I still think the greatest thing about going to the ballpark is going through the entrance into the stadium and seeing the green grass come alive in the sunshine with the smell of food everywhere. Such was the case yesterday when I went to Kane County to see the Cougars take on the Quad City River Bandits. I met one of my former students, Andrew Rehn, from 18 years ago and had a great time. My favorite thing about seeing a game on Sunday is the autograph session on the field where you can go down and talk to the players as well as get autographs. I talked with Chesny Young, Tyler Ihrig, Victor Caratini, and Jacob Rodgers. All seemed very nice. Caratini was a little taken aback by all the attention he was receiving, but he adapted quickly.
This was my fifth time seeing the Cougars this season. The roster has changed quite a bit since I first saw them in April. Favorite Jordan Hankins was promoted to Daytona, Will Remillard was on the DL, the vacuum cleaner SS Carlos Penalver was on the bench with 1B Jacob Rodgers, and Tyler Skulina and Juan Paniagua also were sent to Daytona. The only holdovers were outfielders Shawon Dunston, Trey Martin, and Cael Brockmeyer was catching this game. Daury Torrez was on the mound and the newly acquired Victor Caratini was the DH. New signee Chesny Young was at second, Jeimer Candelario at third, Danny Lockhart returned from the DL at short, and the recently promoted Jeffrey Baez was in right field.
What I Was Hoping to See
The players coming through Boise and Kane County right now are a mixture of players drafted by Theo and Jed and international players signed by Jim Hendry. This was my first game to see Chesny Young and I was very excited to see him in the lineup along with Jeffrey Baez. Both had success at Boise in their short stints there this summer. I was hoping to see Caratini catch, but with a night game on Saturday and a Sunday day game, I knew those odds were slim. I was hoping to see his arm to see if it was as good as Remillard’s.
What I Came Away Impressed With
1. Chesny Young plays baseball the right way and plays it hard. He went 3-4 yesterday and every ball he hit, he hit hard. He does a nice job in the field, works counts at the plate, and has a nice swing plane with quick wrists into the zone. He knows what he is looking for in a pitch, and when he sees it, he hits hard. no cheapy wounded ducks or Texas leaguers, just line drive singles and one booming double.
2. Caratini’s first at bat did not end well when he was caught looking. At first, I thought he was going to say something to the umpire, but he turned, walked away and shook his head ever so slightly. What this showed to me was that he has an idea of the strike zone and what pitches he can and cannot hit. His other four plate appearances saw him square up the ball. He stands even with the plate rather than back in the box, and he has a nice sweet swing that glides quickly like a diving bird through the zone. It was not Mark Grace pretty, but it was close. He went 2-5 with an RBI.
3. Cael Brockmeyer is huge for a catcher. At 6’5”, he sits low in the zone and provides a good target behind the plate. At the plate, he has hit near .300 all year. After a broken bat wounded duck early in the game, he shattered his bat with his hands. No knee required. The next at bat, he hit a line drive hook into the left field stands. The ball never got more than 20 feet off the ground. He does not get a lot of lift. If he ever does, look out.
4. Shawon Dunston, Jr. has improved in the field since I saw him at Clinton a month ago. He took much better routes to the ball yesterday. He did get picked off first on the old hidden ball trick, but he more than made up for that with his speed throughout the day. He is hitting well and looks good at the plate. In April, he looked overmatched.
5. Danny Lockhart looked good at shortstop. I came away impressed. He always could hit. I am just glad to see him healthy and get some steady at bats.
6. Jeffrey Baez had a double and triple. He plays hard on the basepaths. When he had his triple to right, I thought he was dead meat and there was no way he could make it to third. But he did, and he did so easily as the throw went home. I like his hustle a lot.
I like Daury Torrez. The 6’3” righty has a good delivery over the top and throws downhill. He followed the organizational line of coming out in the first inning and commanding the fastball. He regularly was between 92-94. In the fourth inning, the velocity dramatically dropped to 86 on a fastball. Manager Mark Johnson quickly came out. Torrez later gave up a monster homer on an 87 mph fastball. Torrez hung on for two more innings, got it back up to 90, and picked up his 10th win. I still think he needs a 3rd pitch. He has gotten by with commanding the fastball and a nice slider that consistently comes in at 83. At Daytona, he will need that third pitch.
I saw a lot of good prospects today and saw the Cougars offense come alive. They have struggled as of late at the plate in the wake of the Hankins and Schwarber promotions. With the new blood of Caratini, Baez, Young, and Kevin Brown, the approach is much different as these are clearly “Theo” type players as they work the count, grind out at bats, command the zone at the plate, and hit the ball hard – even if it was for singles. When you can do that and score 9 runs, you aren’t going to lose too many games.
I did have a very interesting conversation with the lady behind me. She was complaining about the recent trades of Samardjiza and Hammell and how the big league team is not winning. I talked to her about how 2015 was going to be different. I said that we were done trading short term assets for long term ones. We would now be going out and acquiring long term ones. She then asked why we just didn’t keep the two pitchers. I then explained to her the two pitchers were not signed beyond this year and next. The Cubs needed long term certainty at those positions and that Samardjiza was not going to give the Cubs that certainty by not signing an extension. I talked about Soler, Baez, and Bryant reinvigorating the lineup next year. To me, next year is the make or break year where the product on the field changes drastically.
I truly understand her frustration. I really do. What I don’t understand is how she was not better informed about what was happening in the whole organization.