Arismendy Alcantara (Scott Jontes/

Arismendy Alcantara (Scott Jontes/

My Tennessee vacation is over. I have returned to my home (and my regular job) in Maryland after a very pleasant eight hour drive.

And while I was on the road I missed one of the greatest plays in all of sports.

I have been watching or listening on the radio for a lot of home runs, including McGwire’s historic shot in 1998. I have seen or heard some triple plays, and was even in the stands when Felix Pie started one from the warning track in center one evening in Nashville. I have listened to no-hitters and marathon games, pitchers hitting grand slams and sluggers beating out bunt singles. Name the play and I have probably either seen it or listened live as Pat Hughes described it.

Except for the steal of home.

In my book a straight steal of home is pretty much the pinnacle of sports. Basketball has nothing to compare with it (and I say that as a Hoosier raised on that sport). Football offers the 109+ yard kickoff return, or possibly a well executed fake punt, but I think both fall short in terms of total epicness. Hockey, soccer, tennis, curling… all the other second tier sports come up short. The straight steal of home is among the rarest plays in the game. It is one of the toughest. It is one of the most unexpected. It is among the most exciting. It is among the most stunning.

And it is the play Arismendy Alcantara completed last night. Twenty four hours earlier and I would have been in the park to see it. Fortunately, even though I missed it live, we can all enjoy it via YouTube, thanks to the Tennessee Smokies. It’s only 15 seconds long, so don’t feel guilty about watching that clip seven or eight times in a row. I did. Boom:

And so my quest continues. One day I will finally witness, live, in person or otherwise, a steal of home. In the meantime I can watch Alcantara and ponder what might have been had I been able to stay in the mountains just one day longer.

Scores From Yesterday

This is the last day of the vacation-shortened single page links. The usual game scores will be back next week. For now, though, box scores and recaps are just an extra click away from this page.

Other Notes

  • Josh Vitters is again injured and possibly on his way back to the disabled list, and that is a significant disappointment. He only recently reached the 100 plate appearances plateau for the season, and his numbers are quite good. His line currently reads .295/.380/.511 with 11 walks and 19 strikeouts. Roughly a third of his hits have gone for extra bases, including 4 doubles and 5 homers. Those are good numbers. Even with these injuries, I think Vitters could be a factor in the battle for the Chicago left field job next spring … if he’s still with the organization.
  • Speaking of players who will be getting a long look in spring training, as of last night Javier Baez‘s page on Baseball Reference had the following numbers: .274/.333/.575 with 47 strikeouts in 159 plate appearances. When I turn those figures into a K%, I get 29.5597%. That places Baez under 30% for his Double A season, and the trend line is still downwards. I do not think he will open the year in Chicago, but I suspect he will arrive on the North Side sometime in the middle of the 2014 season.
  • Kris Bryant has also been drawing a lot of speculation lately, but I do not see any way the Cubs vault him from Daytona to Chicago in one winter. I’m not yet convinced he will even start next year in Tennessee, and that would almost be a requirement for Bryant to arrive in Chicago in 2014. For now I still have the slugging third baseman arriving about a year behind Baez, at best.
  • And that, in turn, could give the Cubs a chance to look at Mike Olt in the second half of next year. Yes, the same Mike Olt who has an OPS of just .479 for Iowa. That is not the important number with this guy. We know from his career rates that Olt can draw walks and hit for power; those skills are not really in question. His problem was making contact. Through 76 Plate Appearances his K% is only 26.3% with Iowa. Given his power, that is an acceptable (if still a little high) rate for Triple A. We do not want to ignore the rest of his season, but progress is progress. Olt should be among the young Cubs under scrutiny in Arizona in the spring.
  • Something to get on your calendar now for the (minor league) offseason: Kane County is hosting a Craft Beer Fest on┬áSaturday afternoon, September 21 from Noon until 4 p.m. at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Tickets, including special VIP packages are now on sale here, or you can purchase at the Cougars’ box office during business hours or by calling the Cougars at (630) 232-8811. The 21-and-over event also has a designated driver package with unlimited soda and water as well. You can see more details on the delicious-sounding event here.
  • miggy80

    I was able to see Carl “Tuffy” Rhodes hit a 11th inning walk off homerun in game 7 of the American Association in person in 1993. Yet to see a steal of home now that would be sweet!

  • ssckelley

    Another encouraging nugget on Alcantara is that he took 3 walks yesterday and now has 51 on the season, compared to 19 last year. Everything about his game, his slugging, defense, patience at the plate, base running keeps improving year over year. People want to talk about Baez and Bryant but Alcantara is right there as a legitimate prospect.

    I hope the Cubs find a way to trade Barney before next spring, if they do the battle for 2nd base would be fun to watch with Watkins, Alcantara, and maybe even Baez/Castro in the mix.

  • http://Bleachernation Jay

    I REALLY like this kid!! I watched him play in person for three games last month & I believe he is the real deal (No, I’m not a scout but think I have a pretty good eye for talent)! Keep developing, young man, please. Cautiously optimistic…..I start getting excited about all of the talent & the names Corey Patterson, Ty Griffin, Mike Harkey, Bobby Hill (who we traded for ARam but he still never panned out & we viewed him as untouchable at one point), etc.

    • Jim L.

      I don’t lump this current group of prospects with the Tribune era prospects. Two different philosophies in obtaining, scouting, drafting and development to think that the same burnouts that were drafted in the McPhail/Lynch/Hendry are comparable to this group.

      • Scotti

        Alcantara, and Baez for that matter, are both Hendry guys…

        • Jim L.

          Yes, but their development has advanced under the Theo regime.

    • Kyle

      The biggest reason I’m excited about Baez right now is that he’s torching AA, which is the level where a lot of those guys started to see the results go down. Patterson wasn’t bad at AA, but he wasn’t living up to the hype either.

  • Cubbie Blues

    Vacation over? You mean you didn’t make your way up for Gen Con?

    • Featherstone

      oh, will you be attending said convention Cubbie Blues?

      • Cubbie Blues

        No, I won’t, but that is the realm in which he works.

        • Luke

          I’m limited on consecutive days off, so I couldn’t make it out for that.

          I can’t make it to Dallas for the Icarus convention either, which also makes me sad.

  • On The Farm

    I really hope Almora gets called up to Daytona. I thought I saw he is able to come off the DL today maybe? Having him, Vogelbach, and Bryant on one team is pretty dang exciting and I find myself checking the box scores pretty regularly throughout the night with just Vogelbach and Bryant there.

  • Rebuilding

    Just wanted to point out that Christian Villanueva had two more doubles last night and has 35 on the year. He’s now OPSing .981 on the month and is almost up to .800 on the year. I think he is going to make a nice trade chip next year

    • On The Farm

      Who would have thought that Dempster may have actually done us a favor getting us Hendricks and Villanueva? I agree there isn’t much room for him and there is the possibility that Olt could still be in Iowa to start the next year.

    • ssckelley

      I would not automatically assume Villanueva is the 3rd baseman that ends up getting trade, he very well may end up being the Cubs 3rd baseman of the future. His glove has always been solid the question on him was whether or not he could hit and the numbers he is putting up in AA looks promising. We are all excited about Bryant but I do not view him as an option for 2014, perhaps later in the season, and there is still question he does not end up in the outfield.

      Hopefully next spring 3rd is a competition between Villanueva, Olt, and Valbuena.

  • Jon

    A 26% K rate is ok, if it comes with power. That K rate + no power = bad.
    I don’t see any argument for bringing up Olt now

  • Brian

    I saw Vince Coleman do a straight steal of home against the Cubs in old Busch Stadium.

  • Mat B

    I saw Giuseppe Papaccio start a triple play for Kane County in Peoria. That and a Vogelbomb were the only Cougar highlights that night.

  • GoCubsGo

    Baez K% is just god awful. Hopefully he learns to not swing at junk pitches or learns to hit handle a decent breaking ball. Not terrible for a 20 yr old in AA but wow is that K% bad. He needs work on that before we should even talk a possible trip to wrigley next season.

    • GoCubsGo

      As much as I want to see Baez at Wrigley soon I think we should be extremely patient with Baez and let him develop in the minors for another 1 and 1/2 to 2 seasons before we bring him up. Baez has not gotten the grasp for the strike zone yet. He has talked about taking pitches but he hasn’t done that with any shred of consistency yet. Talk is cheap. I don’t want to get down on him but if I were Theo/Jed I wouldn’t even consider bring him up to the bigs till he showed some consistency to not strike out and swing away at pitches out of the zone. Plus keep him in the minors to prevent that arbitration clock from starting.

      • On The Farm

        If he can continue to put up this kind of production at Iowa, he may force the Front Office’s hand and make them promote him. I agree that he could probably use some more seasoning in the minors (maybe not two years, I would say maybe one more). Obviously he needs to work on his K rate (which he seems to be doing) and needs to work with the glove. I don’t think anyone doubts his bat will be ready by some point next season.

      • LWeb23

        With Baez, I’m hoping for mid to late July next year. He has the talent to be on the team on Opening Day, but get that plate approach straightened out. (Heck, he probably has the talent to be on the team right now, but thats besides the point)

        • willis

          As long as he is a cub, he’ll be up by mid next season at the latest. His K rate is moving in the right direction and his power is simply off the charts. No need to be so down on him GCG, he’s getting better and simply toying with the very talented Southern League. I’d say for 20 years old that’s pretty damn impressive. Be patient on his K rate, it’ll eventually settle around 22-23% and with his power, I can live with that.

      • ACA

        You are clueless. That is all.

      • Kyle

        Baez’s walk rate has been more than adequate for most of this season. He’s made a pretty big adjustment in that regard.

  • Norm

    I still think the K’s are a problem for Baez. Under 30% is nothing to be proud of. He’s still got 9 in his last 10 games (not sure if yesterday is included in that) and 26 in his last 20 games.

    A K per game in AA? Even Dunn and Pena didn’t do that (albeit, older ages).

    I think the Cubs are pushing Baez through the minors in preparation for a trade. If that’s not the case, and he isn’t traded this year, I think he’s in the minors most of next year unless he gets that K rate to well under 25% in AAA.

    • Noah

      I agree for the most part, although I’m torn on if he’s being pushed up for a trade or because the Cubs want to continue to challenge him. There was a clear risk in promoting him to Double A, as far as trade value is concerned.

      I honestly don’t think we see either Baez or Bryant in the majors next year unless they absolutely dominate Double A, the Cubs are legitimately competing, and the Cubs have a hole at shortstop, third base, or second base. I think we’ll see Alcantara at some point next year, but Bryant and Baez somewhere between opening day and mid-June 2015.

      • LWeb23

        I think it could be a little bit of both. They want to challenge him, that was evident when they brought him to ST and had him working out at that camp at Northwestern last year. But at the same time, I think they aren’t completely decided on him and they’re keeping their options open.

      • Featherstone

        Baez is dominating AA right now. A .924 OPS for a 20 year old middle infielder is exactly the numbers you’d like to be seeing from a stud prospect. Yes his K rate is higher than most of us are comfortable with, but it is declining while his BB rate is improving while even improving his SLG% 50 points since being promoted to AA. There is literally nothing he could be doing better right now then his current progression is suggesting.

        Baez is at the point where you take him off the table for anything but the most absurd of trade offers and you see get ready to see what he can do with ML pitching.

        • Patrick G

          He’s hitting .280 with 30 homers and 30 doubles on the year. His K rate is trending downward and BB are trending upward. Yes the Ks are an issue, but if he continues with these numbers next year at Double/Triple A, I think he’s a September call up in 2014. Again he’s only 20, so his patience at the plate will continue to be a work in progress and develop a better eye the older he gets

      • Kyle

        What on earth would domination look like if not what Baez is doing?

        146 players have had at least 100 PAs in the Southern League this year. Baez’s .924 OPS ranks 2nd among them, behind only Yasiel Puig, who subsequently began demolishing the majors (with the help of an insane BABIP, granted).

        Baez is doing this while being the youngest of those 146 players. And playing improved defense at the toughest defensive positions in the game.

        If that isn’t dominating a league, then nothing ever is.

        • Noah

          Ok, I’ll revise: Baez will have to continue dominating Double A.

          • Kyle

            And if he does, then he’s up *soon*. Like, really soon.

            He’s probably the second-best infielder in the organization right now (third if Castro ever remembers that he doesn’t suck).

            You can keep him down for service time considerations next year, but after that, if he’s still hitting anything like this, you have to ask yourself: which is better for his development, letting him dominate the minors or bringing him up to the hardest challenge he’ll ever face?

    • hansman1982

      Even in his last 100 PA it’s still at 27%. Now his walks have attained a level I didn’t think was possible 2-3 months ago and that helps offset the K’s along with his power but I wonder about his ability to make consistent enough contact to utilize the power.

    • Mr. B. Patient

      Who exactly are we trading Baez for?
      I hear this a bunch from those who are very concerned about the K rate, but I never hear what you guys think he’s worth. I mean, other teams see the k-rate too.

      • hansman1982

        Stanton or Price or similar.

      • Norm

        I think the Cubs will go after Price.

    • bbmoney

      I’m still concerned about the K rate. But, less than I was a couple months ago. It’s at exactly 25% for the year (125 out of 500 PAs split between A+ and AA). That’s as one of the younger guys in the FSL and I believe, last time I checked, he is the youngest qualifying batter (right now requires 119 ABs) in the Southern League.

      Something to keep an eye on? Of course. But I don’t think it’s anything to get too crazy about when he’s that young for the league and he’s improved his walk rate quite a bit from last year while playing against tougher competition and putting up his slash line in a couple of pitchers leagues. He’s probably always going to be a guy that strikes out more than you’d like, but it’s the price you pay for his kind of offensive upside.

      • Norm

        I don’t think its anything to get crazy about either, but its not something to ignore and plan on him being up in the middle of 2014.

    • Kyle

      Giancarlo Stanton struck out 99 times in 79 games in his first taste of AA (with just a .766 OPS) at 10 months younger than Baez is now.

      • Kyle

        He hit 22 HRs in 100 MLB games the next season.

        • Kyle

          Then he hit 34 in the 150 games in the majors the next season. Then he put up a HOF-type season at age 23.

          Just sayin’

  • Mr. Mac

    I object to hockey being called a second tier sport. It may be fourth out of four, but it is still on the top tier, I think.

    • LWeb23

      My thoughts exactly.

  • Jon

    Not worried about Baez K rate at all. He’s had some really, really, good ABs of late, and that K rate comes with insane rate.

    Worry about Olt, who’s been petty much a singles hitter since joining the cubs

    • Jon

      “Insane power” is what I meant to say

      • willis

        Olt is a K machine and a pop out/ground out machine. Not a singles hitter. Dude has been on the wrong side of terrible this season. At AAA. So the talk of him getting consideration to just fail at 3B next season is a little much.

  • X the Cubs Fan

    No offense Luke but I think you are way off on Bryant I think the Cubs will keep promoting him until his bat stops destroying levels. Bryant, Alcantra and Baez all coming up at the same time is possible.

    • GoCubsGo

      IMO I think Alcantara is the furthest away from all of them. He is very raw and still needs to develop more. I think he may get the call up earlier bc of the blackhole in the lineup at 2nd base. Darwin Barney couldn’t hit my grandmother fastball and Logan Watkins isn’t going to stop anyone from getting called up

      • Mr. B. Patient

        I have never heard of Alcantara being raw. I am concerned with the fact that he really hit a wall. His production has gone down significantly since the AA All-star game.He made need to go to Camp Colvin (does this still exist) to put on some muscle.

        • GoCubsGo

          Alcantara has been injured a lot in the past and has missed quite a but of playing time. He needs more polish. I guess “raw” was the wrong word, he more or less just needs more reps and more at bats

  • CubsFaninMS

    Some interesting observations:

    For Kane County, Reggie Golden has 8 home runs in 189 ABs. Also 60 K’s! Youch. That’s a 32% K rate.

    For Kane County, Jeimer Candelario has 74 K’s in 426 ABs, a 17% K rate. Much more reasonable. Also has 31 doubles and a .747 OPS. That’s a solid season.

    You can’t help but notice Dustin Geiger’s season at Daytona. 14 HRs, .817 OPS, .369 OBP, 76 RBIs in 408 ABs. K rate at 21%. This guy should be in our Top 40 prospects list, IMO.

    • Luke

      I think Geiger is in the Top 40. I don’t remember off hand where, but I think I listed him.

    • willis

      And Candelario is still so very young. He’s a very good prospect.

  • Eternal Pessimist

    I seem to remember Shawon Dunston stealing home at least a few times in his career, though I could be mistaken. Somewhere in the early to mid 80’s the Cubs had a number of plays where they stole home.

  • Cubs_Questions

    Just voicing an opinion here. Alcantara has never had a fielding percentage at second base greater than 0.958 (2013) and has a career fielding percentage of 0.908. He has nine in 49 games there this season.

    Darwin Barney on the other hand, very rarely makes errors. His defense is so good, in fact, that he still has a positive WAR (0.4) even with a very down year offensively.

    All of this is to say that Barney’s BABIP (0.228) and his percentage of line drives hit (18.4%) are both down in 2013. If those go back up and Barney becomes a 0.260 guy like we’re more accustomed to seeing him, I’d like to keep him at second base– at least for now.

    Can you imagine how terrible it would be if both middle infielders were constantly making errors? Starlin Castro has really, really made me appreciate defense in the infield.

    As far as Alcantara goes, assuming his skills translate, he’ll walk a lot, strike out a considerable amount, and he’ll have more power than Barney. He has 29 doubles and 13 homers in Tennessee this season.

    I guess it’s just a question of a trade off: defense (Barney) or offense (someone else, Alcantara, etc.).

    Just for a little perspective, here’s how Barney compared with some other notable second basemen in 2012 (from Baseball Reference):

    Barney, 0.254 AVG, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 6 SB, 0.997 fielding % at 2B. WAR = 4.8

    Jose Altuve, 0.290 AVG, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 33 SB, 0.984 fielding % at 2B. WAR = 1.5
    Marco Scutaro, 0.306 AVG, 7 HR, 74 RBI, 9 SB, 0.985 fielding % at 2B. WAR = 2.1
    Brandon Phillips, 0.281 AVG, 18 HR, 77 RBI, 15 SB, 0.984 fielding % at 2B. WAR = 3.8

    I think those numbers speak for themselves. Barney had a higher WAR at 2B with lesser offensive numbers than even Brandon Phillips, who is regarded as a very good defensive second basemen. You see how much errors can cost teams in the win column.

    If Barney can return to 2012 batting form, he’s a keeper.

    • Cubs_Questions

      Nine errors* in 49 games this season.

    • kubphan82

      Just after arguably his worst 2 week stretch in errors in June, it’s been nearly 2 months, since June 26: Castro has ONE error.

      • kubphan82

        In that same time frame, Barney has 3 errors. Castro is capable and may well be growing into his position defensively. He’s young… And hopefully he’s turning a corner.

        • Cubs_Questions

          And still, Barney has a 0.991 fielding percentage compared with Castro’s career best 0.969 in 2013. He has a lot of room to blossom and become a great shortstop in the field, but until that happens, he’s still the guy with 15 errors this season.

          I’m a huge Cubs (and Castro) fan and would like nothing more than for him to become a great defender. I’m just saying, overall, I think defense is important at second base independent of how Castro plays.

          • kubphan82

            I’m not saying Castro has been good, just that he is capable of becoming good. In the same breath I don’t condemn Alcantara for his defense. It’s not uncommon for players to need time to grow into their positions defensively.

            I’ll take moving on from Barney, as soon as the FO says they have a viable option.

            • Jason Powers

              Alcantara is 21 gonna be 22 in November. Barney is now 27 going on 28.
              6 years is enough of difference to be more in favor of Alcantara as a plausible option by 2015, if his AAA season works out.

              Barney is what he’s gonna be: a good little glove man that ain’t walking, minimal speed, little man pop, and ALSO – will start to cost much more – to give you declining value.

              By time Alcantara is 24, Barney is 30 and declining…

              • Cubs_Questions

                I’m certainly not saying that Barney should be the starting second baseman long term. I’m simply saying that until Alcantara progresses further (he’s just in AA), Barney gives the Cubs their best option for now.

                That goes for all other options at 2B, not just Alcantara.

          • kubphan82

            While you say “independent of Castro” you did say imagine two infielders constantly making errors…That comment implies dependence upon one another. I was simply stating that Castro has improved, should continue to improve, and that I hope he’s turning a corner ­čśë

          • Featherstone

            Fielding percentage is a really poor way to determine a player’s overall defensive ability.

            Yes, Barney is and will be a superior defender vs Alcantara, but the difference in the offensive ability is night and day. Alcantara has the ability to draw walks, steal bases, and provide some power at a premium position. Whereas Barney has been a black hole offensively. If Brandon Phillips was available to switch with Barney you would do that in a heartbeat because good offenses win more games than good defenses.

            • Cubs_Questions

              I think a lot of Phillips’ success offensively comes with playing in Great American Ballpark, a hitters park. He hits 0.281 there opposed to 0.238 at Wrigley.

              By the way, he’s had more at bats at Wrigley than at any other park besides Great American.

              Barney, in comparison, has hit 0.269 at Wrigley Field. Just throwing that out there.

              • Cubs_Questions

                I have to correct myself. He also has more plate appearances at Progressive Field.

                • Hookers or Cake

                  Batting average isn’t the best stat for offensive production. IE. Chris Davis and Marco Scutaro are both hitting around .300

  • another JP

    I don’t think it’ll be Barney or Castro blocking Alcantara… my guess it’s Baez. Everything points to a call-up by July next year for JB and I think he goes to 2B- unless something were to happen and Castro were traded. And there’s no way that Baez or Bryant are traded- Theo will have them in both in Chicago by 2015.

  • BigPappa

    How about bowling and picking up the 7-10 split?

  • JoeCub

    Last night at the Boise Hawk’s game, 6th round pick Scott Frazier cranked it up to 99 MPH. He was consistently in the 96+ range, according to the team’s gun. He struck out one, no hits, not runs in the 9th. Very impressive!

    • Jon

      That’s interesting indeed. The scouting reports @ draft time had him 91-94.

      Thanks for the info!

      • JoeCub

        This was from the gun used by the team. Not on a stadium gun. I talked to the catcher after that game and asked if he can tell the difference. He said I can feel the difference every time he pitches. Maybe the Cubs knew something that other scouts may not have.

  • Jake

    Maybe as a tennis fan my opinion is a bit biased, but an underhand drop-serve (hitting a drop shot as your serve) is probably just as rare. And glorious.

    …and now back to baseball.