Cubs Promotions

Montero Mouths Off and Caratini Called Up

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In a quick turn of events, catcher Miguel Montero was designated for assignment this afternoon after a poor season trying to throw out base runners. Last night, the Washington Nationals stole 7 bases against Montero and pitcher Jake Arrieta. When asked about it after the game, Montero threw blame onto Arrieta, as well as himself. It was not the most professional way to answer the question. The Cubs still owe him $7 million for the remainder of this season.

As for Mr. Caratini, he was the Cubs Minor League Hitter of the Month in May. For the season, the 23 year old switch hitting Caratini hit .343 in AAA Iowa with 8 HRs and 54 RBI. Offensively, there was nothing left for him to prove in the minors. Instead, Caratini was working hard on improving his defense. For the season, he’d thrown out 12 out of 43 base runners.

Caratini was acquired in a trade from the Braves three years ago.

The Weekly: Good News Around the System and Draft Signings

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By Todd Johnson

Even though there are now eight minor league games a day, it doesn’t seem like much is happening. The draft is complete, the second half began, and all the rookie and short season leagues are in high gear. Yet, here I sit wondering what to write about for the next week. There are, however, good things happening throughout the Cubs system. Here are 14 of them.

1. Trent Giambrone is on fire. He’s hitting .361 with 4 HRs and 8 RBI over his last ten games.
2. Thomas Hatch has allowed one earned run all month. That calculates to a 0.33 ERA.
3. Isaac Paredes, all of 18-years-old, has figured it out at South Bend. He’s hitting .316 and slugging .526 as a shortstop this month.
4. Catcher Alberto Mineo looks to have mastered South Bend. He’s hitting at .323 clip this month.
5. I thought Vimael Machin was going to be a utility/organizational player this year. He has proved me wrong. He is hitting .311 in June and .289 on the year.
6. Justin Steele’s ERA for just May was 1.63. In June, it is 1.62.
7. Charcer Burks is the most unheralded Cub prospect going. He’s hitting .353 for the month and .309 on the year. And, he is a gold glove defender.
8. Victor Caratini’s monthly averages this year are .312, .366, and .333.
9. Bijan Radmacher is on a tear this month. He’s hitting .375 with a .455 OBP
10. Eugene’s Gustavo Polanco has everyone beat in his first 9 games. He’s crushing it at a .486 clip. His OPS is a staggering 1.311.
11. Joe Martarano might be better than I thought. After missing most of 2 years while focusing on football, he’s going at it. He has a .385 average and a .455 OBP. I really like his at-bats. Even when he makes an out, he works counts and lays off stuff out of the zone.
12. Yapson Gomez is the bomb out of the pen for Eugene. He threw 6.1 IP this week and struckout 8.
13. I watched Alex Lange pitch for LSU on Friday. He’s the real deal. He’s not a MLB #1 starter, but he and his curve will do just fine.
14. Carson Sands made his first start of the year in Mesa last night. He had elbow surgery in the off-season to remove elbow splints. He went three scoreless with 6 GB outs.

Draft Signings: 17 to date
The MLB Draft was moved back a bit this year. As a result, draft picks who had normally signed and started playing short season ball are just now getting their physicals. It looks like the Cubs could sign as many as 28-30 players this year.

Rounds 1-10: LHP Brendon Little, RHP Cory Abbott, RHP Keegan Thompson, RHP Erich Uelmen, LHP Ricky Tyler Thomas, 3B/1B/OF Austin Filiere, OF Chris Carrier, and RHP Brian Glowicki

Rounds 11-20: RHP Casey Ryan, RHP Brendan King, RHP Peyton Remy,

Rounds 21-30: RHP Sean Barry, RHP Mitch Stophel, RHP Jake Steffens, RHP Braxton Light, and 2B Cam Balego

Rounds 31-40: IF Ramsey Romano

They should game begin action later this week, most likely in Mesa. The more advanced college players will go to Eugene. There are a few others rumored to be signed, but their physicals must be completed before the signing becomes official. The deadline day to sign is July 15 at 4 PM,  CDST.

Promotion Commotion
Daniel Spingola made his way to Tennessee this week. Conor Myers is back with Myrtle Beach after being with Eugene for the past week.

Around the Minors


Iowa: 3-3; 32-43 – This starting pitching thing will hopefully straighten itself out in the next couple of weeks. Zach Hedges was much better in his second start. He will adjust.

Tennessee: 0-3; 0-3 – The second half got off to a rough start with a tropical storm and then losing both ends of a double header. Trevor Clifton was roughed up in his worst start of the year.

Myrtle Beach: 1-2; 1-2 – Going into Friday’s start, all five starting pitchers had ERAs under 3.18 for the month. Then Ryan Kellogg was uncharacteristically shelled by Down East. Michael Rucker was dominant last night in 5 IP before a rain delay ended his start after only 56 pitches.

South Bend: 1-2; 1-2 – First game back and Zack Short hit a HR. Manny Rondon thn had his best start of the year Thursday and Jose Paulino moved to the bullpen this half. I will have to keep an eye on that rotation. Bryan Hudson was excellent last night. Dylan Cease should be coming up.

Eugene – 3-3; 5-5 – Gustavo Polanco es en fuego and Yapson Gomez has been money in the pen. And who is Jhon Romero (Yes, that’s how he spells it)? 2B Rafael Narea seems to have taken off since he was moved to the leadoff spot. He went 3 for 4 with 2 BBs last night. He’s batting .344 with a .488 OBP.

Mesa:  1-0; 1-0 – Opening day went very well except for that one part where they batted out of order. However, Delvin Zinn did well (2-5) as did Rafael Mejia (3-4, HR). Carson Sands had 1 K in his 3 innings.

DSL 1: 1-4; 5-13 – It was a rough week. Let’s leave it at that.

DSL 2: 2-3; 8-10 – This team has some serious starting pitching but can’t score a lot of runs.


Players of the Week

Card of the Week

My Other Cubs Articles on the Web from this Week

BP Wrigleyville: Thomas Hatch

Cubs Insider: Alex Lange

Schwarber Goes Down, Zagunis Comes Up

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In a stunning turn of events this morning, OF Kyle Schwarber was sent down to AAA Iowa to work on getting back to being an excellent hitter. Schwarber’s struggles are well documented and I hope that he can figure things out. No one said that development is linear and Schwarber’s has definitely not been this season.

The Cubs also placed Jason Heyward on the 10 Day DL and recalled relief pitcher Dylan Floro. Joining Floro in Chicago will be OF Mark Zagunis. Zagunis is known for his eye at the plate and exceptional OBP. He does have some power and should see action in LF. I would think he would be perfect in a leadoff or number 9 hole role.

The Cubs are in Miami and play at 6 Central tonight.

Here is the article I wrote about Zagunis heading into the season.

 

The Weekly – The Pelicans Win Big, Dillon Maples, and Eugene Debuts

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By Todd Johnson

There is a lot of big news to get to this week…

First, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans clinched a playoff spot by winning the first half Southern Division title in the Carolina League, The Pelicans will now have an opportunity to win their third Mills Cup Championship in a row! Sadly, Tennessee and South Bend fell short in their aspirations to make it to the playoffs when both were eliminated on Friday night.

The MLB Draft took place this week and the Cubs selected 41 players including two pitchers in the first round in lefty Brendon Little and Alex Lange. The key now will be to sign between 25-30 of those picks. The deadline looks to be July 15.

EUGENE EMERALDS DEBUT
The Eugene Emeralds opened up their season on Thursday night. They have a couple of elite prospects in catcher Miguel Amaya, who threw out three runners in his first game, and Aramis Ademan, a shortstop who is a defensive stalwart. In addition, 2016 5th round pick Bailey Clark is also on board to anchor the rotation. He had a rough first inning last night before settling in. He should be in South Bend before too long.

This is an extremely young team that needs game experience. I watched most of the first half of each game this week and it is clear that Miguel Amaya is going to be a star. The kid has it all ready to go on defense. On offense, he has a nice inside-out swing that reminds me of Gleyber Torres. In the next two weeks, this roster will change quite a bit as the draft picks come in. Look to see 2B Jared Young, 3B Austin Filiere, OF Chris Carrier, 1B Austin Young, and OFs Brandon Hughes and Chris Singleton, to name a few. There will be several pitchers who arrive in early July.

DILLON MAPLES AND HIS CURVE
I saw one of the best performances all season on Thursday night. Reliever Dillon Maples came into the game for the Smokies in the top of the ninth to close the game. From pitch one, it was evident he did not have command of his fastball. He hit the first batter. The, on cue, Maples began relying almost exclusively on his curve. It is a deadly MLB ready pitch for him. He struck out the next two batters in humiliating fashion, went back to the fastball again and walked a batter. Up came Nick Gordon, one of the top prospects in the game. Maples struck him and made Gordon like silly trying to hit the curve. It was a breathtaking display that showed me that Maples could make it to the majors sooner than we think.

PROMOTION NEWS
After the All-Star games on Tuesday, get ready for several promotions. Zach Hedges was sent from AA to AAA this week. His debut was a bit rough as he gave up 6 runs in 2 innings before settling down. Expect to see a few names move up in the next ten days. It won’t be a lot, just a few.

UPCOMING ARTICLES

  • I finally decided to keep the baseball cards housed on Facebook. It is just easier and faster to load over there. On the Cards page above, I will be putting just the Cards of the Month.
  • Tomorrow, the first half All-Star Team will be published
  • Over at BP Wrigleyville, I have an update on Thomas Hatch’s amazing June
  • On Tuesday, I have some breakout prospects to watch for in the second half
  • Then, on Wednesday, I will be publishing a profile on Jesse Hodges.
  • I will have a second half preview of the major affiliates on Thursday
  • Friday’s post examines the DSL teams
  • On Saturday, I have a preview of the Mesa team

Players of the Week

Card of the Week

My Posts on Other Sites This Week
Cubs Insider
Draft Preview
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Pelicans Win

BP Wrigleyville
Adbert Alzolay
Draft Recap

The Weekly: Tight Playoff Races and the Draft Schedule

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By Todd Johnson

It is all about the draft over the next three days. Here is my plan.

Monday – Rounds 1-2
On Monday night I will be blogging live. The keyword for you will be “refresh.” That way, you can follow along as I make changes and other teams make their selections. Once the Cubs make their first pick, I will begin frantically putting together a new post for pick #27 while awaiting pick #30. Once a second round pick is made at #67, I will do my due diligence on that new prospect as well. So, there will be four posts altogether and three draft cards. I will be on Twitter most of the evening and begin blogging somewhere around 7:30 pm Central.

Tuesday – Rounds 3-10 begins at noon
I tend to like covering day number two a lot. With just 8 picks, there’s a lot less stress in between picks. That leaves me plenty of time to find information, write a brief profile, and make a card. Coverage begins at noon Central. This will be one post for the entire day. Just hit refresh to get caught up on each selection and profile, plus seeing their draft card is always a kick.

Wednesday – Rounds 11-40 begins at 11 AM
This day is a lot of fun just for the research and the cards. I tend not to do too big a blurb about each prospect. It usually starts out bigger at number 11 and by the time I get into the 30s there’s only a sentence or two about the player. For me, this is the most challenging and sometimes fun part of the draft as there’s just not a lot out there on some guys. Think about it, there are 1200 players going to be drafted over three days. My knowledge only goes to about 200-250 tops.

Top 21 List Redux
After the draft is complete, I will have a new top 21 list by the end of the week I don’t know how many draft picks will make it onto the list, but right now I’m guessing three. The Cubs pick at number 27, 30, 67, and 105 in the first three rounds. I am pretty sure the top three picks will make the cut. I think the third round pick has a chance to be in the top 21. As for the fourth round pick, I am not so sure. I think that player will definitely be in the Ala Carte portion of the list.

The Playoff Chase in the Minors
Exactly one week from today is the end of the first half of the minor league season. I cannot believe how fast it went. Three of the affiliates are still in position to earn a playoff spot.

Iowa: 2-6;  26-36
I feel bad for this team right now. They are basically down to three startIng pitchers and two relievers making spot starts. I am pretty positive this will be remedied once the first half ends for Tennessee.

Tennessee: 5-2; 35-26
The pitching is there to finish off the first half championship. They just need the bats to keep it up for one more week. Trey Martin is back patrolling centerfield and Dillon Maples will be joining the team from Myrtle Beach. Yasiel Balaguert seems to be turning it on and Charcer Burks is a model of consistency this year.

Myrtle Beach: 6-1; 36-26
Image may contain: 1 person, playing a sport and baseballWinning seven and a row has them in the first place. It’s going to come down to their offense. Their starting pitching has been outstanding and the bullpen can shut it down. Thomas Hatch and Ryan Kellogg seem to be peaking at the right time. Hopefully, it doesn’t come down to the last day, but I think it might.

South Bend: 3-3; 37-24
Last year it came down to the last day and I think the same thing is going to happen this year. I don’t think they have a shot at winning the division, but they are now tied for a wild-card spot. For that to happen their offense needs to get clicking. And with Dakota Mekkes now in Myrtle Beach, someone in the pen needs to step up as well. Isaac Paredes is hitting over .300 this month.

DSL 1: 3-3: 3-4
DSL 2: 2-4; 2-5
After another two weeks of play I will begin to take a look at some of the players who are standing out. It’s hard to get a grasp on what is happening in the DSL, but usually time wins out when looking at their statistics.  

Extended Spring Training per “The Cub Reporter”
It’s almost over! The players had to Mesa in Eugene and begin their seasons on Thursday. I’ll see if I can have the profile of each team on Thursday. I am not promising anything with the draft. It might be an afternoon post or Saturday at the latest.

Players of the Week

Card of the Week

My Posts on Other Sites This Week

Cubs Insider
Tennessee Update
Eloy
Iowa Cubs Update
Michael Rucker

BP Wrigleyville
Adbert Alzolay

Promotion Commotion: Part 1 – Getting Ready for a Big Wave of Them in 11 Days

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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.

Prospect Update: Is Eloy Walking His Way to AA?

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By Todd Johnson

Eloy Jimenez, the Cubs 20-year old #1 prospect, now has 15 games under his belt at Advanced A Myrtle Beach. He played 6 games in left, 3 in right, and 6 games as the DH or a PH. His stats look good as he is hitting .273 with an OBP over .400 while cranking out 4 HRs and driving in 13. His strikeout rate is 14.5% while he is walking at 16.5%, 10% above normal for him. He is a little pull happy with 59% of hits to left, 19.1% to center, and 21.4% to right. I could go on and on about every stat of his in this short sample size and they would be amazing stats. Every one of them signals that he is the top prospect in the Cubs system. That only leaves one question to ask: “What is he still doing in Myrtle Beach?”

My initial answer is, “I don’t know.”

His throwing shoulder, which he injured in late spring training, looks to be fine. He doesn’t seem to be challenged. He tracks most pitches well. He is able to easily identify the type of pitch. He rarely gets fooled. I did notice in the past week, that he was swinging with more gusto than normal. Rather than putting a good stroke on the ball, he was trying to kill it. Those at-bats didn’t last too long after going 0-5 and 0-4 on back-t0-back nights. Last night, he looked back in control with a a HR and a double in the same game.

How He Is Being Pitched?
When other writers like Tommy Meyers (@FullCountTommy) look at Eloy’s stats, the first thing to pop out is the BB%.

As a result of this tweet, I started going back to get a good look at how Eloy was being pitched. I opened his game logs on MiLB.com. Then, using the Calendar function on MilB Scoreboard, I was able to go to those dates he took a base on balls and I was able to use the “plays” function on Gameday to get a look at where pitchers threw to him and the sequence. I was looking, hopefully, to find a pattern of approach against Eloy.

One thing I kept in mind was that three of the teams in the Carolina League also have affiliates in the Midwest League where Eloy played in 2016 in South Bend. Buies Creek, Carolina, and Lynchburg pitchers have seen what Eloy can do with a bat.

The patterns I found follow three main designs:
1. Good at-bats – Eloy was able to fight off pitches and not give in. He was being a good hitter with a good approach.

2. The “We’re not giving you anything close to hit” walk.

3. A steady diet of down and away

The Bottom Line: How much longer will Eloy have to stay in Myrtle Beach?
Considering he just went through an 0-9 streak, he is learning how to adapt to how he is being pitched. Let’s look at how he adjusting. Here is the graphic from Gameday on his HR in the bottom of the 8th.

The pattern looks the same for the balls. The pitcher tried to come up and in on his hands and Jimenez destroyed it. It’s hard to describe, but Eloy has amazing pitch recognition skills. He can pick up the ball very quickly out of the pitcher’s hand and be able to pick up the spin and rotation as well.

Here is the home run in real time.

One other thing consider about promoting Eloy is that Myrtle Beach is also in the middle of a chase for a playoff berth as is AA Tennessee. I don’t think there is any rush to get him to AA. I tend to think it will happen over the All-Star break between the 19th and 21st of June. While Eloy’s talent is undeniable, he still has some work to do. Will that work be best served in Myrtle Beach or in Tennessee?

I tend to think Eloy would be better off in Tennessee where he could snuggle in front of or behind Jason Vosler in the batting order. Then, there would be no one to pitch around. He would see more consistent balls in/around the strike zone.

Eloy showed this spring that he can hit major league pitching. Where will his development best be served the rest of this year?