Bulls

Cubs minor-league roundup -- Week 3

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Cubs minor-league roundup -- Week 3

The Cubs are 5-12 and in last place in the NL Central, already six games out of first place. They're one game behind the lowly Houston Astros.

This isn't the "next year" Cubs fans have been waiting for. There's no getting around that fact.

But while the big-league club is hurting for talent, there are young players on the horizon, stirring up excitement for the future. Each Tuesday, we will take a look at how the Cubs' minor-league players are faring to date.
Triple-A Iowa

Anthony Rizzo is the hot story here, with 7 homers, 19 RBI and a .380.429.718 slash line in 18 games. He has two more homers than the entire major-league Cubs team.

Welington Castillo (.971 OPS), Adrian Cardenas (.958) and Luis Valbeuna (.910) are also performing admirably at the plate.

Dave Sappelt, who came over in the Sean Marshall deal, is struggling so far with a .239.282.388 line, as is Josh Vitters (.606 OPS, only two extra-base hits).

Top prospect Brett Jackson is striking out way too much (21 in 75 at-bats), but leads the team with 9 walks and also has 10 extra-base hits and is 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts.

25-year-old left-hander Chris Rusin may not strike a lot of guys out (only 9 in 21.1 innings), but he boasts a good 3.38 ERA and sparkling 1.13 WHIP in his four starts. Left-handed reliever Jeff Beliveau (3.72 ERA) and right-handed starter Casey Coleman (3.80 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) have also started the season on the right foot.

Travis Wood, the main piece in the Marshall trade, is getting by on a middling 5.19 ERA, but has only made three starts so far and got the ball to kick off Tuesday's game.

Right-handed reliever Manny Corpas challenged for a job in the big-league bullpen in spring training but has given up 16 hits and 11 runs (10 earned) in just 10.1 innings.

Double-A Tennessee

Trey McNutt, widely considered as the top pitching prospect in the organization, has been on fire to start the season, boasting a 0.77 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in his three starts. He does have 7 walks in 11.2 innings, however, and that is something Theo Epstein and Co. would love to see him correct.

Reliever Alberto Cabrera (1.74 ERA, 0.87 WHIP) is also off to a hot start while Casey Weathers, the second part to the Ian Stewart-Tyler Colvin trade, has struggled badly. Weathers has a 5.40 ERA and 2.40 WHIP in his first 5 innings and has surrendered a whopping 7 free passes.

Dae-Eun Rhee has a 4.76 ERA in three starts.

The Smokies are struggling on offense so far, but young infielders Logan Watkins (.779 OPS, 4 SB), Rebel Ridling (.777) and Elliot Soto (.735) have been the bright spots in the first few games.

Top prospect Junior Lake has started the season on the DL, but will probably join the Smokies when he returns.

High-A Daytona

Matt Szczur is hitting just .206 with a .537 OPS, but has 8 stolen bases already. He is extremely athletic and should start getting things going with the bat soon.

Second baseman Ronald Torreyes is only hitting .240, but has a .345 OBP and a .380 SLG. He's only 19, but excited Theo and Jed Hoyer enough that they acquired him as part of the Marshall deal from the Reds.

Zach Cates, acquired in the Rizzo-Andrew Cashner deal, has given up a whopping 20 hits and 14 earned runs in 8.1 innings. 2010 top draft pick Hayden Simpson is also struggling with a 7.11 ERA and 1.82 WHIP in three starts.

Tony Zych, a 2011 draft pick, has walked just one and allowed only three runs in nine innings.

Low-A Peoria

Outfield prospect Reggie Golden has many excited about his potential, but he's gotten off to a slow start with a .192 average, though it is in just 26 at-bats.

Marco Hernandez, ranked as the Cubs' 13th best prospect by MinorLeagueBall.com, is just 7-for-60 to start the year.

Ben Wells, a promising young right-handed pitcher, has a 6.28 ERA in three starts.

Etc.

Other top prospects INF Javier Baez, RHP Dillon Maples, 1B Dan Vogelbach, INF Jeimer Candelario, INF Gioskar Amaya and OF Shawon Dunston, Jr. have yet to start play in 2012.

Report: Bulls to hire Damian Cotter as Windy City head coach

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls to hire Damian Cotter as Windy City head coach

The Windy City Bulls are expected to name Damian Cotter their head coach, according to 2 Ways & 10 Days' Adam Johnson.

The Bulls were in search of a replacement for Charlie Henry, who took an assistant coaching role at Alabama University in April after two seasons with Windy City.

Cotter spent last season as an assistant with the Capital City Go-Go, the Washington Wizards' G-League affiliate. In 2018, Cotter was an assistant for the Long Island Nets, the Brooklyn Nets' G-League affiliate. Cotter, an Australian native, has also coached the NBL's Sydney Kings both as an assistant (2013-14) and head coach (2014-15). He has also coached U-19 men's and women's teams in Australia.

Coaching turnover isn't rare in the G-League, and Windy City is no exception. Cotter will become the team's third different head coach in four seasons since the team was founded in 2016. Nate Loenser, now an assistant under Jim Boylen and the coach of the Bulls' 2019 Summer League team, was Windy City's inaugural head coach.

Windy City enjoyed their first winning season in 2019, going 27-23 under Henry and bowing out in the first round of the postseason to the Westchester Knicks.

Myriad injuries to the NBA's Bulls meant that a half dozen Windy City alums saw time on the United Center floor at the end of last season. Those players included Walt Lemon, Jakarr Sampson, Brandon Sampson, Ryan Arcidiacono, Rawle Alkins and Cristiano Felicio.

 

Cubs know it's time to flip the script regarding road woes

Cubs know it's time to flip the script regarding road woes

As the Cubs got set to kick off the Crosstown series with the White Sox on the afternoon of June 18, GM Jed Hoyer emerged outside the third-base dugout and talked about a variety of topics regarding his team.

One such topic was the Cubs' ugly home-road splits and at the time, Hoyer said this about his team coming off a 2-5 road trip:

"It's been a source of frustration. I think we've had three subpar road trips. There's no other way to say it. It's not something I read too much into. This is a group that's had a lot of success on the road. They've won in hostile environments in the playoffs before, so it's not like they're intimidated by crowds or intimidated by travel. 

"But it's an issue with this particular group in 2019. we've played great here [at Wrigley Field]. We've played poorly on the road. If we want to reach our goals, then we're gonna have to play better on the road. All that said, we've had some really tough road series — starting out like that on the road was difficult. At Houston and at St. Louis was difficult and at Colorado and at LA — those were series that you're happy when that part of the schedule is done. 

"But there's no excuses — we have to play better on the road. I don't have any answers for it. I'd be lying to say that I really do, but I think it will change."

The issue is, it hasn't changed yet for the Cubs. 

That day was the start of a long homestand for the Cubs and the ensuing road trip — three games in Cincinnati, four in Pittsburgh and two on Chicago's South Side — didn't yield any better results for the team. They went 3-6 total, dropping their overall road record to 18-27 this season.

By comparison, the Cubs are a whopping 36-18 at "The Friendly Confines," including 7-2 over the past week-a-half.

They've enjoyed the benefit of home cooking for the last couple weeks, between the All-Star Break and a nine-game homestand to open the second half. But now they head back out on the road, with maybe their toughest task yet. 

The Cubs begin a three-game series in San Francisco Monday night against a Giants team that has been among the hottest in baseball over the last few weeks. Then there are stops in Milwaukee and St. Louis, against the two teams immediately behind the Cubs in the NL Central standings.

This will be a huge test for a Cubs team that hasn't won a series on the road since May 17-19 in Washington D.C.

"I don't feel anything different from the group," manager Joe Maddon said Sunday morning before his team's final home game of the month. "We've been through it before — it's not like it's an intimidation factor or an uncomfortable moment. I'm not getting that. We're just not playing as well. 

"I don't even know how much it's that the other teams have gotten better. I don't even know where this all comes together. But we're playing decently now. ...I want to believe that just playing better here coming out of the break that we have a better chance of starting out better on the road. We need to. To get where we want to be, we have to do that. On this coming trip, three really good foes and we gotta be on our best behavior."

Like Maddon said, they've done it before, including winning three of the four road games in the 2016 World Series, a wild Game 5 in D.C. in the 2017 NLDS and the list goes on and on.

During the previous four years under Maddon, the Cubs have posted a winning record on the road in each campaign:

2018 - 44-37
2017 - 44-37
2016 - 46-34
2015 - 48-33

In order to keep that streak going, the Cubs would have to go 23-13 on the road the rest of the way.

That's a tall order when there are still two trips each to St. Louis and Milwaukee on the schedule plus stops in Philadelphia, San Diego and a couple dates with the always-pesky Pirates in Pittsburgh.

"Obviously at home, we've won. We gotta start playing that same game on the road. It's as simple as that," Maddon said. "To get where we want to go, we have to become that road team that we've been in the past and there's no reason that we can't."

So what's been the biggest difference between the road Cubs and the home Cubs?

That would be the pitching.

On the road, the Cubs have a 4.97 ERA and allowing opponents to hit .267 with a .798 OPS. At home, those numbers drop significantly to a 3.36 ERA and .233 average and .684 OPS against.

Meanwhile, offensively, the Cubs are actually slightly more prolific on the road than they are at home.

Away from Wrigley, this lineup is scoring 5.27 runs per game while posting a .257 batting average and .798 OPS. At home, they're scoring 4.91 runs per game with a .254 batting average and .785 OPS.

In search of the culprit of the road pitching woes, the blame lies with some of the Cubs' top arms.

Kyle Hendricks has a 1.89 ERA at home and 5.44 mark on the road. Jon Lester sits at 2.95 at Wrigley and 5.09 outside of Chicago. Brandon Kintzler carries an 0.75 ERA at home, but that number jumps to 4.32 on the road. 

Only a few guys — Yu Darvish, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop — have better marks away from Wrigley than they do at home.

As the Cubs look to flip the script on the road, they'll send Alec Mills, Darvish and Lester to the mound in San Francisco against a Giants offense that ranks sixth in baseball in OPS (.833) in July.

"We came out of the break, we got a good rest and we're playing really good baseball right now on this homestand," Kyle Hendricks said. "So we're just trying to keep that momentum going on the road. Just not think about where we are and embrace it, keep playing the same baseball. It starts with us on the mound, making good pitches. Set the tone on the road, be aggressive the same way we've been doing here and hopefully turn that around."

Up until recently, Maddon didn't even realize his team had so many run prevention issues on the road.

"That's really strange for me," Maddon said. "I would not have guessed that. So apparently we need to be just a little tighter with the pitching side of things and keep what we're doing offensively. I didn't realize there was that much of disparity involved. I didn't break it down any deeper than that.

"...I know San Francisco has been on a nice run, but sounds like we need to pitch better on the road. That's what I got out of it."