Cubs Minor League Wrap: April 17

Adrian Cardenas had a double and a single tonight. Both of his hits drove in a run. Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I was at the Visalia Rawhide game against the Bakersfield Blaze. I'll say something about that game after the Cub highlights.

Iowa Cubs

The Iowa Cubs were negatively charged by the Albuquerque Isotopes (Dodgers), 13-6. Just another day at Isotopes Park.

Cubs starter Chris Rusin was handed a 3-0 lead after top of the first, but couldn't hold back the Isotopes bats as he was hammered for six runs in the bottom of the inning. Four of the six runs were unearned, however, when first baseman Anthony Rizzo missed a throw from shortstop Luis Valbuena that would have been the third out of the inning. Rusin allowed six hits in the first and didn't come out of the dugout for the second inning. He didn't walk anyone and struck out one.

I'm sure it doesn't make up for the error in his own mind, but Rizzo was 2 for 4 and scored twice tonight. Valbuena also went 2 for 4 and scored twice, but he also had one RBI. Second baseman Anthony Cardenas went 2 for 4 with a double and two runs batted in.

Tennessee Smokies

The Smokies were rained out in Huntsville tonight for the first rainout of the year for the Cubs system. They'll play two tomorrow.

Daytona Cubs

The misery continues for the Daytona Cubs as they couldn't fly with the Dunedin Blue Jays, 8-7.

Hayden Simpson struggled badly with control and with missing bats tonight and he took the loss after giving up six runs on six hits, including one homer, over 2.2 innings. He walked four and struck out no one. He also had a wild pitch and a balk.

The D-Cubs made a game out of it though and crawled to within a run of the Blue Jays when third baseman Greg Rohan hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth. It was Rohan's third home run this season. Rohan was 2 for 3 with two walks.

Left fielder John Andreoli went 2 for 5 with a double and he scored once. Andreoli is doing quite well in Daytona despite having played only ten professional games before this season. He's hitting .370 with a .500 OBP.

Catcher Chad Noble went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBI.

Peoria Chiefs

For the second day in a row, the Chiefs kept the Cubs system from getting shut out. Tonight they overcame a 6-2 deficit after five and a half innings to detassel the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Angels), 7-6.

Patrick Francescon pitched the first 3.2 innings and gave up two runs on three hits and three walks. He struck out one. But Bryce Shafer really put the Chiefs in a hole when he entered the game with a man on second and two out in the fourth inning. He walked the first batter he faced and then served up a three-run home run to Kernel Kevin Moesquit. Shafer was charged with three runs over 1.1 innings.

Yao-Lin Wang pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth innings and got the win. The only baserunner he allowed was a two-out walk in the ninth inning. Wang did not have a strikeout.

Left fielder Oliver Zapata continued his hot streak by going 3 for 4 with a stolen base. He scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning on an error.

Center fielder Pin-Chieh Chen had a double and a triple in a 2 for 3 game. He scored twice and knocked one run in. Chen also walked once.

Third baseman Brad Zapenas was 2 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored.

* * * *

What follows is my thoughts on the game between the Bakersfield Blaze (Reds) and the Visalia Rawhide (Diamondbacks) that Bakersfield won 8-5. If you're not interested, you can stop reading now.

This was my first time to Rawhide Stadium and I got lost on the way there, missing an exit and then having to go two more because of construction before I could finally turn around. Plus I had to stop at a gas station to get a 2 for 1 ticket coupon and I had trouble finding the gas station. This meant I missed the top of the first.

Rawhide Stadium has been recently rebuilt and it still has a new ballpark feel to it. The "pasture" down the right field line where there is open seating on the grass was a boon to me, as my four-year daughter announced "I don't want to watch baseball. I want to play baseball." So my wife took her there, bought her a foam bat and ball and I didn't see any of them again until the seventh inning stretch. My wife was glad she had a good view of the game from there. The have a red barn as part of the right field wall and balls that hit the roof of the barn are home runs. I did get to see this tonight. This satisfies my wife's maxim of baseball stadium design: Always have something interesting to hit home runs into.

My daughter said she liked "Tipper" their bull mascot, but that he was very scary.

The stadium seating is built right up against the street, which was a problem as the only places to put bathrooms are way down the lines. Who builds a stadium these days without bathrooms near the seating? My only other complaint was the scorecard they sold. It didn't have a spot for recording pitching lines. Really? With the DH, that was the only way you'd know what pitchers were in the game.

Now on to what you are probably really interested in: the prospects. I'm going to tell you to just start hating Reds shortstop Billy Hamilton now. You are going to absolutely hate this guy when he's playing against the Cubs. Without question, Hamilton is the fastest player I have ever seen.

I missed his first at-bat, a fly out, but in his second at-bat he lined a ball off the pitcher, who recovered quickly and picked up the ball about ten feet from the first base line. Hamilton was easily safe at first base. He scored when the next batter doubled down the right field line. Hamilton scored easily from first and in all honesty, most players who aren't pitchers, catchers or first basemen would have scored on that double. But it was the best chance I got to see him run. He runs fluidly and with easy long strides, much like a track star would. He runs mostly vertically, unlike, say, Tony Campana who puts his head down and moves his legs as fast as he can. Hamilton would scorch Campana in a footrace.

In his second at-bat, he chased a ball in the dirt and struck out. The catcher kept the ball in front of him and picked it up quickly, but he rushed his throw to first and the first baseman had to jump to catch it. He landed on the bag, but it was too late. Hamilton was on first. He went to third on a hard line drive single to center. The center fielder got to the ball quickly made a strong throw to third base but the play wasn't close. I'd say fewer than five major leaguers would be able to go first to third on that hit.

But then the most impressive thing I saw was when he was on third. The next hitter, Juan Duran, hit an easy one-hopper back to the pitcher. The pitcher (Holmberg) looks Hamilton back to third, then turns and makes a hard throw to first. Hamilton broke for the plate the second Holmberg turned to first and easily beat the throw from the first baseman home.

In his fourth at-bat, he singled through the infield to right field. After several throws to first, he stole second without a throw from the catcher. He went to third on a fly out and scored on a sac fly. The steal was his eleventh in twelve games so far this year.

Defensively, I didn't see enough of him to form an opinion. His arm struck me as a little below average for a shortstop, but the one throw I saw that he made to first didn't require him to gun it, so it's hard to tell.

He chased a bad ball in the dirt, but got to first anyway. He hits the ball in the air too much for him. That's about all the negative I can say.

The Rawhide's starting pitcher was left-hander David Holmberg, who was their #6 prospect according to Baseball America. He retired the first eight batters he saw, and although I missed the first three, he looked good in the second inning. He kept pounding low and away and was getting a lot of called strikes. A fair number of swing and misses, too. There were no stadium guns (and I was sitting far from the scouts--they don't like hyperactive four-year olds) so I can't tell you how fast he was throwing, but he seemed faster than anyone else I saw tonight. But he gave up a double to the #9 hitter and then got plunked in the leg by the Hamilton comebacker. He stayed in the game, but he seemed to lose his command after that as he was now leaving his fastball up where hitters could get it. Or maybe it was over the plate more, I didn't exactly have the best angle seeing the plate. But I think he was more shaken up by getting hit with the line drive than he let on. I'd give him a pass tonight. But despite giving up six runs in 4.2 innings, he did strike out six and walk no one.

The third big prospect in the game was Rawhide outfielder Bobby Borchering, a first-round pick in 2009 but who is repeating High-A this year. Borchering really looked the part of a ballplayer. Great body. But he made nothing but weak contact tonight and swung and missed a lot. Even his one hit was when the ball sawed off his bat and the ball went on a soft line to the right of the third baseman, who was shifted over against him batting left-handed. He did make a nice catch in the outfield when he and the center fielder collided late in the game. But other than that, I wasn't really impressed. I guess he could impress me if he were selling jeans.

For those of you still reading, thanks. I'll answer any other questions about the game, but those three were the guys I was concentrating on.

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