Cubs Minor League Player of the Week Awards
By Todd Johnson
Going 14 for 18 over a four game span will get you noticed. That is what Eugene Emeralds’ second baseman Jared Young did last week. Add in one home run and eight RBI and you can see why he will probably be named the Northwest League Player of the Week today.
The Cubs drafted Young in the 15th round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Old Dominion. At 6’2″ tall, Young is pretty good sized for a second baseman. He shows a good approach at the plate and at 21-years-old has shown an excellent ability to adjust in a short period of time.
Potential for power
Originally from British Columbia, Young played at three schools in his three years of college. His first year saw him at D2 Minot State in North Dakota where hit .398 with 5 HRs and 35 RBI as a pitcher/infielder. As a sophomore, he hit 11 home runs and drove in 54 for Connors State Junior College in Oklahoma. This spring, he was at Old Dominion where he hit 7 home runs and drove in 34. But at each stop, he displayed a mix of power, average, and a 2 to 1 walk to strikeout ratio.
When he arrived at Eugene this summer, you could see the smooth swing and you could see him watching the ball into the mitt. But something was off. My friend John commented how much he really liked Young’s approach and stroke. But the results were not there as he just .135 in his first 16 games. When digging deeper into Fangraphs, John noticed that his batting average of balls in play (BABIP) was in the low 200s. So, in other words, Young was extremely unlucky.
However, in August, his BABIP exploded up over .300 and his average did, too. For the month, Young hit .323 and continued his good fortune into September going 14 for his last 18 with one home run and 8 RBI just last week. In August, his average went from .131 to .230 and just in September, it’s risen to .257.
Despite his early struggles, Manager Jesus Feliciano stuck with Young batting him second most of the past six weeks after originally betting him sixth or seventh. In the two spot, he’s hit .333 with a .397 OBP while only striking out ten times versus 7 BBs. He is currently averaging 3.96 pitches per plate appearance. I think that will improve more as he settles in as a pro.
I really like watching him play. I can see several comps to him from Chase Utley to DJ LeMahieu but I think he’s his own kind of player. And based upon his track record, I think he’s only going to get better with pro instruction. I’m excited to see him in the playoffs this week and at South Bend every day next year.
As for his future, I don’t think it’s determined the type of player he’s going to be. With his frame, you would think that there’s a lot of potential for power there and he has shown in the past to be able to hit the ball over the fence. But how much he’s going to do that, I don’t know yet. I am sure fall instructs and spring training will advance his development in the next seven months.
By Todd Johnson
With the minor league regular season ending tomorrow, that was the quickest five months I can ever remember. But the postseason begins Tuesday and the Cubs have three teams in the playoffs. Myrtle Beach clinched in June, Eugene clinched last night, and Mesa finalized their spot yesterday afternoon. South Bend, sadly, ended its run last night with a loss at Bowling Green. The playoffs begin Thursday for Myrtle Beach, Tuesday for Eugene, and Mesa laces them up at a time to be determined.
Dillon Maples, Mike Freeman, and Victor Caratini were all promoted from Iowa to Chicago on Friday. In addition, Justin Grimm was activated from the DL and more promotions will probably come on Tuesday when Iowa is completely done with their season. I am expecting Taylor Davis, Mark Zagunis, Matt Carasiti, and Bijan Rademacher to get looks this September.
Four Cubs prospects were named All-Stars for their season by their respective leagues. Victor Caratini and Matt Carasiti are Pacific Coast League All-Stars while David Bote and Jason Vosler earned similar honors in the Southern League.
In Sad News…
Justin Steele had Tommy John surgery supposedly on August 22 according to a tweet by Jon Roegele. Hopefully he can come back by the end of next season to get some pitches in. For the year, he made 20 starts with a 2.92 ERA and made the Carolina League All-Star Game as well as two monthly ones here at Cubs Central.
On Friday, the Cubs released 27-year-old reliever José Rosario. Hopefully he can latch on with another team to fulfill his dream.
With the season ending tomorrow, I have several posts already in the can just waiting to be published. On Tuesday, I will post the year end report for the Iowa Cubs. The Tennessee Smokies will get their year end review next and I will work South Bend’s recapitulation in after that. However, when Wednesday gets here, I will have short posts about the playoff action for Myrtle Beach, Eugene, and Mesa.
Players of the Week
Baseball Card of the Week
My Other Stuff on the Web From This Week
By Todd Johnson
With just a little over a week to go, two teams are still in the playoff hunt. Myrtle Beach is already in but Eugene has a slight two game lead over Boise for a wild-card spot and Mesa is one game out of first after winning five in a row. Eugene’s final game is on Labor Day while Mesa’s is next Saturday.
Two players I was most impressed with this week were reliever Jhon Romero, now at South Bend, and Jesus Tejada of DSL 2. Romero throws a mid 90s fastball with a 12 to 6 curve that has a sharp downward break. He’s been at South Bend for the past couple weeks and has been dominating. This week, Tejada pitched a seven inning no-hitter for DSL 2. He also struck out nine in the game after having striking out ten in his previous start. He’s a certain lock for this month’s All-Star team and he could be the August pitcher of the month.
In addition, it looks like Joe Martarano has dropped his high leg kick in favor or something much quieter and he is taking off hitting .344 in his last ten games. Miguel Amaya is hitting over .300 this month while Jonathan Sierra is raking at a .290+ clip and recent draft pick is hitting .259 with 4 HRs in August.
Bailey Clark made his way to South Bend and will hopefully get 2 starts in this year as a South Bend Cub. Reliever Manuel Rodriguez arrived before him from Eugene and already has a save. Pitcher Alex Lange was transferred back to Mesa as he is at 9.1 innings of his 10 inning limit this year. Pitchers Matt Swarmer and Tommy Thorpe continued their tour around the organization this week. On Friday night, they both pitched for Tennessee.
Carlos Sepulveda – After missing most of the year, Sepulveda went three for four on Friday night and will likely be back to help Myrtle Beach go for its third straight Mills Cup Championship.
Will Remillard – He went 5 for 7 (.714) in his return at Eugene this week. He also threw out a baserunner by a good 10 feet at third base. It’s so nice to see him back and I wonder if he’s going to get a sneak peek at another level this week, even if it is just for a couple of games.
Oscar de la Cruz – After making an appearance at Mesa last week, Oscar returned to Myrtle Beach to go just a couple of innings. He still looked a bit rusty and still has not let it loose. I don’t know if that’s on purpose, but he doesn’t have the velocity that he did two years ago. His quality pitches are still there, it’s just a matter of him commanding them.
Alec Mills – He made his second start for Mesa this week and looks to be rebounding nicely. I don’t know if he’ll make it back to Iowa this next week or if he’ll stay and help Mesa and their playoff push. It’s likely the Cubs will just keep an eye on him in Mesa.
The August All-Star Team selection post that will come out on Friday is nearing completion. This month’s post will be a little different. Rather than have a prospect in every position, I am going with just whoever had the best month regardless of their position. I should have upwards of five catchers making the All-Star team this month and all would be deserving. It’s going to be quite the different All-Star team. There are some familiar names of prospects who have appeared at one point during this season. There are also a lot of young players who are beginning to figure things out in the lower minor leagues.
This offseason, the profile series will be entitled “Levelling Up.” In the past, the prospect profile updates were called “Making the Jump” and “Next Up.” These will appear once a week. The players to be profiled will only be players moving up a level for 2018. Players that I expect to stay at a level will not be covered.
I am hoping to travel more next summer. I would love to make it down to Tennessee to see a couple of games. As for the Midwest League, my scheduled trips will be to Clinton, Kane County, the Quad Cities, and Cedar Rapids. Although the schedule has not come out yet, it looks like all I can just drive back and forth the day of a game except for Cedar Rapids. However, Kane County might fall on school nights based on this year’s schedule.
Players of the Week
Around the Minors This Week:
Iowa – 3-2; I tend to think when this season is over that the Cubs will be clearing house this winter. Some of the players contracts will just expire while other prospects will be just given their outright release to have an opportunity to play elsewhere. The Cubs did this exact same thing a couple years ago. A lot of the players on the Iowa roster are not long-term Cubs.
Tennessee – 2-5: When it comes to promotions next spring, I think about half this team will make its way to Iowa. There are a few more who could join them depending upon their performance in spring training. Don’t expect all the Smokies to head to Des Moines.
Myrtle Beach – 3-3: Over the past two weeks, the Pelicans won 10 out of 12 at one point looking like the Pelicans of May and June. That’s a good sign heading into the playoffs.
South Bend – 7-0: If not for a six week stretch in late May through early July, they would be the team of the year in the Cubs organization. I don’t know what happened during that stretch but everything stopped working. Over the past month they have come from the bottom of the division to compete for a playoff spot that seemed hopeless after starting the second half so poorly.
Eugene – 5-2: In order to get in the playoffs, their last stretch of the season is all on the road. Luckily for the Emerald, those games are against the teams with the two worst record in the Northwest League. Hopefully, the hitting will come around as it appears the starting pitching has solidified.
Mesa – 5-1: This team struggled all season and in the last two weeks they have turned it on. The nice thing about the Arizona Rookie League as it has two short halves. At 11-11 in the second half, they are in the thick of the playoff hunt with just six days to go. Thanks to some recent draft picks, the starting pitching is decent given the bats a chance. There could even be two DSL pitchers coming up to join them this week. Recent draftee Jeremiah Estrada has thrown 3 scoreless IP with 3 Ks so far.
DSL 1 – 3-3: Final Record 37-33.
DSL 2 – 5-2; Final Record 34-37.
I will have a post out this week about some players from both teams who should be heading north soon.
Baseball Card of the Week
By Todd Johnson
The Cubs got a big win yesterday to stop a three game skid. There are still 53 games left to play and most of them are against teams with losing records. After next Sunday, the Cubs do not play a team with a winning record for the rest of the month. I feel pretty good about that.
The Eugene Trio: It’s been a beautiful week for the starting pitching of Eugene. When their All-Star break ended and play resumed on Thursday night, Jose Albertos pitched five innings of one hit ball. On Friday night, first-round draft pick Alex Lange made his professional debut with two innings of hitless ball. And on Saturday night, the Cubs other first round pick, Brendon Little, made his second start (but not a good one) as a Cubs prospect. That’s a promising peak into the future, provided they all stay healthy.
Cubs MiLB Awards: I expected that the Cubs would announce their awards on Saturday for minor league hitter and pitcher of the month for July but not a peep.
MiLB Farm System Rankings: Both Baseball America and MLB.com released their midseason farm system rankings this week. Not surprisingly, Baseball America ranked the Cubs 28th out of 30 teams. Considering who they traded this summer, no big news there. MLB.com only ranked the top 10, but they put the White Sox as number one.
John Sickels : He takes a while to release his midseason rankings. By the time he’s done, the season is usually over. After seeing MLB.com’s rankings last week , I was interested to see John’s take on the Cubs’ system and just who he thinks the top Cubs prospects are. It should be out today or tomorrow. I might even do a post about it, depending on how he ranks them.
Around the Minors: September 4 is coming quick. That is when the MILB season ends. Right now, only Myrtle Beach has punched a ticket to the postseason. Iowa and South Bend are pretty much out of the running along with the two Dominican summer league teams.Tennessee, on the other hand, is only three games back of Montgomery for a wildcard berth. Eugene has a slim one game lead as the second half division leader. In Mesa, despite being with the second worst team in the league the first half, is only one game back in the second.
Iowa – 4-2: Rob Zastryzny made it back from rehab and made it back from rehab and made his way to Chicago very quickly. Victor Caratini returned and promptly hit home runs both Friday and Saturday nights.
Tennessee – 5-2: Craig Brooks was named the Southern League’s Reliever of the Month after not giving up an earned run throughout July. Trevor Clifton missed a start this week but will be ready to go today. Hopefully, he can just relax and let his pitches do the work. Duane Underwood has now made two excellent starts in a row including a seven inning affair on Friday night where he struck out seven.
Myrtle Beach – 3-5: This team is having some issues as they have the worst record in the Carolina League in the second half after having the best the first. It is not the fault of Zack Short who seems to be making an excellent adjustment to high A ball. Over his last 10 games, the young shortstop is hitting .351 with a .405 OBP from the leadoff spot. In addition, pitcher Michael Rucker continues to do well. This week, he scattered 11 hits but only allowed one run in his start.
South Bend – 3-4: Erling Moreno returned to action on Friday night and pitched three innings while giving up just a run. Bryan Hudson also had an excellent start this week where he did not allow run in five innings. As well, Tyler Peyton had his best start as he gave up just one run in five innings. At the plate, Andruw Monasterio and Aramis Ademan make a formidable duo at the top of the lineup. I see this team maturing in small bits the past month. That bodes well for next year.
Eugene – 3-1: Several new players arrived this week including outfielder Chris Singleton and infielder Ramsey Romano. Singleton is off to a pretty good start and Romano struggled in his first two games after hitting almost 400 at Mesa. Pitcher Cory Abbott was also added to the team but has not thrown yet. Every time Ricky Tyler Thomas pitches, I come away extremely impressed with his performance, even if it is as a reliever.
Mesa – 2-4: It looks like their starting pitching might be starting to stabilize. Faustino Carrera had his best start of the year this week and Brailyn Marquez has looked amazing at times and terrible at others. Either way, he is striking out a lot of hitters (32 in 25.1 IP). Stephen Ridings had his best outing of year on Friday night and it looks like Brendan King might be a sleeper based on his short outings (1.59 ERA).
DSL 1 – 2-3: After a good week last week, the pitching hit the skids this week. Fernando Kelli has stolen almost 50 SBs. I am starting to get questions about the young switch hitting 18-year-old outfielder.
DSL 2 – 3-3: I still like some of the pitchers they have left. Danis Correa was promoted to Mesa and he might be followed by Emilio Ferrebus and Jesus Tejada. At the very least, expect Ferrebus and Tejada to be at instructs.
Coming up at Cubs Central.
1. Draft Player Update – In two separate posts, I will be giving an update on how this year’s draft class is performing as Cubs.
2. The other post I might write this week could be on some players I think who are ascending the past two months and might break out at the beginning of next year, if they have not already this year. Then again, I may wait until September to do this post.
3. I will continue to do updates on several of the Cubs top pitching prospects. That seems to be my focus of late.
4. I will also be interviewing pitcher Duncan Robinson in the early part of this week. Look for information from that discussion to be on all three platforms.
Card of the Week
Don’t ask me how, but I made 150 last month. This week, I already made over 30. Good thing school starts in a week: 2017 Cards: August .
By Todd Johnson
The Good News
The Cubs are 1.5 games in front of Milwaukee. So, they will be leaving town in first place at the least. They only play 9 games in August against teams with winning records and they all happen in the first ten days.
The Sad News
Cubs Den founder John Arguello passed away yesterday. I send my condolences out to his family, friends, and web site. He was an inspiration in my starting this site and John was always helpful along the way. I wrote about his direct role in my career last night. He is already missed.
While tomorrow is the non-waiver trade deadline, I don’t think I will be surprised on who or what the Cubs acquire. I think a catcher will be acquired, and maybe even a pitcher. What could surprise me is what the Cubs might give up to acquire a catcher, reliever, and/or starter. I will post and update throughout the day on Monday. Despite Jed and Theo saying the Cubs have already made their big trade, the Cubs still have enough assets to get more.
James Norwood was promoted from Myrtle Beach up to Tennessee and Yapson Gomez went from Eugene to South Bend. Also, Jake Stinnett is off the DL and appeared in relief in Myrtle Beach. He will not be starting the rest of this year, which is only five weeks.
MLB Pipeline came out with its latest prospect lists this week. They produced a top 100 for all of MLB and each team got its own top 30 list. The Cubs only placed one player in the top 100. Jeimer Candelario was ranked at #92 and was followed in the Cubs list by Oscar de la Cruz, Jose Albertos, and Adbert Alzolay. The Cubs top 30 is a very pitcher driven list with 8 out of the top 12, and 19 total, being potential arms.
Meanwhile, over at Fangraphs, Chris Mitchell released the latest KATOH rankings. Mitchell uses data from prospect ranking along with MiLB statistics from the past two season to produce a “Wins Above Replacement” forecast up to six years. The Cubs placed three in the top 100. Mark Zagunis (#77), Jeimer Candelario (#83), and Victor Caratini (#91) received the honors. When it comes to just stats only, Ian Rice made that list at #60. In addition, Caratini, Zagunis and Isaac Paredes were found in the 70s on the stats only list.
John Sickels of Minor League Baseball should be coming out with his mid-season Cubs prospect list this week or next.
Also, Chris Kusiolek tweeted a couple of evaluations from Arizona on how a couple young players from the Mesa Cubs are looking early in their career.
Nelson Velasquez explosive hands w/ 6 bat speed; avg build, thick up thru trunk; Rotation; fairly compact path, off top hand. Above avg raw
— Chris Kusiolek (@CaliKusiolek) July 25, 2017
After a rough start, he has popped a couple of dingers and his average is climbing over .200. His fellow countrymen, Luis Vazquez, seems to following the same career trajectory but it closing in on .250. Kusiolek also chimed in on pitcher Brailyn Marquez who had an excellent start this week with 7 Ks in 5.1 IP.
Brailyn Marquez good proj build; physical, high waisted; extremely loose w/ compact arm swing; 92-94 w/ tail & bore. 84-88 CH; 73-79 roller
— Chris Kusiolek (@CaliKusiolek) July 25, 2017
It will be a busy week coming up at Cubs Central.
Monday – I will be reporting on any trades the Cubs make and the impact that could have on the MLB club and the MiLB system.
Tuesday – The Monthly All-Star Team will be published. There are a lot of new names this month. You might want to get used to that.
Wednesday – My monthly Baseball Cards of the Month post comes out. Action is this month’s theme.
Thursday – I will be rounding up the month of July on each affiliate. It hasn’t been the best of months for this farm system when it comes to winning.
Around the Minors This Week
It was a brutal week for most teams across the system. I will spare you the details but know that the DSL 1 team is playing well. Also, Brendon Little made his first start and now has to wait until next weekend after the Northwest League All-Star Break to make his second.
Players of the Week
My Other Stuff on the Web From This Week
By Todd Johnson
When I last talked in early June about Michael Rucker, he had just made his first start as a pitcher as a Cubs prospect. Since then, he made 8 more starts and was named Carolina League Pitcher of the Week twice…in back-to-back weeks. Altogether, Rucker’s performance are raising a lot of eyebrows and questions about whether the Cubs may have an unearthed a gem in the 11th round of last year’s draft. Here are “Ten Things I Think” about the 23 year old starter.
1. I think the Cubs knew what they were getting in Rucker. He was the Friday night starter for BYU his junior year. He had gone 11-1 with a 2.73 ERA. The reason Rucker fell to the 11th round was signability. He still had one year of eligibility left.
2. The Yankees were also reportedly in on him along with a few other teams. While BYU may not seem like a baseball powerhouse, it did also produce fellow Cub Jake Hannemann.
4. He was upset about starting at first. According to Pelicans’ announcer Scott Kornberg, Rucker was upset because of his concern for teammate Oscar de la Cruz’s shoulder strain.
5. As a starter in June, he went 25.2 IP with a 2.10 ERA. He made my June All-Star Team after making the May one as a reliever.
6. In July, he has a 1.83 ERA in 9 starts with just 4 BBs and 49 Ks in just 24 innings. Those are some impressive statistics to put up in back-to-back months.
7. I like him a lot because he throws strikes. It’s not that he attacks hitters (he’s only hit one). Rather, he just puts the ball in the zone with some nice armside run on his fastball.
8. His velocity has been pretty consistent all year. Usually, if a guy becomes a starter after being a reliever, there’s usually a downturn in velocity. Not for Rucker. He’s been able to maintain his velocity between 93-96 all year with a couple reports of him touching 97. And he’s been able to sustain that velocity deep into games.
9. He stands a pretty good shot of being named the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Month late next week. Right now, I would say it is down to Rucker, Jen-Ho Tseng of Iowa, and Jesus Camargo of Eugene. All have 1 start left in the month.
10. What I am most interested in seeing in the next month are two lists. One came out Monday night and that was MLB.com’s Top 30 organizational prospect list. He did not make the list. The other list coming out in a couple of weeks is from Minor League Ball by John Sickels. Inclusion would be a sign of his standing as a prospect.
It doesn’t seem like 50+ innings as a starter by the end of this month would anoint Michael Rucker as an elite prospect, but it could. Oscar de la Cruz’s 73 inning performance in 2015 did it for him. But making a prospect list isn’t just about performance. It also involves skills, projection, and the quality of his pitches. For me, he’s a “prospect of interest.” I would imagine, that right now, he is what he is. I don’t know how much more his skills will improve. If there is room for improvement, which I think there is, that changes his outlook.
But he’s looking good. He should be in the discussion as a possible arm for the future.
Next year, he will be at AA. That puts him pretty close to Chicago. I’d say he’s a guy to watch. One can rise quickly in the system and that is just what he is doing.
By Todd Johnson
The big league club went 4-1 at home this week and has won 7 out of 8 since the break. They now sit one game behind Milwaukee and are 5.5 games behind both Arizona and Colorado for a wild card spot. There are 66 games to go.That’s a lot of baseball left to be played. Jose Quintana goes tonight against the Cardinals on ESPN at 7.
That late start time for the Sunday game works great for me as I will be back in Beloit at 2 p.m. today watching South Bend play the Snappers, the A’s class A affiliate in the Midwest League. Yesterday, I got to interview reliever Wyatt Short and recent draft pick Austin Upshaw. I hope to talk to hitting coach Jeremy Farrell today about Kevonte Mitchell and Isaac Paredes. I will be going back to Beloit Monday night, but probably just as a normal fan.
I posted several pics I took last night on the Pics/Video page. You can see close up at-bats on video of Kevonte Mitchell, Isaac Paredes, Austin Upshaw, and Luis Ayala. I will add some more pics/video from today when I got home and there could be a few more on Monday.
For the month of July, I have made almost 150 baseball cards. The pictures have just been so good that I cannot stop. They are all stored on our Facebook account. It will be hard to pick just ten for the Cards of the Month.
Around the Minors This Week
Iowa: 3-5; 45-53 – Pitching still seems to be a big issue except for Jen-Ho Tseng. He went 7 IP last night and now has a 1.40 ERA in 3 starts at AAA. In a weird set of circumstances on Friday, John Andreoli was injured on one play, replaced by Bijan Radmacher, who was then injured on the very next play.
Tennessee: 2-3; 16-12 – Between the raindrops along the Gulf, the Smokies have run into some starting pitching issues. Hopefully, those can be resolved quickly as they are now tied with Montgomery for a playoff spot.
Myrtle Beach: 4-4; 12-16 – The bats have not woken up since the Eloy trade. Pitcher Michael Rucker has been amazing and Duncan Robinson had his best start since being promoted. Vimael Machin continues to hit since moving to high A.
South Bend: 3-3; 15-14 – It looks like they have their bullpen issues resolved, now they need to solidify the starting pitching. Carson Sands had 2 rough starts on his way back from having bone spurs removed this past winter. On the other hand, I have been impressed with Tyson Miller the last few starts. I will get to see his slider Monday.
Eugene: 4-3; 21-16 – Their first half ends today. If they win and Hillsboro loses, they make the playoffs. Hopefully the Emeralds can get it done. Miguel Amaya seems to have broken out of his slump the last four games and his average is up over .200 to .220. #1 draft pick Brendon Little debuts on Tuesday against Salem-Keiser. Also, Jesus Camargo looks a little too advanced for short season ball. His changeup is other wordly at this level.
Mesa: 2-4, 7-16 – It is becoming all about the draft picks. Chris Singleton seems to fit in the leadoff spot and Ramsey Romano and Cam Balego continue to rake at .400 clips. Pitcher Brendan King from Holy Cross made a start on Saturday and went 3 IP while allowing a run.
DSL 1: 2-3; 21-20
DSL 2: 2-4; 21-21 –
Draft Pick News
Alex Lange is the only draft pick that is left to be assigned to a team.
Coming Up This Week on Cubs Central
Another Jose Albertos Start
Dakota Mekkes Interview Part 2
South Bend Turning It Around
Second Half Surprises
Brendon Little’s First Start
Austin Upshaw Profile