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dominican flagOne of the (potentially) best pitching prospects in the Cubs organization has finally arrived in the United States. Juan Carlos Paniagua made his stateside debut with the Arizona Cubs last night. He allowed two hits over three innings while striking out four.

According to many reports Paniagua can hit 100 MPH and features a pretty good changeup. His breaking pitches are said to need work, but then he has had lots of time in the Dominican lately to work on them.  I’m not sure how accurate the older reports on his stuff are going to be.  I’m also not sure what kind of movement his fastball has; pure velocity is good, but velocity with movement is what makes a true plus pitch. Some already suggest his future lies in the bullpen, but I doubt the Cubs are going to decide that yet. They’ll try him as a starter first and only move him into relief when it becomes necessary (if it ever does).

His ceiling is very high, but it is hard to say exactly how high given the limited data we have on him. He definitely is one of the best pitching prospects in the Cubs organization, but he is also one of the riskiest, at least for now. His starts will probably be some of the most watched events in the Cubs minor leagues for the remainder of this season.

I doubt he stays in Arizona for the rest of the summer, but I have no idea where he will go. Kane County is badly in need of pitching right now and would make a certain amount of sense. If the Cubs preferred to challenge him, though, Daytona could be in the mix. I wouldn’t rule out a bullpen assignment to Daytona or Tennessee in August to help with a push into the postseason, either. Playoff experience is valuable for any player at any level, and it never hurts to start soaking up that experience early.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa - The Cubs had their chances but managed just a single run in this 4-1 loss.
Tennessee - The Smokies were in control this entire game. They won it 4-1.
Daytona - The Cubs picked up a tally in both the second and seventh to defeat Lakeland 2-1.
Kane County - The season has not gotten better for the Cougars. They went down in this one 6-1.
Boise - Boise allowed one big inning and were shut out themselves. The final was 4-0.
Arizona - The Cubs overcame two errors in this 6-2 win.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] The Iowa bullpen was once again solid. Jeffry Antigua, Marcus Hately, Eduardo Sanchez, and Brian Schlitter combined to allow just a single hit in 4.2 innings of relief.
  • [Iowa] Who predicted that Anthony Giansanti would have an eight game hitting streak in Triple A this year? That’s what the Gian-insaniti is up to now.
  • [Tennessee] He only allowed 3 hits over 7 innings, and it was good enough for Alberto Cabrera‘s 9th win.
  • [Tennessee] Arismendy Alcantara finished 3 for 4 with a walk and his 22nd stolen base.
  • [Daytona] Taiwan Easterling finished 2 for 4 with a double. Taylor Davis also had two hits.
  • [Daytona] Pierce Johnson lowered his High A ERA to 2.86 by allowing just one run on 5 hits over 6 innings while striking out 4.
  • [Daytona] Austin Reed also pitched well in this one. He allowed just 2 hits while striking out 3 over the final 3 frames.
  • [Kane County] Gioskar Amaya returned to the leadoff slot and reached base twice on a single and a walk.
  • [Kane County] Albert Almora hit another double (13) as part of his 2 for 5 day. Jeimer Candelario also had 2 hits.
  • [Kane County] Lendy Castillo and Nathan Dorris were both effective in relief.
  • [Boise] Rob Zastryzny pitched one hitless inning and struck out one.
  • [Boise] Corbin Hoffner is continuing to make noise in the Northwest. He struck out 3 more in 2 innings of one hit relief for the Hawks. Hoffner, who turns 20 at the end of this month, has 15 K and 6 BB in 15.2 innings of relief this year.
  • [Boise] Despite the shutout, both Cael Brockmeyer and Trevor Gretzky finished 2 for 3, and Gretzky added a double. Rony Rodriguez also doubled for the Hawks.
  • [Arizona] After Paniagua left the game, Zak Hermans came in and pitched 2 innings of hitless, 3 strikeout ball.
  • [Arizona] Yasiel Balaguert is feasting on Rookie League pitching in his short time away from Boise. He was 2 for 5 with two more doubles in this one.

Other News

  • Minor league veterans do not get enough respect. These are guys who are unlikely to spend more than a few games in the majors, if that, but they fill a valuable role stabilizing rosters in the farm system. For example, take a look at Jonathan Mota. This guy has been playing on full season league teams for the Cubs since 2006, often on two or more teams in a year. He doesn’t put up great numbers, but he doesn’t embarrass himself at Double A or Triple A either. The really impressive thing, though, is his versatility. Mota has literally played every position on the diamond. No exaggeration. He has played seven positions just this season for the Smokies. No matter who gets injured, who needs a day off, who gets called up suddenly, who comes down with the flu, it just doesn’t matter as much if Mota is on the roster. Guys like Mota are not going to be on the field when the Cubs finally win it all, but they are definitely a small part of the process that will build this organization to that goal. Every once in awhile Mota and all his fellow minor league veterans deserve some credit for the unsung but important role they play.
  • So far, Javier Baez has exactly two hits in his Double A career. This is nothing to worry about. Adjusting to tougher leagues generally takes some time, and nothing I am seeing out of Baez so far in his brief time with the Smokies causes me any worry. Just the opposite, actually. That he only has 6 strikeouts in 23 trips to the plate I find a little encouraging.
  • We have a Josh Vitters sighting. The third baseman had two at bats in a rehab start in Arizona.
  • Josh

    Even Sano is struggling in his short stint in AA. No reason for concern yet with Baez.

    • Stevie B

      Are these numbers really correct for Almora???

      .341 .363 .498 .862

      • BluBlud

        .358/.390/.527/.917 would be more accurate.

      • BluBlud

        and in his last 5 games, he is 10-19 with 2 doubles, a triple and a homer and 1 BB. The guy is absolutely crushing KC.

        • On The Farm

          Add that to he has struck out 21 times in 178 PA (11.8%) and a wOBA of .414 is crazy.

          • Stevie B

            Geeeez whiz…. video game numbers.

            Lets not talk about him anymore…maybe that will ensure success…?

            • willis

              Yeah what that kid is doing-straight ridiculous.

  • ssckelley

    It appears another catcher has signed.

    Will Remillard @WillRemillard
    Excited to continue my baseball career with the Chicago Cubs!!
    2:29 PM – 11 Jul 2013

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That would be a nice one – I don’t think he was necessarily expected to sign.

      • B_Scwared

        Sign all the catchers!

        No, but seriously, where are all these catchers going to play?

        • ssckelley

          I would argue that catcher is the weakest position in the organization. Looking through the organization I see a few they could cut and no one would even notice. So I doubt the Cubs will have any problems finding them places to play.

          • On The Farm

            I don’t think you would have to argue with anyone. Even if someone tried to mention how weak we are at pitching we can still point out Johnson, Hendricks, and Cabrera. You would have a harder time mentioning two catchers to be that optimistic about.

          • Funn Dave

            I agree. Cubs moved Geo and Koyie out of there but they only brought in Navarro. As far as major-league-ready or almost-ready catchers, this organization needs all the new blood it can get. And of course the more young guys you sign, the more likely it is that some of them will reach the higher levels.

            • ssckelley

              This is why on draft day I was clamoring for John Denney, one of the highest rated catchers who was expected to go the first round (BA had him #25 overall). He was the only player who showed up for the draft who’s name never got called. Everyone assumed he would need 1st round money to get sign turns out the Red Sox picked him up in the 3rd round and signed him for $875K. This was 6 picks after the Cubs took Hannemann who was considered 7/8 round talent and ended up signing for $1 million. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

        • mak

          Understanding that there isn’t a single catching prospect beyond a guy like Contrerras, who very fringy, these catchers all have to play at the lower levels. It’s not like they can have 2 of their highest rated draftees play in Iowa.

  • BluBlud

    It seem like so many of the Cubs prospects are performing as of late. Is this a talent thing, or is it that our developing of prospect is starting to show. I think it’s the latter. I.5 years is plenty of time for a change in developing philosophy to show, and it is definitely showing.

  • hansman1982

    “That he only has 6 strikeouts in 23 trips to the plate I find a little encouraging.”

    I understand the broader point you are making, but that is still a 26% K rate. For someone with a history of abusing K’s, that’s not encouraging.

    • Blublud

      I the head of the Baez fan club and even I don’t find this encouraging. I don’t necessaryly find it discouraging either. Its only 23 PA’s.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      And I know the point you’re making. I had the same reaction as Luke, though. When I kept hearing that Baez was going hitless again and again, I assumed it was in part because he was striking out half the time.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        This.

        A 26% K rate is not good by any means, but a 26% K rate during a hitless streak for a guy who we know has had trouble making contact at times in the past and just went to Double A? That’s different.

        Sample size alert, of course.

      • Hansman1982

        And I understand that point.

  • gocatsgo2003

    A 26% K rate is encouraging?

  • Fishin Phil

    Luke, thanks for recognizing the contribution of career minor-leaguers. My uncle was an Oriole farmhand back in the 60′s. He played 3B and was blocked by some clown named Brooks Robinson.

    • frank

      Brooks Robinson? You mean your uncle couldn’t beat out that stiff?

      • Fishin Phil

        Sad, isn’t it?

  • Cubsfan66

    Went to the Kane County / Silverhawks game last night. Almora has a sweet swing! My daughters said he was good eye candy also. I am not sure what they were meaning there?? Whatever! Kid can cover Center Field also! Almost made a heck of a diving catch. Made a throw home to try to cut a runner down, but the throw hit the mound and took a bad bounce. runner would have been out had it not been for that. Lendy was humping the ball to the plate at 95mph! He looked pretty good! Vogelbach is built like a truck! Kid is solid! He turned on one for a long foul, but boy, you saw the power! He also has a nice swing!

    Looks like several promising players with Kane County!

  • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

    Thanks for pointing out the contributions of Jonathan Mota. Reminds me of Bobby Scales. That guy was a class act.

    • ETS

      Bobby Scales is exactly who I thought of when I read that.

  • MoneyBoy

    Luke, it’s wonderful you gave a separate, special write up about Jonathan Mota!!

    It’s also pretty interesting that the new regime didn’t cut a kid like him loose … he must be doin’ a whole lot of something right!!!

    Thanks so much for the info. Ya hear a Mota mention now and then but not the kind of background you gave this morning!!

  • Adam

    So when does Almora go to Daytona and Dunston go to Kane County?

    I think they both are ready for a new challenge.

    • BluBlud

      Almora will probably stay in KC all year. No need to bump any prospects that need to play everyday to Daytona this time of the year. Dunston needs a bump however, and i think he is certainly ready for KC.

      • AB

        “No need to bump any prospects that need to play everyday to Daytona this time of the year”

        Nobody in the OF at Daytona is important enough to get playing time priority over Almora, and shouldn’t even be in the discussion of whether to promote him or not.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          There are some who think the Cubs will try to keep their better prospects out of Daytona this time of year because of more frequent rain outs.

          I can’t tell that rain out probability has ever been a significant factor in prospect assignment, but I suppose it is possible. I tend to think that Almora will get a few weeks in Daytona at the end of the year.

          • On The Farm

            Agreed, if it wasn’t enough to dissuade them from promoting Baez I should see no reason why they wont take the same course with Almora if he has proven himself worthy.

            • BluBlud

              Maybe they will learn from the situation with Baez. I would love to see the guy promoted, I just don’t see it. If they were going to do it, 2 weeks ago would have been the right time, with Baez and Andreoli now in Tennessee and Soler on the DL, there is plenty room on the roster for him.

              • On The Farm

                I look at the last two “uber” prospects Hoyer has had (Rizzo and Baez) and I think he has a preferance for promoting guys to see what they need to work on. I understand the rainout situation, but I still think that by August he will have more ABs then he has ever had in a single season so promoting him is a good thing even with the chance of rainouts. Maybe its a poor way of thinking, but I think it is a round-about way of how the FO does things.

          • AB

            Good point, completely forgot about the tropical stroms

        • BluBlud

          This was pointed more towards the rainouts and not at who will keep Almora from playing. Baez lost a lot of valuable at-bats last season after his promotion due to rainouts, and I don’t think Almora should be subjected to that. I have no doubts that Almora can play at that level, and his development is more important than anyone in the system not named Baez, Soler, Bryant or Alcantara and Maybe Vogelbach and definitely no less important than those 4 or 5 guys.

          I would rather see him go straight to Tennessee then to Daytona at this point, and that wont happen. The only other alternative is to keep him at KC.

    • On The Farm

      I could see Almora getting a bump to start out August similar to what we saw with Baez last year. He is clearly not being challenged and giving him the opprotunity to see A+ pitching will let him know what he needs to work on over the offseason since that is where he will be next year.

  • Spriggs

    Enjoyed the Mota piece too, Luke. He’s been around a while and has always been a hard worker. Gotta love the guy.

    Ran down to the game last night in Peoria in time to see Paniagua. Big arm! Had the hitters off balance too with his off speed (looked like a straight change). Very exciting. I don’t believe he will stay here in Arizona very long!

    In addition to Vitters, Penalver there was also a sighting, so I guess he was demoted after looking overmatched in Boise?

    • Cedlandrum

      Penalver couldn’t make the trip to Canada. He will be back with Boise soon. Same with Masek, Lang, and Balguart

    • college_of_coaches

      Thanks Spriggs, I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’ve taken in any games this season in the AZL. Have you seen Erick Leal or Daury Torrez pitch?

  • Bwa

    Cabrera is really starting to put up some great numbers. Especially considering he started the year pretty poorly.

    • CubFan Paul

      All in AA.

  • On The Farm

    I am assuming Luke will be touching on this when he starts to re-assess the prospects starting this weekend, but I am interested what the Cubs will be doing with their fringe prospects next season.

    Daytona should see: 1B Vogelbach, 2B Darvill, SS Soto, 3B Bryant, RF Rademacher, CF Almora, LF DeVoss/Chen? DH Shoulders

    Leaving KC with: 1B The Great one’s son, 2B Amaya (I am assuming he needs a little more time here and he is young), SS Herendez, 3B Calendario, LF Golden, CF Dunston, RF Hannenmen?

    IF there is one thing the FO can do is get creative and find ways for guys to get ABs so I am not too worried, but I will be interested in how they do it.

    • BluBlud

      I think they will have more room to play with next year, because the top guys are headed to the upper system now and they will not have stash as many vets in AAA Those spots will start being taken up by actual prospects as the system improves. Most of the guys that the Cubs release will be guys we never heard to much from anyway.

      • On The Farm

        I didn’t think about AAA being a bit more cleared out of veterans with minor league contracts and filled more with organizational guys. Good point.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I’ll take a closer look at potential assignments over the winter, but right now I’d expect Amaya, Hernandez, Golden, and Candelario to proceed to Daytona next season.

      • On The Farm

        Interesting, granted I am no expert in prospect evaluation, but being as KC is one of the youngest in the MWL, I figured maybe some would stay back and maybe get a mid-June bump, but you know more about these things then I do.

        Thanks.

        • mak

          Amaya and Candelerio’s (and maybe Hernandez’s) numbers, if they continue the incremental improvement through August, warrant a promotion to Daytona.

          • On The Farm

            I was thinking along the lines that Candelerio probably woulnd’t hurt from returning to KC and if Bryant is going to take most of the ABs in Daytona it might be a win-win for him to repeat for a fraction of the season.

  • Jody

    All your catchers are belong to us.

  • SamuraiJock

    I’m still holding a candle for Vitters. His hype train ran out of gas several years ago, but he is still only 23

    The injuries this year have been particularly poorly timed for him. He needs to bonuce back after his ugly 100 ABs in the bigs. But it was only 100 ABs and I think he has more to offer.

    • danimal8

      It would help his cause if he was a good baseball player

  • cub4life

    How long has Pierce been at AA? If i remember correctly it has only been about a month or 2, is that correct?

    • BluBlud

      June 24th was his first start.

      • cub4life

        wow that’s even less time then I thought.

        I just looked at the stas for him

        W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR HB BB SO WHIP
        2 1 2.86 4 4 0 0 0 22.0 21 7 7 1 3 8 18 1.32

        that’s not to shabby, he keeps this up and he wont be there for long.

    • Kyle

      He’s not at AA. Daytona is A+

      • cub4life

        oh that he is, I was thinking when he would move up to AA when I was typing. But that won’t be til next year at the earliest (unless they feel agrressive with him).

        • On The Farm

          I am not sure how Daytona did in the first half and don’t really care to look it up, but if he continues to pitch well in Daytona I think it is possible for him to get some playoff expirence (in the bullpen) in AA this year.

          • cub4life

            they didn’t win the league but they are in first for the second half by a game.

  • ari gold

    Luke/Brett, here is a nice article on the breakout season by Dunston Jr. and Blackburn

    http://throughthefencebaseball.com/chicago-cubs-shawon-dunston-paul-blackburn-enjoying-breakout-seasons/35172

  • Austin

    I was at the Kane County game last night and Almora’s swing is as pretty as I’ve seen at the low end of the minors. He also made came close to throwing a guy out at home plate had it not hit the pitchers mound. He probably had the runner beat by 3 or so feet with the ball going may e 1 foot farther than it did.

    Volgelbach made a bad move at 1st with a bunt that was going to be easily picked up by the pitcher But he ran at it anyways and cost the team an out.

    Candalario made two nice back handed stops at 3rd with 2 really good throws to first, unfortunately he didn’t get the ball there in time on the 1st play on the second he beat the guy by a foot or 2. It was a awsome throw as he was at the back of the infield next to the line and he had just an amazingly powerful throw.

    I havn’t seen his #’s recently but it really seemed like Reggie Goldan has been slumping lately. His demeanor and attitude at the plate was terrible and he was no where close to getting good contact.

    • Austin

      Also it seemed like Brian Smith, the starting pitcher, wont be much as a prospect. He didn’t have fast stuff or very good breaking balls and I saw a couple 50 MPH pitches from him. (I don’t know if it was a glitch in their gun or I miss read it but I thought I saw it a couple times)

  • Jono

    Cubs day dreaming alert: Strop, Bead and Water, Visciano, and possibly Russell might be a nice bullpen one day…..one day.

  • kenster

    How long do you think giansanti is gonna start at AAA? Where will he end up going back down to?

    • kenster

      Stay not start

  • Good Captain

    In your midterm analysis Luke, I think it would be interesting as to who will and who won’t be on the 40 man roster this offseason. Absent a significant number of moves, I think this could be a very interesting offseason.

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