Given that the farm system lost three times yesterday, it might be surprising to hear that there were a number of very good and very encouraging pitching performances across the system. Ground ball inducing starters led the way in the lower minors while the Triple A bullpen once again attempted to soothe the frayed nerves of Cub fans everywhere.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 1 – 2
The Iowa offense was in classic Chicago form Saturday night, but not in a good way. The Triple A club stranded ten base runners on the way to a 7-2 loss.

Brett Jackson reached base three times and scored both of Iowa’s runs. Blake Lalli had two hits and drove in one run; Anthony Rizzo collected the other RBI. Iowa did most of their damage against the Round Rock bullpen, but they never could get a sustained rally going.

Chris Rusin was pitching a good game until the sixth inning, when he was tagged for three runs. Round Rock later scored three more times off Nate Robertson in the eighth. There was some encouraging news for the belabored Chicago bullpen, however, as Frankie De La Cruz and Blake Parker were both effective in relief. With the exception of Robertson’s bad inning, the Iowa bullpen has been pretty good in the early games. If Chicago needs some help, Iowa should have some arms available.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 2 – 1
Speaking of bullpen meltdowns, Tennessee suffered through a pretty bad one on Saturday. The only thing separating the Smokies from a win was the nine runs they surrendered in the sixth. Tennessee wound up with a 10-2 loss.

Dallas Beeler was not dominant in his five innings of work, but he only gave up one run. All in all, it was a pretty good first start for the promising pitching prospect. And then Daniel Berlind entered the game and promptly pitched his way to an ERA of 108.00. Casey Weathers was a little wild when he entered the game, but managed to escape with minimal damage. Jonathan Mota, a career infielder, pitched a perfect final frame.

Logan Watkins stayed red hot with another two hits and Jae-Hoon Ha added a couple knocks of his own, but the Tennessee offense was not able to overcome that nine run disaster.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 1 – 2
There was a fantastic pitchers dual in Florida as the Daytona Cubs went to bat against Brevard County’s Jed Bradley, Milwaukee’s top left handed pitching prospect. The Cubs came up just short, losing 1-0.

The Cubs managed just four hits on the day, and two them came from John Andreoli, who also collected the team’s only walk.

On the mound, Hayden Simpson did not have a lot of velocity, but he pounded the strike zone with pitches Brevard County could not consistently square up against. He gave up just five hits across his four and a third innings of work, including the game winning run on a solo shot in the fourth. His fastball was clocked at 86 MPH, but his breaking pitches yielded a steady stream of soft liners and ground balls. The radio crew was impressed both by the quality of his breaking stuff and by his high level of preparation. Apparently this guy is a serious student of the game who does not take his planning lightly.

After Simpson left the game, Casey Harman and Larry Suarez combined to allow just three base runners the rest of the game. The offense could not match that level of virtuosity, however, and Daytona took the loss.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 2 – 1
Peoria earned the lone win in the Cubs’ system. They beat Beloit by a score of 6-2.

Jose Rosario got the start for the Chiefs. He pitched five and a third innings and earned his first win of the season. Like Simpson, he produced a ton of ground balls and soft liners during his two hit, two strikeout performance. When he left the game, Austin Reed, Yao-Lin Wang, and Andrew McKirahan were perfect for the remainder of the game.

Eduardo Gonzalez, Brad Zapenas, and Taylor Davis all had two hits a piece as Peoria piled on more than enough runs for the win. Zeke DeVoss, Pin-Chieh Chen and Paul Hoilman also reached base twice.

If you like unusual stat lines, you’ll love the one produced by Marco Hernandez. He finished the game with both a run scored and an RBI, but he had no hits, no walks, and was not hit by a pitch.

Of course I’m not going to tell you how he did it. That would take all the fun out things.

[Brett: A couple more tidbits passed along by BN’ers who were at games this weekend, though they harken back to Friday’s games. Grant says that, in person, Patrick Francescon looked as good as his line suggested he looked. And Jeff spoke to AA pitching prospect Dallas Beeler, who shared a bit of info about his roommate, pitcher Brooks Raley. He said that Raley stayed back on the last day of Spring Training so he could pitch in front of Theo and Jed. During that showing, Raley apparently made Anthony Rizzo look bad on three pitches during that outing. Beeler even said that he thinks Raley would have been the Smokies’ number 1 if he hadn’t stayed back that extra day – given the makeup of the Smokies’ rotation (McNutt, Struck, Beeler, among them), that’s quite a compliment.]

  • Jason

    RBI ground out or fielder’s choice, then was subsequently driven in by someone else? Just one idea. I would think it would be more odd to have an RBI without a plate appearance.

    • Spencer

      Was thinking that or sac fly then in a later AB reached base on a strikeout.

  • Kyle-el

    That’s a nice moment for Simpson, but he’s still not missing bats and he’s still not regained any velocity, so he’s still trending toward non-prospect.

  • tim815

    I have my review of the Chiefs @ Brewers game posted. Feel free to comment here or there.

    Rizzo keeps hitting ground balls to the right fielder.

    • Brett

      I get an error when I go there, Tim.

  • Cheryl

    Luke, Overall does Simpson seem like he’ll get better and have more volicity? Or is he a washout to never fully get back what he lost wit mono?

    • Luke

      We’ll see.  If he can get his velocity back, there is plenty of upside there.  A pretty good High-A lineup had a difficult time making solid contact against him; that’s not a bad place for a guy to be after one start.

      I’d be a lot happier if he was throwing that power curve of his around 91 or 92 MPH, but I’m not willing to say that such a thing can never happen again.  I wouldn’t expect him to win multiple Cy Young awards anytime soon, but I wouldn’t completely write him off as a non-entity either.  Like a lot of the rest of the Cubs lower level pitching prospects, I’d classify him as an intriguing pitcher with a lot of upside who is well worth keeping track of.

    • ferrets_bueller

      I don’t know where I read the quote, but it was someone talking about Simpson and his velocity. Or about someone else and their loss of velocity. Either way, it was something along the lines of a pitching coach wishing that he could make every pitcher play a year with 5-7mph less in velocity, so that they were forced to learn to pitch and to battle, then give the velocity back, and they would be amazing. Hopefully, Simpson is simply still not bulked back up, still a little sickly, and he’ll eventually get back to being in the low 90s…while learning what Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux did in the process.

  • Adam

    Raley has been the guy I’m most confused about. I follow each of his starts because he went to my college (Texas A&M) while I was there. I thought he’d be a shoe-in for Iowa, but I guess because the over saturation of Cubs’ rotation rejects, there wasn’t room for him. Who knows. Hope he pitches his was to AAA soon.

  • Andrew

    for marco hernandez Fielder’s choice scores the runner or maybe a strike three wild pitch, but I don’t know if that counts as an RBI.

  • Roughriider

    The Daytona game pitching stats are really strange. Either all the batters were really aggressive or the Umpire had a huge stike zone or the stats are wrong. Cubs pitchers only threw 53 pitches in 8 innings and the other team only threw 55 in 9 innnings with 10 strike outs? Not possible.

    • Luke

      The box score has to be wrong.  Either that, or the other team’s starter retired 15 batters on just 13 pitches.

      I hate it that minor league data is so unreliable… it makes my job a lot more difficult than it needs to be… but that’s the way it is.  It gets a little better every year, so I suppose in another decade it’ll be mostly accurate.

      • Kyle Mayhugh

        Pitch counts for anything below AA have been borked since the season opener.

  • djriz

    sac fly for rbi…scores from second a single (reached base via fielders choice)

  • Luke

    Just two games on the minor league calendar today.

    Iowa – Jay Jackson

    Tennessee – Dae-Eun Rhee

  • Dumpgobbler

    When we drafted Simpson, wasnt he throwing mid 90’s?

    • Deer

      86MPH? Good grief, if he were a senior in college, would he even get drafted with that velocity? in any round??

      • Luke

        His breaking stuff would still get him drafted.

        • Kyle Mayhugh

          In a very, very late round.

    • Luke

      Yep.  In his last couple of starts the year he was drafted, his velocity stepped up into the low to mid nineties.  The Cubs’ Jim Crawford saw him throwing that hard, as did a scout for at least one other team (generally believed to be the Angels).  That’s why the Cubs took him in the first.

      For the record, a college (or high school) pitcher showing an elevation in velocity at the end of the season is fairly common.  The Cubs stole two other good pitching prospects in the 2009 and 2010 drafts  who had also been passed over or undervalued by other team because those teams did not see their added late season velocity – Trey McNutt and Ben Wells.  Interestingly, those two guys were also signed by the same Jim Crawford who signed Simpson.

      Simpson then came down with a horrible case of mono, lost a ton of weight he could not afford to lose, had some damage to his elbow during the 2011 season, and has shown only flashes of his pre-draft velocity.  He reached ninety in his first game  with Peoria last season… a game in which he struck out 7 of the 14 batters he faced… but other than that has been using his impressive breaking pitches and control.


      • Dumpgobbler

        IIRC it was teh Angels and Cardinals who were both considering drafting him.

  • Cheryl

    There’s something about Simpson and LaHair that makes you want to root for them mabe its because they seem to be underdogs. Both may end up elsewhere but I hope they make it to the majors.

  • zach

    For a right handed he needs to be consistently around 90 to 93. If he cant he would be Joe blanton and that would make him a wasted number 1 pick

    • Ben

      Would you not take a Joe Blanton Career out of Simpson at this point???

  • zach

    Ya if he wasn’t a first round pick.

    • Kyl-el

      A first-round pick is a 50/50 shot to ever make the majors for a cup of coffee. A Joe Blanton career out of a first-rounder is usually a positive result.

  • Tyler

    Not when you look who the cubs could’ve taken with that pick. Also he has not pitched like the Cubs said he could and I know that he had mono but he has not showen anything that would have made him considered a first round pick.