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Caratini among top 10 catcher prospects

Maddon impressed by youngster's defensive skills in 2017 debut
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have yet to add a backup catcher to Willson Contreras. They may have that person already on the roster in Victor Caratini.

Caratini, 24, was named one of the top 10 catching prospects in baseball by MLB Pipeline, and he has definitely impressed the Cubs so far.

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have yet to add a backup catcher to Willson Contreras. They may have that person already on the roster in Victor Caratini.

Caratini, 24, was named one of the top 10 catching prospects in baseball by MLB Pipeline, and he has definitely impressed the Cubs so far.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Last season, Caratini was promoted to the big league team in late June. Contreras handled the majority of games, but on July 30 in Milwaukee, Anthony Rizzo was a late scratch and Caratini was needed to play first base. He hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning of the Cubs' 4-2 win over the Brewers. It also was his last game with the big league team until mid-August because the Cubs had acquired Alex Avila from the Tigers.

"It's a good moment for us, it's a good moment for him," Rizzo said at the time of Caratini's blast.

Video: CHC@MIL: Caratini hits his first Major League homer

It was the only homer he hit for the Cubs in 31 games -- he belted 10 homers and 27 doubles while batting .342 at Triple-A Iowa -- but the Cubs are counting on Caratini's defense more than his bat. The young catcher has not been shy to ask for more work with the Cubs' catching instructors to get better, and his defensive skills impressed manager Joe Maddon in his seven starts at catcher.

"He asks a lot of questions and he wants to learn," Rizzo said of Caratini. "He's a big student of the game. He's really quiet but also a really good observer. He's been nice for us, and he's learned a lot fast up here."

Caratini ranked 10th on MLB Pipeline's list, which was led by the Indians' Francisco Mejia. Cardinals prospect Carson Kelly was No. 2, and he may get more playing time soon, now that Yadier Molina has announced he will retire after the 2020 season.

Rounding out the top 10 are the Dodgers' Keibert Ruiz, the Athletics' Sean Murphy, the Tigers' Jake Rogers, the Phillies' Jorge Alfaro, the Orioles' Chance Sisco, the Blue Jays' Danny Jansen and the White Sox's Zack Collins.

Even though Contreras says he'd start all 162 games, the Cubs are a little more realistic. The question in 2018 will be whether Caratini can continue to progress if he's a backup in the big leagues or if he would be better off starting at Iowa. In five Minor League seasons, he's compiled a .289 batting average.

Video: Caratini named Cubs' Pipeline hitter of the year

When Caratini hit his first Major League home run in July, he was asked if he was trying to take Rizzo's job.

"No," Caratini said.

Cubs coach Henry Blanco, who was interpreting for Caratini, corrected him.

"The answer should be 'yes,'" Blanco said.

For now, Caratini will focus on catching.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

 

Chicago Cubs, Victor Caratini

By the book: Maples seeks 'pen role with Cubs

Right-hander advanced from Class A to Majors in 2017
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Dillon Maples was sitting at a Starbucks in Memphis on Aug. 31, reading about George Washington, when Cubs player development director Jaron Madison interrupted him. Triple-A Iowa's game against the Redbirds had been called because of the weather. An avid reader, Maples' plan was to hunker down in one of the coffee shop's comfortable chairs for the day.

"Jaron comes over and says, 'Hey, why don't you ride back with me to the hotel?'" said Maples, who was pitching in relief for Iowa, his third Minor League stop in 2017. "I said, 'You know, I'm probably going to get my drink refilled and hang out here for another hour.' He said, 'No, no, no, I think you need to come back with me.'

CHICAGO -- Dillon Maples was sitting at a Starbucks in Memphis on Aug. 31, reading about George Washington, when Cubs player development director Jaron Madison interrupted him. Triple-A Iowa's game against the Redbirds had been called because of the weather. An avid reader, Maples' plan was to hunker down in one of the coffee shop's comfortable chairs for the day.

"Jaron comes over and says, 'Hey, why don't you ride back with me to the hotel?'" said Maples, who was pitching in relief for Iowa, his third Minor League stop in 2017. "I said, 'You know, I'm probably going to get my drink refilled and hang out here for another hour.' He said, 'No, no, no, I think you need to come back with me.'

"I thought, this is a little weird," Maples said. "We get back to the hotel and he tells me, and I was ecstatic."

Madison's message was the news every Minor League player wants to hear: Maples was being called up to the big leagues. After six seasons in the Minors, including several stops, injuries and frustrations to the point where he nearly quit pitching, Maples was headed to the show.

Ranked 14th on MLB Pipeline's list of Top 30 Cubs prospects, Maples made his Major League debut on Sept. 3 against the Braves and walked one and struck out one in one inning. The Pirates roughed him up in his next outing the next day, scoring five runs on three hits and two walks, but he settled down in his final four outings. In six games with the Cubs, he struck out 11 over 5 1/3 innings and showed off an impressive slider.

Tweet from @MLBPipeline: #Cubs No. 14 prospect Dillon Maples notched his first @MLB strikeout during his debut. 🎥 https://t.co/cxENXmqCDn pic.twitter.com/E2IWCXOoLP

When the right-hander, who was a 14th-round pick in 2011, returned home for the offseason, he took about two weeks to reflect on what he had done. Maples began the year with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, was promoted to Double-A Tennessee then Iowa before reaching the Cubs.

"The first few weeks after the season ended, you're not doing too much. You're just relaxing, and I let it hit me," Maples said Sunday. "I thought about how crazy it was and all the people who have been supporting me through thick and thin. It's been really awesome, and I'm grateful to be surrounded by so many great people.

"Last year was pretty crazy, but I've moved on," he said. "That's why I had that two-week period to sit back and let it soak in. Now, it's, 'All right, let's go. Let's have a good camp and work on what I need to work on. Last year is irrelevant.'"

Maples will be invited to the Cubs' big league Spring Training camp, which will give him a chance to learn from the veteran pitchers.

"[For him], it's about being more consistent and efficient with his pitches," Madison said. "As long as he continues to do that, he'll stay healthy."

This offseason, the Cubs have added arms to the bullpen, including Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and Dario Alvarez. Maples has learned a lot about pitch sequencing in the Minors, and even if he's not on the big league roster on Opening Day, he's someone to keep an eye on.

"He has a slider that no one can hit and he can throw it in any count," Madison said.

By the way, Maples did finish the Washington biography.

"I love reading about battles and wars and people who lead people into battle," he said. "George Washington did everything. He formed this great nation, he was a leader of a bunch of rag tags. It's just awesome. His leadership and stoicism and everything he took on and was able to propel this nation. I enjoyed it."

The book was about 700 pages and a little intimidating, Maples said. He expected to need a year to read it. Getting to the big leagues can be intimidating, too.

"I'm trying to read about all of the people who were the glue to this country," he said. "They're all pretty interesting. I've got [Alexander] Hamilton lined up."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

 

Chicago Cubs, Dillon Maples

On fast track, Alzolay attends rookie program

No. 3 Cubs prospect using legs more in delivery, developing changeup
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Adbert Alzolay had a chance to extend his season by pitching in the Arizona Fall League last year. This month, the Cubs' pitching prospect took another step toward the big leagues by participating in Major League Baseball's Rookie Career Development Program. He got a little help from former Cubs prospect Gleyber Torres.

Alzolay, 22, ranked No. 3 among the Cubs' Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline, asked Torres, now with the Yankees, about the program.

CHICAGO -- Adbert Alzolay had a chance to extend his season by pitching in the Arizona Fall League last year. This month, the Cubs' pitching prospect took another step toward the big leagues by participating in Major League Baseball's Rookie Career Development Program. He got a little help from former Cubs prospect Gleyber Torres.

Alzolay, 22, ranked No. 3 among the Cubs' Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline, asked Torres, now with the Yankees, about the program.

"[Torres] said, 'This will be a good opportunity for you because you're going to learn about how to be in the big leagues your first year,'" Alzolay said of the rookie program, held in Leesburg, Va.

Video: Adbert Alzolay strikes out Tyler Krieger

Alzolay is on the fast track to the big leagues. The right-hander went 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 15 starts at Class A Myrtle Beach last season and posted a 3.03 ERA in seven starts at Double-A Tennessee.

"If he reaches his potential, he will someday be one of the five [starters], and closer to [No. 1] than five," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said of Alzolay, describing him as "an interesting high-ceiling starting pitcher."

When Alzolay was pitching in the AFL, he had two goals: to continue to work on using his legs more in his delivery, which Minor League pitching coach Anderson Tavarez recommended, and develop his changeup.

Video: Adbert Alzolay possesses high potential

"This year was a good year for me," Alzolay said. "Since Spring Training, I was focused on incorporating my legs to my delivery. Through the whole year, I was doing that with my pitching coach in High [Class] A, Anderson Tavarez. We were working on that every single day to use my legs. I think that was the key to have a successful year."

The changeup may be key to whether the right-hander gets the call.

"I know if I want to start in the big leagues, I need to have that pitch," Alzolay said. "That pitch will make me a better pitcher."

 

Chicago Cubs, Adbert Alzolay

Singleton's message transcends baseball

Cubs prospect's subject for speaking engagements: 'Love is always stronger than hate'
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- As you start a new year, consider a challenge from Cubs prospect Chris Singleton. He wants you to take a smiling photo with someone who looks different than you are. Singleton's hope is that you'll discover the two of you are not that different underneath.

His motivation? The death of his mother in a church shooting in Charleston, S.C., by a white supremacist.

CHICAGO -- As you start a new year, consider a challenge from Cubs prospect Chris Singleton. He wants you to take a smiling photo with someone who looks different than you are. Singleton's hope is that you'll discover the two of you are not that different underneath.

His motivation? The death of his mother in a church shooting in Charleston, S.C., by a white supremacist.

"I think I was chosen for this, the path I've been on," Singleton said. "It'd be easy for me to not say anything about it, it'd be easy for me to sit back and play baseball and act like nothing ever happened in my life. I owe it to people and owe it to my family to speak the way I do and really try to shed a light on my message. I feel [my mother is] definitely with me."

His mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, who was a minister at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, was one of nine people killed in the shooting on June 17, 2015. The next day, Singleton spoke on the Charleston Southern baseball field, saying he will never forget his mother's smile.

"Love is always stronger than hate," he said. "So if we just loved the way my mom would, then the hate won't be anywhere close to what it is."

Now, the 21-year-old outfielder, who was the Cubs' 19th-round pick in the Draft last June, is trying to share that inspirational message with more people.

"My main message is adversity and how we get through it in our lives and how everybody goes through it," Singleton said in a phone interview. "Adversity doesn't see color or age. It's coming for you and you need to be prepared when it happens."

He has created a website (www.thechrissingleton.com) and is selling "Love Your Neighbor" T-shirts. He had six speaking engagements booked for January, including two at the University of Texas and one at a youth conference in Florida.

"I'm just starting out," Singleton said. "[Love Your Neighbor] is supposed to be a challenge for someone to wear a shirt and take a picture with somebody who looks different than them, whether it's their skin color, whether it's an older person with a younger person, whether it's male and female -- it's just somebody different from what you look like.

"It's part of a plan I have for people to see we really do love each other," he said. "There's always conflict. You see stuff in the media and social media, people who think there should be two different sides to everything, which I think is happening a lot now and I don't like. Hopefully, what I want to happen, is that we see that we really do love each other and that's something I'm trying to spread."

On Jan. 12, Singleton will be honored by the Chicago Scouts Association as the 2017 recipient of the Charlie Donovan Memorial "Passion for the Game" Award, presented to an individual who shows a passion for their craft within the game or business of baseball. He is focused on the game.

"Baseball is definitely No. 1, but I feel baseball has given me more of a platform for my inspirational speaking," he said.

Last season was Singleton's first in pro ball and he batted .304 in 12 games with the Cubs' Arizona Rookie League team, then hit .185 in 27 games with Class A Short-Season Eugene.

"I started off really hot and cooled off a little bit, and when I started getting into the Minor League life, it hit me a little bit," he said. "I battled and played every single day and it was a lot of fun -- it was definitely a lot of fun. My team in Eugene, we ended up losing the [Northwest League] championship series, but we made a good run at it and had a lot of fun doing it."

It's been a challenging year. Last February, the Singletons went back to the church where his mother was shot to attend funeral services for their father. Chris lives with his fiancee and new son as well as his sister Camryn, 17, and brother Caleb, 14, in Charleston. He says he's not trying to be a parent to his siblings, just a big brother.

Before his talks, Singleton will write some notes. His message comes from the heart.

"I really want the Lord to speak through me," he said.

If you see Singleton play this season, watch closely. If he gets a big hit or makes a great catch, he'll give his mom a wink. On his Twitter account, he often adds, #CantLetMomsDown.

"This is all inspired by what has happened to me and my family," he said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

 

Chicago Cubs

Cubs can dream big about landing Ohtani

Getting two-way talent would bolster Chicago's roster
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- None of us know what Shohei Ohtani is going to do.

Nor do we know what president of baseball operations Theo Epstein will do with the Cubs' roster this winter.

CHICAGO -- None of us know what Shohei Ohtani is going to do.

Nor do we know what president of baseball operations Theo Epstein will do with the Cubs' roster this winter.

But should these two items happen to intersect, we can safely say the possibilities are wild.

The signing of Tyler Chatwood on Thursday to a three-year deal -- big in its own right given that Chatwood is heading into his age-28 season, the point in his career when Max Scherzer and Jake Arrieta asserted themselves -- could wind up as merely the first in a series of moves that will give manager Joe Maddon the best, deepest rotation in the Major Leagues.

Hot Stove Tracker

As one of two non-West Coast teams in the Ohtani hunt, the Cubs have been called an outlier. After all, they have $300,000 in international slot money available, while teams like the Mariners ($3.557 million), Rangers ($3.535 million) and Angels ($2.13 million) rate substantially higher.

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

But there's something about the Cubs that intrigues Ohtani, agent Nez Balelo and those around them. It's probably this: They've been the winningest team in the Majors the last three seasons, and all of the key ingredients to their lineup -- many of them moving parts and all of them buying into the model of unselfishness set by Anthony Rizzo and other veterans -- are until control for four more years.

There's no end in sight for the team that was once a sleeping giant. Its goal is to win 100 games and the World Series every year, and both Epstein and chairman Tom Ricketts will do everything in their power to get to that goal.

Imagine if Ohtani says he wants to be a part of that big picture.

He'll carry huge expectations wherever he goes, given his triple-digit fastball and his desire to be a two-way regular, but he's not going to make or break the Cubs like he would some other teams on his list.

He's got front-of-the-rotation stuff but he'd likely open 2018 working behind Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana in a modified six-man rotation that will include Chatwood and at least one starter likely to be acquired in the next few weeks.

Knowing Epstein, you shouldn't rule out him still making another big starter move even if he does get Ohtani.

The Cubs are in great shape to land any free agent on the market, although Epstein insists he's dealing with limited resources, like every other baseball executive.

"We have some financial flexibility,'' Epstein said Thursday. "Our job is to put it to good use. Also [to] keep one eye on the 2018 team but one eye on the future as well, make sure we're positioned for future free-agent markets, impact players when they might become available and put ourselves in a position to retain the talent we already have.''

Video: MLB Now chats about Ohtani's final meetings

The Cubs have shed significant payroll between the Miguel Montero trade last July and the recent decision to non-tender Hector Rondon. Their list of current free agents includes Arrieta, John Lackey, Wade Davis, Jon Jay and Koji Uehara, who earned between $6 million (Uehara) and $16 million (Lackey).

Chatwood's agreement for $38 million leaves the Cubs with an estimated payroll below $140 million. That's more than $40 million less than their Opening Day number last season (including the cost of player benefits) and almost $60 million below the Competitive Balance Tax limit of $197 million.

Ohtani will make the Major League minimum the next three years. If the Cubs land him, they could still take a run at the top end of the free-agent market, attempting to add Yu Darvish or re-sign Arrieta.

Imagine a six-starter mix that has Darvish/Arrieta and then Hendricks, Lester, Quintana, Ohtani and Chatwood, with swing man Mike Montgomery available as a seventh man?

Have I gone too far? Probably but only because it feels like overkill, not because it's impossible.

Video: Rogers on Cubs being involved in Ohtani sweepstakes

Epstein says he expects to talk to agent Scott Boras about Arrieta at the upcoming Winter Meetings. If he adds Ohtani, he probably won't want to add a starter on a four-, or five-year contract, even Darvish or Arrieta, but he could if he felt like being greedy.

It's more likely the Cubs would use their financial flexibility to re-sign Davis or sign Greg Holland to fill the closer's hole. They will probably add a set-up man or two as well, with the ability to win bidding wars as they develop.

Ohtani, a left-handed hitter projected as a corner outfielder when he isn't pitching, would make it at least a little easier to deal young position players for a significant pitching piece -- starter or closer.

Kyle Schwarber is the obvious choice but the Cubs don't want to give up on him. It's seems more likely they'd keep him for 2018 and, if necessary, trade from their group of middle infielders/utility men (Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Ian Happ).

Chatwood has been wild and inconsistent throughout a career that included lost seasons (most of 2014 and all of 2015 due to elbow injury and Tommy John surgery). He's been good away from Coors Field, got a nice uptick in his velocity last season and is also throwing his secondary pitches for strikes more often.

Chatwood slots in nicely at the back of the rotation, like Arrieta when he arrived at Wrigley Field as a 27-year-old. It's going to be fun to see how he develops as a project for Jim Hickey, who is reuniting with Maddon as the Cubs' pitching coach.

And if the Cubs add Ohtani, it could make for another big season for the Cubs.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

 

Chicago Cubs

Cubs make pitch to two-way phenom Ohtani

Chicago created persuasive video presentation, as it did to sign Lester, Heyward, Zobrist
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Cubs met Shohei Ohtani on Tuesday, according to MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal, and they made their pitch to the two-way Japanese superstar for why he should come to Chicago.

According to multiple reports, Ohtani and his agents have met with six of his seven finalists, except the Padres. The other clubs are the Giants, Dodgers, Mariners, Angels and Rangers.

CHICAGO -- The Cubs met Shohei Ohtani on Tuesday, according to MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal, and they made their pitch to the two-way Japanese superstar for why he should come to Chicago.

According to multiple reports, Ohtani and his agents have met with six of his seven finalists, except the Padres. The other clubs are the Giants, Dodgers, Mariners, Angels and Rangers.

Hot Stove Tracker

A right-handed pitcher and left-handed slugger, Ohtani has until Dec. 22 to sign with a Major League team. The team that signs him also will need to pay a $20 million posting fee to the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

Ohtani got an up-close look at the Cubs' Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz., last year while doing rehab work in February, according to the Kyodo News. The Cubs' state-of-the-art complex opened in 2014 and includes a 7,500-square-foot workout and training facility. The Fighters have held the first phase of Spring Training at the Padres' complex in Peoria, Ariz., the past few years.

The Cubs have been quiet about negotiations, but team president of baseball operations Theo Epstein does know how to make a strong presentation. When the Cubs were courting free agent Jon Lester, they created a recruiting video that included a fake World Series play-by-play call by the team's broadcasters. In the video, Lester was starting Game 7 of the World Series.

The video also featured highlights of the Cubs' talented young players, such as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and focused on why it was a good time to play for Chicago. The Cubs did a similar video presentation for then-free agents Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, and that one included Lester and David Ross saying, "Everything they told us last year came true."

 

Chicago Cubs

Maddon intrigued by Ohtani's two-way talent

Cubs reportedly on list of seven teams still in running for Japanese star
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Could Shohei Ohtani pitch, hit and play the outfield for the Cubs? Manager Joe Maddon is definitely intrigued by the idea of having a two-way player.

The Cubs are reportedly one of seven teams still in the running to sign the Japanese player, joining the Mariners, Giants, Padres, Angels, Rangers and Dodgers. The Cubs have not confirmed the report.

CHICAGO -- Could Shohei Ohtani pitch, hit and play the outfield for the Cubs? Manager Joe Maddon is definitely intrigued by the idea of having a two-way player.

The Cubs are reportedly one of seven teams still in the running to sign the Japanese player, joining the Mariners, Giants, Padres, Angels, Rangers and Dodgers. The Cubs have not confirmed the report.

A right-handed pitcher and left-handed slugger, Ohtani, 23, has until Dec. 22 to make a decision.

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

All 30 Major League teams were believed to have submitted a questionnaire requested by Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo. Ohtani was interested in teams' evaluation of him as both a pitcher and a hitter, as well as their player development program, medical training and player-performance philosophy, team facilities both for Spring Training and the regular season, and information on the home city and why its organization is the right fit. They wanted the information in both English and Japanese.

Hot Stove Tracker

What's interesting about the final seven teams is that money didn't appear to be the deciding factor. The Yankees, Twins, Pirates and Rangers could pay Ohtani $2 million or more, and Texas was the only team among those four to make the final seven. The Mariners have $1,557,500 available in their bonus pool, while the Giants, Padres, Dodgers and Cubs can only pay Ohtani a $300,000 bonus.

Whichever team wins Ohtani's approval also will need to pay a $20 million posting fee to the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

All 30 Major League teams were cleared to pursue Ohtani on Friday when he was officially posted once Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball came to an agreement with MLB that allows clubs a three-week period to sign him.

While Ohtani was believed to prefer a West Coast team, playing and pitching for the Cubs apparently intrigued him.

Video: Yankees among teams out of running for Ohtani

Maddon tried to experiment with a two-way player in 1992. At that time, Maddon was on the Angels' Minor League coaching staff, and he wanted to come up with some way to take advantage of Deshawn Warren's talents. A second-round Draft pick out of Choctaw County High School in Butler, Ala., Warren was a left-handed pitcher, but he was also the fastest player on the team.

Maddon wanted Warren to pitch and also be the designated hitter and play some outfield. But Angels general manager Dan O'Brien nixed that.

"I've always been intrigued by the concept," Maddon said on Friday during a radio interview in Chicago. "I see nothing wrong with it. How do you utilize it? I think a lot of that would be in progress. You'd have an idea of what you want to do, then you'd figure out more as you do it. But yeah, I definitely think it's something that's the wave of the future, in a sense."

The Cubs are in need of another starter with Jake Arrieta and John Lackey likely to depart in free agency, but they do have a crowded outfield with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

 

Chicago Cubs

Burks grabs AFL opportunity, runs with it

MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League season ended Saturday, and it was a perfect opportunity for Cubs prospect Charcer Burks.

A ninth-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, Burks played for the Mesa Solar Sox, who lost to Peoria in the AFL championship game, 8-2, on Saturday. In 18 games, Burks, 22, batted .236 with seven doubles, seven RBIs and two stolen bases. He injured his side on the first day, but was able to participate more later in the season.

MESA, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League season ended Saturday, and it was a perfect opportunity for Cubs prospect Charcer Burks.

A ninth-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, Burks played for the Mesa Solar Sox, who lost to Peoria in the AFL championship game, 8-2, on Saturday. In 18 games, Burks, 22, batted .236 with seven doubles, seven RBIs and two stolen bases. He injured his side on the first day, but was able to participate more later in the season.

Arizona Fall League coverage

"I was really excited to be named to participate in the Fall League," Burks said. "I was really hoping I got the opportunity, and that's exactly what it is -- an opportunity. It's an awesome opportunity to come out here and play with some of the best young players in the game and show I can hold my own.

"This is a very competitive environment," he said. "It's a lot of fun, more than anything. It's a blessing being out here."

Video: CIN@CHC: Burks smokes a three-run home run to left

Other Cubs prospects on Mesa included second baseman David Bote, who batted .333 in 19 games; catcher Ian Rice, who hit .311 in 13 games, and third baseman Jason Vosler, who hit .210 in 23 games. Among the pitching prospects, Jake Stinnett posted a 1.80 ERA in seven games, striking out 14 over 10 innings, while Pedro Araujo had a 1.74 ERA in nine games. Alec Mills made six starts and highly touted prospect Adbert Alzolay fanned 13 over 11 2/3 innings in seven games.

The AFL features top prospects who teams believe are close to reaching the Major Leagues. Even though some players are a little weary after long Minor League seasons, Burks said it was important preparation for a possible postseason run with the Cubs.

"Hopefully, next year, I'll be playing in October with the big league club, so this is a good experience for me to keep playing this long," he said, smiling.

On Monday, Burks may find out how close he is. The Cubs have seven players ranked in the Top 30 by MLBPipeline.com who need to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being exposed in the Rule 5 Draft. That list includes Burks, ranked No. 22, and Alzolay (No. 3). Other Cubs prospects to be considered are right-handers Oscar De La Cruz (ranked No. 1), Trevor Clifton (No. 9) and Erling Moreno (No. 26); left-hander Jose Paulino (No. 29); and infielder/outfielder Chesny Young (No. 16). As of Friday, the Cubs' 40-man roster sat at 34.

Video: Adbert Alzolay possesses high potential

Burks does have a talent that he wants to emphasize more, and that's speed. He stole 28 bases in 2015 at Class A South Bend, 23 at Class A Myrtle Beach in '16, and 16 last year at Double-A Tennessee, where he batted .270.

"I do need to work on applying [my speed] more in games, stealing bases," Burks said. "That's a skill, a technique. Also, knowing the game, knowing counts and situations, and good situations to run. All of that stuff I'm starting to learn now and I think when I can put it all together, I can use my speed more."

Burks will now head home to Houston. He wasn't there when Hurricane Harvey hit, and said his family was spared from major damage. His aunt's house needed a new roof after the storm, and he had friends who had to deal with flooding.

"It was weird being away from all of that because you knew what was happening back home," Burks said. "It was kind of tough, but everyone managed to stay safe and everyone is fine, so that's the main thing. I could honestly care less about what happened to the house or property -- as long as everybody is safe, it's good."

He won't take much of a break. Burks credits his offseason training for helping him move up in the Cubs' system.

"Spring Training comes fast," Burks said. "Every offseason, I've learned what I need to do, how I need to go about my business to get ready for the next season. Every season for me has been better, and I think a good majority of that has come from my offseason."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

 

Chicago Cubs, Charcer Burks

Cubs prospect Alzolay has ace potential

No. 3 in system, right-hander getting close to big leagues
MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- Adbert Alzolay didn't pick up a baseball until he was 6 years old, when his grandfather introduced him to the game. Now 22, the Venezuelan right-hander is someone the Cubs are keeping an eye on.

Ranked No. 3 among Cubs prospects by MLBPipeline.com, Alzolay was pitching for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. He went 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 15 starts at Class A Myrtle Beach last season and posted a 3.03 ERA in seven starts at Double-A Tennessee.

MESA, Ariz. -- Adbert Alzolay didn't pick up a baseball until he was 6 years old, when his grandfather introduced him to the game. Now 22, the Venezuelan right-hander is someone the Cubs are keeping an eye on.

Ranked No. 3 among Cubs prospects by MLBPipeline.com, Alzolay was pitching for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. He went 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 15 starts at Class A Myrtle Beach last season and posted a 3.03 ERA in seven starts at Double-A Tennessee.

"If he reaches his potential, he will someday be one of the five [starters], and closer to [No. 1] than five," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said of Alzolay, describing him as "an interesting high-ceiling starting pitcher."

"He's an exciting, young kid with high character and electric stuff," Epstein said. "He's got a great starter kit and will pitch at the upper levels of the farm system next year."

Alzolay has come a long way. He never considered baseball until his grandfather took him to a diamond. Alzolay played third base and the outfield, but at 13, he told his parents he was going to pitch.

Video: Adbert Alzolay possesses high potential

"I said, 'Dad, I just want to pitch. I like to pitch,'" Alzolay said. "My father said, 'It's up to you. If you want to do it, you should try.'"

Alzolay's approach at that time was to throw as hard as he could, firing fastballs nonstop. Marwin Gonzalez's father, Mario, a scout for the Rays in Venezuela, offered Alzolay some guidance when the pitcher was 16.

"He said, 'I know you have an opportunity to sign as a professional baseball player,'" Alzolay said. "I started to practice every day, building up, building up."

He signed with Leones de Caracas, a Venezuelan Winter League team, which is where the Cubs scouts saw him.

"They called my dad, and said, 'We want to try out your son in five days,'" Alzolay said. "That was real quick. My dad talked to me and said, 'You have a great opportunity.' I was super excited."

Alzolay was one of several players at the Cubs' academy in Venezuela, and the right-hander was the first to throw.

"I was super nervous," he said. "I just threw like 12 pitches, and the scout said, 'That's it.' I said, 'Really?' After the tryout, they called my dad and said, 'We need to talk.'"

The Cubs staff had obviously seen enough of Alzolay before those 12 pitches to make a decision to sign him in December 2012. He has worked his way up, making his U.S. debut in 2014 with Class A Boise. He only threw three innings there.

"They sent me to Arizona Rookie Ball [that year] because they said, 'You're going to be a starter, and you're young and we're going to prepare you for the future,'" Alzolay said.

He's improved each season, and this year, Alzolay's fastball velocity has increased. He's learned how to use his lower body more, thanks to work with Minor League pitching coach Anderson Tavarez.

"I really felt it," Alzolay said.

During an AFL outing on Oct. 27, he struck out two batters, getting the first on a 97-mph fastball and the second on an 83-mph curve. He's still fine-tuning his changeup.

"That's my third pitch, and I need to get it ready," Alzolay said of the change. "If you want to play in the big leagues, you need to have that pitch, you need to be able to throw that pitch in any count. I can throw my fastball and breaking ball whenever I want. Sometimes with my changeup, I'm like, 'Should I throw that pitch or not?' I don't trust that pitch too much, so I'm working on that really hard."

The biggest boost in Alzolay's young career may have come from the Cubs' mental skills coaches, including Rey Fuentes and former big league outfielder Darnell McDonald. Alzolay now meditates every day.

"That's part of my routine," Alzolay said. "Last year, I was like, 'OK, I'll do meditation,' but it was kind of boring. I didn't know if I needed it. [Fuentes and McDonald] told me, 'You need to be more focused on your game. You have all the tools to be a big leaguer. If you prepare your mind as you prepare your body, you'll be a perfect baseball player.'

"I said, 'OK, I'm going to try,'" Alzolay said. "I started to do meditation and yoga at the same time. When I'm on the mound and I get in a situation, I just breathe and everything [calms] down. Meditating helps me to be in control every time, to be in the game, to be in the present all the time."

Once the AFL season ends, Alzolay will go home to Venezuela to spend the holidays with his family. Epstein didn't project Alzolay as one of the Cubs' 2018 starters, but the youngster is getting close. He knew that Epstein had mentioned his name.

"I heard about it," Alzolay said. "That's why I'm getting ready. I'm getting super prepared to be in the big leagues. I think it's time to be there."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

 

Chicago Cubs

Cubs' Arizona Fall League overview

Burks motivated by franchise's success developing hitters
MLB.com

The Cubs may not have repeated as World Series champions, but they did reach the National League Championship Series for the third consecutive year and still have the best nucleus of young hitting talent in the game. Of the 11 players who got regular at-bats for Chicago, nine were 27 or younger.

Cracking that lineup could seem like a daunting task. But Cubs outfield prospect Charcer Burks, currently in the Arizona Fall League, sees the franchise's resounding success developing hitters as inspiring.

The Cubs may not have repeated as World Series champions, but they did reach the National League Championship Series for the third consecutive year and still have the best nucleus of young hitting talent in the game. Of the 11 players who got regular at-bats for Chicago, nine were 27 or younger.

Cracking that lineup could seem like a daunting task. But Cubs outfield prospect Charcer Burks, currently in the Arizona Fall League, sees the franchise's resounding success developing hitters as inspiring.

"It's motivating me a lot," Burks said. "A good majority of those guys came from the Minor Leagues at some point and at some point I've played with them, during the season or in some kind of camp. To see them now, having success in the big leagues when I knew they were in around the same position I am currently, it definitely motivates me and reminds me that in the near future I could be there helping Chicago win a championship."

Arizona Fall League roster & stats

Coming out of the Houston area, Burks planned on attending McLennan (Texas) CC before an impressive pre-Draft workout boosted his stock in 2013. The Cubs drafted him in the ninth round and signed him for $170,000. Since then he has steadily improved while advancing one level per season.

Burks' best tool always has been his plus speed, which is an asset on the bases and in center field. He does have a below-average arm, though he has worked diligently to make it playable in center. He has a knack for getting on base and has begun to translate the wiry strength in his 6-foot, 170-pound frame into occasional pop.

Cubs Top 30 Prospects list

As a 22-year-old in Double-A this season, Burks batted .270/.370/.395 with 10 homers and 16 steals in 121 games. While he doesn't see himself as a power hitter, he is trying to cut loose with his right-handed swing when the opportunity present itself.

"That's one of the things I'm just working on, and I think all that's going to start coming together the more I learn the game and learning counts to do damage in and learning counts to just put the ball in play, to drive the ball back up the middle and the other way," Burks said. "Having my speed in my back pocket is always nice too, keeping the ability to run. I think that I'm very happy with the progress that I've made over the years and I don't think I'm anywhere near my full potential yet, so I'm excited."

Cubs hitters in the Fall League

David Bote, 2B/OF -- With his hitting ability, gap power and versatility (he has played everywhere but catcher and center field as a pro), Bote could play a utility role. An 18th-round pick from Neosho County (Kan.) CC, he batted .270/.351/.436 with a career-best 14 homers in 127 Double-A game this year. His hot start to the AFL season earned him Player of the Week honors.

Ian Rice, C/1B -- Rice also set a career high for homers, smacking 17 while hitting .230/.353/.423 in 119 Double-A contests. The 29th-rounder from Houston in 2015 stands out most for his pop and his eye at the plate, though his defense is still a work in progress.

Jason Vosler, 3B -- Another Cubs prospect who set a personal best in homers in Double-A, Vosler went deep 21 times in 129 games and batted .241/.343/.429. Signed as a 16th-rounder from Northeastern in 2014, he offers left-handed power and is turning into a solid defender at third base.

Cubs pitchers in the Fall League

Adbert Alzolay, RHP -- The best advanced starting pitching prospect in Chicago's system, Alzolay backs up a 92-97 mph fastball with a hard curveball. Signed out of Venezuela in 2012, the Cubs' No. 3 prospect went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA and a 108/34 K/BB ratio in 114 1/3 innings between high Class A and Double-A.

Pedro Araujo, RHP -- Araujo spent four years in Rookie leagues and didn't get to full-season ball until 2016, five years after he signed out of the Dominican Republic. He used a lively 91-95 mph fastball as his primary weapon while recording 10 saves, a 1.76 ERA and an 87/18 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings, mostly in high Class A.

Alec Mills, RHP -- A 22nd-round choice by the Royals from Tennessee-Martin in 2012, Mills joined the Cubs in a February trade for outfield prospect Donnie Dewees. A control-oriented starter with a solid fastball and changeup, the Cubs' No. 20 prospect injured his ankle in mid-April and made just seven starts during the regular season.

Video: Mills discusses pitching in the Arizona Fall League

Jake Stinnett, RHP -- Stinnett showed a plus sinker and slider at Maryland, which got him drafted in the second round in 2014, but his stuff regressed in pro ball. He missed the first three months this season with an injury, then he posted a 1.19 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings as a reliever, mostly in Double-A.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

 

Chicago Cubs

Cubs' Vosler comes up big with walk-off triple in AFL

MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs prospect Jason Vosler walked to the plate on Friday with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, his team trailing by a run. The third baseman was hitless that day, and he knew he needed something big.

With runners on first and third, Vosler hit a sharp line drive to center field, sending both runners home. His walk-off triple lifted the Mesa Solar Sox to a 7-6 victory over Surprise.

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs prospect Jason Vosler walked to the plate on Friday with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, his team trailing by a run. The third baseman was hitless that day, and he knew he needed something big.

With runners on first and third, Vosler hit a sharp line drive to center field, sending both runners home. His walk-off triple lifted the Mesa Solar Sox to a 7-6 victory over Surprise.

Gameday

"It felt good, personally, because I was 0-for-4 going into that, so I was happy to get another AB there and give the team a chance to win," Vosler said.

Vosler was a 16th-round pick in the 2014 Draft from Northeastern University in Boston. He was one of eight players with a hit in Friday's game, and he joined Sean Murphy and Kyle Tucker as one of three players with two RBIs. Murphy is the Oakland A's No. 11 prospect, and Tucker is the Houston Astros' No. 1 prospect. Tucker also is No. 7 on the MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list.

"We had a little bit of rally going there," Vosler said. "Like I said, I was looking for a good pitch to hit, I was able to get it, drove it into the gap, and Kody [Eaves] was able to come around and score."

It was a slow start for the Solar Sox, who trailed 4-0 entering the bottom of the sixth. That was when the bats came alive, and the team put some numbers on the board. Going into the ninth inning, the Solar Sox were still trailing 6-3. After an action-packed inning for the hosts, Vosler's at-bat was just what they needed to seal the comeback.

"It's just a good win," Vosler said. "Anytime you can get a win, it has the team feeling good, especially going into the off-days here. It just gives us a good team vibe."

The Solar Sox victory lifts their record to 5-5. Mesa will look to extend its two-game win streak and take control of the East as they travel to Scottsdale on Monday.

Brittany Bowyer is a graduate journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

 

Chicago Cubs

How they were built: Cubs

World Series champs return to postseason, thanks to homegrown core, big trades
MLB.com

MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of their projected Division Series rosters.

Just when you thought you wouldn't have to hear "1908" and "Cubs" in the same sentence after Chicago won its first World Series in more than a century last year, we'll note that the Lovable no-longer Losers haven't captured consecutive championships since, well, 1908.

MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of their projected Division Series rosters.

Just when you thought you wouldn't have to hear "1908" and "Cubs" in the same sentence after Chicago won its first World Series in more than a century last year, we'll note that the Lovable no-longer Losers haven't captured consecutive championships since, well, 1908.

That's what the Cubs will shoot for as they make their third straight postseason appearance, something they've done only once before in the 141-year history of the franchise. Their previous three-year streak came in 1906-08.

Chicago cruised to the playoffs in 2016, spending just one day out of first place in the National League Central and building a double-digit lead by mid-June. This season was more turbulent, with the Cubs not crossing .500 for good until mid-July and not clinching the division until the final week. Yet GM Jed Hoyer says 2017 has felt more satisfying in some ways.

:: How each postseason team was built ::

"Last year when we won the division, we were up by 15 games by September and there was no drama to it," Hoyer said. "We won the division in April really, and it never got that close. This year was much more difficult. We were two games under .500 at the All-Star break and it was a lot harder this year."

HOMEGROWN

Player, how acquired, year, 2017 Baseball-Reference WAR (15.8):

Willson Contreras, Int'l sign, 2009, 3.9
Javier Baez, Draft, 2011 (1st round), 2.9
Albert Almora Jr., Draft, 2012 (1st), 1.1
Kris Bryant, Draft, 2013 (1st), 6.1
Kyle Schwarber, Draft, 2014 (1st), 0
Ian Happ, Draft, 2015 (1st), 1.8

When president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, Hoyer and vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod arrived in the fall of 2011, they decided to assemble a nucleus of position players. They spent their first three first-round selections on: Almora (2012), who scored the game-winning run in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series; Bryant (2013), the 2016 National League MVP who's making a strong case for the award again this year; and Schwarber (2014), whose 1.178 postseason OPS trails only Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in baseball history.

Almora, Bryant and Schwarber will continue to play leading roles as the Cubs try to defend their title. So will 2011 first-rounder Baez, who combines power and defensive wizardry like few infielders can, and 2015 first-rounder Happ, who has hit 24 homers as a rookie. Add Contreras, who signed for $850,000 as a third baseman out of Venezuela in 2009 and since has blossomed into one of the game's top young catchers, and the Cubs have six homegrown everyday players.

Interestingly, those are the only homegrown players on Chicago's projected October roster, tying them with the D-backs for the fewest among playoff clubs. The Cubs haven't signed and developed any of their postseason pitchers, a void they hope to fill in the future. They spent 13 of their first 14 Draft picks in 2016 and seven of their top eight in 2017 on arms.

"One of our goals all along was that if we could build a really good group of young homegrown hitters, they would provide roster stability for a long time," Hoyer said. "Then we could draft and develop and also sign free-agent pitchers. We've known for a while that the challenge was going to be to put a good enough rotation and bullpen around the young hitters. That's been a strategic goal of ours."

TRADES/WAIVERS

Player, year, acquired from, bWAR (21.5):

Anthony Rizzo, 2012, Padres, 4.4
Kyle Hendricks, 2012, Rangers, 3.5
Jake Arrieta, 2013, Orioles, 1.9
Pedro Strop, 2013, Orioles, 1.1
Carl Edwards Jr., 2013, Rangers, 1.6
Addison Russell, 2014, Athletics, 2.4
Tommy La Stella, 2014, Braves, 0.3
Mike Montgomery, 2016, Mariners, 2.2
Wade Davis, 2016, Royals, 1.9
Jose Quintana, 2017, White Sox, 1.3
Alex Avila, 2017, Tigers, 0.7
Justin Wilson, 2017, Tigers, -0.1
Leonys Martin, 2017, Mariners, 0.3

The new regime's first impact transaction was sending Andrew Cashner to the Padres for Rizzo in January 2012. Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod were all with the Red Sox when they signed Rizzo for an above-slot $325,000 as a sixth-rounder in 2007, and Hoyer and McLeod had moved on to San Diego when they acquired Rizzo in the Adrian Gonzalez blockbuster three years later.

In the early stages of the rebuilding process, the Cubs continued to deal prospects for veterans. They'll readily admit that they didn't see Hendricks (part of a package from the Rangers for Ryan Dempster in 2012) leading the big leagues in ERA in 2016 or Arrieta (who came from the Orioles with Strop in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger in 2013) developing into a Cy Young Award winner. They did know they were getting one of baseball's best prospects when they pried Russell from the Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija deal in 2014.

Video: Davis, Quintana among impact-makers from trades

Once Chicago started winning, it reversed course. It sacrificed Gleyber Torres as the headline prospect in a trade last summer for Aroldis Chapman, who saved four games and won two (including Game 7 of the World Series) last October. It dealt for another closer last December, using surplus outfielder Jorge Soler to obtain Davis from the Royals.

The Cubs tapped into their prospect depth again this July to bolster their rotation with Quintana, who comes with the added bonus of a team-friendly contract that runs through 2020. He didn't come cheaply, as Chicago surrendered two Top 100 Prospects in Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease and two other Minor Leaguers.

"We obviously had to give up a lot of young talent to get Quintana, but it made a lot of sense for us," Hoyer said. "You don't want to trade your homegrown guys. That's never easy. At the same time, we needed to make that trade. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions."

FREE AGENTS

Player, year, bWAR (7.3):

Jon Lester, 2014, 0.8
John Lackey, 2015, 1.2
Ben Zobrist, 2015, 0.5
Jason Heyward, 2015, 2.3
Jon Jay, 2016, 1.1
Brian Duensing, 2016, 1.4

After going 28-27 in the final two months of the 2014 season, the Cubs felt they were ready to compete. To enhance their chances, they made the first blockbuster free-agent signing of Epstein's tenure by landing Lester with a six-year deal worth $155 million. After earning two World Series rings in Boston, Lester grabbed a third last year when he won Game 5 of the Fall Classic and would have won Game 7 had Chapman not blown the save.

Video: Lester, Duensing, Jay see success in 2017

"We felt Jon Lester sent the right message that we were serious about winning," Hoyer said. "Jon Lester was the right person for us. And we always have given him credit for believing in us too. He had the opportunity to go to other teams that were more established."

Chicago invested heavily in free agents again after losing in the 2015 NL Championship Series, signing Heyward (eight years, $184 million), 2016 World Series MVP Zobrist (four years, $56 million) and Lackey (two years, $32 million). It was more conservative last offseason, handing out one-year deals to Jay ($8 million), Koji Uehara ($6 million) and Duensing ($2 million).

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

 

Chicago Cubs

Tseng, Caratini named Cubs Prospects of the Year

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Jen-Ho Tseng won't forget the 2017 season. The right-handed pitcher came to Wrigley Field, thinking he was going to be honored as the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year, then manager Joe Maddon met Tseng and told him he was starting the next day.

"I didn't think pitching in the big leagues would come so fast," Tseng said.

CHICAGO -- Jen-Ho Tseng won't forget the 2017 season. The right-handed pitcher came to Wrigley Field, thinking he was going to be honored as the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year, then manager Joe Maddon met Tseng and told him he was starting the next day.

"I didn't think pitching in the big leagues would come so fast," Tseng said.

Cubs' Prospects of the Year

Both Tseng and catcher Victor Caratini got their first taste of big league action this year, and have also been named the Cubs Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year by MLBPipeline.com.

Cubs Top 30 Prospects list

Each team's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLBPipeline.com staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors, appeared on the team's top 30 Prospects list, and played the entire year in the organization.

Tseng, 22, went 13-4 with a 2.54 ERA in 24 starts between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He had his first career 10-strikeout game on July 3 against Jacksonville while with the Smokies, and then went 6-1 with a 1.80 ERA in nine starts with the Iowa Cubs.

He was signed as a non-drafted free agent in July 2013. In 87 Minor League games over four seasons, he's 32-30 with a 3.17 ERA. Tseng was the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2014 when he went 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA at Class A Kane County. But he struggled the next two seasons. What happened?

"I was thinking too much," Tseng said.

The right-hander credited Tennessee pitching coach Terry Clark and Iowa pitching coach Rod Nichols for helping him get back on track.

Caratini, 24, was originally drafted by the Braves in the second round of the 2013 Draft. He batted .342 at Iowa with 10 home runs, 27 doubles, three triples and 61 RBIs in 83 games. The Cubs acquired him in July 2014 in a trade that sent Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell to the Braves.

Video: Top Prospects: Victor Caratini, C/1B, Cubs

He was called up three times during the regular season, and hit his first big league home run at Miller Park on July 30, then was sent down the next day.

Caratini rejoined the Cubs on Sept. 1. The only difficulty this year has been watching from afar as Hurricane Maria ravaged his native Puerto Rico.

Both he and Tseng have stayed with the team all month and got to enjoy the celebration when the Cubs clinched their second consecutive Central Division title.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

 

Chicago Cubs