Oh, look…wins! That’s right, wins, multiple wins. The big league club is on a winning streak. The surprising thing for me is that the Cubs did it against the some of the best pitchers in the NL in Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Jonathon Niese, and top prospect Noah Syndergaard. Why couldn’t the Cubs do that the previous weekends against Milwaukee? Baseball is a funny game sometimes and this week in the Cubs organization was no exception.
This week in Chicago was all about the starting pitching – Lester – 3 runs allowed and a win, Arrieta – 8 innings, 1 run, 10 Ks, Jason Hammel – 8 innings, 1 run, and then there is Travis Wood. It was a week when the bullpen saw little action. When need on Thursday, aside from Jason Motte, the pen stepped up with 4 innings of shutout ball. And on Friday, Kyle Hendricks looked very good through 5 and then hit the wall in the sixth.
The offense, led by HBP Anthony Rizzo, got it done with the wind still blowing in. Addison Russell is looking better and better hitting over .280 his last ten games, and this Bryant kid, 4 home runs in 6 days will work. Chris Coghlan had a walk off walk on Wednesday and Dexter Fowler scored Thursday’s winning run on a passed ball.
Friday’s game was a wild and wacky affair as the Cubs pulled out an extra inning affair thanks in part to a little stumble in the OF. I am looking forward to seeing their confidence in action against the Pirates and Gerrit Cole this afternoon.
In the Minors, the Cubs are moving players and prospects to put them in a position to succeed. Tsuyoshi Wada at AAA Iowa is mirroring the starts of Travis Wood. On Thursday, Wada had a very solid start going 7 innings, striking out 6 and allowing 1 run. Wada could very easily slide into Wood’s or Hendricks’ position in the rotation. His rehab assignment officially ends today and a decision will have to be made on where to place Wada.
Javy Baez also is starting to make headlines at Iowa for good things. He is batting .311 after 16 games with only a 25% K rate and an OBP of .382. He has 2 homers and 10 RBIs. What is interesting is Javy is SLOWLY changing his approach and swing. Last year, Baez often rolled his left foot onto his left side in his follow through. Baez now keeps that foot planted – this should allow him to go the other way as he did last night on a single. On Thursday in a DH role, Baez went 2-4 with 3 RBIs. On Friday, his new and improved approached resulted in a 3 for 4 night with 2 RBIs and 2 SBs.
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) May 16, 2015
Manager Joe Maddon loves him for his defense, arm, and base running ability. He is closing in on a return. I know some people who were ready to give up on the kid, called him washed up, and even called him a bust. He is not. He is far from a bust. At 22, you can still see his potential. Imagine having a second baseman who could hit 30-40 home runs a year. Baez still has to be in the plans for the future.
At AA Tennessee, Billy McKinney made his debut on Thursday going 2-4 with an RBI and a double. It was a week of highs for McKinney who on Monday was named Carolina League Player of the Week. He is hitting .441 with 1 HR and 13 RBIs in his last 10 games. He also made a couple nice plays in right field on Thursday. It was a lot of fun watching the Smokies play Thursday and Friday nights. With McKinney in tow, the Smokies are loaded 1-7 in the batting order: Soto to Almora to Schwarber to Vogelbach to Contreras to McKinney to Bruno. That’s a lineup!
On Friday, Myrtle Beach’s Duane Underwood needed only 77 pitches to shut down the Carolina Mudcats over five innings. He looked free and easy pounding the zone with 95 mph heaters. I wonder how long he stays at Myrtle Beach. His ERA is now down to a miniscule 1.09. The Pelicans didn’t play this week as their opponent, the Carolina Mud Cats, were involved in a bus accident that briefly hospitalized several players and coaches.
In addition, Chesny Young was promoted from South Bend to Myrtle Beach. Andrew Ely in a related move is now on South Bend. Moving Young, who was batting over .300 in the 3 spot for the Cubs, opens up playing time for Jason Vossler who is 6 for his last 16 and Ely, who had 4 homers in 25 games last year in the Arizona Rookie League.
On Friday night, Trevor Clifton’s curve was dazzling as he went six innings with seven strikeouts and only allowing one run. It was not enough, though, as the South Bend Cubs failed to score in a 1-0 loss to one of the Dodgers’ top prospects, Grant Holmes.
Earlier in the week, his teammates won two, then lost two as South Bend struggles to find some consistency in the different phases of the game. The good news is their bullpen was on point this week.
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Dylan Cease also saw 2/3 of inning in an actual extended spring training game. He threw 16 pitches on a strict pitch count. As those players in Arizona wait their time for short season Eugene to start, there are five names that keep popping up in the reports of Arizona Phil of The Cub Reporter. They are Kevonte Mitchell, Eloy Jimenez, Carlos Sepulveda, Frandy de la Rosa, and Carson Sands. While they are all likely to start at Eugene, they might not be there for long as South Bend could be calling. Austyn Willis has also been getting rave reviews from start to start as well.
Players of the Week
Pitcher – Tsuyoshi Wada – 7 innings of one run ball with 6 Ks will get you the POTW. Trevor Clifton was a close second with 7 Ks in 6 innings and Underwood’s five inning, 77 pitch, and 3 K affair came in third.
Hitter of the Week – The honor goes to Javier Baez. He went 9 for 15 with 1 HR and 7 RBIs.
It feels good to type his name again and again!
Every mock I see is getting whackier and whackier. Players are moving up and down the board in rapid fashion. Carson Fullmer has gone from 14 up to 1, and Nathan Kirby, who a month ago was a top 7 lock, was 36 in Baseball America’s mock yesterday by John Manuel.
The Cubs have been linked with Trenton Clark, John Harris, Walker Buehler, and this week’s surprise prospect, Andrew Benintendi from Arkansas who is second in the NCAA in HRs. He is also a bit undersized at 5’8″ but he does have Popeye-like forearms, hence the power. A CF by trade, the kid also has shown good speed and is a draft eligible sophomore.
It is going to be a wild three weeks. I am not even going to venture a pick at this point.