Pitching, defense and timely hitting seem to have arrived in the Windy City. The Cubs had won four out of five led by Mike Olt’s timely RBIs, Anthony Rizzo and Wellington Castillo’s power, Junior Lake’s reemergence (he is hitting .280 now), and the studly starting pitching of the Jason Hammel, Arrieta, Wood, and Jackson. It could have been five in a row except for a meltdown on Wednesday in a late loss to the Yankees. Jose Veras is still not the arm the Cubs thought he was. Hector Rondon had his first meltdown in the closer role. Luis Valbuena had a good week and Nate Schierholtz actually showed up despite a pidly 209 average. There is hope, there is hope…despite last night’s 11-1 meltdown in San Diego.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mister Javier Baez has arrived!!! For those familiar with Mr. Baez’s work, he always struggles for a while when moving up a level. That’s the way it always has been. For the better part of six weeks, minus two on the DL, Mr. Baez was hitting a paltry .146 with just two homers. At one point in both Daytona and Tennessee, Baez just figures it out, makes adjustments, and starts pulverizing the ball. For the last week, Mr. Baez, has gone on said tear. In the last week he has hit over .400, 9 extra base hits and a slugging percentage over 1.000. His batting average has now going over the Mendoza line at .201. Moving up 50 points in a week I would say is pretty good at this time of the year. May God have mercy on the PCL this next week.
In addition, Dallas Beeler had his best start of the year. He went six innings, gave up one run, struck out six while only giving up 3 hits. Good for him. Along with Kyle Hendricks, they are two Iowa arms who project as future starters albeit at the back end of the rotation. Blake Parker and Marcus Hatley continue to deal at the back end of the Iowa bullpen as the Cubs it seems as an organization are starting to build quality arms at each level.
At Bryantville (aka Tennessee)
This is simple. Kodak, Tennessee, the home of the Smokies, should just rename itself Bryantville because every week he just continues to produce at a high level. This week was no different. His last ten game split has seen a .385 average with 10 homers, 14 RBIs, a .442 OBP, .615 Slugging %, and an OPS of 1.057!!! To me, that is insane, but that is his steady production. Teammate Stephen Bruno reaps the benefit of that protection.
The pitching at Tennessee has seen its fair share of disappointment this spring as CJ Edwards went on the DL. He now is in Arizona relearning through a new training regimen to strengthen his shoulder. Pierece Johnson has been battling injuries this year and he had his best start this week going four innings. Corey Black has either been dominant or terrible. This week, he was good going 5 innings, striking out 7, but he still walked 3. Ivan Pinyero also has had his shares of ups and downs. After a few great starts to begin the year, Pinyero has struggled.
Down in Daytona
Albert Almora seems to have woken up, too. He is hitting over .300 in his last ten games. Gioskar Amaya and Marco Hernandez are doing well with both hitting well over .300 for a team that struggles to get some pop from its big three of Jeimer Candelario, Dan Vogelbach, and Rock Shoulders. The floundering of those three hitters has been the biggest disappointment in the system of the season for me, and in particular Vogelbach. Considering the plaudits reserved for Daytona hitting coach Mariano Duncan year after year, he has his work cut out for him this year. On the pitching side, Tayler Scott is starting to figure things out, and Tyler Ihrig, fresh from extended spring training, had a nice four inning start on a team bereft of pitching this spring. Rob Zastyzny has also had a horrible start as his ERA has now climbed over 7. Yikes!
Kane County Arms
That should be the name of the team. After Tyler Skulina and Nathan Dorris’ no-hitter last week, Dorris got a promotion to Daytona. Skulina still has some control issues but is beginning to find the strike zone more and more. However, Paul Blackburn and Duane Underwood had dominant starts. Blackburn went 7 striking out 6 while Underwood was effectively wild striking out 5, walking four, but not giving up a run as he lowered his ERA to a stellar 2.43.
When it comes to hitting at Kane County, they seem to be struggling to hit for average, but they also come through in late innings. Will Remillard, Cael Brockmeyer, Ben Carhart, and Jordan Hankins (whose hit tool I like more at second base) are leading the Cougars to a league and organization best 30-16 record.
Hitter of the Week
Pitchers of the Week
Tyler Skulina and Nathan Dorris
Coming Next Week: Draft Predictions, Where’s Dillon Maples, and Possible Promotions in June