The Minor League Baseball system is set up a little weird. All forms of A ball and AA have separate standings for each half of the season. It is not uncommon for a team to go from worst to first or first to worst. Right now, the South Bend Cubs are going from worst to first as they sit one and a half games out of first place in the second half. Myrtle Beach won the first half, slid to last in the second, and is now climbing its way back up and is one game back of first.
As for players, they too can have great a great first half and a poor second half and vice versa. Many prospects made quite the name for themselves in the first half like Kyle Schwarber, Gleyber Torres, Ryan Williams, and Jeremy Null. There are also several Cubs prospects who did not have a good first half and need to rebound. Today, we will pick ten of them that look like they are bouncing back in the second half to respectability. And in doing so, a few of them could play a key role for the Cubs down the stretch.
- Bijan Rademacher – If there was one thing of which I was certain heading into this year it was that Bijan Rademacher could hit. His first half proved me wrong. He hit .239 with 3 HRs and 28 RBIs in 52 games. Playing in a crowded outfield in Tennessee is no easy task. However, Bijan started to turn it around in the second half. He is hitting .298 since the AA All-Star break and .327 just in the month of July. His BB% and OBP have increased greatly with his OBP in the second half at .437 as he has 8 walks in his last ten games.
- Jeffrey Baez – I thought for sure that at the end of June that Jeffrey Baez’s 2015 season might be his last season in the Cub system at worst or he would repeat low A next year at best. Then I remembered that he is only 21 years old and it seems like he has been around forever. It would be a waste to throw away that speed, talent, hustle, power, and arm. In the first half, Baez was not good. He hit .190. You can’t whitewash that stat no matter how hard you try. The second half, however, he looks like old Jeffrey Baez. In addition to throwing out two runners at the plate in one inning, Baez is hitting and hitting well. In 15 second half games, he is hitting .304 with 4 HRs and 12 RBIs. The last three games were from the leadoff spot. He will be a key cog for the Cubs as they attempt to go from worst to first.
- Jake Stinnett – Coming into 2015, last year’s second round pick was thought to be a prospect who would move quickly through the system. Yeah, that didn’t happen…yet. Stinnett’s first full season of pro ball has been a series of adjustments. In April, he had a 6.60 ERA as he walked 12 batters in 15 innings on his way to a WHIP over 2.00. May was better, but not much. His ERA was 6.00 as he walked 15 in 25. June was much improved. His ERA for the month dropped below 4 and continues to be there in July. He is now pitching deep into games. Early in the year, he was lucky to make it to the 5th inning. Now we are seeing starts of 6 or 7 innings every time out. His walk rate is better but is still a concern.
- Pierce Johnson – Pierce missed most of the first half on the DL and has been fantastic since being recalled. He is working on getting his pitch count up. He just got into the 90s and I would not be surprised to see him in Iowa, or Chicago, before the season is out.
- Jacob Rodgers – Jacob Rodgers is one of my favorite players in the Cubs system. In the first half, he hit his usual .256 batting average with 9 HRs and 42 RBIs in 67 games. In the second half, Jacob is an RBI machine. He has driven in 17 runs in just 21 games. His batting average is still the same, his hits are big hits. While he only has 2 HRs in the second half, he has popped 6 doubles whereas in the first half he had 11 for the whole half.
- Albert Almora – If you ask him, he would be his own harshest critic, but a .249 batting average is not going to get it done at any level. For Almora, he can hit any pitch. However, it is not always the best thing to do so. Almora is a very good hitter and that is his problem. He can hit the pitch, just not always for a hit. He needs to be more selective and wait for a better pitch to hit rather than the first one. I am hoping that playing for the USA national team for the 7th time will light a fire under him in the second half. So far, in only 7 games, he is hitting .292 which is much improved, but then again, that is only a seven game sample. On the other hand, he is talking more walks as a .370 OBP is a good harbinger of things to come.
- Carl Edwards, Jr. – Since he arrived in Iowa, his ERA ballooned and has been slowly deflating ever since. His K rate is getting to be outstanding. Walks are still the big concern. In July, his ERA for the month is 1.59 and he has 9 Ks. Good numbers. While these stats are only for 5 and 1/3 innings in four appearances, he also has walked 6 batters in that short time frame. My prediction is simple – Once his walks go down, he goes up to Chicago to be a key arm down the stretch.
- Daury Torrez – Like many of his Pelican teammates, making the adjustment to Myrtle Beach has not been easy. For Torrez, he really struggled in May and June to right the ship. After giving up 6 runs on 13 hits in 5 innings in the middle of June, he has been a different pitcher. With his plus slider (which I love), Torrez has been on fire in July. He has a 0.81 ERA while striking out 8, but the key stat for me is that his opponents are hitting only .127….that’s right…127.
- Paul Blackburn – Going on the DL in June might have been the best thing for Blackburn. Like Torrez, Blackburn struggled mightily in the first half with a 4.66 ERA as his opponents hit .300 of him. He wasn’t fooling anybody. Since he returned, Blackburn is being limited to three inning starts. That might be a good thing to help build his confidence and let him just air it out for three innings to build up strength in his arm and mind.
- Javy Baez – Folks…I still love Javy Baez a lot! He is not washed up., far from it. He is only 22 years old. That’s pretty young to give up on a kid especially when he was having a comeback year filled with adjustments that were working. When he was injured, he was hitting .345 for the month in June and was on the cusp of a call up. Right now, he is rehabbing but not playing in games. I would expect to see him back in Iowa by the first week in August, and he could be in Chicago by late August if all goes well. And, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play 2B, SS, 3B, and some OF in his rehab along the way.
I think it is going to be interesting and fun to watch these ten players progress and maintain their performance throughout the second half of the season. If all goes well for them, a few could be part of helping the big league club get to the playoffs!