Three Is Company Too: The catcher position gets crowded with new addition

micah gibbs.jpg

According to a Thursday press release by the Hawks
front office, the Chicago Cubs have sent 2010 third round draft choice Micah
Gibbs to Class-A Boise from their Mesa based rookie-team. He is now the third
catcher on the Hawks roster, along with 22nd rounder, Jeff Vigurs, and two-year
Hawk, Jose Guevara.

Though the catcher position may seem more crowded
than a Twilight Saga Premier, Gibbs’ arrival couldn’t be more needed – Vigurs and
Guevara are both struggling offensively with .188 and .097 batting averages
respectively.  

Before being drafted, Gibbs hit .388 with 10 home
runs and 60 RBI for the Louisiana State University Tigers, earning him 2010
All-Southeastern Conference status.

In his 2009 collegiate season, Gibbs received ABCA
(American Baseball Coaches Assosiation) Gold Glove honors and was placed on the
SEC’s All-Defensive Team individually, while catching for the 2009 College
World Series Champion Tigers as a sophomore.

The previous season, Gibbs was named a First-Team Freshman
All-American by Baseball America – an organization devoted to following
promising prospects in the collegiate and minor league ranks.

As with all minor league coaches, Jody Davis will
attempt to award ample playing time to each of these emerging catchers, but in
the end, the best will see the most playing time.

In the five games that he’s played in, Vigurs is
3-16 with an 0-11 slump currently underway; while Guevara is 0-14 in his last
four games. Defensively, the pair has a combined five errors – despite that
Vigurs has the second least playing time on the team.

New players can add a new excitement to a young team
that has been struggling of late. The Hawks received four new players from the
draft: left-handed pitcher, Eric Jokisch, right-handed pitcher, Aaron Kurcz, in
fielder, Pierre LePage and Gibbs.

In his sophomore season with Northwestern
University, Jokisch was 12-9 with a 5.48 ERA. Teammate of first-overall pick
Bryce Harper, Arron Kurcz was selected with the 310th pick by the Cubs after
going 3-3 in 35 innings of relief with the College of Southern Nevada. Lepage
was selected in the 13th round by the Cubs after hitting .327 with three home
runs and 57 RBI in his junior season with Connecticut.

Gibbs is most likely to make the quickest impact for
Boise, because of the current state of the catcher position, until the still
unknown arrival of first-round pick Hayden Simpson. His strong defensive skills
behind the plate and above average power should add more stability in the
middle of the batting order. 

Lackluster effort leads Volcanoes past Hawks in landslide victory, 11-0

On Wednesday, a terrible crime took place at
Memorial Stadium in Garden City; the Boise Hawks were brutally murdered by the
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in an 11-0 drubbing in front of a nearly-sold-out crowd.
Luckily, no fans were drowned in the bloodbath last night.

Slightly resembling a Hitchcock thriller, the Boise
Hawks completely lost control of a feasible win against their rivals, the
Volcanoes. Despite his 8.22 ERA at nights end, John Mincone pitched four
quality innings for the club, giving up three “earned” runs while fanning three
Volcanoes hitters and only walking one.

In the fourth inning, Mincone suffered his first so-called
earned run after Daniel Brock of the Volcanoes singled to Hawks center fielder,
Runey Davis, who, instead of attempting a throw to home to catch the rounding
Jose Medina, double pumped and proceeded to lob the ball into the awaiting
cut-off. This was just the first of many lackluster plays by the home team.

Don’t be mistaken, the Volcanoes crushed the ball
all evening, but it was the lack of concern by the defense that made this game inexcusable.
In his fifth inning, Mincone was given a wild pitch, after Boise catcher, Jeff
Vigurs once again couldn’t squeeze the pitch, allowing Carlos Quintana of the
Volcanoes to score. On the next batter, with a runner on third, Mincone forced
Salem-Keizer second baseman, Raynor Campbell to hit a sharp grounder to Brandon
May at third base. Instead of attempting the double play – there was also a runner
on first who was close to the base to begin with because of Mincone’s strong
pick-off move – or gunning out the runner at home, May went for the easy play
at first base, leading to Mincone’s removal from the game.

Earlier in the season, manager, Jody Davis, told me
that the main goal for them was to “train players to get to Chicago” and “if we’re
winning past the sixth inning we try to win the game.” But when a pitcher has
such a positive outing, only to be ruined by complacent fielding, shouldn’t
there be some disciplinary action even at such a low level of professional
baseball?

After Mincone’s removal, the flood gates opened
wide. Salem-Keizer scored two runs in the fifth inning, followed by six in the
sixth and two in the seventh, to improve their already sizeable lead to 11-0.
The Volcanoes had 18 hits on the night to match Boise’s tow. Surprisingly,
though, the Hawks only committed two errors in their worst lost of the season.

The small error total is most likely due to Davis’
decision to remove starting shortstop, Arismendy Alcantara from the lineup – he
has made four of the team’s 11 errors in 2010 – while sliding George Mathues
over from his third base position, and putting Brandon May at third.

An interesting side not, to start the game, it appeared
that Davis wasn’t looking for run support for his starting pitcher, Mincone
(0-2), after multiple Hawks hitters were either looking for the walk with timid
approaches, or attempting to bunt for an infield hit.

Whatever the outcome of last night’s game, there’s
always another one waiting tomorrow – the beauty of short season baseball. The
Hawks will play Salem-Keizer in the fourth game of their five game series in which
Boise looks to get their second win at home in 2010. 

The arrival of Hayden Simpson: “We have no idea.”

draft - hayden simpson.jpg

As
of Wednesday afternoon, the Boise Hawks coaching staff still has, “no idea” on
the arrival of Hayden Simpson – the first-round selection in the 2010 First
Year Player’s Draft by the Chicago Cubs – according to Hawks pitching coach,
Jeff Fassero.

General
Manager of the Hawks, Todd Rahr was also amiss for a time table on the number
16 pick’s arrival, but said that fans may be able to see Simpson and fellow
2010 draftees as early Friday or on the ensuing home stand against Yakima in
July.

Despite
Simpson’s notoriety to baseball junkies (like myself) and Chicago Cubs executives,
Simpson could slip under the radar of most fans according to Rahr.

“Anytime
you have a number one guy, then that’s a good story for the press and we’ll get
some good media out of it and subsequently you’re hoping that will translate
into ticket sales,” said Rahr, “but in general, especially in baseball, the
draftees are so unknown – no matter if you’re a real baseball fan or not – that
it’s a rarity that a first round draft pick carries enough of a name to really
make a real difference at the game.”

No
matter the skill level of former fifth round draft pick Jeff Samardzija – more notable
for his tenure as a wide receiver at Notre Dame than his wild two-seam fastball
– fans in 2006 chose to buy tickets because they thought they were seeing a “big
name” player, and at that point, they were right.

Unfortunately
for the young draft pick, Simpson and Samardzija have a lot in common. After
his arrival, they will both have entered enormous amounts of expectations and
pressure in Boise. The difference is that Samardzija entered into the Cubs
organization when the club was a first-place playoff team in the National
League Central Division, when the team was a pitching breading ground.

Simpson,
however, is entering a Chicago Cubs organization trying to stay afloat in the
NL Central, where the rotation is bigger mess than Louisiana, something that
Samardzija helped create.  

His
potential is immeasurable and the talent is clearly there, but at the end of
his career, I hope that Hayden Simpson has more than a beer and food vendor at
Memorial Stadium named after himself to show for it.  

Hawks fall to Volcanoes in opener, lineup becomes more balanced

BOISE
— Typically, losing efforts are marked by distressed fans and heckling
critics, but in the Boise Hawks Monday night opener at Memorial Stadium,
baseball fans seemed satisfied with the Hawks 5-2 loss to the Salem-Keizer
Volcanoes. In the seventh inning, with a three run deficit, the sold out crowd
actively participated in their rendition of the timeless “Macarena” dance.

Austin
Kirk received the loss for Boise, going four innings and giving up five hits,
three runs and two walks. Though he gave up two homeruns in the game, Kirk
still showed strong movement on his pitches while earning five strikeouts.

Although
the loss can be disheartening to a young ball club, the Hawks season opener was
highlighted by a complete offensive attack throughout the batting order,
something absent in their previous series against the Yakima Bears. The Hawks
won their in Yakima, 2-1.

“Most
of those guys down at the bottom [of the order] are more speed guys, so we have
to create a little havoc down there, so that we can at least put a little
pressure on the defense,” said first-year manager of the Hawks, Jody Davis.

When
they played the Bears, Boise was carried by the offensive production of Brandon
May, Jesus Morelli and Wes Darvill at the bottom of the order. They combined
for nine of the team’s 11 RBIs, 14 of the team’s 21 hits and five of the team’s
12 runs.

Despite
a relatively calm first two innings, Kirk began to lose composure in the fourth
inning when he gave up back-to-back homeruns to Salem Keizer right fielder,
Jose Medina and designated hitter, Jesse Shriner, on consecutive pitches over
the right and left field walls respectively.

It
was clear that newly appointed Davis aimed at giving Kirk a set amount of
innings before the start of the game after he chose to leave Kirk to finish the
fourth following a visit to the mound.

“I
thought Kirk did a pretty good job even though he gave up those two home runs,”
said Davis. “We’re developing these guys, and they’re all on a pretty strict
pitch count and when they’re out there we expect to win some games. Developing
these guys and getting them to Chicago is the ultimate goal.”

Boise
narrowed the gap with the Volcanoes in the bottom of the fourth inning when
Richard Jones doubled to score Jesus Morelli from second after Morelli turned a
single into a double on an error by Salem-Keizer third baseman, Kyle Mach.
Jones was left on base to end the fourth with a 3-1 score in favor of the
Volcanoes. Jones was one of two Hawks left on base.

After
taking over for Kirk in the top of the fifth inning, right handed pitcher
Carlos Rojas took control of the game. Despite an error by Boise shortstop Arismendy
Alcantara that scored the Volcanoes’ fourth run, Rojas was able to force
Salem-Keizer into an inning-ending double play.

Rojas
finished with one walk, three strikeouts and one earned run in three innings.

Darvill – one half of the 6-4-3 double play in the fifth – was able to cut the
Volcanoes lead down to two in the sixth, when his ground ball out scored Alvaro
Ramirez from third following a sacrifice by Boise catcher, Jose Guevara.

The
final blow came by way of a pass ball in the top of the eighth inning, scoring
Kyle Mach of Salem-Keizer, increasing the lead to 5-2 Volcanoes.

Christopher
Huseby and Andres Quezada each pitched one inning for the Hawks. Huseby gave up
two hits and one run and had one walk with one strikeout.

Though
a loss wasn’t the desirable way to kick off the season for anybody, the
fireworks show to cap off the night was met by cheers and laughter from
thousands of fans, relieved that the true first day of summer had finally
arrived.

The
Hawks will try and once again emerge above the .500 mark with a win over the
Volcanoes tomorrow night. Game time is once again 7:15 pm, and gates will open
to fans at 6:45 pm. 

After three games, Hawks show top-heavy hitting ability

brandon may.jpgThough only three games have been played by the Hawks in a still very young 2010 season, Boise has shown a very lopsided hitting performance throughout the lineup against the Yakima Bears.

Yes, the Hawks won their first opening series in God knows how long (at least since 2005 from the records I found), but the victories were delivered by the hitting successes of three players: Brandon May, Wes Darvill and Jesus Morelli. Combined, the three sluggers have accounted for nine of the team’s 11 RBIs, 14 of the team’s 21 hits and five of the team’s 12 runs; while averaging .391 to the rest of the team’s .089.
Clearly there is no reason to get alarmed after the first week of baseball, but some strengths and weaknesses thus far should be highlighted.
In each of the first three games of the season, South Korea national, Na Kyung-Min has led off for the club and has a .000 batting average in 11 at bats with three walks and three runs scored. Though the statistics may not praise Na early, his numbers do show strong plate discipline and base running ability (Na has two stolen bases on the season). In addition, the Chicago Cubs are no notorious for finding strong Korean talent (see Hak-Ju Lee, 2009), so we’ll give him some time to develop.
Hawks veteran, George Matheus is 1-8 through the first three games, and also has a low average of .091.
On the pitching side of things, skipper Jody Davis is limiting his hurlers to around three innings, while Juan Yasser Serrano (1-0) stayed on the mound through the fourth inning in Sunday’s win against the Bears.
Davis will send Austin Kirk to the mound against the hated, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Memorial Stadium’s, Monday night opener. He is in his second season with the club and will try to improve on his 2009 statistics when he went 1-1 with a 5.40 in two appearances.

Welcome to the Big Leagues: Joseph Zeller and Jeff Vigurs experience professional baseball for the first time

jeff vigurs.jpg

BOISE — Despite 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
roster – 15 of which have previously played for Boise – only 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.”

joe_zeller.jpg

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.

MLB Draft: Analysis of the Chicago Cubs First 15 Draft Choices

ReggieGoldenStillBig.jpgDay 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 inni
ngs 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.


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

hayden-simpson.jpgHello Hawks fans! Welcome to the first installment of my Boise Hawks Insider’s blog, geared toward the casual and die-hard fan alike, in order to deliver inside accounts beyond the diamond. This blog will be updated regularly throughout the 2010 summer season, and can be a one-stop-shop for everything Boise Hawks and Chicago Cubs. 

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 be ranked 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 mother 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 or 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 develop into the same trap that 25-year-old right hander, Jeff Samardzija has become. Samardzija 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 like Samardzija.