There is a lot of minor league news this week. AA and AAA starting squaring off against teams from other systems and Myrtle Beach and South Bend starting playing against each other before taking on other squads. Some of the names we have hyped here got a little action in and some other names you may not know raised their profiles a little.
But first off…
The big league club sent down some players to the minors. They include: Willson Contreras, Arismendy Alcantara, Carl Edwards Jr., Pierce Johnson and C.J. Riefenhauser are going to start the season at AAA Iowa. 3B Jeimer Candelario surprisingly got a ticket to AA Tennessee. I imagine he won’t be there long. Also, the Cubs placed non-roster invitees Stephen Fife, Felix Pena, Drew Rucinski, Edgar Olmos and Taylor Davis in the minor league camp. They were not sent to a specific team. The big news, aside from Jeimer going to AA, is that Carl Edwards did not make the bullpen. He had a nice spring going until his last appearance when he gave up four runs in one inning.
Club by Club
Early in the week, the major buzz in the minor league camp was that Dylan Cease was on the mound for South Bend. By all reports, Cease was chucking the ball between 97 and 100 miles an hour against the Pelicans. He gave up one run two innings but had scouts drooling throughout his entire outing. Cease told Baseball America, “The only thing I’m focusing on right now is just my rhythm, tempo and making sure I stay closed longer. I could have done a better job of that today.”
With three weeks to go until the start of minor league season, I don’t know where Cease is going to end up. It appears that he could begin in South Bend or he could, as I have suggested earlier, stay in extended spring training before going to South Bend in May. Just based on his outings, it will be hard to keep him down all the way until the middle of June before sending him to Eugene. While that may be the plausible scenario, I think the realistic scenario is he’s going to end up in Indiana much sooner than later.
In addition, in the very first game against a team from another organization, Eloy Jimenez jacked one over the fence. Also, Blake Headley, a 2015 draftee out of Nebraska, looks much improved and more athletic than last year. Darryl Wilson has also been getting some play with the South Bend team and Alex Bautista also hit a homerun in his debut. Donnie Dewees has been raking it and Carlos Sepulveda and Andrew Monasterio looked good up the middle, however they will likely be at Eugene.
The big news out of Myrtle Beach this week was that Jake Stinnett was just dealing it along with Trevor Clifton and Preston Morrison. All three pitched three innings of shutout ball at least once. Stinnett was said to have been in the 94 to 96 mile an hour range and Clifton struck out 4 in his 3 frames. One of my favorite prospects, Rashad Crawford is beefed up a bit and drawing raves for his defense and offense. Will Remillard also returned and his bat has not skipped a beat.
I held my breath when word came out this week that Duane Underwood has been having some elbow stiffness. The young 21-year-old current top pitching prospect of the Cubs was a non roster invitee to the major league camp but never appeared in a game this spring. I wondered why they were holding them off, now I know.
It looks like Daury Torrez is going to be a reliever based upon how he was used this week. That leaves Paul Blackburn, who had an underwhelming start on Friday, Tyler Skulina, who pitched well for Iowa earlier in the week, Jonathan Martinez, Jen-Ho Tseng and Brad Markey as possible starters in the rotation for manager Mark Johnson. On the hitting side of things, Billy McKinney has looked good coming off a knee injury from last year and Jake Hannemann looked good in both the major league and minor league games this week.
Dan Vogelbach has regained some of his power back and has been drawing raves for his bat and approach. It looks like he has shrugged off the minor injuries from last year and his power is returning. That’s a good sign.
Right now John Andreoli is making a run at the 25th man spot. I doubt he gets it, unless he learns how to magically hit left-handed in the next two weeks, but he’s going to be someone that the Cubs are sure to call on in case of injury at several points during the summer.
Albert Almora looks great in the field but struggles at the plate in major league games. As for who will be on the Iowa team come April 1, I am not really sure yet. The Cubs have some shaking out to do, some cuts to make. Currently there’s about three spots that are up in the air for the 25 man roster for the majorly club. Spencer Patton is in competition for one of the bullpen spots in Chicago. It looks like Matt Szczur will be returning to Iowa again this year giving the Iowa Cubs a very speedy outfield.
Cubs Central Weekly Awards
Pitcher: Bryan Hudson – 5 shutout innings – one of those outings was for Iowa. Trevor Clifton, Rob Zastryzny, and Preston Morrison were the runners up.
Reliever: Adbert Alzolay – 3 shutout innings of relief. Runner up – Daniel Lewis had 2.2 shutout innings.
Hitter: Donnie Dewees– He’s gone 2 for 3 and 3 for 4 this week. Then on Saturday, he jacked a homerun. That’s a pretty good start.
Team: Myrtle Beach – They beat Dylan Cease. It also doesn’t hurt that they have Gleyber, Ian Happ, and Rashad Crawford on board either. To be honest, this team is going to be much better than the one I saw a year ago at South Bend thanks to another year in development. In August last year, they were outstanding down the stretch.
Players to Watch Next Week
Zach Hedges, and Jen-Ho Tseng should all be making their first “starts” of the spring.