Had a great time Friday night out in Geneva at the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, home of the Kane County Cougars, the Cubs’ new Class A affiliate. We’ll talk about that today on a special Saturday brunch blog as well as the nonroster additions to the spring-training roster.
There was a lot of enthusiasm among fans at the dinner and the Q. and A. session with Cubs minor-league bosses Jason McLeod and Brandon Hyde along with Cougars manager Mark Johnson. During the media session before dinner, Johnson had the line of the night. I asked him about the young players coming up from Boise who would be playing in the big market of Chicago. Johnson said: “They don’t even know what a market is.”
Good line. I had a chance to sit with Mark during dinner and visit for a bit. He seems a good fit for Kane County, as he played for the White Sox and does know what a “market” is. He also seems to have a real passion for managing. Former Cubs farm boss Oneri Fleita saw that a couple years ago and made Mark a player-coach at Class AAA Iowa.
We posted a running commentary on Twitter Friday night, @BruceMiles2112. We’ll flesh out a few of those points here today.
Fans definitely want to know what players would be at Kane County. The Cubs aren’t committing to that yet, but as I tweeted, McLeod did let an “Almora” slip during our media session. (He was setting up a hypothetical.) That would be last year’s No. 1 pick, Albert Almora, a center fielder. The brass termed him a “plus defender now” last night, and I’d bet on him starting the season at Kane County. Last month at the Northwestern minicamp, McLeod indicated that outfielder Jorge Soler would start at Class A Daytona because the Cubs want to push him. That could change.
“I don’t think that would be fair to the players yet,” McLeod said of announcing who would be where at this point. “We’d like them to come in and challenge each other at spring training. It is easy to look at the Boise roster and assume that those guys will be here because they had such a good season last year. We want our guys to come in hungry. We don’t want them to come in and say, ‘OK, I’m penciled in to this certain affiliate.’ We want them to come in and really strive to go above and beyond. We want all our players to come in and think, ‘I’m going to make that (high-A) Daytona team.’ We want them to come in hungry and challenge the guys that’s in front of them.”
With Anthony Rizzo ensconced at first base, fans wanted to know if big Dan Vogelbach would be moved to the outfield. The brass was unanimous in indicating that’s not likely to happen. Vogelbach, the second-rounder in 2011, is listed at 6 feet and 250 pounds, and mobility could be an issue.
On the other hand, all of the Cubs people said they loved Vogelbach’s leadership ability, along with that of Almora. “Vogelbach is the best teammate you could ever have,” Johnson said. “Vogelbach and Almora could be team captains all the way to the big leagues.”
On 2011 top pick Javier Baez, the Cubs say they believe he is more advanced in the field at shortstop than Starlin Castro was at the same age (20). At the same time, McLeod cautioned: “We are not in the process of rushing guys.” Baez, by the way, will be a nonroster invitee to spring training.
Asked about a sleeper in the system, Hyde pointed to pitcher Austin Reed, a righty taken in the 12th round in 2010. At Peoria last year, Reed was 5-8 with a 3.65 ERA.
As far as the nonroster invitees go, Baez will be joined by internal invitees Michael Brenly (C) Casey Coleman (RHP), Barret Loux (RHP), Rafael Lopez (C) and Nick Struck (RHP).
We blogged before awhile back about the other nonroster invitees, which include reliever Jaye Chapman, who pitched a bit for the Cubs last year after his trade from the Braves. Outfielders Brian Bogusevic and Darnell McDonald also will be in camp as nonroster men.
We’ll get a look at pitchers Drew Carpenter, Dayan Diaz, Jensen Lewis, Blake Parker, Zach Putnam, Cory Wade and Hisanori Takahashi.
We’ll also see infielders Brent Lillibridge, Edwin Maysonet, Alberto Gonzalez and Brad Nelson.
Outfielder Johermyn Chavez and catcher J.C. Boscan also will be on the nonroster list.