Cubs Midseason Report

Soto providing stellar output at catcher




BEST PLAYER: Righthander Sean Gallagher opened the season with Triple-A Iowa and got called up after just five starts there, eventually working his way into the rotation and becoming a dependable starter before being traded to Oakland. But the story of the organization still has to be catcher Geovany Soto, who has built on his breakout 2007 performance with a strong rookie season in Chicago. He was voted the National League's starting catcher in the All-Star Game, the first rookie catcher ever to even make the NL team and the first to start since Sandy Alomar Jr. for the American League in 1990. Soto was batting .289/.375/.527 and proving strong behind the plate as well.

BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD: First baseman/catcher Blake Lalli spent a couple of weeks at low Class A Peoria before he was promoted to high Class A Daytona, and he has roared with the bat ever since, hitting .315/.362/.888 with six homers, 31 RBI and 21 doubles in the Florida State League.

Lalli, 25, played his college ball at Gardner-Webb and came to the Cubs as a nondrafted free agent in 2006, so the lefthanded slugger had plenty to prove. He gave a sample of what he could do last year with Peoria when he hit .295/.345/.388 and pitched six scoreless appearances in emergency situations.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: It could be argued that if Sam Fuld didn't make a couple of stunning catches in the outfield during crucial moments last September, the Cubs might not have made the playoffs.

Fuld built on a stunning September on defense by tearing up the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .402 and was the league MVP. He seemingly had a great shot at making the big league roster out of spring training, or at least being one of the first callups of 2008.

But the 26-year-old's offense abandoned him the first part of the season, as he batted .222/.310/.317 at Iowa and .222/.310/.317 at Double-A Tennessee while Matt Murton and Eric Patterson have been shuttling back and forth between the majors and minors.

CUBBYHOLE

• The Cubs promoted righthander Jeff Samardzija from Tennessee to Iowa. Through three starts with Iowa, Samardzija was 2-1, 3.93 with 15 strikeouts and 11 walks.

• The Cubs promoted 21-year-old catcher Welington Castillo from Daytona to Tennessee. After hitting .273./.299/399 for Daytona, Castillo was off to a hot start for the Smokies, batting .333/.410/.594.