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Peoria 5 Beloit 3: Soler Slam Edition.

Posted by Tim Huwe on August 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM

I had already committed to attending this game with my dad and a neighbor before Javier Baez was promoted to Daytona.  Nonetheless, I still looked forward to attending and enjoying it without any star power.  On Thursday, I was updating some information on a Dominican Cubs reliever (Andin Diaz) who had been suspended for using metabolites of Stanizolol (which is a Great Name for a Rock Band) on Bleed Cubbie Blue (if you mainline Cubs information and don't mind some disagreement, you should be a frequent visitor.).  I was finally ready for bed when the Peoria Chiefs webcaster-extra-ordinairre Nathan Baliva announced 'major' Chiefs news was due in five minutes.


There went my day of sleep.


A few minutes later, he announced Cuban defector Jorge Soler was joining the team and would be in uniform for Thursday's game.  With him playing and driving in two runs on Friday, I was psyched for Saturday night's game.  Game notebook, check.  Sharpies, check.  (No, he didn't appear to be signing Autographs on Saturday.  Probably have to wait for a Topps set..... sigh).


A game with Soler, and a game with Miguel Sano, and I lead with....... reliever Sheldon McDonald?  Finesse lefties are really amusing to watch.  I'd seen McDonald pitch earlier this month for Peoria.  While I didn't get around to reviewing that game, he pitched an inning that night, getting two grounders to third and throwing a 84 MPH fastball by a hitter.  How does a pitcher throw an 84 MPH FB by a hitter?  The 76 MPH slider and the 71 MPH change-up 'set him up'.


McDonald was very good tonight in the seventh into the ninth.  Hitters were getting contact (when not mystified by his variety of off-speed stuff), but he had no troubles until a dropped flyball with 2 outs in the ninth cost him a save.  Not true, actually.  The dropped fly ball by Bijan Radamacher in left only extended the ninth.  The umpire reducing his strike zone to the size of a computer pixel led to successive walks by McDonald.  Larry Suarez closed it out by forcing a popout to short.


Love watching McDonald pitch.  In case you're curious, he is a Cubs 2011 33rd Round Pick from the University of British Columbia.  His ERA is under 2, and his WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) is at 1.00.  With Theo Epstein poaching, I mean hiring, every available scouting guru now, Cubs fans are now required to be up with all the new age stats.  Like WHIP.


I'm still impressed with two of the Beloit players.  Miguel Sano (19) is a pure beast.  While much of his value as a prospect will be tied to his ability to play third base (He made two fielding errors tonight, giving him 40 on the year.), he doubled twice, and hit two deep fly balls, one a sac fly.  I'm happy I got that Autographed card of his in a lot awhile back.  His bat is scary. 


Eddie Rosario is the other Snapper hitter of interest.  His only hit today was a triple, but he flat out legged it into a triple.  It's really fun watching a big guy run.  The first time I saw him this season, he homered.  Just before my second trip to Beloit, he was hurt in pre-game warm-ups, and missed some significant time.  The 20 year old Rosario is back, and was much better with the leather than before.  Nice prospect for the Twins.


They ran out two lefty pitchers.  My dad liked their starter, Taylor Rogers, an 11th Rounder in 2012 from Kentucky.  Armed with that info, he might be a threat to make it to Target Field.  His velocity appears low 90's but he has trouble with innings where his defense makes two errors.


Steven Gruver (2011, 7th Round) out of Tennessee throws a bit harder, but had less action on his pitches.  Both pitchers have ability, but neither one will be pitching road games in The Cell by 2014.


*****


Oh, you wanted to hear about Peoria?


Dustin Geiger continues to hit.  He went yard onto the berm in the game at Quad Cities I saw.  (By the way, lovely venue in Davenport.  Especially if you like the Mississippi River as the Right Field border.  And a major bridge lit up for you as night falls.)  Geiger only had one hit (a double to left) tonight, but neither lefty fooled him much.  His defense seems much better from when I saw him earlier in the season.  With Jeimer Candelario in Boise, Geiger in Peoria, and the recently added Christian Villanueva in Daytona, the Cubs have some 3B possibilities creeping through the system.


Wes Darvill led the game with three hits, including  double to left in the third.  Darvill could make for a solid coach in a few years, be it in the pro ranks, or somewhere more amateur.  He gets whatever he can from his ability.  And that includes hustling.


Zeke DeVoss (sandwiched at second between prospects Gioskar Amaya in Boise and Ronald Torreyes in Daytona) would have been the Cubs middle infield pipeline gem ten years ago.  ZeVo made a great defensive play in the ninth.  He ranged far to the second base side to merely make the grab, successfully transferred the ball, and threw out Snappers SS Tyler Grimes (who had earlier gone all Alfonso Soriano on a pitch in the other batter's box on strike three earlier) at first.  DeVoss doubled and laid down a sac bunt as well.  He has surprising power as well, though that isn't something the 5-10 infielder should try to focus on.  Don't go to sleep on DeVoss.


Zach Cates was Peoria's starter.  I can see why people like the 6-3 righty.  He flashes hard-to-hit pitches, and his curve can be nearly unhittable.  He is a bit wild.  I was intigued by his ten second stretching routine each inning before he starts his warm-up tosses.


******


You wanted to hear about Jorge Soler?  Who knew?  He makes solid contact, but tended to be topping the ball a bit tonight.  The shortstop and third baseman both had assists, though both balls were well struck.  His grand slam to center caromed off the top of the wall.  In many minor league parks and all the ones in the majors, it's an F-8.  But for me, it was very redeeming, as Javy Baez didn't homer for the two games I saw him.  Soler has nowhere near the bat speed, but will generate power once he figures out the pitchers stateside.


His third at bat, he showed patience, taking some pitches, including a strike that he didn't offer at.  I wouldn't call him a patient hitter, but he can work a count somewhat.


In the sixth, up 4-3, Soler batted with a runner at third an one out.  The crowd booed vehemently when the catcher held out his arm for the 'international sign' of the intentional walk.  Beloit is already in the post-season, due to a second-place finish in the MidWest League First Half standings.  I would have liked to see if the reliever Gruver was up to the challenge of facing Soler.  Apparently, Beloit's manager didn't.  A Wes Darvill single plated the runner from third an out later for the final margin.  Soler didn't seem interested in going first to third, but he wouldn't have had a chance to make it anyway on the play.


When Soler batted with two outs in the ninth, I got my revenge.  And enjoyed it.  The bases were empty, and the catcher signalled for a pitch to the pitcher.  I asked (a bit loudly) why the manager was pitching to Soler with two outs and nobody on.  Wouldn't it make more sense to intentionally walk him again?  A class clown is paid off in chuckles from the unsuspecting public.  We were even.


Realistically, there was only one defensive play to learn from.  While he recorded a putout in right, that was a play any competent RF makes, though it showed some decent range.  In the fourth inning, catcher Matt Koch singled to right.  If Billy Hamilton were running, it could have been interesting, but it was a player with only one pro steal in four tries.  As Soler ranged near the line and picked up the ball, I looked to second base for the throw to arrive.  It didn't, as Soler instead threw the ball to Zeke DeVoss at the cutoff spot.  Either this was an accident, or how Soler has been/is being trained to treat a single to right.  I'm used to outfielders in that spot trying to throw the ball to second.  Aaaaaand, airmailing the throw.  Hitting the cutoff is fine if the runner isn't going, but it's a nice call if the runner 'rounds the base too far', as it sets up a 9-4-3 putout.


If it sounds like I'm obsessing over nothing, here's a secret.  I'm kind of good at it.  Like Sheldon McDonald's 84 MPH blazer.  Comments welcomed below, and I will add pictures when I figure out how to.


Soler's Grand Slam on YouTube, h/t to Nathan Baliva.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep_1hVdmcWA&feature=player_embedded

Yeah, that's me in the front row bowing to his home run trot.  By the way, he was halfway to second when it left.




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