A Week of Butt Kicking and Taking Names in the Minor Leagues

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I woke up this morning to find Tennessee, Kane County, Daytona, and Arizona in first place and Iowa just half a game out of first. It is nice to see the entire organization doing well especially the big league club. The Cubs have taken the first two in a four game series from first place Washington. Yesterday, Jason Hammel pitched well aided by the “John Baker” of 4 RBIs and on Thursday, Justin Ruggiano had some timely hitting to aid Travis Wood. It has been fun to watch the big league club on the TV and then Iowa and Tennessee on MiLB.TV.

The Butt Kicker of the Week
Arismendy Alcantara – In the last ten games Arismendy Alcantara is batting .462 with a .511 OBP and a .795 slugging percentage. Since being moved to the leadoff spot, Arsimendy has raised his average above .300 and looks like he is just about ready to go to Chicago. He probably won’t be up this year as Iowa is now in the midst of a playoff hunt. They sit a half game back of Omaha (Kansas City).

Butt Kicker #2 of the Week
Yup, it is that Bryant kid. A lot of bloggers were underwhelmed at Kris Bryant’s average in his first six games at Iowa. That can be brushed aside now as he broke .300 yesterday. He is now actually hitting singles and doubles to go with his home runs. Bryant is hitting .303 with a .395 OBP. Bryant’s presence seems to also have awakened Javy Baez (who is now at .236) and Josh Vitters (.240+).

Butt Kicker #3
Christian Villanueva has returned to form at Tennessee. The Doubles machine picked up where he left off last year at Kodak and his bat that had been missing all year at Iowa has returned. In 9 games in AA, Christian is batting .355 with 1 HR, 7 RBIs, and 4 doubles. I am ecstatic to see his bat return after the reassignment.

The Sleeper Has Awakened Award

The Daytona Cubs bats, particularly Rock Shoulders and Albert Almora, have been brought out of their summer slumber. Daytona now sits in first place mainly on the bats that produced last year at Kane County and some great relief pitching. Even Rob Zastryzny is pitching well. In his last four starts, he has only given up a total of five earned runs while striking out 23 batters in 23.2 innings! Jose Rosario has shown flashes of the pitcher he was two years ago in Peoria and Nathan Dorris, an all-star at Kane County had his best start in high A ball last night going 7 innings and striking out 8 to get the win. Justin, Amlung, who also moved up from Kane County, had two decent starts in a row.

The Machine That Keeps Rolling Award
Kane County just keeps winning, and winning late. Last night it was Shawon Dunston, Jr. with a single in the tenth. Pierce Johnson made his second rehab start and went seven strong innings while giving up two runs. He should be back in Tennessee later this week. For me, this team is turning into a monster. At the beginning of the year, it was a team built on the pitching of Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood, Juan Carlos Paniagua, Duary Torrez, Tyler Skulina, and Jen-Ho Tseng with relievers Dorris, Amlung, Jose Arias, and James Pugliese. Now, it seems, that a batting order is developing. Jacob Hannemann has found his stroke and is batting well over 300 this month. With the addition of Kyle Schwarber in the middle of the lineup, a new “Murderer’s Row” is developing with Ben Carhart and Jacob Rodgers, who is just punishing the ball in June. Will Remillard has returned from the DL and that lengthens the lineup even more. Trey Martin and Shawon Dunston, Jr. finally are starting to produce at the plate this month. The Cougars won the first half division title going away, the second half is looking to be a reflection of the first but with a lot more hitting. If Yasiel Balaguert ever figures it out, there is no stopping this team.

Odds and Ends
*Jorge Soler is back and batting in Mesa. He is hitting well over 500 in a just a few games in Mesa. The Cubs have been working on repositioning his posture to avoid future hamstring injuries.
*Trevor Clifton went out last night for Boise and got his first professional win. He went six innings, gave up one run on one hit and 2 walks while striking out six
*Mark Zagunis debuted in Mesa Thursday and went 1 for 3. Last night was an 0-fer.
*Joey Martarano went 1 for 2 with a walk last night in his debut in Mesa.
*Charcer Burks is killing the Arizona Rookie League. He is hitting 480 in 6 games.
*Jeferson Mejia was unbelievable in his debut going five innings and striking out 9!!! The 6’7” 18 year old is one to watch.
*Gleyber Torres is either hot or cold. But the 17 year old is holding his own in Mesa hitting .280.
*Eloy Jimenez has only 1 plate appearance so far.
*The Cubs have signed 22 of their first 24 picks with Dylan Cease still out and Isiah Gilliam going to junior college. That’s a pretty good haul. In addition, several other picks like Brad Markey, Charles White, Andrew Ely, Tlyer Pearson, and Calvin Graves have all signed and are playing in Mesa and Boise.

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