By Todd Johnson
Yesterday, I looked at some prospect surprises in the lower portion of the Cubs’ system in the second half. Today’s post checks out some surprises in the upper half of the minors. It can be hard to breakout at these levels but it has been done. Willson Contreras really busted out at Tennessee in 2015 and Rob Zastryzny didn’t figure things out until he changed his cutter at AAA Iowa two years ago.
While it is too early, or late, to declare any of the following prospects breakouts, they can definitely be called surprises for the second half.
The biggest surprise the last month or so in South Bend has been the overall play of Michael Cruz. Over the past two summers, Cruz has shown the ability to hit for power from the left side. That continued the first couple months of 2018 but he was only batting .155 at one point. When he started to use the whole field, things began to turn around and they haven’t stopped since. Pitcher Garrett Kelly is looking like he could be a bullpen arm somewhere down the road if he can develop some secondary pitches to go with his 95 mile an hour fastball. The final surprise at South Bend has been the pitching of Ryan Lawlor who was profiled on Tuesday this week.
The Pelicans have just not hit this year. They have plenty of pitching to get into the playoffs. With any kind of hitting, they may be able to sneak in over the next six weeks. To that end, the Pelicans have made some roster adjustments. Outfielder Roberto Caro, who was injured most of the first half at South Bend, just continues to rake at Myrtle Beach hitting in the .350s. At 24, the switch hitter has shown the ability to get on base at a high clip and was an essential to the Pelicans’ recent six-game win streak. In addition, pitcher Bryan Hudson seems to be finding his groove this month. After struggling with an ERA of over five for most of the year, Hudson is putting together a very nice July was in the area of 1.15. He’s been very impressive in comparison to his first half.
I always knew that Trent Giambrone could hit for power, but I didn’t think he would be breathing down anyone’s neck for the leading home run hitter in the Cubs’ system. He’s been on fire since the beginning of June as it now stands he has 16 homers to his name.
No one really breaks out at AAA, they just improve their performance. This year, two guys have turned it up a notch once they got to AAA. It is almost as if they can smell Chicago. Jason Vosler is on pace to hit 25+ home runs for the year, but he’s also on pace to hit near .300 for the month of July as he continues to show up every day and prove that he deserves a shot at the majors. Trevor Clifton seems to have taken to AAA Iowa as he is continuing his great 2018 season. This month, he’s put up an ERA of 2.30. He’s also missing bats at a pretty good clip striking out 31 in his last 32 innings, all at AAA. Clifton is coming across that he is much more stronger mentally as he is avoiding the big inning, a problem he’s fought with since Boise. Trevor could have a 40 man position at the end of the season at the rate he’s going. I am so excited to see him do so well as he gets closer to Chicago.