“It has been a fun journey,” Dempster said before the Red Sox’s game against the Chicago White Sox. “Texas was a really good place to go and I was really lucky. It has been awesome being over here. It has been a blast and we have gotten off to a really good start.”
Carlos Villanueva has been trending the wrong way. Incidentally I wonder if Villanueva can be a 30-game starter in this league anyway. The mental toll it could take on him seems more intense than the physical. He knows he's overmatched in terms of pure talent so he relies on film study and mental preparation. I see him relaxing some in the bullpen, then if called upon to start again, he might be refreshed. I could be wrong but I think it's a good break for Villanueva. Anyway, Garza's value to the team will be felt later rather than sooner. I just don't see him being dominant right away, but if he does progress then two things happen: Just when some Cubs' arms might be tiring he should be fresh enough -- and perhaps peaking -- to make a difference and his trade value will skyrocket. But the first question is, will we see the old Garza -- the one who has never had an ERA above 4.00 since breaking in -- and if so how long do you think it will take?
BL: Jesse, there are numerous positives coming out of a Garza return. First and foremost he should take a tremendous amount of pressure off Jeff Samardzjia and Edwin Jackson. Although Garza has true No. 1 starter stuff, he has not pitched deep enough into games to be looked at as a No. 1 on a playoff-contending club. I believe if he stays healthy the Cubs will offer him a short-term extension that could be a plus for both sides. Garza could rebuild his resume and at the same time help the Cubs retain some quality innings-eating starters. Holding onto 200 inning-plus starters without breaking the bank is a key for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer while they build the farm system.
A few things to remember when reading this piece: This is not a top-10 list or even a ranking of any sort. It's just a quick glimpse at some players who range from superstar potential to role player. Trying to judge a minor league player on his statistics is a highly imperfect way of analyzing prospects. Minor league stats never tell the whole story. That's why, as always, much of the information provided here is gathered from discussions with scouts and front office members from around the league.
All statistics are updated through Sunday's games.
AP Photo/Morry GashJavier Baez is batting .256 with six home runs and 19 errors at Single-A Daytona.
Position: SS Age: 20 Current level: High-A Daytona
Baez came into the season as arguably the Cubs' top prospect and among the 25 best prospects in all of the minors. When it comes to power, Baez is near the top, with only Twins prospect Miguel Sano clearly ahead of him on the list. Scouts have also begun to come around on Baez's defense at short. Despite the fact that Baez has 19 errors early on this season, the number of people who believe he can stick at the position in the big leagues continues to grow. There are those who feel that when it's all said and done, he'll be a better option at the position than current Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.
However, Baez doesn't come without his issues. While a very exciting prospect, it's his aggressive, almost out-of-control style of play that is a concern. This is currently being displayed with his .256/.293/.475 line and most glaringly his 46 strikeouts and only seven walks in 174 plate appearances.
Baez has to learn how to slow the game down and develop an approach. Right now, the book on him is that a pitcher doesn't have to throw him a strike to get him out. To reach his potential, Baez must make adjustments, and the fact is that that process may take some time. The Cubs have the luxury of being able to be patient with Baez since they're not competing, and they already have an All Star-caliber player manning short on the big league roster.
The fact that Baez's early struggles were not unexpected, at 20 he's still young for the league and the Florida State League is known to be pitcher-friendly all make Baez's problems at the plate a little easier to swallow. As one AL scouting director said prior to the season, "It's OK if we see him putting up bad numbers at Daytona -- it's all part of the process." Baez's disappointing start isn't something to get riled up about, but how he reacts and adjusts to these issues in the coming months will tell us a lot about his future.
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsCubs starting pitcher Travis Wood had his ninth straight quality start on Sunday against the Mets.
With two out and a man on in the seventh inning, New York Mets rookie Juan Lagares drove a two-strike changeup into the left field stands off Wood to tie the game at three. It was Lagares’ first career home run.
“As soon as it left the hand, I didn’t like it,” Wood said. “I was hoping he would pop it up or something. But he didn’t. He put a good swing on it, hit it out of the park to tie the ball game.”
Daniel Murphy would add a solo shot in the seventh off Kyuji Fujikawa to give the Mets the winning run as they went on to defeat the Cubs 4-3.
Wood caught some bad luck in the previous inning when he gave up a run on a bloop single to David Wright.
“That’s baseball,” Wood said. “He was able to fight off a pretty good pitch, I thought, and he put it where we weren’t. Just grinding at-bats.”
CHICAGO -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 4-3 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday at Wrigley Field.
How it happened: After falling behind 3-1, the Mets used the long ball to overtake the Cubs. Mets centerfielder Juan Lagares hit his first career major league home run, a two-run shot, to tie the game at three. Then in the eighth, the Mets scored for the third consecutive inning, as Daniel Murphy hit a solo shot for the game-winner. Murphy is hitting .500/.517/.857 with two home runs -- both of which came in this weekend's series against the Cubs -- in his last seven games. The Cubs started the scoring in the fifth when starter Travis Wood helped his own cause by hitting a home two-run homer off Mets starter Dillon Gee to give his team a 2-0 lead. Ryan Sweeney, who went 2-for-3 on the day, led off the bottom half of the sixth with a home run to push the Cubs’ lead back to two at 3-1 after the Mets had scratched one across in the top half of the inning.
What it means: The Cubs failed in their attempt to win three straight series as they try to claw their way back to the .500 mark. It won't get any easier as they face two of the hotter teams in baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, on the road in their next six games.
Outside the box: The Cubs have four home runs and 16 RBIs from the ninth spot in their lineup. In comparison, the clean-up spot has delivered five home runs and and only 15 RBIs. Anthony Rizzo ended his no-strikeout streak at 40 plate appearances when he went down swinging in the first. He added two more strikeouts in the fifth and the eighth on a 0-for-4 day.
Up next: After a day off Monday, the Cubs take on the Pirates in Pittsburgh with Matt Garza being activated off the disabled list to make his first start of the season. He'll face lefty Wandy Rodriguez (4-2, 3.25) at 6:05 p.m. at PNC Park.
The young shortstop has six errors and is putting up a .279/.310/.397 line on the season. While those numbers are a little disappointing (although errors can be a very misleading statistic in regards to defensive evaluation), people often forget that Castro is 23, more than seven months younger than teammate Anthony Rizzo.
But the fact remains that Castro has yet to really fulfill his potential. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said only Castro himself can ensure he extracts every ounce of his vast talent.
“His potential is what he wants it to be, that’s the bottom line with him,” Sveum said. “How good he wants to be, that’s up to him. The hard work, the concentration levels and being able to have all kinds of things in your toolbox as a shortstop as well as a hitter, he’s got all the ability to be top line, but the rest of it is up to him from now on.”
After hearing that news, Garza’s teammate, Scott Feldman, showed him the standard the Cubs staff has set this season by once again delivering a dominating performance. This time it was the Mets who Feldman stymied, as he tossed 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, scattering seven hits, while striking out six and walking only one on the day.
“It’s hard to imagine how good he’s been these last five starts,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Feldman. “The last four have been unbelievable. The low stress and the length he’s given, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot of opportunity for the other team to score, other than solo homers. Yeah, it’s been impressive.”
CHICAGO -- A quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 8-2 win over the New York Mets on Saturday at Wrigley Field.
How it happened: Through three innings, the Cubs managed only one hit off Mets starter Jeremy Hefner. However, they broke through in the fourth with four runs, the big blow coming on a two-out, two-run double off the bat of pitcher Scott Feldman. Feldman was brilliant once again on the mound as well. He tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings, giving up seven hits, while striking out six and walking only one. Feldman lowered his ERA to 2.19 on the season. Anthony Rizzo hit his 10th home run of the season in the fifth to extend the Cubs lead to 5-0 and Nate Schierholtz also homered in the eighth.
What it means: The Cubs have won five of seven games and with their win on Saturday, they've set themselves up for a chance to win three consecutive series for the first time this season.
Outside the box: Rizzo's home run was his fourth against a lefty this season. He's hitting .327/.393/.574 on the season against southpaws. With no strikeouts on the day, he extended his streak to 40 plate appearances without a strikeout. Feldman tossed the Cubs 26th quality start of the season, tied for third most in the NL. Cubs pitchers have a 1.93 ERA in those 26 starts.
Up next: The red-hot Travis Wood (4-2, 2.03) takes on Dillon Gee (2-5, 6.13) as the Cubs look to take the series from the Mets at 1:20 p.m. on Sunday at Wrigley Field.
"I'm excited and happy I don't have to rehab again," Garza said. "This actually means something, so I can't wait. It's been 10 months in the making, I'm excited to get back out there."
An elbow injury sidelined Garza last July, and while rehabbing this spring, he suffered a lat strain and has been on the disabled list since the start of the season. Tuesday will mark his first start since July 21, 2012.
Read the entire story.
The Cubs had the potential tying run on second base with one out in the eighth inning when David DeJesus hit a line drive single to former Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd in right. Darwin Barney hesitated a bit and then took off around third base with Bell's blessings toward home plate. Byrd's throw was a perfect strike to catcher John Buck, who tagged Barney out three feet from the plate.
”Obviously it is disappointing. It turned out it wasn't a very close play," Bell said. "I just watched the replay again and it wasn't close. As a third base coach you always want to make the right decision. and that clearly wasn't the right decision."
Bell is in his first year of coaching third base for the Cubs after an 12-year major league career and four years as a coach and manager in the minor leagues.
”Obviously he would be the first one to tell you he would like to have that back," manager Dale Sveum said. "I have been in that situation before and sometimes you push the envelope to on a guy who doesn't have that good of arm. We know (Byrd's track record), so those things happen."
Byrd had gone in as a pinch-hitter in the top of the inning and stayed on in right field. The scouting report has Byrd with a strong but erratic arm from mid- range, according to a baseball scout.
"When you are scouting and doing all that (preparation) coming into a series, you know what arms to push and what arms you can't push," Sveum said.
Jackson pitched into the seventh inning for the first time in 2013 before being lifted after allowing a go-ahead single to Mets starter and winner Matt Harvey as New York held on for a 3-2 win. Jackson is 1-6 in eight starts in Wrigley with an ERA above 8.00.
How it happened: Edwin Jackson gave up the go-ahead single to pitcher Matt Harvey in the seventh with two outs and a man on second. Scoring came early for both teams as the Cubs had three consecutive hits and an error to tally twice in the bottom of the first. Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano all reached with Rizzo scoring on a bad throw by Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada. David Wright gave the Mets a shot-lived lead with a solo home run in the top of the inning. Daniel Murphy tied the game in the fourth with a solo shot as well. Harvey wasn't sharp early but settled down to pitch 7 1/3 innings while Jackson wasn't bad either but made a bad pitch to Harvey when he really needed to make a good one.
What it means: The Cubs have actually battled well against some of the best pitchers in the National League lately but not much happened after the first inning on Friday and two runs proved not to be enough. On the positive side, Jackson seems to be slowly recovering from a bad start to the season. He kept the Cubs in the game against one of the better pitchers in the league as his fastball showed movement keeping the Mets off-balance. Still, he continues to come up just short in dropping to 1-6 on the year.
Key play: With one out and the heart of the Cubs lineup coming up in the eighth, third-base coach David Bell sent Darwin Barney home from second on a base hit to right by David DeJesus. Former Cub Marlon Byrd nailed Barney at the plate easily with a perfect throw.
Outside the box: Rizzo went four at-bats without striking out extending a streak to 35. That ties J.J Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles for longest active streak.
What's next: The three-game series continues on Saturday when Scott Feldman faces Jeremy Hefner at 12:05 p.m. CT.
"With all the day games it is hard to get in any extra work," said Byrd, whose New York Mets opened a series at Wrigley Field on Friday. "The only way to hit is walking across the field into the right field cage and hit before BP or on a rainy day. In every other ballpark you can hit in a cage by your own dugout before during and after games."
Manager Dale Sveum hopes the Camp of last season shows up.
"You just keeping sending a guy out there and hopefully the slider comes back and the command comes back," Sveum said before the Cubs played the New York Mets on Friday.
Camp is 1-1 with a 7.31 ERA in 19 games. He's allowed 3 of 10 inherited runners to score which is about his career average. According to ESPN Stats and Information, his velocity on his fastball and slider have slightly decreased from a season ago when his ERA for the season was 3.59. Only five relievers in baseball have a slower average fastball this season than Camp's 86.1 mph. Opposing hitters are batting .593 in at-bats that end with a fastball and that's second-worst in all of baseball. That figure was .357 last year. His 12.94 hits per nine innings pitched ranks 123rd out of 144 relievers in the National League.
Sveum isn't sure of the reasons behind his drop-off but knows Camp's 80 appearances last season -- which led the league -- could be affecting him now.
"That's the crapshoot of bullpens," he said. "You do that (pitch them a lot) and they might have an off month or off couple of months and then the arm comes back. That's obviously a proven fact over the years but then there are plenty of guys that do it and have a great year the next year too. There's no rhyme or reason to all that but it's definitely a factor."