By Todd Johnson
When news broke on Friday afternoon that Dillon Maples was promoted to AA Tennessee, I was pretty pleased for the young man. He has been excellent in relief for the Pelicans all year with his fastball/curve combo. He has struck out 44 in 33.1 IP with a 2.01 ERA and opponents have only managed to hit .188 against him. I was surprised as the number of Cub prospects promoted this year is pretty slim.
The main reason for the lack of promotions is that three of the four affiliates are in playoff races. So far, most of the promotions have been contained to the bullpens. Michael Rucker and Mark Huberman were moved from South Bend to Myrtle Beach. Craig Brooks finally moved to Tennessee from Myrtle Beach. Dave Berg was moved to Iowa and then back to Tennessee. And, Andury Acevedo went from Tennessee to Iowa. As for the big league club, only a few relievers have gone up and down until two days ago when starting pitcher Seth Frankoff was promoted from Iowa to Chicago.
The biggest, and most shocking, surprise of the year was the promotion of Jake Hannemann from Tennessee to Iowa to make room for Trey Martin, who just came off the disabled list. The reason I say it was shocking was Hanneman was hitting in the .190s at Tennessee. At Iowa, he’s hitting .500 in his first four games including a homerun. At 26-years-old, and on the 40 man roster, Hannemann has to prove his worth.
As of today, Myrtle Beach is in the lead in its division, as is Tennessee. South Bend is one game behind for a wild card spot. The first half ends on the 18th and once the All-Star games are played on June 20th, a lot of movement should take place. Here are some moves that I think are going to happen.
From Tennessee to Iowa
Considering the lack of starting pitching at Iowa, and the depth of position players at Iowa, I think that Jen-Ho Tseng and Zach Hedges will move up to AAA. This will bolster the rotation of the Iowa Cubs who have big hole to fill in their staff. Outfielder Charcer Burks is a possibility to move from Tennessee to Iowa. I would not be surprised to see it happen. He has just been outstanding in the first half. Relievers Daury Torrez and James Pugliese are just waiting their turn after excellent first halfs out of the bullpen.
From Myrtle Beach to Tennessee
It all begins with Eloy. Now that he is starting to get in a rhythm, Eloy’s become a dangerous man in the Carolina League. If pitchers pitch to him, they pay dearly. Some starting pitchers could move up with Eloy. I don’t think Justin Steele or Adbert Alzolay are quite ready yet, but Ryan Kellogg and Thomas Hatch might be by the end of June. They have been near dominant this month. If Oscar de la Cruz was healthy, he’d be in that discussion as well. Newcomer Michael Rucker is doing extremely well and I would not be surprised to see him get a shot at AA later this summer.
From South Bend to Myrtle Beach
Most of the position players are going to stay in South Bend. This is a very young team that has shown the potential to score a lot of runs by playing station to station baseball. Names who could move up include 2B Zack Short, utility player Vimael Machin, and C/1B Albert Mineo. When it comes to the pitching, there are three arms who I think are either ready or close to ready. Duncan Robinson has just been exceptional along with reliever Dakota Mekkes. If Dylan Cease is healthy, I think he could go to Myrtle Beach later this summer. The Cubs do like their top prospects to go through the playoff experience. One way or another, Cease will have that opportunity.
Extended Spring to South Bend:
The big-name that will probably advance to South Bend will be starting pitcher Bailey Clark. He finished up his degree at Duke this spring and has been getting ready in Mesa for the past three weeks. Once you see him, you’re going to fall in love with that arm of his. He throws in the upper 90s and, if he can control it, he’s almost unhittable. If he can’t, then you’ll see a lot of walks.
I think there are two position players whose bats and defense might make it to South Bend depending on how they begin at Eugene. Catcher Miguel Amaya is just killing it at the plate and behind the plate in Arizona Phil’s recaps of EXST. He has shown power this spring that he did not have before. Also, Joe Martarano has been crunching balls all day.
When the draft picks sign, there is usually a lot of movement beginning in early July. Most of that is between Arizona, Eugene, South Bend, and Myrtle Beach. Very little flows far uphill to Tennessee and Iowa.