The best part of staying up late this summer is that I now can watch the Eugene Emeralds on MiLB.TV. Then again, I only make it to 11 or 11:30. Still, it is refreshing to watch the short season affiliate. Initially, I thought the key players to watch would be Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, and the rest of the starting staff. I also longed to see Wladimir Galindo step to the plate and rocket one into a gap. But, when it came to Andruw Monasterio and Yeiler Peguero, the Emerald’s double play combo, I did not know what I was in for.
As it stands right now, Monasterio and Peguero are the only two middle infielders on the roster until a couple of draft signees complete mini-camp/orientation to the Cubs Way. In the meantime, the two are putting on a show nightly.
Monasterio is the shortstop who just turned 19 and is from Venezuela. He played in the Arizona Rookie League last year flashing some raw skills at the plate and even rawer skills in the field. He had a very good August hitting .291 and drawing some attention for his bat. He had previously played in the Venezuelan Summer League where he hit .292. Coming into this season, John Arguello was high on the youngster:
In the field, Monasterio shows great athleticism with a smooth glove and shows real confidence at shortstop. In 2016, he will continue to hone his game at Eugene and hopefully continue his upward trajectory for the Cubs.
Peguero, who now plays second base, first gained attention last summer, when at the age of 17, he was named Top Star in the Dominican Summer League All-Star Game. The diminutive then shortstop had a good first season in the Cubs’ system hitting .284 with 15 SBs. Baseball America said this upon his signing in 2014:
[He] stands out more for his instincts than his raw tools. He’s not big (5-foot-10, 155 pounds) but he grew up playing a lot of baseball so his game awareness is mature off his age. He’s a gamer with good actions in the middle of the field and an average arm, splitting time between shortstop and second base, and a line-drive approach from both sides of the plate.
Fast Forward to 2016
Coming into the season at Eugene, my expectations were that both would hit around .280, steal 15-20 bases each, while flashing some leather but also making mistakes in the field, which happens a lot in short season ball.
I got the defensive part right. Peguero has moved over to second base this year while Monasterio stayed at short. Both can go get some balls, but do have their troubles, especially when it comes to throwing. Their main issue is extremes – they either hold the ball too long or try to make the play too quickly and airmail it to first. Monasterio has made 5 errors in 8 games at SS and 1 game at 2B. Peguero has made 1 error in 8 games at 2B and 1 game at SS. However, the two have combined to turn 10 double plays in the same time frame.
However, when it comes to hitting, my expectations were a little too low. Then again, it has been only nine games. The two have reeked havoc upon the opposition at the plate and on the basepaths. Monasterio is hitting an astonishing .390 with 1 HR and a league leading 10 RBIs. On Monday, Monasterio was named the Northwest League Player of the Week.
Peguero is not far behind at .324 with 1 HR and 3 RBIs. I am impressed with their ability to make contact at this level. Right now, Peguero is batting eighth and Monasterio, second. Ideally, you would like them to take more walks so they can get on base more, but it is early in their careers. Peguero has walked three times, and Monasterio, twice. Hopefully, their approach will change overtime.
However, stats don’t really tell the whole story here. What the two are doing is pushing buttons on the opposing defense to make bad throws because of the illusion of their speed. A slow roller on Saturday by Monasterio found him on third base because the infielder rushed the throw to try and get the speedy Monasterio. Next thing you know, the ball is rolling down the right field fence while Monasterio is headed to third. An attempted stolen base ends up with a ball in the outfield and Peguero was jogging to third. It’s an exciting brand of baseball, and to be honest, it does not interfere with the hitters behind them. It is actually given those hitters chances to drive them in easier.
This is nightly stuff. It’s a lot of fun to watch! The fact that the two are so young means there is no rush to move them from a league where the average age is 21 years-old. They are going to mature here. I love how filled with energy they are on the offensive side of the ball, they just need to develop their footwork more on defense and come up with better release measures when fielding. They tend to double clutch the ball while taking anywhere from 2-3 steps.
Needless to say, their performance 9 games into a 74 game season portends to a great time every night at the ballpark. I am glad I get to see it this year.