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Welcome to the Big Leagues: Two Cubs Rookies Experience Pro Baseball

BOISEDespite the uncooperative actions of the Treasure Valley weather gods, summer is among us and the 2010 Northwest League season is just two days away.  Media Day has come and gone from Memorial Stadium, marking the return of the Boise Hawks and the renewal of minor league relationships.

Though the Chicago Cubs placed 26 players on the Hawks’ 2010 roster15 of which have previously played for Boiseonly two were selected by the club in this year’s First-Year Players Draft just nine days ago.

Jeff Vigurs and Joseph Zeller were both inducted into the life of professional baseball when they were selected in the 22nd and 28th rounds respectively, and were the only two draftees to find their way onto the Hawks’ 2010 roster.

Vigurs was selected by the Cubs as a catcher, after totaling four home runs, 13 doubles and 41 RBIs to match his .333 batting average as a Bryant University Bulldog in his junior season.  Although he saw success in college, Vigurs has already felt the drastic transition from collegiate to professional baseball before even playing in a game.

“It’s a lot different than college,” said Vigurs, “and it’s really exciting right now. I’ve only been [with the Cubs] a couple of days and I’ve already been to Arizona and Boise the next day, so it’s been nice to finally settle down.”

A Mission Viejo native, Zeller, formally a right-handed pitcher for The Masters College in Santa Clarita, California, was drafted by the Cubs in the 28th round after going 5-7 with a 5.24 ERA in 91 innings for the Mustangs. Zeller previously played second base until his senior season, and played his freshman season for Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles.

Like Vigurs, Zeller expressed a feeling of excitement and confusion when first experiencing professional baseball.

“It’s really exciting, but the initial reaction was just trying to figure out what’s going on because you get thrown right into it and just trying to figure it all out,” said Zeller.

For rookies like Virgus and Zeller, it takes the leadership of experienced players like George Matheus, in addition to the coaching staff, to develop young players into confident teammates. Matheus will be making his second stop with the Hawks, after beginning the season with the Class-A Peoria Chiefs where he hit .208 with four RBIs in 16 games.

“What I say for the new guys is that the most important thing is, ‘don’t change how you play; if you play hard, keep playing hard.’ The difference now is that there are more people in the stands. Last Year was my first year playing in front of a lot of people, in this ball park, and I see for the first time a lot of people watching me play.”

“I understand that it’s their first time and they’ll feel a little bit e nervous, everyone is a little bit nervous,” said Matheus.

With the leadership of veterans and returners from last season, Zeller and Vigurs are sure to have a successful debut in professional baseball. 

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MLB Draft: Chicago Cubs Analysis of the First 15 Rounds

Day one of the MLB First-Year Players Draft began with the most predictable draft pick in baseball history, when the Washington Nationals selected 17-year-old phenom Bryce Harper. 

The Chicago Cubs, however, made one of the more shocking picks of the first round, when they selected the unknown Southern Arkansas right-hander, Hayden Simpson, with the 16th pick. Despite the lack of name recognition, many analysts have jumped on the Cubs scouting director, Tim Wilken, who also selected rising star, Tyler Colvin, in 2006, and have deemed Simpson as one of the safest picks in the draft thus far. 
Surprisingly, the Draft did continue past the first round, and the following is a summary of the first two days of draft choices by the Chicago Cubs.
Round 1, Pick 16: Hayden Simpson, RHP (Southern Arkansas University)
Simpson was a surprising pick at 16 to say the least, but has been known to throw a 97-mph fastball, to match two devastating off-speed pitches. Simpson finished second in D-ll Player of the Year voting in 2010, though his jaw-dropping statistics in his junior season—13-1 record with a 1.81 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 15 starts—speak much louder than any award could.
Ranked 191 by Baseball America as a pitcher, Simpson was the first choice by Wilken, and once again, he knows something we still don’t: How to scout. 
Round 2, Pick 65: Reggie Golden, CF (Wetumpka High School)
Despite believing that he would be picked within the first 35 picks of the draft, Wetumpka High School product, Reggie Golden (above right) fell to the Cubs who selected him with the 65th pick in the second round of the First-Year Players Draft. If he chooses to deny Chicago’s offer, Golden has signed with the University of Alabama. 
Golden is classified as a “self-taught” hitter, with somewhat of a wild swing and inconsistency. Despite the questions surrounding his swing, Golden is a raw five-tool player, with bursts of power and exceptional play to overshadow his faults.
At 5’10”, 210 pounds, Golden is a tank with average range and arm strength, but with the help of the Cubs’ strong farm system, can develop into one of the game’s future greats. With more time on the field, Golden will be on the fast-track to Major League success. Staying at the Alabama may be a better choice for him at the moment, unfortunately. 
Round 3, Pick 97: Micah Gibbs, C (Louisiana State University)
In a fairly shallow draft class for catchers, Micah Gibbs is renowned as being one of the most well rounded journeymen in the draft. Gibbs has shown raw power and strong defensive skills while behind the plate for the Louisiana State University Tigers, along with strong range and average arm strength. The 20-year-old hits for good average, posting .294 and .322 in his first two seasons with LSU.
Round 4, Pick 130: Hunter Ackerman, LHP (Louisburg College)
The second pitcher selected by the Cubs in the 2010 Draft, Ackerman went 8-1 with a 1.40 ERA in his freshman season for the Hurricanes. After joining the West Virginia Miners baseball club—a college summer league—however, Ackerman is 1-1 with a 8.21 ERA in 7 2/3 innings. 
Round 5, Pick 160: Matthew Szczur, C/OF (Villanova)
For the second straight pick, the Chicago Cubs picked a player with the same first name as the previous player selected, when they chose Matthew Szczur, junior, out of Villanova with the 160th pick of the Draft.  While there, the 19-year-old catcher/outfielder hit .346 with 24 RBI’s as a freshman — yet another hit-for-average player selected by the Cubs. 


Round 8, Pick 250: Cameron Greathouse, LHP (Gulf Coast CC)

With yet another somewhat surprising pick, the Cubs selected Cameron Greathouse out of Gulf Coast Community College in Florida. Greathouse had a 3.06 ERA and was 10-2 for the Commodores. The Cubs usually don’t take risks with pitchers with such high ERA’s like Greathouse, but with development, he has strong break on his fast ball and off-speed pitches. 

Round 9, Pick 280: Kevin Rhoderick, RHP (Oregon State)

The Chicago Cubs selected Kevin Rhoderick as the third pitcher in their draft class with the 280th pick in the ninth round. While at OSU, Rhoderick won three games as a reliever, with a 8.0 hits per nine innings ratio. Rhoderick has an above average fastball that tops out at about 91 mph, and a sweeping curvball that hits along the high 70s. He also carries a change-up, that floats at about 80 mph. Rhoderick has strong potential as a reliever for the Cubs, and proved himself at a Pac-10 powerhouse as a junior. He was previously selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 18th round of the 2007 Draft, but did not sign. 
Round 10, Pick 310: Aaron Kurcz, RHP (College of Southern Nevada)

Not to be shown-up by his world famous teammate — first round draft choice, Bryce Harper — Aaron Kurcz was selected with the 310th pick by the Chicago Cubs, just 10 rounds later than the Phenom.  As a sophomore, Kurcz went 3-3 in 35 innings pitched while in relief. 
Round 11, Pick 340: Eric Jokisch, LHP (Northwestern)

I feel dumber already. The Chicago Cubs selected left-hander, Eric Jokisch out of the prestigious Northwestern University as a junior. In two season, Jokisch was 12-9 with a 5.48 ERA in 2009. Jokisch was previously drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 39th round of the 2007 draft, but rejected the offer. 

Round 12, Pick 370: Austin Reed, RHP (Rancho Cucamonga HS)

Austin Reed was selected out of Rancho Cucamonga High School, in California, with the 370th pick in the First-Year Players Draft. Reed throws his fastball around 88-mph and floats his breaking ball at a speed of 73-75 consistently. 

Round 13, Pick 400: Pierre LePage, 2B (Connecticut)

Only the second infielder selected by the Chicago Cubs thus far, Pierre LePage –second baseman from the University of Connecticut — became the 400th pick of the 2010 Draft. LePage hit .327 while slugging in three home runs and 57 RBI’s in his 2010 junior season. 
Round 14, Pick 430: Colin Richardson, RHP (Winter Haven HS)

With the 430th pick, the Cubs selected Colin RIchardson, a strong pitcher out of Winter Haven High School in Florida. Richardson had a .550 ERA in 2010 in 76 innings pitched. He also showed some strength at the plate, hitting .254 with four doubles in the same season. 


Round 15, Pick 460: Elliot Soto, SS (Creighton)

Now the Chicago Cubs have another Soto in their organization, after they selected Elliot Soto with the 460th pick of the Draft out of Creighton. The junior hit three home runs and drove in 28 RBI’s for the Jays, while averaging .297. 


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Hayden Simpson: Will He Become Another Samardzija-Sized Mess In Chicago?

Just 13 days before the start of the Class-A Minor League season, the Chicago Cubs selected right-handed pitcher, Hayden Simpson, with the 16th pick—much to the surprise of draft analysts. 
Simpson was absent from the majority of first-round projections, mainly due to his lack of exposure while playing for the Division II, Southern Arkansas Muleriders.
Despite being overlooked in the Draft, the Mangolia, Ark. product posted a 13-1 record, with a 1.81 ERA—ranked 10th among D-ll pitchers—and 131 strikeouts in 15 starts in only his junior season for the Muleriders.
In those 15 starts, Simpson held a 42.2 inning scoreless-innings streak—according to the Cubs’ front office—in addition to three shutouts. During his career at SAU, Simpson went 35-2 with a 2.39 ERA and 323 strikeouts. 
Simpson recorded a low-to-mid 90’s fastball in the 2010 season, with a breaking ball achieving a 25 mph speed differential. The lethal combination of off-speed and power allowed Simpson to rank second in D-ll in strikeouts and victories for SAU. He was named runner-up for the inaugural Tino Martinez D-ll National Player of the Year award at the end of the season.
Scouting director Tim Wilken will most likely be questioned for selecting the unknown pitcher from Arkansas in the first round—but keep in mind, in his first draft in 2006, Wilken selected an undersized outfielder from Clemson, promising that he would be a successful major league player. That player was Tyler Colvin, and everyone and their mothers have heard of his recent success after making the Cubs roster as a result of an incredible spring training. 
According to Baseball America, Simpson was the 191st ranked pitcher heading into the first day of the draft, placing him possibly as a late 6th or 7th round pick. 
The MLB Network was so surprised about the Cubs’ pick, that they scrambled to design a make-shift nameplate to be placed on the draft board. 
In line with past first round draft picks, Simpson will most likely suit up for the Boise Hawks in July, after making stops in either the Cubs’ Arizona Summer League and Dominican Summer League teams.
Luckily for Simpson, expectations are high, but manageable. 
The last pitcher first round draft pick, Andrew Cashner (19th overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Players Draft), has since been called up to the Chicago Cubs, after only two years in the minor leagues, and is expected to assume the set-up position for the club soon.
As a starting pitcher, however, Cubs’ officials hope that Simpson’s development wont fall into the same trap as 25-year-old right hander, Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija has an 18.90 ERA with the Cubs this season and 5.89 career ERA in the bigs. 
Though both will have made appearances with the Hawks after the conclusion of the 2010 season, the 175 pound right hander has incredible upside and odds are that he won’t become a “BP sized” catastrophe. 

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The Good, the Bad, and the Chicago Cubs: Why Bryce Harper May End Up a Cubbie

As the Chicago Cubs—though still premature—close in on their first losing season season since 2006, one thing may be able to relinquish an utterly disappointing season.

Currently, numerous mock-draft web sites have the Cubs taking yet another pitching prospect, ranging from Alex Wimmers and Asher Wojciechowski, to Stetson Allie and Drew Pomeranz.

As seen with Chicago pitcher-prospects Jeff Samardizija and Jay Jackson, developement of young pitchers can be time consuming, and possibly result in career minor league pitchers. 

So the question should be asked: Does the Chicago Cubs front office have the patience to wait for another mediocre hurler to earn his stripes? And the question can be simply answered with an emphatic “no.”

For Cubs fans looking for something to cheer about that doesn’t involve the Blackhawks in 2010, draft day may be a short term solution to their spring woes. 

As draft day approaches (round one begins at 7 p.m. ET on June 7) Jim Hendry and the Chicago Cubs’ executives need to find possibilities to trade up in the round from pick 16, to possibly snag catching phenom, Bryce Harper—no matter how far-fetched is may seem. 

The Washington Nationals have once again “won” the right to the first overall pick in the MLB First-Year Players Draft, and are on pace to draft Harper, who may surpass former first-overall pick, and National, Stephen Strasburg as the highest paid rookie. 

According to, however, Washington—who ranks 23rd in team payroll this season—may not be able to afford yet another blockbuster player with their $61 million budget. 

The best option for the Cubs and the Nationals, may be to make a deal on Tuesday.

Derrek Lee is currently the leader in Chicago Cubs trade rumors around the organization, and would be a good fit for the Nationals, who depend on the un-dependable Adam Dunn at first base.

Along with Geovany Soto (.254 batting average with a .405 slugging percentage), Washington could have a set of experience National League veterans to anchor their already youthful squad.

Though the Cubs’ chances of landing Harper are a stretch at best, Chicago needs to trade up from their current spot to capitalize on a rather deep amateur draft.

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MLB Draft: Is Bryce Harper the Next Joe Mauer or Matt Wieters?

With the lack of excitement and appeal that surrounds Major League Baseball every May, draft talk begins to dominate all conversation in baseball realms and rightfully so. 

For the second straight year, the Washington Nationals have secured the rights to the No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Players Draft, in which top prospect Bryce Harper is on pace to be selected June 7. 

Analysts have already begun comparing Harper to possibly the greatest catcher in the history of the MLB, Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins, as well as former top catching prospect Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles. 

In the photo above, Harper is dropping home run bombs in his own dome in Tampa Bay, Florida, with the same majestic left-handed swing that piled everyone onto the bandwagon of the multi-sport phenom Mauer, just six years ago.

Simply put, Harper is not the next Mauer or Wieters behind the dish (though it may be too early to compare). He is definitely not going to save the Washington franchise in the fashion that Mauer has. 

Unlike Mauer, Harper’s scouting report boasts above-average power with plus speed, plus-arm strength, and plus range, with less-than-jaw-dropping defensive technique.

Harper’s draft stock skyrocketed after he graduated high school early to play at the College of Southern Nevada, where he worked on mechanical issues at the plate that he was previously criticized for.

All previous doubt has since been abolished. 

Notwithstanding the preceding top-draft pick, Jason Heyward, who is dominating National League pitchers, Harper has been regarded as having the most power, and quickest hands, of any player in draft history placing him among the greats of amateur athletes. 

As a result of his below-average catching ability, Harper may be converted to a left- or right-fielder in the future, after being commended for his plus range and plus-arm strength from anywhere on the field. 

Harper was awarded the 2009 Baseball America High School Player of the Year at the age of 16, as well as the Ryan Howard Award (International High School Power Showcase Home Run Derby), and First Team All-State Catcher Honors in 2008.

For the College of Southern Nevada, Harper hit 29 home runs, drove in 89 RBI, stole 18 bases, and hit for .422 with a .524 OBP and a .986 slugging percentage in 62 games. 

For Nationals fans, he may not be the next Joe Mauer, but he may be more successful than last year’s top prospect Steven Strasburg.

Only time will tell. 

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Chicago Cubs: Is Carlos Silva Really That Good?

On a gloomy Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley, Cubs’ right-hander Carlos Silva improved to 4-0 in his seventh start of the season. With a 4-3 win over the visiting Florida Marlins, Silva is off to his best start since 2004, where he began the season 5-0 for the Twins.

Sports fans and analysts alike were skeptical when Chicago General Manager Jim Hendry announced that the Cubs, after finishing the 2009 season 86-76, had acquired Silva for clubhouse virus Milton Bradley, and cash, from the Seattle Mariners. 

Bradley has struggled again this season. He’s since been placed on the inactive list after asking the Mariners front office for help with “emotional stress.”

Silva, meanwhile, has reclaimed his career, The righthander is tearing up the National League, backed by the sporadic Cubs offense. But is Silva really that good? 

When Silva has taken the mound this season, Chicago has outscored opponents 49-28. But the team is hitting just .271 on the season. 

Though Silva holds an unblemished record, his ERA has escalated to a season high 3.50, still his lowest in five seasons.

For the third time this year, Lou Pinella yanked Silva in the sixth inning. The starter surrendered seven hits, two runs and two walks.

Holding a two run lead in the top of the fourth, Silva gave up a two run single to Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino. The game tying hit scored Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu. 

How does the Venezuelan right-hander keep winning with such mediocre performances?

Despite his fourth inning blunders, Silva would regain the lead with an RBI double by Marlon Byrd and a wild pitch by Chris Volstad. Volstad’s mistake allowed shortstop Starlin Castro to touch home, giving the Cubs a 4-2 lead. The runs were enough insurance for Silva, who notched his fourth win. 

In his May 7th victory, Silva received the most run support by the Chicago lineup with 14, while pitching only five innings and giving up 10 hits. Silva also has three no decisions, which came against the Reds (19-15), Nationals (19-15) and Diamondbacks (14-20). 

Silva could very well be 4-3.

On May 1st, Silva threw five innings, giving up five runs to the NL West worst Diamondbacks. The Cubs rallied in the sixth to, once again, save Silva from another blemish. 

Against the Nationals on April 26th, Chicago jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, which quickly evaporated when Silva allowed two runs in the fourth, then another in the sixth to tie the game at 3. He was lifted in the seventh. The Cubs eventually won the game in the bottom of the 10th when Brian Bruney walked the bases loaded.

Silva clearly isn’t as good as his record suggests. Though the pitcher obviously won’t maintain his ethereal 0.69 ERA, no one would’ve predicted that the Cubs OFFENSE would be the source of his success.


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Chicago Cubs’ Starlin Castro Surpasses Expectations in Major League Debut

Finally, it appears that the Chicago Cubs are willing to show some backbone in the dugout after the promotion of Class AA shortstop Starlin Castro to the Major League roster. Castro made his highly anticipated MLB debut on Friday—after a series sweep by the Pirates left the rotation gasping for run support. 

For the first time in four years, Ryan Theriot was moved over to second base to supplement the promotion of Castro. 

In his first at bat as a major leaguer, Castro hit a three-run home run in the away half of the second inning and finished the game two hits and six RBI—moreover allowing the Cubs to end a three-game skid with a 14-7 win over the Reds. 

Just when the night seemed like it couldn’t get any better, it was announced that Castro was the first ever rookie to debut with six RBI in Major League history. 

The only response from skipper Lou Piniella was: “What a debut!” 

Other offense for the Cubs came by way of another three-run home run by outfielder Marlon Byrd and a grand slam by Mike Fontenot in the eighth. 

Due to this marvelous offensive support, Carlos Silva received his third win of the season (3-0) after giving up four runs on 10 hits and four errors in just five innings. 

All we can here echoing from former ace Carlos Zambrano in the bullpen is: “Where was that when I was still in the rotation?” And then proceeding to destroy a perfectly good beverage container with the world’s best maple. 

Questions surrounding the middle infield in Chicago have been numerous of late—shortstop Theriot and Fontenot both had relatively slow starts to the season—and after Castro’s performance, the conversations are only going to get more interesting. 

Theriot, who has rebounded from a horrible start to lead the club in hitting with 43 hits and a .333 average, will continue to lead off for the Cubs, but will most likely remain at second, after chemistry could be seen after only one game with the Dominican national, Castro.

Castro and Theriot linked up on their first double play of many on the year in the bottom of the fourth inning, by way of a 6-4-3. 

Most likely, Castro will remain with the big league club and continue to play short stop at least five days a week for the Cubs according to ESPN: Chicago writer Bruce Levine. 

If this sporadic amount of success continues for Chicago’s offense, fans may once again regain hope, with the wild card race still in tact with a 14-16 record—four games behind National League-leading San Fransisco.

The Cubs will look to continue their offensive triumphs when they match up once again against the Reds on Saturday. Castro may break out once again when he faces right hander Aaron Harang, who currently boasts a 6.68 ERA. 

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