the runs was earned, however, thanks to a couple of passed balls (catcher Johan DeJesus had all kinds of trouble trying to snatch Zeller's knuckler) and a key two-out throwing error by first-baseman Brian Inoa (overthrew Zeller covering 1st base) that opened the floodgates and eventually led to three runs scoring.
The pitching highlight for the AZL Cubs was probably Cubs 2011 18th round draft pick James Pugliese (Mercer CC), who was making his pro debut. And the 18 year old 6'3 Pugliese had an eye-popping intro to pro ball, too, throwing two innings (30 pitches - 20 strikes), and allowing no runs, hits, or walks, while striking out four. Pugliese throws with a max effort over-the-top overhand style similar to Diamondbacks rookie RHP Josh Collmenter, pumping his two-seam fastball up into the 92-93 MPH range, with an OK breaking ball (breaks straight down) to complement it.
3B Garrett Buechele (SF 2011 14th round draft pick - U. of Oklahoma and the son of ex-Cub 3B Steve Buechele) made his pro debut for the AZL Giants, getting two hits, including a double.
The AZL Cubs are playing their AZL home games at HoHoKam Park through July 24th with a 7 PM local start time, and then will play the balance of their home games beginning on July 26th at Fitch Park with an 11 AM start time.
Although they are playing the first half of their home games at HoHoKam Park, the team is actually based at Fitch Park, and takes pre-game BP and fielding practice at Fitch. The boys are then driven by shuttle vans up Center Street to HoHoKam Park for the game. Last year, the team played all of their AZL home games at HoHoKam Park, and was actually physically based there, too, with meals catered by Boston Market. It seemed to work well, and the players enjoyed the big league locker room environment and playing all of their home games at a major league Spring Training stadium, and it's a bit puzzling as to why it was changed this year.
The Cubs have signed catcher Rafael Lopez (Florida State), and Lopez was in uniform tonight with the AZL Cubs, although he did not play in the game. The 23-year old Lopez was a 5th year college senior, and with the Seminoles having been eliminated by Texas A&M in their Super Regional last Monday, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Lopez would sign a pro contract, and soon (which he did). The Cubs have now signed 12 of their 50 picks from this month's Rule 4 Draft, and Lopez (their 16th round selection) is the highest one they have signed so far.
LHP Hunter Ackerman (Cubs 2010 4th round draft pick) is scheduled to start for the AZL Cubs Tuesday night versus the AZL Athletics at the Papago Park Sports Complex in Phoenix. Ackerman has struggled with his control throughout his short pro career, and was (somewhat surprisingly) left behind in Mesa when the Boise Hawks left for the Pacific Northwest last Tuesday.
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?
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.)
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.
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.
Has anybody in a Cub uniform ever thrown a ball 103 before?
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.
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.
Yup. Thanks Q
Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTNekUcY-XM
I for one hope that Sosa comes back soon.
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.
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.
I hope they hold onto Jimenez. Outfield depth is questionable, especially with McKinney, who struggled this year but still, gone.
You don't think he's improved? He looks completely different out there than he did when he first came up. The last I checked his K rate was in the low 20% range - 22-23 or so. When he came up it was 40%+.
To me, what is scary about him if I'm the other guy is that he IS learning the strike zone. This guy could easily be the MVP someday.
So, playing .500 for the rest of the year puts them at 91 wins. You would think there is enough talent to do a little better than that, right?
First team to 60 wins! Onward to 70, 80, 90 and 100!