It has been non-stop action this week for Cub fans. Between promotions, reassignments, the big league club, all-star games, a home run derby, Boise beginning, playoffs clinched, and trade talk, there was something happening every day, and on some days, several things were happening. Today’s excitement is the debut of Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres in the Arizona Rookie League.
I found it odd this week to be sitting in my chair and watching the big league club on the TV and have Iowa and Tennessee on the computer. MiLB TV has been a worthy investment that paid huge dividends this week as well as being able to listen to minor league games on the Internet.
This week’s column looks at ten organizational Cubs on the way up ad five trends going down in the system.
1. Kyle Schwarber – Yeah, we get it. He can hit. He can hit really well. Through 5 games in Boise and 2 in Kane County, he has combined for a .557 average. 5 HRs, 12 RBIs, and a slash line of .613. 1.308 and a 1.921 OPS. Those are video game numbers! The question about Schwarber is can he catch? Theo said that Schwarber will put the gear on 1-2 times a week as long as it doesn’t impede him advancing as a hitter. I wouldn’t look for him to stay long at Kane County before he goes on to Daytona.
2. Javy Baez and Kris Bryant – I don’t know why but to me it seems like Bryant should be hitting right behind Baez. But for now, Baez hits third and Bryant fifth. In his debut at Iowa, Bryant went 1-4 with a homer, and then pulled an 0-4 last night. It’s early. On the other hand, Javy Baez went 3-4 last night to raise his average to a sparkling .226.
3. Jordan Hankins got promoted to Daytona. At Kane County he hit .322 with 3 HRs and 34 RBIs in 50 games. He played last night and went 0-4. It will take him some time to get used to the new situation in Florida. Hankins was one of my two favorite players at Kane County (Will Remillard is the other).
4. Armando RIvero and Arodys Vizcaino – the two relievers owned the Southern League. Rivero went 34.2 innings at Tennessee with a dominating 1.56 ERA and 54 Ks, and in his debut at Iowa threw 1/3 of inning striking out the only batter he faced. Arodys Vizcaino was nearly as dominant at Iowa with a 2.63 ERA in 16 innings. In his debut at Iowa, he was roughed up in 1/3 of inning with 4 hits, 1 walk, and 2 earned runs.
5. Ben Carhart – Learning how to catch is changing how the organization feels about Carhart. Hitting .292 is really changing how the organization thinks about Carhart. He has also shown some great leadership skills in helping to guide the young team to a first half championship and clinching a playoff spot for the Cougars.
6. Stephen Bruno – Bruno is nearing .300 as he continues to just hit. Without Bryant batting behind him, Bruno has not missed a beat going 4 for 9.
7. Kyle Hendricks – He went seven innings last night and only gave up one run. He had a no-hitter through 5 innings. When, not if, someone is traded at the big league level, Hendricks likely will get the call to see what he can do.
8. Dallas Beeler – I really like what Beeler does and how he does it. Thursday’s 6 inning 1 hitter is further proof that he is back. He has had a couple hiccup starts but he still needs to have consistent start after consistent start. He won’t see the big leagues until he can do that.
9. Chicago Cubs Bullpen – One reason the big league club is 11-7 this month and 18-13 over their last 31 is the emergence of the bullpen. Neil Ramirez and Brian Schlitter along with Hector Rondon, Jeff Russell, Carlos Villanueva, Justin Grimm, and Pedro Strop are turning games from 9 inning affairs down to 6.
10. Starlin Castro – He’s back. In his last ten games he is hitting .375 with 2 HRs and 12 RBIs.
1. Christian Villanueva – He was reassigned after a terrible first half at Iowa and has done well in two games back at Tennessee going 3 for 8 with a game winning RBI.
2. Jeimer Candelario – Jeimer is only 20. Going down to Kane County might be the best thing for him and send a signal to others to get their games in order. He started off 0-6 before a game winning two run double last night.
3. Jeff Samardjiza – He turned down the latest Cubs offer of 5 years and $85 million plus. His days in Chicago are probably numbered.
4. Kane County Pitching – Their bullpen, earlier their strength, has taken a hit here in the past week. Their starters, also a strength, have hit some bumps in the road. Paul Blackburn, Tyler Skulina, and Duane Underwood are still having great years; they just need get back to how they started.
5. Daytona Cubs – This team is loaded with hitters not hitting and only a few pitchers pitching. Hopefully, Candelario’s re-assignment is a wakeup call to this team that contains 2 of the Cubs top ten prospects who are not playing like it.
Second Half Surges
*Albert Almora is finally healthy but needs to hit much better. Dan Vogelbach is starting to show some signs of life but his HR power has not returned. Jorge Soler is nearing a return after working with Manny Ramirez the past two weeks. *Dustin Geiger is on his own for a while in Tennessee until Soler returns. Anthony Giansanti has been on fire the past ten games hitting close to .350.
*Pierce Johnson will be evaluated tomorrow afternoon after he throws 4 innings at Kane County. If everything goes smoothly, he will return to Tennessee.
*Dillon Maples is closing in on returning after a broken rib. I think it is very sad as he showed great promise at Boise last summer.
*Short Season Boise has done well going 4-1 with Schwarber but are 0-2 without him. Pitchers Josh Conway and Trevor Graham had excellent starts along C/1B/DH Justin Marra and OF Kevin Brown.
*Tonight, the Arizona Rookie League Cubs make their debut featuring recent draftees Carson Sands, Justin Steele, and top international signees Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres. I cannot wait to see how they do. The AZL league is much more about development as pitchers are kept on strict pitch counts and limits. So, don’t be surprised to see Sands only go 1-3 innings for the first month.