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jen-ho tseng kane cubsWe’ve talked about it before, and I have no doubt that we’ll talk about it again as the season wears on, but the idea that the Cubs lack pitching prospects is just not accurate. They lack a clearly premier arm (although C.J. Edwards might fit that category, pending his durability questions) and they have a general scarcity of high caliber arms in Triple A, but those are about the only caveats that apply.

That point has been driven home emphatically the past few days. Corey Black threw five no-hit innings over the weekend, Felix Pena was dominant through eight innings Monday, and yesterday the Kane County Cougars put on one of the finest displays of Low A pitching we are likely to see this year. Pena isn’t listed among the Cubs pitching prospects right now, but Black and the starters for Kane County on Tuesday are candidates for that list.

To be fair, the Cubs don’t have the quality depth of pitching prospects that is enjoyed by teams like the Pirates or Astros, but they do have pitching prospects. Yesterday was strong reminder of that.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa - Iowa fell behind early and never quite recovered as they lost 8-4.
Tennessee - Rough weather postponed the Smokies game.
Daytona - The Cubs found a few runs late, but despite matching Dunedin in hits they lost this one 10-3.
Kane County - Kane County began their day with a 2-0 win over Bowling Green. In Game Two the completed the doubleheader shutout with a 1-0 win.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Carlos Pimentel struggled through 5 innings in this one. He finished up with a line that included 6 hits, 5 walks, 7 runs, and 5 strikeouts. Yoanner Negrin gave up 5 more hits in in 3.1 innings of work, and Marcus Hatley earned the final two outs with strikeouts.
  • [Iowa] The best hitter on the Cubs right now is Chris Valaika. The first baseman (who can also play all over the diamond) doubled and finished with two hits.
  • [Daytona] Jose Rosario and Steve Perakslis did not have the best of days, but Starlin Peralta pitched 2.2 innings of no-hit ball in relief, striking out 3.
  • [Daytona] Rock Shoulders hit his first home run of the season, and also his second double as he finished the day 2 for 4. Bijan Rademacher also doubled.
  • [Daytona] Tim Saunders doubled twice and finished 3 for 4 with a pair of stolen bases. He now has 5 steals on the season.
  • [Kane County] Jen-Ho Tseng pitched the first 5.1 innings of the first game for the Cougars, giving up 6 hits (5 of them singles), no walks, and striking out 6. Zack Godley struck out 4 of the final 5 batters to pick up the save.
  • [Kane County] The Cougars managed just two hits in the opener, including a double by Ben Carhart, but still managed to produce two runs. The first run was earned by Yasiel Balaguert who singled, went to second on a Jacob Rogers walk, took third on a wild pitch, and scored when a pick off throw went astray. The second run came when Daniel Lockhart reached on a fielders choice, took second on a wild pitch, reached third on a passed ball, and then scored on a sac fly by Balaguert.
  • [Kane County] In Game Two Paul Blackburn struck out 6 and allowed just one hit and one walk in 6 splendid innings. Jose Arias struck out 4 in his one inning of work for the save.
  • [Kane County] That wasn’t a typo. Arias really struck out 4 in one inning. He struck out the first man, Goetzman, swinging, and then issued a walk to Harris. Harris promptly steals second with Blair at the plate. Then, in a play I wish I had video of, Blair strikes out swinging on what is officially recorded as a wild pitch by Arias. Harris goes to third, and Blair takes first. Arias then strikes out Araujo and Simon, both swinging, to complete the inning with four strikeouts.
  • [Kane County] Jacob Hannemann singled, stole his fifth base, and scored Kane County’s only run in the second game. Carlos Penalver, with a double, had the team’s only extra base hit.

Other News

  • Daytona had an unlikely base thief in yesterday’s game. In the fourth inning catcher Willson Contreras reached on a single with one out. With Shoulders at the plate, he stole second. That steal may have been on a busted hit-and-run as Shoulders apparently struck out on the same pitch (judging from the recap linked from the box score). It goes in the score book as a successful steal, though. And then, perhaps pushing his luck a bit, Contreras tried to steal third with Rademacher at the plate. That one did not work out, and his caught stealing ended the inning.
  • If you haven’t visited a minor league page at Baseball Reference lately (tip: clicking any of the blue name links in the Minor League Dailys will take you to the Baseball Reference page for that player), you may not have noticed a new feature on that site. Now in addition to showing you the age of a player, they also show you the difference in age between that player and the weighted average for the league. So, if you pull up the page for Kris Bryant, you can immediately see that he is playing against some talents that are, on average, 2.5 years older than him. Josh Vitters comes in 2.8 years under the average for Triple A. Average age in this context should not be considered the same thing as target age – Vitters is now about the right age for a prospect in Triple A, for example, even though he is younger than average – but it is a good, at-a-glance-style guideline.

Photo via Kane County Cougars Facebook page.

  • CubFanBob

    Has Keith Law retracted his quote on Tseng yet ?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Don’t know why he would. But Law is far from the only report we have on Tseng, and on the whole the scouts like what they see. They like it quite a bit.

    • Edwin

      Why would he?

      • CubFanBob

        “Why would he?”

        Because he is wrong maybe ?

        • DarthHater

          So, you are suggesting that being wrong is a reason for admitting you are wrong? Weird.

        • Edwin

          One or two starts probably isn’t enough to be conclusively right or wrong about a player. Especially when Tseng is still at the A ball level. He’s still a long way away from the majors. If he keeps pitching well, I’m sure Law will change his opinion. That’s how scouting works.

        • Jon

          He said, on that day he saw him, he wasn’t impressed with his stuff as others. Again, what was he wrong about?

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            I thought it was just because he wasn’t facing 15-year-olds that day, eh Jon?

            winky face

            • Jon

              I had that one coming :)

          • CubFanBob

            First it was “he was pitching against 15 and 16yr olds” , now it’s just a “few starts in low A ball”, None of which I cant say isnt correct but some here, including Law, already buried the kid as a dubious and questionable investment. Just happy to see him having success.

    • Edwin

      I guess my thing is I don’t see why every time a scout/prospect guy like Law or any of the others says something negative about a Cubs prospect, some fans take it so personally, or get vindictive about it.

      • mjhurdle

        probably because that is the effect that Law is going for, and he is good at his job.

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          Law is the perfect blend of baseball knowledge and asshole, very entertaining to watch him pick apart meatballs from every fan base

          • mjhurdle

            yes. I think he is brilliant with the way he goes about it. He obviously has a wealth of knowledge, but so do 1000 other scouts/analysts.
            what sets him apart is that everyone who even casually follows baseball knows exactly who Law is because, at some point, he has said something that infuriated their fanbase.

  • Isaac

    Man oh man do I LOVE that age differential tool. Very helpful…thank you for pointing that out, Luke.

  • ced landrum

    lot of negative age differential on Vitters. Almost 5 years in AAA in 2012.

  • Darth Ivy

    A little off topic, but it’s about pitching:

    All the recent arm injuries to pitchers around baseball makes me hope the Cubs draft a hitter with their first pick this year. Even if there’s a pitcher who’s a little better than the hitter, I’d still go with the hitter (unless the pitcher is significantly better). I guess seeing how the Cubs have pitching depth, it’s not as much of a concern as it was a couple years ago. So I wouldn’t mind going the safer route with a hitter.

    And I’m all about pitching pitching pitching

    • Darth Ivy

      Verducci was talking about this on the MLB network yesterday. Here’s an article he wrote on the subject. I find it very interesting

      http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20140415/tommy-john-surgery-high-school-pitchers-jameson-taillon/

      • Big Daddy

        I haven’t commented in a while, but that was a great article. Thanks for the link.

      • Jon

        Good/depressing article. Suddenly I think I want the Cubs to draft Alex Jackson

      • J. L.

        This article is really great. And scary.

    • Darth Ivy

      A quote:

      “Matt Moore of the Rays is the 20th pitcher this year to undergo Tommy John surgery.”

      • David

        Plus the pitcher from Seattle, Walker?, had a bad start to his rehab. Same shoulder pain as before.

        • Darth Ivy

          damn it. I have him on one of my fantasy teams. His rehab was going fine at first. His last start was like 5 IP 10K 0 ER. Damn it. Cobb just went on the DL for me, too. (I’ve got Bradley waiting in the Not Active holding pen for now. Hopefully he makes up for that)

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Aside from pitching a need that we need to address is a left handed power bat in the outfield.

      • CubFan Paul

        CarGo ($17M).

        I don’t see the Rockies keeping him and Tulo ($22M) next year.

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          Cargo makes A TON of sense. I’d be very interested to see what it would take to get him

          • Jon

            Cargo’s deal is actually a bargain now relatively speaking. He’s not going anywhere.

          • CubFan Paul

            Hopefully not much because of the $54MM…a J.Upton-type cash dump/trade.

            • Jon

              Upton wasn’t cash dump. The Braves sent Prado coming off a 5 WAR season, and Delgado, who was still at that time a highly regarded pitching prospect.

              • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                Upton wasn’t primarily a cash dump, but that was definitely a driving force. A 24 year old who is one year removed from a 6 WAR season and a 4th place MVP vote is worth much more than 28 year old utility guy (albeit maybe the best utility guy in the MLB) with an expiring contract and a low end top 100 prospect.

                • CubFan Paul

                  And (mostly) Montero’s $75MM extension kicked in.

        • Darth Ivy

          Yes, please!

  • CubsFaninMS

    It’s way too soon to predict this, but I’m beginning to wonder if Felix Pena is a sleeper. He’s been lights out so far this year. He has the same bad luck as Samardzija has had, though. Terrific pitching and absolutely no run support. Record is 0-3 with a 1.35 ERA. I believe one or two very good pitchers will emerge from our farm system this year. Maybe he will be one of those.

    • Edwin

      He also has a BABIP of .136 and LOB% of 81.3%, so he’s been getting some favorable results on balls in play. He’s also 24 and just made it to A+. He’s shown decent control so far, but at some point he’ll need to starting generating some more K’s.

  • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

    Awesome find on the age differential Luke!! That will be very useful for the lower levels up through AA, but with the amount of journeymen and roster fillers in AAA, I just don’t think it will be able to tell us much at that level.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Agreed.

    • JulioZuleta

      Where is the link to this tool everyone speaks of?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Read the last bullet point in the Daily.

  • OCCubFan

    If Vitters is about the target age for AAA, but is 2.8 years younger than the average AAA player, that seems to imply that the average AAA player is 2.8 years older than the target age. Why is that? Does that reflect the presence of “organizational fillers” who are the ripe old age or 28 or even 30? If so, doesn’t that reduce the value of the number for the average age?

    • ssckelley

      Keep in mind a number of organizations stash AAAA type players that are organization fillers and back ups for the MLB team in AAA. You have a wide range of ages from the 20-25 year old prospects to the 28-35 year old journey man’s along with everything in between. Last season the ICubs had an average age of about 28 with guys like Gonzalez (35), Boscan (33), Maysonet (31), McDonald (34), and Murphy (30) on the team.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      No, you just have to adjust expectation for what is considered “young” at AAA based on that number.

      • OCCubFan

        Why not use the more meaningful “target age,” rather than a murky “average age” that must be adjusted?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I’m guessing “target age” is probably subject to debate.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            Massive, intense, highly subjective debate.

            You want to get two minor league analysts arguing, just ask them both what the ideal age for Short Season A is.

    • Kyle

      It’s the organizational filler problem.

      The “average age” of a league isn’t particularly meaningful, unfortunately, because it would be more fun to have that easily available objective number than it would be to argue about ideal ages for the league.

  • thrilho

    Blackburn’s start is pretty exciting. He had a 10-1 GO/FO ratio to go with his 6 Ks, and he only allowed one single. The walk until late, and he struck out the last two batters he faced in the 6th.

    Not sure if it was ever posted here, but the Trib had an article last week noting he’s put on 50 lbs since he was drafted 2 years ago. Also notes that he couldn’t locate his curve last year so spent much of the year working on his change. Could account for some of the control problems in the middle of the year. Supposedly the the curve is working now though, and he’s only walked 3 through 15 IPs this year.

  • ssckelley

    Year of the pitchers in the minor leagues this year! I will keep beating this drum. I am hoping the Cubs top 10 prospects at the end of the year will be full of exciting pitchers.

  • JCubs79

    Blackburn has been my pick to have a breakout year this year since the early winter. Really like this kid. Luke ,have there been any reports on how his stuff has looked at all? I remember last year around this time we heard some reports that he was hitting 95 on his FB. He has all the ingredients needed to be a front-line starter, especially if that velocity is up.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I am wondering if he were to fall into the second round, would the Cubs take a shot at Schwarber? Projections say he coud pay a corner outfield spot. Not as athletic as Bryant, but a great hit tool.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      If the Cubs took a pitcher in the first round, I’d be on board with someone like Schwarber in the second.

      Not sure I’d want two bats at the top, though.

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