AFL Rising Stars Game and Cubs Fall and Winter League Update

The Rising Stars game will be played at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick - Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Time to take a look at the Cubs in the Arizona Fall League and the Caribbean Winter Leagues.

Tonight we get live baseball from the Arizona Fall League as the Rising Stars game will feature the top players from the AFL. You can watch the game live at 7 pm Chicago time on the MLB Network. For those of you going through baseball withdrawal, this is a chance to see some of the best talent of tomorrow tonight. Among those participating will be Billy Hamilton, Mike Zunino, Kolten Wong, Nick Castellanos and Jonathan Singleton.

Unfortunately, the only Cub who will be participating will be reliever Tony Zych. That's nothing against Zych, who is a nice relief prospect who throws hard with a funky, compact delivery. But the bad news, which I imagine everyone knows by now, is that Cubs top prospect Javier Baez broke his thumb giving someone a high-five. I only wish I was making that up. But the good news is that the injury is fairly minor as these things go and he should be good to go for spring training. He was replaced on the roster by Logan Watkins, who hasn't gotten into a game yet. (He just got there a couple days ago.)

If you really need a Cubs connection to watch, you can put on your Cubs Matt Garza jersey and watch Rays shortstop Hak-Ju Lee play.

Here's an update on the Cubs in the Arizona Fall League.

Javier Baez was leading the AFL in home runs and RBI when he went out and he still leads in both categories with four home runs and sixteen runs batted in. He had also stolen three bases without getting caught. The downside to all this was that he was only hitting .211 with a .250 OBP. He'd also committed nine errors.

All of this is fine for Baez's development, however. The purpose of sending him to the AFL, which is mostly for players in Double-A and above, was to show him the kinds of adjustments that he'll have to make before he gets to the majors. From all accounts, Baez has gotten the message. That doesn't mean he's been able to make those adjustments yet, but he now better understands what's ahead of him.

The other prospect that you probably want to know about is outfielder Matt Szczur. Szczur actually hit his first home run of the AFL on Thursday when he pulled a line drive over the left field wall. He also tripled in a game last Saturday, so he does appear to be driving the all a little better than he had been. Overall though, he batting average has dropped down to .269, although he does have a .364 OBP. Szczur has stolen seven bases in ten attempts over seventeen games.

Rubi Silva continues to struggle in an utility role. He's gone 4 for 35 in his last ten games and is batting .176 in 14 total games in the AFL. His OBP is only .236 and he has but one extra base hit, a triple, in 51 at bats.

Zych was named to the Rising Stars game and he's sort of been Mesa's closer, but with Mesa's record being a terrible 5-15, there haven't been many chances. He did pick up his first save on Tuesday, which was only Mesa's second save of the season. Zych has given up a run and two hits in each of his last two appearances, which has ballooned his ERA all the way up to 3.00. In nine appearances he's thrown nine innings with four strikeouts and only one walk.

When I did my last update, Kevin Rhoderick had been pitching really well. Later that day, he had a blow-up in which he entered the game in a save situation: Mesa leading Scottsdale 3-1 in the top of the ninth. He blew the save when he gave up a three-run home run to Chris Dominguez of the Giants. Since then, he threw two scoreless innings in two appearances before he gave up a two-out double in Friday's game against Peoria. He then exited for the Dodgers Eric Eadington, who gave up a single and allowed the run to score. This has left Rhoderick with an ERA of 4.82. However, he still has struck out 14 batters in 9.1 innings and walked only two.

Nick Struck has had some control issues in Arizona, as he's walked nine batters in ten innings so far. He's made eight appearances, all in relief, and has a 4.50 ERA over ten innings. He's struck out six.

Dae-Eun Rhee has made one more start in Arizona and gave up another three runs in three innings. For the first time, he had control problems as he walked three in that game. He had only walked one batter in 9.2 innings prior to that. Rhee has made four starts in Arizona and has a 7.11 ERA. In 12.2 innings he's allowed nineteen hits. Rhee has fanned eight.

Down in the Mexican Pacific League, three Cubs are playing for Obregon. The player who probably interests Cubs fans the most is third baseman Christian Villanueva. Villanueva has been a pinch-hitter/spot starter and is hitting .238/.320/.429 with one home run.

Esmailin Caridad has thrown 12.2 innings for Obregon and has a 2.13 ERA. He has fanned 17 and walked four. The other Cub on the team is Alfredo Amezaga, and as you might expect from a veteran, he's hitting .351/.402/.608 with four home runs. That .351 batting average is good for fifth in the league, although he's quite a ways behind league leader . . .wait for it . . . former Cub Marlon Byrd, who is hitting .385.

Cubs pitcher Jay Jackson is listed on the roster of the Mazatlan team, but it doesn't look like he's pitched yet.

Over in the Dominican League, there are ten Cubs players playing. although only a few of them have played enough so far to even be worth mentioning. For the record, the following Cubs are on the rosters of Dominican League teams: Junior Lake, Arismendy Alcantara, Diory Hernandez, Nelson Perez, Lendy Castillo, Jeffry Antigua, Jairo Asencio and Michael Bowden.

Lake has probably done the most. He's played in ten games and has a .281/.341/.432 line. He has two home runs and two steals. Iowa Cubs shortstop Diory Hernandez has played in eleven games and is hitting .225/.295/.325.

Bowden made his first appearance on Friday when he started and pitched four innings for Águilas Cibaeñas. He allowed a run on four hits, walking one and striking out four.

Jeffry Antigua and Jairo Asencio both pitch for Toros del Este. Antigua has gotten into five games and has thrown 6.1 innings. He has a 1.42 ERA and has eight strikeouts with two walks. Asencio has pitched in seven games for a total of 5.2 innings. He's got a 3.18 ERA with five Ks and three bases on balls.

Finally, down in Venezuela, there are a lot of Cub players participating in the winter league there, but many of them are players who haven't played above the Dominican Summer League and whose names probably wouldn't mean anything to you yet. (They don't mean anything to me yet) But there are a couple of major leaguers. Luis Valbuena is playing for Cardenales de Lara and in eight games is hitting an impressive .357/.500/.500 in 36 plate appearances. Tony Campana is listed on the roster of Leones del Caracas, but he doesn't appear to have played yet. Finally, Miguel Socolovich is back in his native land on the roster for Caracas, but also doesn't seem to have pitched yet. This shouldn't really be surprising, as Caracas has 75 players listed on their roster, 40 pitchers alone. I'm going to guess that many of them will never play a game for Caracas this off-season and many of them will never even set foot in the clubhouse.

Iowa Cubs Catcher Juan Apodaca has played twelve games for Aguilas de Zulia and is hitting .207/.343/.276. At least he's walking.

One of the more impressive Cubs in Venezuela is Yoanner Negrin, whom the Cubs lent to the Mexican League for most of last season. But in five starts for Caracas, Negrin in 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA. He's fanned 21 and walked six in 22.2 innings.

Eduardo Figueroa has made eight appearance in relief for two different teams. He's allowed five runs over eleven innings. He's struck out eight and walked seven.

Finally, Smokies manager Buddy Bailey is managing Tigres de Aragua and has two Cub outfielders along with him. One of them is Jae-Hoon Ha, who is struggling with a .214/.283/.262 line over thirteen games. The other is Ty Wright, who is doing a little bit better at .267/.279/.367 in 17 games.

You may use this as an open thread for the Rising Stars game, if people care to discuss that.

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