Sunday brunch blog: Castro, draft, the minors
After a Saturday “evening” game that ended just as Sunday morning was starting, it’s a quick turnaround here at Wrigley. The tarp has been on the field all morning, a light mist has been falling and it feels more like April than June. Our Sunday brunch blog is always filled with good stuff, and today, we’ll talk a little Starlin Castro and a little amateur draft, which comes up Thursday.
The Cubs have played 54 games, which means they’re exactly one-third of the way through the season. Edwin Jackson starts this afternoon against lefty Patrick Corbin, who is 8-0 with a 1.71 ERA. Jackson is 1-7 with a 6.11 ERA, and he had last week’s start at the Cell washed out by rain in the third inning.
“As long as he comes out with the conviction and throwing the ball like he did the other night, that’s all you’re looking for. With that kind of stuff, if you go out with the conviction and the velocity he came out with against the White Sox, that’s all you can ask for. He’s stuff guy. He’s not really a pitcher. He’s not going to sit there and paint and pitch down and away or do things like that. His velocity and his hard slider, at 86-88, is the stuff and the quick outs you can get with that stuff.”
Starlin Castro plays in his 500th career game for the Cubs today. His current hitting line is .261/.295/.361 with 3 homers, 21 RBI, 9 walks and 40 strikeouts in 230 at-bats.
“I think the offensive part, the slugging percentage, the OPS, that needs to get more on a consistent basis and driving the baseball and obviously having consistent games of hitting the ball hard with that hand-eye coordination,” Sveum said. “More importantly, it’s the OPS we got to get more on a consistent basis with.
“The biggest thing of all is … he’ll swing out of the zone, we all know that. But he’s just not doing anything with the drivable pitches right now.”
Castro has 589 hits, currently seventh most among players in their first 500 games with the Cubs. Castro’s 108 career doubles rank ninth among players in their first 500 games as a Cub. Aramis Ramirez is eighth with 109 doubles while Riggs Stephenson holds the franchise mark with 135 doubles in his first 500 games as a Cub.
We had a chance to talk with Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ senior vice president for scouting and player development. The Cubs hold the No. 2 pick (and Nos. 41 and 75) in the amateur draft, which begins Thursday evening. Houston has the No. 1 pick. Pitchers Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray are considered the top two prospects in the draft, the Cubs still appear likely to take one of the two. They drafted center fielder Albert Almora with their first pick last year and then went with pitchers in their next seven picks and eight of their next nine.
We’ll have more in the draft here and in the paper as the week goes along.
“The names you’ve heard about, they have put themselves in position to be considerations up there (at Nos. 1 and 2),” McLeod said. “We all know you need dominant starting pitching to hopefully get to where we want to be and get into the postseason. At the same time you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself to only taking based on need. We’ve been discussing those players a lot and we need to take the guy we feel gives us the best chance for him to provide significant impact and hopefully get us to where we want to go on a consistent basis.”
On the development side, Jason said the Cubs are not yet discussing when to move up players such as Javier Baez and Jorge Soler from Class A Daytona. We’ll have the minor-league roundup below. Last night, Baez recorded the first 5-hit game of his career, going 5-for-6 with 3 doubles, a home run, 3 runs and 6 RBI.
“We haven't had those conversations yet,” McLeod said. “We'll make them force us to have those conversations. Certainly both of them -- I'm not sure if you saw Javy had a huge night last night that was fun to watch, we had it on a live feed downstairs -- but those are conversations that Brandon (player-development director Hyde) and I and Theo (Epstein) and Jed (Hoyer), we're constantly talking about their development but more so we look at a monthly basis. We'll have a look back at how they performed that month, where they are in their with their player plans. As of right now there are no discussions on moving either one of them up.”
Class A Daytona collected 20 hits, including 10 extra-base hits in beating Brevard County 14-5. In addition to Baez’s big night, Soler hit his eighth homer, going 2-for-5. Ben Carhart was 3-for-6 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI. Dustin Geiger, whom Jason McLeod termed as one of the pleasant surprises, was 2-for-4 with 2 doubles.
As for Baez, he said this to the Daytona Beach News-Journal: “I was just seeing the ball pretty good and trying to hit the ball anywhere on the field, and they went into the holes.”
The Kane County Cougars suffered their worst loss of the season, falling 15-2 to Cedar Rapids. Tayler Scott took the loss, lasting only 4 innings and giving up 7 hits and 7 runs. Albert Almora was 2-for-4, as was Jeimer Candelario.
Class AAA Iowa lost its fourth straight, 7-6 in 13 to New Orleans. Guillermo Moscoso got no decision, working 5.2 innings and giving up 7 hits and 4 runs, 3 earned. Brett Jackson hit his third homer. Brent Lillibridge was 4-for-6, and Dave Sappelt was 3-for-4 with a walk and a double.
Tennessee (AA) committed 3 errors, leading to 4 unearned runs in a 9-3 loss at Birmingham. Matt Loosen suffered the defeat, going 5.1 innings and giving up 6 hits and 8 runs, only 4 earned. He’s 1-2 with a 7.46 ERA. Christian Villanueva and Arismendy Alcantara each homered. Villanueva has 4 and Alcantara 9. Alcantara has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games.
“Alcantara has been pretty good,” McLeod said. “He went through a little lull for a couple weeks in May, but he’s been very steady. He’s an exciting player because he’s young for being at Double-A, and he plays in the middle of the field. He can run and hit, and hit for some power. If you guys have seen him walking around the minor-league complex, you know he’s wiry, almost like a Jimmy Rollins-type look to him. He’s been fun.”