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Ryan Cuneo / Photo via micubs.com

If you follow baseball long enough, you’re bound to see everything. In the case of the Iowa Cubs and the third inning on Monday, “long enough” might require an extended life span. While the Cubs were taking advantage of unusual plays, the Chiefs were riding power hitting and good pitching to a win of their own.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 7 – 5
Dave Sappelt collected Iowa’s only RBI as the Cubs won 3-2. Yes, that sentence made sense.

Casey Coleman, Jeff Beliveau, and Blake Parker combined to hold Round Rock to just two runs on six hits, thereby giving the offense a chance to assemble the runs for the win.

And assemble they did. The Cubs scored two unearned runs in the third off Martin Perez, one of the best left handed pitching prospects in the minors. With one out in the inning, Alfredo Amezaga and Tony Campana reached on consecutive errors. Campana then stole second, setting up runners on second and third. Brett Jackson walked. A fly ball by Edgar Gonzalez resulted in Amezaga scoring on the throw for the first run, leaving runners on first and second. And then something odd happened. Campana attempted to steal third, and Jackson either went along in a double steal or picked up a steal of his own when the defense melted down once again. Regardless, when the dust cleared Campana had scored, Jackson had stolen second, and the Texas Triple A team had yet another error in the inning. When Dave Sappelt smacked an RBI triple three innings later, the Cubs had all the runs they would need for the win.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 6 – 6
Sometimes in baseball the loss can go to the wrong pitcher. That was the case on Monday night as the Smokies dropped a road game 5-2.

Trey McNutt left after four pretty good innings. He did allow a run on four hits, but he really did not have a bad night. The bad night belonged to Jeffry Antigua who gave up a pair of two run home runs to Scooter Gennett; that put that the game out of reach.

The Smokies only gathered four hits all night, all of them in the eighth. Back to back doubles by Jonathan Mota and Juan Apodaca chased home a pair of runs, but by then the damage was done and the game was out of reach. Michael Burgess started the rally (and broke up the no-hitter) with a single; he later scored the Smokies’ first run of the night.

So who was the pitcher who held Tennessee in check all night? Well, it turns out that Tyler Thornburg is Milwaukee’s No. 4 prospect. The guy who hit the pair of two run homers (Gennett) is their No. 5 prospect. I think the Cubs may be seeing more of both these future Brewers.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 2 – 9
Daytona had 13 hits and committed no errors, but it was not enough. The Cubs could have won this one, but they lost it 6-3.

Eric Jokisch broke the recent trend of low-K/low-WHIP starts across the farm system by striking out seven in his six innings of work. Unfortunately, he also gave up six hits, three walks, and four runs. He is now 0-2 on the season.

Greg Rohan tried to get the offense going. His three hits included a double and a solo home run, but the Cubs just could not turn any of their abundance of chances into a sustained rally.

Anyone uncertain about the value of the walk need look no further than Matt Szczur‘s start to the season. With his 4-5 performance on Monday, Szczur nearly doubled his total number of hits for 2012. His batting average now stands at a paltry .214. His OBP, on the other hand, is a very respectable .353. As a result of his ability to earn the free pass, Szczur has scored in several games in which he went hit-less. After Monday’s game he had scored eight times, compared to just nine hits. Without those walks Szczur would not get on base enough to score all those runs. Without those walks, Szczur is having a terrible season. Thanks to those walks, Szczur is one of the most productive batters on the team.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 5 – 6
Michael Jensen had another good start and Ryan Cuneo had one of the best days of his career as the Cheifs kicked off the home stand with a 6-2 win.

In his six innings of work Jensen allowed a solo home run, and that was about it. He struck out five, walked two, and gave up just three hits. Austin Reed and Jeffrey Lorick were equally effective in relief. Jensen is now 3-0 in three starts.

Rafael Lopez and Paul Hoilman both had two hits (both of Hoilman’s hits were doubles) and Oliver Zapata homered, but this night belonged to Ryan Cuneo. The Chiefs’ first baseman was 3 for 4 with a single and a pair of two run home runs. Both of his home runs came with two outs.

I believe I’ve mentioned Zapata a few times now, but most fans are probably not familiar with this guy. Oliver Zapata, a small (5’9″) switch hitting outfielder, is another product of the Cubs’ recent efforts in the Dominican Republic. Last season he split time between the Arizona Rookie League and Boise. His game looks to revolve around his speed (35 career SB) and his ability to get on base (.354 career OBP), but he has already shown a surprising amount of pop given his age and frame. He is just 19 years old, so I don’t think we need to expect him in Wrigley any time soon. That said, he is off to a good start. He is definitely a player we need to be watching.

[Brett: Although he's not playing in real Minor League games yet, it's worth noting that Javier Baez yesterday demonstrated why the Cubs may be willing to work with him through certain growing pains - the kid hit for the cycle in an extended Spring Training game. The plan, presumably, is for him to join Boise when the Low-A season starts in June, but you have to wonder whether his play - or an injury - could make the Cubs rethink that plan, and send him to Peoria.]

  • college_of_coaches

    Tyler Thornburg had a perfect game going into the eighth, and he had 11 strikeouts. Pretty stiff competition indeed.

  • ferrets_bueller

    Szczur has 8 walks through 11 games. That’s….insane. For a guy allegedly very raw, his eye is looking quite polished.

    • CubFan Paul

      I had hopes of Szczur hitting his way to AA this year, but now that kinda seems hasty. Hopefully his walks aren’t a fluke & his OBP skills improve as he eventually advances

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        The season is only two weeks old.  Szczur has plenty of time to make adjustments and earn a promotion to Tennessee in the second half of the year.

  • T Wags

    Wouldn’t Gonzalez have gotten an RBI for the sac fly or am I missing something? Either way, love this stuff, Luke! I look forward to it every day.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It appears that it wasn’t exactly a “sac fly” – the runner “scored on the throw” following the fly ball. I gather that it was another error. http://iowa.cubs.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=t451&t=g_log&gid=2012_04_16_iowaaa_rreaaa_1

      • GW

        amezaga tagged on the throw, but thought better of it when express right fielder joey butler threw a rope to the catcher. campana was late to notice that amezaga had stopped, and the catcher tried to pick him off second, but the throw went into the outfield, and everyone advanced.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Thanks for that, GW.

        • T Wags

          Thank you, gents, for the explanation!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      You’re right.  Had it been scored a true sac fly an RBI would have been awarded.

      Edit: I reworded that section of the article.  It should be a little less unclear now.

  • Tank

    Do they have more control over what happens in extended spring more? Is that why Baez isn’t playing in games that actually count? Why not just do drills until they are 24 then put them in the big leagues?

  • Jeremy

    Just curious, is Baez just having a really good spring in EST? He seems to be the only one that news seems to be coming out about there.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Baez is getting the press in part because he was the Cubs’ first round pick and, as a result, is a familiar name.  There are plenty of other players having good outings in extended spring training.  The Boise Hawks website just ran an update some of the potential future and former Hawks currently in AZ, and there is plenty of good stuff in there.

      http://boisehawksradio.mlblogs.com/2012/04/16/an-update-from-extended/

  • Noah

    Quite honestly, if Marco Hernandez doesn’t start hitting some and Baez keeps tearing up EST, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Baez up in Peoria by mid-May and Hernandez getting some time in Arizona before heading to Boise. I honestly felt like the season should have started with Baez in Peoria and Hernandez pegged for Boise. Hernandez has really struggled in the MWL. And while some of it is low BABIP (.148), his K rate has also doubled from his ASL campaign a year ago.

  • Steve

    Of course it is too early to pencil Javier in the lineup, but goodness gracious.. the kid hit .700 his senior year in HS, and he is making his peers look downright silly in EST.
    Is there a chance….that the scouts MISSED on this kid, and that he is a better talent than Starling and Rendon???? Lindor was taken one spot before Baez, but I had the feeling the Cubs would have taken Baez over him if we had been swapped in draft order.

    • Noah

      I’d just say two things: (1) Baez played against awful competition his senior year of high school; and (2) any top 10 pick who is not EXTREMELY raw (Starling) should be starting the season after their draft in Low A. Baez should be absolutely destroying the pitchers in EST. So the fact that he is doing it doesn’t teach us much about him.

      Starling is all projection, much more so than Baez. Of the Top 10 picks, he probably has the highest ceiling. He could be the next Bryce Harper, but with more athleticism. He also probably has the lowest floor. He could never figure out how to make contact against professional pitching and be a huge bust.

      • Cedlandrum

        He faced plenty of talent in HS. They play in so many tournaments, AAU, and All-Star games that they usually face some very good players, so there should have been plenty of games to judge his talent on. His league may not have been great, I don’t know, but I do believe Fransico Lindor also played in that league.

        • Noah

          I’m pretty sure his school did not play in any of the major tournaments. And, yes, he did showcase his talents plenty of other places, I’m just saying that the .700 batting average was impacted by playing against subpar competition (this was very widely reported).

          • ty

            Baez played in a Christian league that is terribly weak–teams that have to beg kids just to play. The high school numbers mean very little–compared to a division 5 his school is like a division 1 in North Dakota. But-He is the real deal. He literally comes out of his shoes and bat speed on loan from God. I was standing with a baseball scout from Diamondbacks as he hit last week and he said he would be a STAR–and he never ever makes comments like this to me. He is confident but really quiet–if he goes to Daytona that will be a test–Daytona is much tougher than given credit . That league will stop you in your tracks or stall you–

            • djriz

              Good stuff, Ty. It is always good to hear good things about our prospects from other people. Hope to see Baez in a full season league soon.

              Remember folks, the last SS the Cubs took with a .750 BA in High School was Shawon Dunston, and if memory serves me correctly, the Shawon-o-meter didn’t flirt with .300 too often!

              And one last thing, who cares about the competion Baez faced in HS. He hit .770 with 22 homers in like 78 AB’s. That would be near impossible to do against batting practice pitchers. He does need to see better pitching soon, though. They need to find his weakness and fix them, and hard to do that with an OPS of 2.333!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Extended spring training numbers are even more meaningless than regular spring training numbers.  It is good that Baez (and others) are playing well, but the Cubs development staff are going to be basing their decisions on who to promote and when based on far more than numbers.  Extended spring training is really more of an instructional league than anything else.  It’s tough to draw any solid conclusions from the paltry amount of data we get.

      When they hit Boise or the Rookie League, that largely changes.  That’s only about two months away now.

  • Steve

    Noah, good points…. I must say I was on pins and needles watching this last draft. It was a bumper crop to say the least. I wanted Archie Bradley or Dylan Bundy SO bad I could taste it. When they went off I certainly wasn’t shocked and then hoped Starling would still be on the board.
    Maybe it’s our turn to actually draft a guy and have him pan out….

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    BA blurb on Baez and Lindor a month before the draft:
    http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/draft/2011/05/florida-duo-winds-down/

    I really don’t care about EST stats, but it sounds like he should be in Peoria. They might be taking it extra slow because of his “makeup”.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Or because they wanted to take a look at Marco Hernandez in Peoria.  The season is only two weeks old; it’s a little early to ship Hernandez out and replace him.  Baez and Hernandez could either have started in Peoria or Boise, but I can’t argue with giving a guy just out of high school a chance to adjust to playing baseball every day in extended spring training.

      I expect we’ll start seeing some roster shuffling in two weeks or so, when players start crossing the 100 AB threshold.  I’d not be surprised if Baez and Vogelbach both come to Peoria not long after that.  I’d not be surprised if they went to Boise either.

  • Steve

    Oh man….don’t tell me he’s a d*** head….

  • JulioZuleta

    Startin to get excited about Jensen. Liked him as an under the radar pick last year and he’s off to a great start for his career.

    • T Wags

      Ditto this.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Tuesday’s minor league starters:

    Iowa – Chris Rusin.  Iowa is in Albuquerque now, and that ballpark has a reputation for being very hitter friendly.  The Isotopes starter has an ERA of 10.50.  This could be a fun one.

    Tennessee – Dallas Beeler.  He’s pitched well, but is still looking for his first win.

    Daytona – Hayden Simpson.  Daytona is looking for their third win of the season.  Ouch.

    Peoria – P.J. Francescon.  He was a strikeout machine in his first start, but not so much in his second.

    Only Peoria is at home.  If you bring a Taco Bell receipt for the purchase of a Doritos Taco to the ticket window tonight, you get a free ticket with the purchase of a ticket.  Delicious tacos and free baseball in one night?  I’m officially jealous of Peoria residents.

  • T Wags

    One other question, Luke(or anyone). All of McNutt’s outings have been quite short so far, and I’m just curious if he’s on a certain pitch count or innings limit and how long they plan to be cautious with him?

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