Cubs

Jose Quintana stays strong despite quiet Cubs bats

Jose Quintana stays strong despite quiet Cubs bats

Despite a 7-0 shutout loss Friday to open a three-game set against the Brewers, it wasn't for lack of effort on the mound for Cubs starter Jose Quintana.

The lefty went 6 2/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on four hits with six strikeouts on an afternoon when his numbers probably didn't look as good as his performance suggested.

"It was a battle. I executed my pitches, I just made one mistake with [Ryan] Braun," said Quintana, referencing a two-out solo homer in the fourth inning. "I was behind in the count and I missed a fastball away. I think that's the only mistake of the game. It was a tough game."

Despite the home run, Quintana fared well until running into trouble in the seventh inning, when he surrendered a single to Yasmani Grandal and then walked Jesus Aguilar on four pitches. That started what would eventually turn into a two-run inning.

"It just started with the breaking ball base hit to Grandal," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "After that, he kind of lost his zone a little bit. He walked Aguilar and walked [Orlando] Arcia and then eventually they got another run or two. It was just weird because he was going so well, Q was going so well, and after the base hit, things just changed a little bit."

Six weeks into the season, Milwaukee appears to be the only side giving Quintana much of a problem. The 30-year-old has had a resurgent campaign in which he's 4-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 36 2/3 innings in five starts against anyone not named the Brewers. His only two losses of the year have come at the hand of the NL Central foe, who have also posted a 10.24 ERA (much of that resulting from an eight-run clunker on April 5).

"You always want to support the pitcher," said infielder David Bote of the quiet offense. "They've kept us in a lot of ballgames the last month and you can't say enough about them. It was just a little bit off today in terms of finishing it off. It's going to happen."

It marks just the third time the Cubs have been shut out this year. On five occasions Friday the Cubs led off the inning with a man on but, were unable to convert. They were quick to credit opposing starter Gio Gonzalez's effort.

"Both starters were great. Gio was locating well," Bote said. "He was just able to mix things up and made a couple balls hit right at people. But it happens."

Gonzalez gave up just two hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out three.

"We faced a guy today who's been notoriously difficult," Maddon said. "In the last year we have not done as well against their pitching staff in general, we've got to figure them out. But it's one loss. Best out of three series. Let's go home, have a good night sleep and come back tomorrow."

 

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4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

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MiLB

4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

MLB Pipeline unveiled its annual top 100 prospects list on Saturday, and four Cubs minor leaguers made the cut.

Nico Hoerner (SS; No. 51), Brailyn Marquez (LHP; 68), Brennen Davis (OF; 78) and Miguel Amaya (C; 95) cracked the list for the North Siders. It’s the first time the Cubs have had four players on the list since 2016: Ian Happ (No. 21), Eloy Jimenez (23), Albert Almora Jr. (82) and Dylan Cease (98).

So yeah, it’s been a minute.

Cubs fans are most familiar with Hoerner; the 22-year-old made his big-league debut last September in an emergency spot after Javy Báez and Addison Russell got hurt. Hoerner hit .282/.305/.436 in 20 games and held his own defensively.

Hoerner is ranked as the No. 9 overall shortstop prospect, and he’ll get an opportunity to make the 2020 Opening Day roster. With Báez entrenched at shortstop, Hoerner will shift to second base and potentially play some center field, though he's still learning the latter.

Marquez, 20, is Pipeline’s No. 9 left-handed pitching prospect. The Cubs have struggled to develop homegrown starting pitching under Theo Epstein. In fact, Marquez is the first Cubs pitcher (LHP or RHP) to crack MLB Pipeline’s top 10 pitchers list during Epstein’s tenure on the North Side.

Marquez sported a 3.13 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 22 starts between Single-A South Bend and advanced-A Myrtle Beach in 2019. The 20-year-old struck out 128 batters in 103 2/3 innings, walking 50.

Cubs senior director of player development Matt Dorey said the club has “really high expectations” for Marquez this season.

“Brailyn, his last half of last year in Myrtle was an epic run, just in terms of the raw stuff, the strikes, the breaking ball development,” Dorey said Sunday at Cubs Convention. “I think it’s a little early to decide where he’s going to start [the season], but I would guess Double-A.

“But I wanna see how he comes into camp — especially with our new pitching infrastructure — that we’re not missing anything with his delivery or anything from a pitch data perspective. We want to make sure that’s really tied before we send him out [for] a long, full season. It’s such a big year for him. But I think it would be foolish to put any cap on what he can do this year.”

Marquez allowed two earned runs or less in nine of his final 10 starts (he allowed three earned runs on Aug. 26 — the lone exception). The Cubs promoted him to Myrtle Beach on Aug. 6, where he posted a 1.71 ERA with 26 strikeouts and seven walks in five starts (26 1/3 innings).

The Cubs drafted Davis out of high school in 2018 (second round, No. 62 overall). The 20-year-old was more of a basketball player and had some Division I offers, but he ultimately signed with the Cubs and received a $1.1 million bonus.

Davis is considered to be a raw, athletic talent. He hit .305/.381/.525 with eight homers and a 160 wRC+ in 50 games with South Bend last season. He missed time after getting hit on the hand on two separate occasions.

Although Davis is listed as a center fielder (199 innings in 2019) he played left almost as frequently (193 2/3) in 2019. Pipeline projects him to make his big-league debut in 2022.

Amaya spent all of 2019 with Myrtle Beach, slashing .235/.351/.402 with a 122 wRC+ in 99 games. His defense has always been ahead of his bat, and he’s known to be an advanced catcher for his age.

The Cubs added Amaya to the 40-man roster in November in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. However, he won’t make his big-league debut until 2021, at the earliest.

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Cubs agree to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

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USA TODAY

Cubs agree to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

The Cubs have made a roster move.

According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the Cubs and outfielder Steven Souza have agreed to a one-year, big-league deal. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported Friday the two sides were nearing an agreement.

Souza, 30, missed the 2019 season after suffering a torn left ACL and LCL at the end of spring training. He also missed a chunk of 2018, playing 72 games while hitting the injured list on multiple occasions. The Diamondbacks non-tendered him last month.

Souza is a career .233/.323/.417 hitter with 70 home runs in five seasons. His best campaign came with the Rays in 2017: .239/.351/.459, 30 home runs, 78 RBIs and a 121 wRC+ — all career-bests, excluding his average. He sported a walk rate (13.6 percent) above league average (8.5) that season, though his strikeout rate (29 percent) was worse than average (23).

Signing Souza likely rules out a return of fan favorite outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. The Cubs have been linked to Castellanos throughout the offseason, but since they're looking to stay under MLB’s luxury tax threshold, re-signing Castellanos would require some financial maneuvering.

Souza has spent most of his career in right field (3,608 career innings) but has minimal experience playing center (33 1/3) and left (20). He’s above average in right (career 6 Defensive Runs Saved) and posted a career best 7 DRS in 2017.

The Cubs have a five-time Gold Glove right fielder in Jason Heyward, so Souza will see time at all three outfield spots. Heyward moved to center full-time last season after the Cubs acquired Castellanos and has played center at times throughout his career.

He's coming off a serious knee injury, but Souza is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Cubs. If he's healthy, he’ll add power to the middle of the order and add another bat to an outfield group with some question marks. Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ have each struggled offensively at times since 2018. Souza offers another option in case those two slump again, with room for a larger role.