The Weekly – Garcia Moves Up, Oscar Catches Fire, and Cole Improves Steadily


It’s been an interesting week in the minors. The most notable news item was the promotion of Robel Garcia to AAA Iowa from AA Tennessee. There was not a corresponding move for a middle infielder in the rest of the system. And there might not be until the middle of June. Nico is still on the injured list along with Zack Short. As a result, we get to see what Garcia can do and if he might be a guy in the short term who could help in Chicago. He went 3/4 on Friday night and 1/2 with 2 BBs on Saturday.

Pitchers Tommy Nance and Jake Stinnett also got their first action of the year. First at Myrtle Beach and then at Tennessee. As well, reliever Sean Barry debuted at South Bend on Thursday night with one scoreless inning and a save. And for Iowa, Jake Hannemann returned on Friday night.

On Wednesday’s Midweek Report, I wrote about some guys that were heating up. I can add a few more names to that list. Javier Assad of Myrtle Beach has thrown 14 straight scoreless innings and Faustino Carrera of South Bend is off to a great start in May. I got to see Faustino on Friday, May 3 in Clinton, Iowa. He can throw His fastball in the mid to upper 80s, but his curve and changeup are just outstanding. I can see why as the weather warms up those pitchers will succeed more than they would in the first couple weeks of April’s chill. And Oscar de la Cruz had a heck of a week for Tennessee – 11 IP, 1 Run, 12 Ks.

I remember a couple weeks ago I said to be patient with Cole Roederer’s progress. He’s now got a nice 10 game streak where he’s showing his hit tool and some patience at the plate as well. Considering that he’s just 19, I’m excited to see him really go at it in June. Why June? It just gets a little warmer and he’s just going to be more comfortable playing in that kind of heat. The chill of the north is not always kind to some warm weather kids in April.

In other good news, Jose Albertos was lights out in extended spring training on Friday. In two scoreless innings, he struck out the side in the first and got weak contact in the second. According to Arizona Phil, he threw 25 pitches, 18 of them were strikes!

19-year-old Luis Vazquez is filling in for Nico at AA Tennessee for a couple of weeks. Everyone knew that the youngster could handle the defensive part of position. But offensively, AA was thought to be way above his abilities. So far, though, he’s surprised everyone by holding his own by hitting .277. When Nico comes back, Luis will probably head back to Mesa, but he’s probably close to ready for a full time gig of his own at South Bend later this summer after the draft.

On Thursday, I posted an article about Cubs’ recent international free agent strategy. Later that day, MLB Pipeline released more footage of catcher Ronnier Quintero batting and it’s pretty impressive.

 A post about SS Kevin Made soon followed.

As for last year’s class, Richard Gallardo has been pitching in extended spring training as a 17-year-old. He’s going to stay in the United States this summer and play in the Arizona Rookie League. Arizona Phil of The Cub Reporter put out a mini scouting report in the comment section this week that is worth reading.

For a 17-year old he’s very polished and poised. If I didn’t know better I would think he was a D-1 college draft pick. High floor type pitcher. 91-93 MPH FB, solid CV, CH looks promising. Throws strikes. Stuff isn’t electric. Doesn’t get a lot of swings & misses. He’s probably not quite as much of a prospect as you would think he would be given his $1M signing bonus. I would call him (at best) a younger version of Paul Richan, or Javier Assad might be even a better comp. He’s a good prospect but he’s not elite. Because he is so polished at such a young age I would say he is one of the Cubs Top 10 pitching prospects, but he’s not one of the Top 5.

To counter what Phil has to say, consider this: Gallardo is essentially a junior in high school who is going to be playing professional baseball in the US. That’s a good 2-5 years before most young players begin their careers in the Arizona Rookie League. Give him time to grow physically and develop professionally. Remember…who he is now is not who he is going to be in 4-5 years.

The Roundup
Iowa (5-2; 24-12) – This team is clicking on all cylinders. The starting pitching is starting to come around and Trevor Clifton just continues to be lights out this year. Duane Underwood has not allowed an earned run this month.
Tennessee (2-5; 17-18) – All of a sudden, the offense went kaput. Hopefully, Nico will return this week from his bruise. Tyson Miller continues to shine along with Oscar.
Myrtle Beach (3-3; 12-24) – Things are improving after a dreadful start to the year. The offense is picking up a bit and the starting pitching has been excellent. The bullpen blew three late leads this week otherwise they would have been 6-0. Still, they are 5-5 in May , which is miles better than April. Alex Lange looks to have put a disastrous April behind him as he has a 2.21 ERA in 2 May starts. Luis Lugo is looking good as their new fifth starter.
South Bend (5-1; 19-15) – The hitters had 12 BBs on Friday night as a team. I really enjoy watching these kids grind out ABs every night and the starting pitching rotation is getting deeper as Derek Casey seems to have found a groove along with Carrera. Eury Ramos was outstanding in his start as well this week with 5 scoreless and 7 Ks. And in the bullpen, one pitcher has a 6.00 ERA for the month, the other 7 guys have 0.00…combined!

Coming Up next Week
On Monday, Tyson Miller of Tennessee gets an update while on Tuesday I have a draft profile. Here’s a nice reminder – THE MLB DRAFT IS JUST 3 WEEKS AWAY! That’s all I have planned for the week. Let’s just see where the action, news, and trends take us.

Card of the Week

Photo by Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Players of the Week

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Prospect Update: Cory Abbott Is Polishing Up His Resume for Chicago


Cory Abbott looks like he is going to be the best second round pick the Cubs have made in the Theo Epstein era. Until yesterday, he had been just flat out filthy for AA Tennessee to start the year. Armed with a fastball that he can locate and a plus slider, Abbott has been missing a lot of bats in the Southern League.

The modus operandi for Abbott the past year and a half has been pretty standard. Abbott would arrive at an affiliate, struggle for two-three weeks, make adjustments, and then dominate. He did that at Eugene in 2017 after being drafted, he did it again at South Bend last April and May, and he did it at Myrtle Beach in June, July, and August of 2018. I had him as Cubs Central’s Pitcher of the Year after posting a 2.50 between the two affiliates with 131 Ks in 1115 innings. In fact, I was a little surprised he didn’t get to see a little bump to Tennessee at the end of the year. 

Basic Info
Height – 6’2”
Weight – 220 lbs.
Bats – Right
Throws – Right
Age – 23
Drafted – 2017 – 2nd round, Loyola Marymount
ETA – 2020

Abbott  ticked up his senior year of college and the Cubs took him in the second round. He’s been very successful at every stop so far in the Cubs system. While Abbott does have a 92-94 mile per hour fastball that he can spot, it is his slider/slurve/cutter that is his go-to pitch. 

Here is what MLB pipeline had to say this spring about Abbott. They ranked him as the Cubs 18th top prospect.

Hitters don’t see the ball well against Abbott, who has a deceptive delivery and generates swings and misses without a true plus pitch. His best offering is his improved cutter, which sits in the upper 80s. He added velocity to his four-seam fastball last year, pitching at 90-93 mph, and also has a decent curveball and a fringy changeup.

Going back to his early days in college when he didn’t have his weaponized cutter, Abbott challenged hitters and filled the strike zone. He has a strong build and is efficient with his pitch counts, so he should be able to log plenty of innings toward the back of a rotation.

That evaluation and analysis gives us a better idea of just what makes him so effective on the mound and what could possibly make him effective at the major league level.

However, it is the mental aspects of the game where Abbott really stands out. He’s tenacious, competitive, and driven. When he pitches, Cory doesn’t really exert maximum maximum effort, but you can see his brain working just as hard as his body. He is a fierce competitor as he attacks the strike zone with every pitch.There’s a ferocity and an intensity that’s almost unmatched in the system.

To that end, his strike percentage is pretty good as well. At Eugene, it was 64%, South Bend 65%, Myrtle Beach 64%, and this year it is humming along at 64%.

Currently, he has a 2.86 ERA in 28.1 innings. In his five starts, he’s pitched into the sixth in all but one. While he did give up a four spot yesterday, Abbott will make adjustments and be ready for the next start and he will go deep into the game. He has only hit 90 pitches once this year. He is going to get stretched out very soon as the weather warms.

What about Chicago?
Anything is on the table at this point, but Abbott needs to get through AA first. The Cubs have to love what he has been able to do in less than two years. His intangibles really make him stand out from all the other pitchers, and he does have major league pitches. With Cole Hamels’ contract expiring at the end of this year, there could be an opening for the rotation next year. Mike Montgomery, Kendall Graveman, Adbert Alzolay, and a host of others will be competing along with Abbott for that spot. It is going to be fun.

The Weekly Returns – April Means MiLB Baseball Is Here!


The major league club kicked off the season on Thursday this week down in Texas. I’d say a 12-4 win kicked off the season the right way. Last night, the walkfest, the lead evaporator, or whatever you want to call it, was not a fun game to watch. The Cubs suit up at 3 today. Cole Hamels, who I love, is on the bump.

MiLB Opening Week
While I await for what I am going to call the “2019 Iowa Roster Massacre,” today, I will be putting the finishing touches on the affiliate previews. Currently, Iowa has 37 guys on the roster. They have to get down to 25. Some will be cut, some will be sent to extended spring training, and some will head down to Tennessee. Myrtle Beach published their roster on Friday and South Bend did their’s last night. Come tomorrow, I roll out Iowa’s preview, followed by Tennessee on Tuesday, Myrtle on Wednesday, and I wrap it up with South Bend on Thursday.  On Saturday, I will have my annual preview of a preview of Eugene.

Three of the four major affiliates will kick off their season with exhibition games on Tuesday or Wednesday. Only Iowa is sitting that experience out. Come Thursday, Iowa will open the season down in Nashville while Tennessee, Myrtle Beach, and South Bend all start the year at home. Right now, I don’t know which game to watch, a lot of that depends on who will be pitching. Come Friday morning, I will have a summary about opening night.

A Few Things to Watch for in April not Named Nico or Cole
1. The Pitching Hook – Considering the quality and depth of starting pitching in the system, it will be interesting to see who struggles early and how soon they get “the hook.” By that, I mean removed from the rotation. The lower levels will probably more tolerant, but not at AA and AAA.
2. Extended Spring Training Performance – I like to see who is tearing it up in Mesa in the warmth of desert while 25 guys are freezing in the Great Lakes region. In doing so, that prospect could get promoted to South Bend and skip Eugene. Dalton Hurd and Rafael Mejia are two batters to watch while pitcher Yunior Perez might be one to follow. I also look forward to the progress of some injured players and the progress of Jose Albertos.
3. Promotion Logjams – Any prospect is going to have to dominate to move up but just how much? Usually there are a few promotions at the end of April/early May. I wonder how many will take place this year?
4. Luke Reynolds – People loved his approach in college and now that he is in his first full season, we’ll see just how good it is. He is skipping South Bend and heading straight to Myrtle Beach. He should be fine and he should be fun to watch at the plate..
5. The Breakout for Which We’ve All Been Waiting – Jonathan Sierra is a physical specimen in the mold of Jorge Soler. Yet, all that muscle has only translated to 5 HRs in 3 seasons in rookie league and short season class A. Hopefully, this will be the year he puts it all together. He will in RF for South Bend to start the 2019 campaign.

The New “Awards” Page

It is up and ready to go. Starting on Friday, I will put up the 3 players of the day from around the Cubs’ MiLB system.

Down the Road a Bit
I am starting to get ready for the 2019 MLB Draft in more detail. It set for June 4 which is not too far away. I started writing a series called “Examining #27” where I break down draft prospects by the following categories: college pitchers, high school bats, college bats, and high school arms. I am excited about it. As well, I will probably have just a few individual draft profiles this year. The current one I am working on is pitcher Mitchell Parker from San Jacinto North JC.

Thank You
For some strange reason, March of 2019 was the second busiest month in the history of this site not named June (the draft). I don’t know what it was but thank you for reading. Now I am curious to see whether April will do just as well.

On a Personal Note
My wife Anne has been dealing with health issues the past 2.5 years. It started with vision loss and then turned to peripheral neuropathy. First, she had cancer, then she didn’t, and then no one knew what she had as she slowly began to lose the use of her limbs. She went on disability in January of 2017 and began walking with a cane and sometimes rode in a wheelchair. We went from test to test and doctor to doctor. Nothing.

Well, to make a short story long, late last fall we saw Dr. Craig Torosian in Geneva who helped get us into the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I drove her up there twice in the past 5 weeks. On Thursday, we finally got an answer after 2.5 years. Anne’s been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. It’s treatable. We go back up to Mayo later in April to do a couple more tests, meet with a specialist, and pick the treatment plan that is best for her.

We are so thankful to so many people, especially at Mayo. Along the way, writing about baseball gave me something to do while Anne went through all her tests. I need to send out a special thanks to my friends Rikk and John for helping to distract me and also listening to me along the way. Needless to say, spring this year looks to be very a exciting season for us!

Pic of the Week
Last year’s Eugene players got their rings yesterday!

Card of the Week

Happ Send Down Sends Out Some Serious Shock Waves

By Todd Johnson


Some years, you just never know about anything. 2019 could be one of those years for the Cubs’ system, especially when it comes to roster construction..

I sat down about 6 p.m. tonight to eat my fish sticks and tots. I about spit one of each out when I saw Sahadev Sharma’s simple tweet that Ian Happ will begin the year at Iowa instead of with the big league club. Before tonight’s game, Happ was hitting .135.

I understand he’s having a bad spring, but sometimes that happens. When the season begins, professionals have been known to turn it on. I thought he would make the roster and be given a chance to figure things out at the MLB level.

Well apparently not.

Joe Maddon said that Happ did not take it well. I don’t blame him.

At the end of last year, Theo said 2019 would be all about performance. I did not think he meant in spring training. Happ’s send down looks to be the first shot across the bow by management. 2 summers ago, Kyle Schwarber revisited Iowa after a horrible start.

Happ will be playing mostly in the outfield in Iowa and that demotion looks to open a door for Mark Zagunis to earn a job as the 4th outfielder and also allow Albert Almore more of an everyday role in CF along with Kyle Schwarber in left.

Some other moves were alluded to be happening. Reliever Junichi Tazawa was rumored to be released but no official word was announced until I posted this. Yesterday, pitcher Alec Mills was sent down to AAA Iowa. I expect some more announcements later tonight or on Sunday as the Cubs need to get down to their 25 man roster. Of most interest will be whether David Bote or Cristhian Adames (or both) make the squad as bench guys with Zagunis and Caratini.

The bullpen should be the last decisions made as the Cubs are likely waiting to see who is going to actually be healthy come opening day in 5 days. Right now, Dillon Maples, Allen Webster, Kyle Ryan, and Jordan Minch are still on the roster. Webster looks to be as close to a spot as anyone.

There are approximately 12 more days until the MiLB season begins on April 4. And yet, here I am, with a somewhat cursory look at the possible rosters. All winter I have said that trying to figure out the rosters for this year would be a hot mess. Even with less than two weeks, that sentiment still holds true.

When it comes to MiLB Rosters, three things are making the rosters a mess right now:
1. Injuries, and the prevention thereof, in the pitching department are turning things on their heads a bit. The following arms have either been shut down or are seeing limited action: Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills, Erich Uelmen, Brendon Little, Erling Moreno, Paul Richan, and Brailyn Marquez. They have been pulled from the mound because of concerns/injuries.
2. Outfield Spots – While the infield and catcher spots look to be pretty much sewn up, who is going to be playing in the grass is a giant question mark. From Iowa to South Bend, there’s a lot of uncertainty and it begins in Iowa and flows downhill.
3. Relievers – On overage, most affiliates carry 12-13 pitchers. Of those 7 or 8 are relievers. In their current construct, there about 10-12 relievers on each roster. That means 4-5 guys are not going to be playing comes that matter in April. That’s a lot. And like the outfielders, Iowa will set the trend and it goes from there.

Here are the current roster totals and predictions to be on the roster (so far) for each affiliate per Arizona Phil. A lot can still change between now and the start of the MiLB season on April 4..

By next weekend, hopefully the rosters will be more fully formed.

Too Early to Breakout, but Not to Be a Surprise in the 2nd Half – Part 1

By Todd Johnson

The second half of the minor league season has been going for a month now. Players in Mesa, Eugene, and the Dominican have been grinding away and developing their craft at the plate, in the field, and on the mound. It is usually in the second half that some players break out and surprise us with their performance and development. Still it’s still a little early to declare a break out prospect after just one month, but there are a few players who are off to good starts here in the second half. Today’s post looks at players from Eugene on down while tomorrow’s looks at prospects from South Bend on up.

DSL 1

Fabian Pertuz was signed last summer as an International Free Agent is doing very well in the DSL. At 17, he’s hitting .323 with an amazing .463 OBP and he’s stolen 18 bags while missing two weeks. He should be in Arizona at some point for instructs this fall.

DSL 2

17-year-old SS Pedro Martinez (Yes, that is his name) is leading the squad in hitting at .336 with a .424 OBP. He’s also swiped 22 bags and seems to be a pretty consistent player the last six weeks.

At 6’6”, 19-year-old Pitcher Johan Lopez is an intriguing prospect. He’s struck out 32 in 31 innings while posting a 2.87 ERA. His WHIP of 1.20 is a bit of a head scratcher, but at this level, it’s OK. This is his first year as a pro and, as such, is a late bloomer.

Mesa 1

Two hitters caught my eye in Arizona. 2B Clayton Daniel, a 31st round pick this year, can get on base with his bat or by walking. When I started writing this article on Saturday, he was in Mesa. He moved up to Eugene for a couple of days and I saw him arrive last night in Davenport about an hour before game time as he was promoted to South Bend. Not too shabby for a 31st round pick. Daniel is hitting .344 with a .408 OBP. 3B Yonathan Perlaza is part of that vaunted 2015 international free agent class. It looks like things are starting to click for him this year as he nears .300 after a rough start.

Reliever Maikel Aguiar is a strikeout machine whiffing 23 in 18 innings to go with a 0.48 ERA. Starters Didier Vargas and Jesus Tejada both had rough starts their first times out. Since, they have been turning it around. Tejada looks to be the more stable arm right now with his WHIP of just over 1.

Mesa 2

3B Fidel Mejia is closing in on .400 for the season. Over his last ten games, he’s hitting on all cylinders at a .500 pace. In addition, 2nd round compensation pick Cole Roederer is showing a propensity to get on base at a steady clip as a top of the order bat. He’s batted first and third for the rookie league team. He’s hitting .371 with a .488 OBP in just nine games. I’m a little excited about that pick. After yesterday’s 3/5 performance, I am beginning to wonder if he belongs in Rookie League.

The player no one saw coming is non-drafted free agent Grant Fennell. The utility player was the Mountain West Player of the Year as a senior at the University of Nevada. Every time I check the box score he’s going 2-for-5 with an RBI. He’s hitting .355 with a team leading 20 RBI.  In addition, that RBI total leads the Arizona League. He made his Eugene debut on Tuesday this week.

Eugene

Over the past month, Cubs Central already profiled two top young prospects in Brailyn Marquez and Luis Vazquez. But in the bullpen, reliever Dalton Geekie has thrown 11.2 innings without allowing a run and struck out 16 while only walking 4. His WHIP is fantastic at 0.86. At 23, he’s a reclamation project who should be at South Bend very, very soon.

Prospect Update: Could Jason Vosler Have “Next?”

By Todd Johnson

David Bote’s arrival in Chicago has been a very pleasant surprise this summer. He is flashing his bat, power, approach, glove, arm, and base running skills while endearing himself to millions of Cub fans with his play. But there is something else that is at work. Out of the Cubs everyday players, only Bryant and Russell were given everyday spots from the get go. Javy and Schwarber had to work their way in through the bench. The same was true for Willson Contreras, Albert Almora, and Ian Happ.

As a result, who might be next to get the call to help off the bench? One would think that once Bryant is healthy, that Bote would go back down to Iowa and that Bote will be available to head back to Chicago at a moment’s notice. However, there is another player down in Iowa who might be a name we could hear more of in the coming months. That is Jason Vosler.

Vosler’s biggest asset is his left-handed bat. Armed with a beautiful swing, power, and the ability to play first and third bases, Vosler is having a great two month stretch in 2018 – First at Tennessee and now at Iowa.He’s hitting .290 in July and is currently the Cubs’ MiLB RBI leader.

The Cubs drafted Vosler in the 16th round out of Northeastern in 2014. He played at Boise that first summer. While he only hit .266, his OBP of .361 was quite good. In 2015, he was at South Bend, which is where I got my first look at him. He showed a good approach, had a beautiful swing even back then. I didn’t take him to be an elite prospect at that point. In fact, when he was promoted mid-season to Myrtle Beach, I was taken aback. He had not lit the Midwest League on fire. Sure, he had 6 dingers in 38 games, but nothing earth shattering was going on in the box score. He would hit 4 more homers for the Pelicans the rest of the year. But sometimes, the stat line doesn’t tell the whole story.

In 2016, he played 93 games for Myrtle Beach and hit .250 with a .314 OBP and 2 homers. Still, he found his way to Tennessee for 26 games. At this point in his career, he was not striking out much. For all of 2016, he only whiffed 78 times in almost 120 games. That’s not bad. His swing still looked great. I thought that it was only a matter of time before he began hitting for a higher average.

The next spring, Vosler found his way back to AA Tennessee. The summer of ‘17 saw Vosler’s power numbers explode. He hit 21 HRs and drove in 81 and that earned him a trip to the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Despite those numbers, not everything was on track for a promotion. He struck 120 times in 129 games and only walked 53 all the while hitting only .241. His average was a little misleading. Hit he .270 in the first half and .211 in the second. In addition, his power production dropped precipitously in the second half, going from 13 homers and 49 RBI in the first half down to 8 dingers and 32 driven in for the second half. In the fall league, he hit 2 home runs and drove in 13 in 23 games where he played a mixture of first and third base.

It looked like he would start 2018 back at Tennessee.

However, Jason still had that beautiful swing. The power surge was something most people did not see coming. He had gone from 2 HRs in 2014, to 10 in 2015, 3 in 2016, and 21 in 2017. Could it be sustained in 2018?

Card made from a photo by Tiffany W. (@TiffW96)

Things did not start out so well for Jason this year. In April, he hit .182 but smacked 4 HRs with 15 RBI. May was not very good until something just clicked in the middle of the month. Over the next six weeks, Vosler’s average went up 50 points. By the time June ended, Jason Vosler hit .273 and had a very impressive .371 OBP while hitting 5 HRs with 26 RBI. It is easy to see why he was promoted. That approach I first saw at South Bend along with that same swing was now producing at an elite level.

Vosler has not stopped hitting in July. After 8 days, he’s hitting .290 for the month with 2 HRs and 7 RBIs. He has yet to take a walk at Iowa while he has struck out 21 times in 14 AAA games since he was promoted. That is something he will surely be working on the next two months.

Going Forward

Vosler is close to being the next guy. He has an excellent command of the zone and he already has the ability to hit for the power from the left side, something every franchise needs. It should be exciting to see how his AAA career continues and whether or not he will get a shot to help the big league club this year and next.

The Friday 6 Pack Is Back – Random Thoughts About Non-Draft Stuff

By Todd Johnson

Over the past two weeks, I wrote about the draft so much that I was a little burned out, even on the word. So what do I do on my first off day from writing in a while? That’s right, I go on the radio and talk about it. And tonight, I am talking with Sean Holland of Cubs Insider and Cubs Den on his podcast about it even more. Then….I am done. I swear!

So, today I wanted to write some random things down as June is usually a month of change in baseball in the majors and minors. Without anymore babbling, here are six things that have been coursing through my brain the past few days.

Vimael Machin – Courtesy of the Tennessee Smokies

1. I originally wanted to do a full-fledged profile about Vimael Machin. Machin is currently killing it since his promotion to AA Tennessee. In 18 games for the Smokies, the somewhat organizational journeyman is hitting .375 with OBP near .500 in 19 games. Machin, drafted in 2015 from VCU after a messianic CWS run, has bounced around the system the past three years. His identity as a prospect vs. a journeyman was questioned as he moved around freely playing everywhere from Eugene to Iowa. He finally got a steady gig at South Bend in the spring of 2017 and hit .320 in the first half. Machin was then promoted to Myrtle Beach shortly after the All-Star Break. At Myrtle Beach, his walk rate was astounding in spite of his bat. Now at AA, Machin’s bat has returned and he is still walking more than he strikes out, a trait the Cubs covet. Keep an eye on Vimael the rest of this month. He’s looking like a future utility piece as he can play all four infield positions.

2. Promotions – When the 25-30 players from the “you-know-what” sign, several players will be moving to make room. A few pitchers already have gone up a level along with Machin. Next should be Jared Young from South Bend. He’s killing it right now. Over his last 10, he’s hitting .343 with 3 HRs and 10 RBI. For the year, he’s at .291. The problem is the promotions for position players will be scarce as the system is a little log jammed, especially at Catcher.

3. International Free Agency (IFA) – The Cubs are considered to be the favorites to sign pitcher Richard Gallardo, ranked as the #5 international player by MLB Pipeline. The Cubs should be able to sign some pretty good talent this year after two years of penalties. Now, a hard cap is in place for all teams. However, teams can trade bonus pool money. It would not surprise me to see the Cubs trade some prospects for some IFA money. If they do, the Cubs could easily outdo their talent haul from this week’s “event I refuse to call by its name.”

4. The Bullpen/Starter Conundrum in Chicago – While watching the game yesterday, I saw Joe Maddon trot out Cishek, Duensing, Wilson, Strop, and Morrow (not in that order) to seal the victory. It’s a scene I’ve witnessed far too often this year. A starter doesn’t make out of the fifth or into the sixth and the bullpen is used for the rest of the game. If this continues, there will be no bullpen left. I checked how many games these guys already pitched in and everyone was over 25 with 103 left. At the rate they are going, the five aforementioned guys will make between 70-75 appearances in the regular season. They will be gassed for the postseason. The starters have to go longer so the bullpen can pitch less.

As for help, Dillon Maples has been much better of late the past three weeks. He has not allowed a run over his last six games. Also, now that Dakota Mekkes is just a phone call away, expect that call to come to Chicago sometime later this summer.

5. The Art of a Deal – The Cubs, more than likely, are not going to be making a big deal this summer unless it’s for a bullpen arm or a bench player. There’s not going to be a big name guy coming to town. I just don’t see Theo giving up what’s left of the system this year. This is pretty much the team as it is. Help, if needed, is more than likely to come from Iowa.

6. Ryan Williams – He is getting very close to returning to playing in a game that matters. Yesterday, he threw 67 pitches in extended spring training. He’s one of my favorite Cubs to watch pitch. He’s such a bulldog out there. Still, he’s missed the past two plus years with shoulder issues. I was wondering if he was ever going to return. He’s not quite ready, but we could see him rehabbing up through the system in July. That would be a great sight to see. 

I will be back tomorrow with a preview of Trevor Clifton’s AAA debut. On Sunday, “The Weekly” looks ahead at Theo’s latest interview and the last week of the first half of the MiLB season. And a peak at the Eugene and Mesa rosters is coming next week as they begin play a week from today.