The Cubs MiLB All-Star Team for the second half was dominated by the lower levels. Only two position players and one pitcher above high A made it. This collection of players includes two 2016 draft picks. This is not an all-star team that encompasses the whole year, rather it’s from late June through Labor Day.
C – 1B – 2B
Gustavo Polanco had a very solid year hitting above .350 for most of the season down in Mesa before slipping the last two weeks to .322. Although he does lack power at this point, the young slugger played catcher, first base, and DH for the rookie league Cubs. I look forward to seeing him at Eugene in 2017. Yasiel Balaguert had quite the second half. He hit 10 home runs and drove in over 50 runs while hitting .300 for Myrtle Beach. One of two draft picks to make this list, Trent Giambrone played all four positions in the infield for Eugene. Primarily a second baseman, Giambrone also showed that he has the potential for power and also has a good eye at the plate with an OBP of .404.
SS – 3B
Isaac Paredes is now the clear cut top hitting shortstop in the Cubs system. The 17-year-old hit over .300 in Mesa and received a promotion at the end of the year to South Bend, skipping short-season Eugene. It will be interesting to see how he does in the upcoming playoffs. Jeimer had nine home runs and 52 RBIs in the second half at AAA Iowa. He hit 333 and had an OBP of .403. It was an amazing second half for him!
OF – OF – OF
I don’t think there’s anything I can add about Eloy that hasn’t already been said this year. Next year, I don’t think the Cubs are going to hold him back like they did at South Bend. He could be in Tennessee by mid-summer. I’d like to see him hit 20 home runs next year. He could even add about ten pounds of muscle to do so. I really like the all-around game of DJ Wilson. He is not quite fully developed, but glimpses were seen after the Eugene All-Star break in late July of the type of player he could be. He hid over 280 the last seven weeks of the season and showed some SB potential. I think his defense is amazing as he can cover some serious ground to get a ball. Bijan Rademacher hit well at two levels this year in Tennessee to Iowa. He’s a nice sleeper prospect to make it to Chicago at some point next year. He won’t start, but he could be a nice bat off the bench and he could as a defensive replacement as he can play all three outfield positions well with a plus arm.
Matt Rose had a massive return to South Bend in the second half. After being reassigned to Eugene, the young 2015 draft pick put it all together and became a central part of the South Bend lineup. He wound up second in the Cubs system in home runs with 17 and third on the team in RBIs.with 42 after being reassigned for two months. David Bote was unbelievable in the second half at Myrtle Beach. He hit .351 with 5 HRs and 38 RBIs. After being an organizational player for much of the first half, the utility player found a home with the Pelicans and was a key cog in their title run in August.
I don’t think there’s any question that the pitching is getting closer to Chicago. I think there was some disappointment in Tennessee this year, but you can’t say that about Myrtle Beach where Trevor Clifton, Zach Hedges, and Preston Morrison each starred at points throughout the season. Clifton was a pitcher of the month twice, Morrison once, and Hedges, despite an all-around great year, never got the accolade. However. with all three pitchers ERAs being under three, I feel pretty good about them heading forward. In 2017, if all goes well, all three pitchers could be in Iowa to end the year. Hedges might have an outside shot of getting to Chicago as he should start the year at Iowa. To say that sounds really strange to me. A year and a half ago, I was thinking of Hedges had an outside shot in a bullpen role just because of his slider. A lot can happen in one year of development.
As a season has gone on, I am more and more surprised with how Manny Rondon has been able to sustain his success. For him to keep his ERA under one for the month of August was extremely impressive. Last year, he struggled coming over to the Cubs from the Angels. For Erling Moreno, this year at Eugene was a thing of beauty. His plus-plus curveball just defiled hitters. It was a thing of nastiness that it’s hard to believe until you see it. He’s really developed that pitch throughout the course of the summer. Ryan Kellogg really came into his own in August with an ERA of 1.93 and 1.99 for the second half. I was extremely surprised to see him do so well. And by that I mean to sustain a certain level of excellence over the course of several weeks and months. Good for him!.
Dylan Cease wound up with an ERA of 2.22 for this year in just 12 starts. In his last four starts, he was just a fluid strikeout machine and fluidity. With 33 in 17.2 IP. The ball came out of his hand easily and he seemed to find his release point and improve the action on his curveball. Earlier in the year, it was hard for him to throw his curve without slowing down the motion with his arm. That’s not the case anymore. His striking out of 10 hitters in five innings on Monday night was probably one of the most impressive starts I’ve seen this year by any pitcher in the Cubs organization. Next year, the chains come off. It would not surprise me to see him move two levels next year.
Hitter of the Second Half: Jeimer Candelario – He had just an amazing second half at Iowa. I hope he is still a Cub when springtime gets here.
Pitcher of the Second Half: Manny Rondon – 1.10 ERA in 15 starts. In 57.1 IP, he struck out 49. My only concern, he only went past five innings one time.
Reliever of the Second Half: Wyatt Short – The Cubs 13th round pick in 2016 did not allow a run in 15 games. In his 15 IP, he accumulated 7 Saves and struck out 14 in 15 IP. Opponents hit just .104 off of him. Amazing!