At long last that talented Boise Hawks team is going to take the field.

But before they do, I highly recommend you fire up Twitter and give a follow to @BoiseHawksRadio. This is the Twitter feed for the Hawks’ play-by-play voice Mike Safford. In the minors, the radio guys often travel with the team on the same buses, stopping at the same stops, sleeping in the same hotels, and generally sharing the life of a minor league player. Safford does a fantastic job of providing an insight into that life. He also doles out some nifty bits of baseball information as well.

And while we’re on the subject, check out the latest entry in Mike Safford’s blog. He talks a bit about the long bus ride and the relative size of various fish, but he also gives a nice report on Boise’s Opening Day starter Jose Arias (who is already throwing up to 96 MPH). He has some nice things to say about Marco Hernandez, Shawon Dunston Jr., and a certain 2011 first round draft pick now playing shortstop in Peoria as well. All in all, its’ a great read.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 29 – 39
When the wind blows out in Iowa we can see some inflated scores. That was the case in this one as the Cubs lost 10-8.

Brooks Raley only allowed one home run, but that is just about the only bright spot on his day. In five and a third innings he was rocked for eight runs on nine hits while only striking out two. Esmailin Caridad allowed another run to score in his two and two thirds innings, as did Scott Maine via a solo home run in the ninth.

Blake Lalli was again on first, and again he launched a long ball, his sixth, as part of a two hit game. Brett Jackson went 3 for 4 with a triple and his 13th stolen base of the season. Alfredo Amezaga also swiped a bag. Josh Vitters, batting cleanup, reached twice with a hit and a walk; that is his fourth walk this month and his 15th on the season. His career high is 22.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 33 – 34
Thanks to some great starting pitching and some clutch work by the bullpen, Tennessee has pulled to within one game of .500. They won a nailbiter 3-2.

Nick Struck needed 94 pitches to get through five and two thirds innings, but he did so while allowing just four hits and striking out three. Alberto Cabrera continued what Struck started by throwing two innings of one hit, two strikeout ball. Kevin Rhoderick came in to get the final out in the eighth. He started the next inning, but with two outs in the ninth he walked two batters and was pulled. Jeffry Antigua allowed those runs to score, but he did hold the lead and walked away with his first save.

Matt Cerda had one of his best games of the season, a three hit performance that featured his second home run of the year. The other two Tennessee runs were driven in by Justin Bour who had a double and a single in the game. Logan Watkins also had two hits.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 29 – 36
The rain has really wrecked havoc on the Daytona Cubs lately. On Thursday they completed a game that was suspended on Wednesday, and lost 7-3. They then followed that game up with a rain shortened 2-1 loss in seven and a half innings.

Robert Whitenack opened Wednesday’s game, but when play resumed on Thursday it was Frank Del Valle who took the mound. Del Valle allowed three runs, all of them unearned, on two hits and two walks in two and two thirds innings of work. A.J. Morris picked up the next four outs while allowing one run to score, and Tony Zych struck out two in a scoreless final frame.

There were no multi-hit games for Daytona in this contest, nor were there any extra base hits. Nelson Perez did reach three times with a single and two walks and John Andreoli stole his 19th base of the season.

In the shortened second game, P.J. Francescon threw five fantastic innings of scoreless, two hit ball while striking out two. Ryan Searle blew the win in his inning of work, and Scott Weismann took the loss when he allowed the go ahead run to cross the plate in the final half inning to be played. Combined, the Cubs’ pitchers allowed just four hits all game, but that was enough for the loss.

Micah Gibbs went 2 for 3 with a double and his fourth home run of the season; he pretty much was the Daytona offense.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 33 – 34
Too little offense cost the Chiefs as they fell back under .500 and out of first half playoff contention with a 5-3 loss.

Kyler Burke pitched six and a third innings and allowed just three runs on six hits (including two home runs). Luis Liria took the loss, though, as he allowed another two runs to score, both of them unearned, while recording the final five outs.

Javier Baez hit his fourth home of the season, driving in two of the Chiefs’ three runs. Dustin Geiger‘s double was the only other extra base hit for the team. Pin-Chieh Chen stole his eleventh base of the season.

  • djriz

    Thanks, Luke. Loved the article about Boise.

    It looks like Tony Zych is settling in quite nicely. It would be nice to develop a bullpen arm with good control.

  • JY

    I just starting following minor league baseball (the Cubs system) and wanted to ask a question. Is there a level that a prospect much reach and play well that might make him a legit prospect?….i know the wording sounds off on that question. Baez for example is tearing up extended spring training and low A ball. Could he get the high A or AA and fall of the face of the earth?

    • Stinky Pete

      I would say AA is the make it or break it level. Sometimes guys will skip AAA all together and go to the bigs. Rarely, but it happens.

      • King Jeff

        I think both Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin initially skipped Iowa. Maybe there is something to guys needing to mature that extra year at triple A after all.

    • Brett

      Sure. Guys can make it all the way to AAA, tear it up, and then vanish. There really isn’t a level they can reach, or a level of production, where you feel “safe.” There are just gradations of confidence.

    • Luke

      There is no truly safe level, but higher is better.  Once a player has had success in Double A, the odds are pretty good that he’ll get a shot at the majors.  There are no guarantees he’ll succeed in that shot, though.

    • BD

      To build off of JY’s question- is there a point where a player does well at a certain level, where they jump into conversations for a team top 10-20 prospects?

      Baez isn’t a great example, because he was drafted so high and was well thought of from the beginning. But what about a guy like Jose Arias? Would success at Boise move him up the list? Or does he need to do it at a higher level?

      • djriz

        There are so many factors to consider, but the two things I’ve noticed are 1) the younger a prospect is for his league, the more good stats are respected, and 2) consistent improvement. Players that show these things tend to get more ‘play’ from evaluators.
        As a player moves up thru the system, performance has a greater effect on the rankings. At single A, scouting reports are more important than stats, at AAA, stats carry more weight.
        Take Arias for example. If he goes 10-2, with an ERA of 2.50 at Boise, but he’s throwing at 91-92 with no curve or change-up, he won’t be considered a top prospect.
        If he goes 7-4, ERA of 3.30, but is consistently throwing at 96-97 with a good curve, then does the same at single A the next year, he WOULD be considered a top prospect.

      • Luke

        Often the top prospects lists are based more on tools and scouting reports than stats, even at the higher levels.  Josh Vitters, based purely on his Double A numbers, probably should not be in the Cubs’ Top 10.  When the analysts factored in his tools, though, many of them ranked him that high.

        There isn’t any level at which a player needs to succeed in order to gain acclaim.  Jeimer Candelario, just like Jose Arias, is jumping up to Boise at a young age.  Candelario is considered in the Cubs Top 25.  Arias isn’t (yet).

        Prospecting is very subjective and is still as much of an art as it is a science… but we are getting better at it.

      • Norm

        Doing it in AA is a pretty big step. Still not a guaranty, but I don’t put much stock in stats below AA (I do still look, of course).

    • Kyle

      Every step up the ladder is more difficult, and there’s a chance at each level that a prospect will hit a wall and not be able to adjust to the better competition. So yeah, the higher a guy is, the more confident you can be in him as a prospect because he’s got fewer stumbling blocks between him and the majors.

  • Stinky Pete

    I assume no news is good news and Baez didn’t get hit again?

    • Luke

      Not this time.

  • jp

    As many times as he’s been plunked this year in his less than 20 games i swear i have an image in my head of him hitting a bomb, dropping the bat and just giving the pitcher the double finger:) He’s probably more like Jack Parkman from Major League 2 though.

  • Jack Weiland

    Does anyone else begin these posts by scrolling down to the bottom to see what Peoria did first? Real excited about that team.

    • King Jeff

      No, why would you skip over the fireworks show that is the I-Cubs report?

      • Jack Weiland

        haha well I get there eventually, I just read them out of order.

        Also I have a crush on Baez, so this might contribute to my thought process.

        • Kyle

          Going into this season, I would have considered myself a Baez skeptic compared to the love he was getting from many Cubs fans.

          But between the awesome attitude and the way he’s leaving A-ball pitches completely overmatched as a 19-year-old, I’m pretty much sold.

    • Norm

      I don’t even care what the team did, just particular players.

      • Spriggs

        me too. Like Jack W, I go straight to the Peoria game for my Baez fix.

      • Jack Weiland

        Right. By “team” I mean “the players on that team.”

        • Jack Weiland

          And by “the players on that team” I mean “ZOMG JAVIER BAEZ WHAT DID HE DO WHAT DID HE DO!!!!!”

  • Dan Fredrickson

    Thanks for the Mike Safford Twitter advice. Unfortunately for me, I don’t do Twitter, but you’ve given me the motivation to investigate the Boise Hawks’ website, where I’ve noticed a link labelled “Gameday Audio.” Evidently it’s free. Also there is a button labelled MiLB TV that would enable me to watch the Boise Hawks games. (Or, at least, some of them. Not all minor league teams participate in this. The Hawks’ first game on MiLB TV won’t be until Wednesday the 20th, their home opener.) MiLB TV is either $40/year or $10/month.

    With the Chicago Cubs doing so poorly, this season is now all about the prospects. I’m going to root for the Boise Hawks as though they were the Cubs. Go Hawks!

  • Spencer

    Rock Shoulders tweeted that all the short season guys stay with host families while in Boise.

    • Cubbie Blues

      My parents were hosts for the Frontier league (under 23 years old) for a couple of years in the late 90’s. They provided a room and meals. They really enjoyed it

  • JulioZuleta

    Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news…heard Ben Wells needs TJ.

  • Matty Ice

    Luke, what is Kyler Burke’s arsenal of pitches is he more a back end of the bullpen arm or a 4/5 starter?

    • Luke

      Fastball, curve, and change up I believe.  And I believe he uses all of them when pitching, which is a good sign.

      I think the Cubs will definitely keep him primarily starting until he pitches himself out of that role, but I’d hesitate to put a firm ceiling on him just yet.  He’s not been pitching full time all that long, so the potential is there for him to take a few more significant strides forward.  I’d slot his ceiling as a future 4/5 starter for now, but I may revise that to a No. 3 depending on how he progresses against higher difficulty levels.