There are a lot of things happening at both the major and minor league levels this week. Many of them are intertwined, especially when it comes to the bullpen. In addition, how can you not love Kris Bryant and his new swing. Throw in that some prospects are pushing the case for promotion while others are just now starting to come alive, and one, in particular, is in the deepest of ruts and there you have a busy week in my mind.
10. Francisco Liriano was a Cub killer until yesterday. Three homeruns by Russell, Bryant, and Ross ended Liriano’s dominance of the Cubs. I, for one, was extremely excited to see that. He’s been a thorn in the side ever since the Pirates reclamated his career. With Jake Arietta going today, it’ll be a little chilly, but I like the Cubs chances to win the series. If Arrieta gets it done today, like the Cubs chances to sweep, especially since the last two times they’ve been able to get Garrett Cole, who will be pitching on Sunday for Pittsburgh.
9. Albert Almora is looking better and better as the year goes on. In fact, so to are Willson Contreras and Dan Vogelbach. All three are hitting over .333 at AAA Iowa. Don’t expect to see any of them come up for an extended period of time until September as all three are on the 40 man roster making them eligible to be on the playoff roster.
8. Ryan Williams is looking better and better each start. Last night he went eight innings gave up two runs. He is positioning himself to be the first starting pitcher called up from the minors. After a poor April, he has a 1.80 ERA in May with 16 Ks in those 20 in three starts. Overall, his ERA has dropped from a high of 18 after one start down to 3.49.
7. Carl Edwards, Jr. got a call up for a day on Wednesday and on Friday he got a win in relief for Iowa. He is starting to look more and more ready to come up. Along with Spencer Patton, Edwards provides a lot of depth for power arms in the pen. He has not allowed a walk in his last five appearances and his ERA has dropped to 2.19. The Cubs have been extremely patient with him and it’s paying off.
6. Speaking of bullpens, I’m still not sold on the Cubs just yet. And you should not be either. However, I think who I’m not sold on is not who you are not sold on. Pedro Strop is going to have his ups and downs. I am OK with him. It’s Adam Warren. On the surface, Warren comes across as good bullpen guy. His current stats have him with an ERA under two. I am not trusting the stat line. I think he short arms the ball too much and that’s what concerns me. I don’t know if he’s going to be a sixth or seventh inning guy, but I just haven’t been impressed. While Justin Grimm continues to struggle, Neil Ramirez hardly sees the light of day. And Clayton Richard, he’s not the answer either. The Cubs are going to have to go get other pitchers. Whether they come from within remains to be seen. With Patton and Edwards ready to go at AAA, the Cubs do not have a lefty close just yet…
5. Gerardo Concepcion might just be who the Cubs are looking for. The Cuban import has had a long and somewhat roller coaster career that includes almost being dropped after a bout with mono. However, in the last six weeks, Concepcion may have it figured out. He’s made 11 appearances at AA and AAA and has yet to allow a run, including an unearned one. He pitched 19 innings, struck out 20 (including all three Friday night in his AAA debut), and walked only four. He has a WHIP of 0.46 and opponents are hitting only .081 off him. At the rate he is going, he might make a case as a lefty callup from Iowa later this summer.
4. Donnie Dewees had the night of nights last night. He went four for six with six RBIs with a double and a triple. He has at the front of the line when it comes to promotions. Last night’s success came with a change back to the top of the lineup. He had been hitting third. It had been a poor May for him, hitting only .250 for the month, mostly in the 3 hole. Hitting leadoff, Dewees hits over .400. I think he will stay at leadoff. The question remains if he will do it in the Midwest League or the Carolina League?
3. Kris Bryant’s new swing is fabulous! He’s hitting .284 with 6 HRs and 24 RBIs – all very good numbers. His OBP is .364, very similar to last year’s .369. What is the biggest difference is his strikeout rate. It is under 1 per game where last year it was at 1.33 game. This could make for an exciting summer, maybe more so than last summer.
2. Gleyber Torres eclipsed his HR total from last year already. In his last ten games, he’s hitting .350 with 3 HRs, 6 RBIs, and 4 SBs. He is out of his April slump. One area of concern is in those twelve games, he’s struck out 12 times in 40 at bats – or 30%. That is extremely high. Last year he was less than 25%. However, you still have to remember he’s going to be 19 years old all summer long. He will adapt.
1. What is wrong with Jeimer Candelario? In major league spring training he was unstoppable. Now, he can’t hit a lick at AA Tennessee. I have not seen enough bats of his to make comments on his swing. When you look further down the stat line, you see that his OBP, which is more reflective of his approach, is fine at .319. So, he’s taking walks, just not hitting. However, as the season has turned from April to May, his stats are getting worse. In May, his average is at .150 for the month with no homers or RBIs. Something is not right and I wonder if it is mental. After the year he had at Tennessee in 2016, along with his dominance of the Arizona Fall League and spring training, I thought for sure he would be at AAA Iowa to start the year. He wasn’t. I still do not understand why either. As a result, I wonder if Jeimer is thinking the same. It might be too much for me to get a true grasp on his troubles. I just want to see him hit and hit well.
Tomorrow I will be back with the Weekly News, Notes, and Awards column. And on Monday, the May Prospect Stock Watch will be up. There will also be a couple of draft posts in the next week as it is only a month away.