by Todd Johnson
This has been a fun week! I have been following the South Bend Cubs around the Midwest League. It started last Sunday in South Bend, continued over to the Quad Cities, and it will conclude today and tomorrow as South Bend plays at Kane County in nearby Geneva.
I took a lot of pictures and some video that I put on the Facebook account, and I have done a couple of formal interviews, one of which was published earlier in the week. However, my favorite part has just been watching the players interact with each other during warmups and the games. For the most part, I have been situated in the camera wells and the end of each dugout. Being so close, I really appreciate the day in-day out grind and work that they put in to try and accomplish their dream.
What made it more interesting is that over the course of time was that the Cubs took over the lead for a playoff spot in the Eastern Division. South Bend has plenty of good pitching, a lot of team speed, but they are only going to go as far as their hitting and their defense take them. I also got to see new players Clayton Daniel and Jake Steffens arrive about an hour before Wednesday’s game.
Tomorrow, I will publish a prospect interview with pitcher Brendan King, who might start on the mound tomorrow night. He would be replacing Tyler Thomas in the rotation at South Bend. Later in the week I might have another interview and an article about how Cubs’ prospects are using technology to improve their performance.
As for the rest of the system…
Come Monday, short season leagues end their first half. The Mesa 1 team is going to come down to the last game tomorrow to see if they make the playoffs. They currently have a 1/2 game lead over the Diamondbacks. The Mesa 2 team has crawled back close to .500 but is showing signs of life, which portends well for the second half.
In Eugene, things changed greatly last week as most of the college draft picks made their way on the Ems’ roster. There are still a few draft picks in Mesa, but a lot of the 18 to 19-year-old kids that were playing for Eugene a month ago were shuffled back to Mesa. However, Luis Vazquez, Nelson Velasquez, Jonathan Sierra, Luis Diaz, Brailyn Marquez, and Fernando Kelli are still with the Emeralds. It’ll be interesting to see how the college dominated roster will do for Eugene in the second half which starts Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in Tennessee, the Smokies fell out of first place and are now two games back after going through some bullpen issues. In Myrtle Beach, they’ve been playing in between the raindrops only getting a few games in. Jared Young seems to be settling in and is looking more and more like a guy who could be a guy. He hit another home run this week and is now at 12 for the year. I hope that he can add about 10 pounds each of the next two years (that would put him at 200) to increase his power potential.
While Iowa has been out of the playoff hunt for a long time, it looks like Trevor Clifton is knocking on the door to Chicago very loudly. He’s been at Iowa since the first week of June. In that span, he’s put up a 3.29 ERA, and just in July, it is a minuscule 2.11. It is getting harder and harder for anyone to not see what Trevor is up to in Des Moines.
The Cubs traded South Bend pitcher Tyler Thomas this week to Texas in the Jesse Chavez deal. Thomas displayed a plus changeup and an ERA under 3.00 ERA at South Bend. While probably a reliever long term, Thomas should still get a chance to start in the Rangers’ system
Back in Action
2018 second round draft pick Brennen Davis returned to action in Arizona for Mesa 2 after missing a few weeks and was playing right alongside fellow pick Cole Roederer. Roederer is pushing the limits at Mesa and giving the Cubs a hard decision about whether to promote him to Eugene as he hitting almost .400 with an OBP over .500 and 3 dingers in 12 games.
The sad news of the week was that number one draft pick Nico Hoerner is going on the shelf for 4-6 weeks with an elbow injury that occurred last Sunday diving to make a play in South Bend. This pretty much means Hoerner is going to be out for the season. He did make a pit stop in Chicago to visit Wrigley before heading out to Mesa to begin his rehab. More than likely, Hoerner will conclude his maiden season at fall instructs in October. He should begin next year at high A Myrtle Beach.
Players of the Week
Card of the Week