This was the fastest minor league first half I can remember. It just flew by. For Cubs prospects, there were a lot of great performances in that time span. Many players were able to sustain a level of excellence, while others ebbed and flowed.
If you’ve been following this website, I don’t think there any surprises on the list. However I think there are some names who you would not have foreseen at the beginning of the year. Names like Duncan Robinson, Andrew Ely, Michael Rucker, Jason Vosler, and Dillon Maples, to name a few.
Here is this year’s Cubs first half minor league all-star team in video form.
Here are some names for you to ponder when it comes to the second half All-Star team:
Miguel Amaya, Aramis Ademan, Thomas Hatch, Gustavo Polanco, Jose Albertos, and many more. It would not surprise me to see half the names change in this list.
I will be back tomorrow with a post about some possible breakout players to watch for in the second half. They are mostly players from Mesa and Eugene with a few draft picks thrown in for good measure.
I was all set with this post yesterday afternoon. All I thought I had to do was to adjust a few stats in the morning. Then, last night happened. I took the wife out for a nice meal and when we got home, I started watching the South Bend game. It was not going well, but I stayed with it. It turned out to be one of the most incredible endings to a game I have ever seen as the Cubs overcame a six run deficit in the ninth to win on a walk off single by Donnie Dewees! Check out the video highlights below
After the South Bend game ended in such a glorious fashion, I followed through on one of my favorite summer traditions, staying up late with the Emeralds. Despite two balks in one inning, pitcher Jesus Castillo threw another gem last night as he struck out double digit batters, in this case, 10. The Ems won 5-2 and are just running away with the division and have the best record in the Northwest League at 17-6. They will get their own post tomorrow about how they are getting it done.
It was a strange week in the South and Northwest. There were a lot of rainouts and a lot of doubleheaders, some which turned into more doubleheaders. At times I am sure the Tennessee, Iowa, and Myrtle Beach pitchers didn’t know which way was up. Eugene also had a rainout and they were forced to play a doubleheader on Friday.
The big news of the week were some promotions. Andruw Monasterio was promoted from Eugene to South Bend. In addition, Sutton Whiting was released. Relief pitcher Craig Brooks was moved from South Bend to Myrtle Beach and Michael Wagner was moved from Myrtle Beach up to Iowa again. Dexter Fowler showed up in South Bend to do a rehab assignment for just one day. On Saturday, Justin Steele returned to South Bend.
As for game play, it was not a good week for most affiliates. Individually, there were several good performances and some names you should know for the future. There will be a post about those names later this week.
The pitching staff is still struggling
They just can’t seem to put all three phases of the game together at the same time
|Myrtle Beach||3-4; 8-9
Their bullpen is now top notch. I bet Ryan McNeil can’t remember the last time he gave up a run
|South Bend||4-3; 12-5 First Place
The mojo was working without Eloy, who is off at the Futures Game
|Eugene||5-2; 17-6 First Place
Pitching, hitting, and the bullpen are all clicking
The pitching took a spill this week. Gustavo Polanco, though, keeps on ripping the ball
|Dominican Republic 1||4-2; 15-16|
|Dominican Republic 2||4-2; 20-10 1st Place|
If you have not been keeping up with Eddy Martinez, he is hitting .486 for the month! He has totally changed his approach and is riveting to watch. His batting average has gone from .236 to .265 in just ten days!
Preston Morrison has a 0.68 ERA since June 1. No wonder South Bend is rolling.
I am pretty excited to see South Bend live this week in Clinton, Iowa. Preston Morrison looks to pitch Wednesday and Casey Bloomquist, Thursday. I will be live tweeting some pics and game information. I will probably have a nice collection of pics on the Prospects Pics page and on Facebook. I will also be at Kane County on Sunday and Monday next week.
Here’s What’s Coming Up Next Week at Cubs
Eugene Dominates in the Northwest
6 Names to Know
Two Days in Iowa
This month’s All-Star team is quite different from previous months. Gone are Willson Contreras and Albert Almora. There are four new position players on the AST this month out of nine. Normally I include only six starting pitchers. Usually 3.00 ERA is the standard to be in consideration.
At one point, there were more than 10 players in discussion for a spot with ERAs of 2.25 or under. I think this is going to be the norm the summer with the outstanding starting pitching at Myrtle Beach and Eugene as well as the developing young pitchers in Arizona and the Dominican. Beware, though, South Bend had four of its starters make this list with ERAs of under 1.60 for the month. The bar was set very high.
So, let’s meet some new faces to go with the old faces. This month, I used Google Slides to make the video. Just use the arrow key to move the presentation. That way you can move at your own pace.
Four more Cubs teams began play this month making twice the number of players eligible. However I rarely include a player from those teams in June. On the other hand, that will change next month when all four new teams get in a full month.
Here are some names to remember for July from the new squads in the Dominican, Arizona, and Eugene. If you take their short June numbers and extrapolate them for a whole month, we could have some serious battles going on.
RP Elvis Diaz – Yet to allow a run, 0.69 WHIP
SP Jesus Tejada – ERA of 1.80 in 4 starts
SP Brailyn Marquez – 3 Starts, 1.93 ERA,13 Ks in14 IP
SS Fidel Mejia (.400)
OF Abraham Rodriguez (.343, 1 HR, 12 RBI)
C Miguel Amaya (.274, 1 HR, 9 RBIs – 17 years old)
SPs Hector Garcia, Alfredo Colorado, and Faustino Carrera (0.86 ERA)
C Gustavo Polanco (.400)
SS Zach Short (2 games, hitting 1.000)
OF Luis Ayala (.355)
SP Jose Albertos (0.00 ERA, 7 Ks in 4 IP)
SP Erling Moreno 1.64 ERA in 2 outings
There’s a ton of talent on this team.
SS Andruw Monasterio – hitting .346, NWL Player of the Week. It will be interesting to see how his bat plays for a while month. Doing amazing for 12 games.
1B Chris Pieters – Solid approach, great glove at 1B. Hitting .341
3B Wladimir Galindo – He’s my guy. Hitting .296 with 2 HRs
3B Matt Rose – hit .256 but also drove in 10 in 10 games
2B Yeiler Peguero – hitting .289
SP Bryan Hudson – Going to be very consistent I believe
SP Jesus Castillo – Struck out 11 in his second start. Beautiful curveball
SP Jose Paulino – 10 Ks in 10 IP
SP Dylan Cease – Still at the four inning limit. Has 12 Ks in 12 IP.
Until next month.
And so, the second half begins.
Last Sunday, the South Bend Cubs clinched the first half Eastern Division title after an outstanding 7 IP from Kyle Miller and some late heroics from Eloy Jimenez. Eloy’s 2 run double gave the Cubs a 2 run lead late in the game. Later, in the next inning, Pedro Araujo came in for the 2 inning save. Then three days later, the big league Cubs extended their development deal through 2020 with South Bend. Congratulations on two counts, South Bend!
And then this happened last night….
— SouthBend Cubs Radio (@SBCubsRadio) June 26, 2016
It’s a good time to be Eloy. But, he wasn’t the big star of the week. That will come later.
Otherwise, it was a slow news week in the Cubs MiLB system as AA, A+ and A- all had their All-Star Game festivities. Eloy Jimenez (What is it with this guy? 😉 ) of South Bend was named the Top Star after pounding a first pitch slider over the CF wall to tie the game. The HR drove in three. Trevor Clifton came in and got the save for the Carolina League who defeated the California League.
There were also some promotions:
- Ian Happ went from Myrtle Beach to AA Tennessee after winning his second straight Carolina League Player of the Week and hitting over .600 in that span. Last night, he was a triple shy of a cycle. At Tennessee, he is hitting .625. He’s just torturing baseballs right now.
- Gioskar Amaya moved from Myrtle Beach to AA Tennessee
- Ian Rice moved from South up to Myrtle Beach
- David Bote is back in Myrtle Beach
- Alex Bautista is back in Eugene after filling in at Iowa
With the All-Star game/break there were only a few Cubs teams playing until Thursday. Since then, the pitchers, for the most part, stole the show this week.
*Preston Morrison was lights out on Friday night as he went seven innings and struck out six in leading South Bend over Dayton in the second game of the second half.
*Jen-Ho Tseng has a 1.17 ERA since his return from the DL in late May. He went six on Friday night and gave up just one run while striking out 4, but walking 3.
*Faustino Carrera, another 17 year-old from Mexico, went 6 IP with 6 Ks for the Cubs #2 Dominican Summer League team. So far, he has gone 16 IP with 17 Ks and ERA of 0.56 in 3 starts.
*Javier Assad of the Arizona Cubs, just 18 years-old and from Baja in Mexico, went 5 IP with no runs and 4 Ks, but walked 3 and gave up 3 hits in his debut on Friday.
*Ryan Kellogg went 6 IP and struck out 7 in his second half debut on Thursday night
*Young 17 year old Jose Albertos, also from Mexico, made his first start for the Arizona Cubs this week. He only went 4 innings, but he struck out seven, walked one, gave up one hit, and did not allow a run. He worked in the mid to upper 90s for most of the game.
*See my Dylan Cease and Bryan Hudson posts
Here are some happenings from around the system.
|Iowa||4-3 (35-38 – 5.5 GB) – Jeimer, Zagunis, Watkins, and Murton are on fire. The pitching has been serviceable but not outstanding|
|Tennessee||1-2 – Oh, look, Jen-Ho and Ian Happ are here and doing well. I saw a little bit of the game on Saturday night. They just are not driving in runs.|
|Myrtle Beach||1-2 – Ryan McNeil es en fuego.|
|South Bend:||3-0 – Wow! Kellogg and Morrison had stunning starts on Thursday and Friday followed by Bloomquist on Saturday.|
|Eugene||4-3 (6-3) – Their starting pitching might give Myrtle Beach a run for their money as the best pitching staff in the Cubs’ system, especially when it comes to starting pitching.|
|Arizona||3-2 – Stunning starting pitching and hitters that capitalize on mistakes. Very, very young team.|
|Dominican Republic 1||3-2 (9-9) – Getting better. Not hitting for average, but their OBPs are spectacular for 17-18 year old kids.|
|Dominican Republic 2||5-1 (13-6) – Pitching and hitting are both doing very well.|
Players of the Week
Here’s What’s Coming Up Next Week at Cubs Central
The New Mexican Connection
Eugene’s Double Play Combo Tearing It Up
A Week of Willson
June Cards of the Month
June All-Star Team
Articles Coming Up in July
Three Days in Iowa
2 Afternoons at Kane County
The South Bend Cubs know how to keep you in suspense. For the better part of four days, the Cubs were in a knock-down-drag-out affair with the Lake County Captains for one of two playoff spots in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League. The Cubs won on Thursday night behind Preston Morrison’s 7 IP 9 K performance. On Friday evening, the Cubs were four outs away from clinching the division when an error lead to three unearned runs and, eventually, a loss. On Saturday, the Cubs blew a three run lead only to lose in extra innings. It all came down to one final game on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
To begin the game, Manager Jimmy Gonzalez went with starting pitcher Kyle Miller. The tall, lanky Miller was only making his third start of the year. Miller arrived in South Bend in late April making 11 relief appearances. As a starter, Miller had gone 11 innings, allowed 2 ERs, and struckout 4. Miller works off his fastball and uses mainly a cutter. He has good command down in the zone.
Miller did his part on the day. Miller gave up a lone run in the third.That was it. He gave up four hits, walked two, and struck out 5. The problem was the Cubs did not have a hit until Eloy Jimenez doubled to lead off the fifth. The next inning, though, the Cubs finally got to Lake County starter Brock Hartson.
To begin the sixth, recent acquiree Josh Silver got aboard on a bunt. After Bryant Flete failed to move him over, Carlos Sepulveda drilled a double to center to score Silver and tie the game at one. Sepulveda advanced to third on a throwing error. The Cubs were looking to take the lead. PJ Higgins struck out leaving it up to Ian Rice. Rice, fortunately, walked to bring up the Cubs most dangerous hitter, Eloy Jimenez.. Eloy got the pitch he liked, turned on the ball, and sent it screaming to the left center field wall. Sepulveda scored from third while Ian Rice hustled in from first. The Cubs were now up 3-1.
Miller came back out for the seventh inning. He gave up a leadoff single and then calmly got the next three hitters in order. Fireballing Pedro Araujo came in from the pen for the eighth and ninth innings and struck out four of the next six batters to get the save and, ultimately, the championship!
The Cubs had to wait to see the outcome of the West Michigan/Lansing.game. If West Michigan won, the Cubs got the wildcard spot. If Lansing won, the Cubs got the Division title. When the Cubs won, Lansing was winning 3-1. West Michigan tied it in the top of the 8th, Lansing scored one in the bottom to take a one run lead, and then Cam Gibson (Kurt’s son) singled to tie it back up in the ninth. In the 11th, Lansing won it after a single, wild pitch, and then a double by Ryan Hissey toppled West Michigan from first place.
How Did South Bend Win the First Half Title.?
South Bend finished the first half with a 41-28 (.594) record. They were 16-17 on the road and an amazing 25-11 at home. They lead the league in hitting at .268 and were second in OBP at .338. Their team ERA was at 3.53 (10th in the league, up from 14th at one point). They scored 319 runs and allowed 290. Truly, though, this was a team effort.
The Cubs begin playing good ball in late April relying on their offense and bullpen. At one point, the team was hitting .283. In early May, the starting pitching began to come around lead by Preston Morrison, Carson Sands, and Adbert Alzolay. In early June, Casey Bloomquist and Kyle Miller began starting and lengthening the rotation. Ryan Kellogg, who was amazing in April, struggled in May and happily rebounded in June. The pitching came around at the right time as the offense began to struggle a lit bit at the beginning of June.
For the first two months of the year, the story of South Bend was the offense. Eloy Jimenez was the star finishing the first half with a .341 average, 8 HRs and 45 RBIs. Andrew Ely and Daniel Spingola were also excellent as both hit near .300 before their promotions to Myrtle Beach two weeks ago. 2B Carlos Sepulveda has been on fire since returning from the DL. PJ Higgins has been a stalwart in the #2 hole and behind the plate. However, Ian Rice, also a catcher, has been a beast leading the team with 9 HRs despite missing almost all of April and only playing in 35 games (half the season). Donnie Dewees lead the team in RBIs for most of the first half before being passed by Eloy.
The bullpen actually turned about to the only consistent force all year. It was buoyed by Craig Brooks, Pedro Araujo, James Norwood, Scott Effross, John Williamson and Greyfer Eregua. Players shifted roles nightly and Manager Jimmy Gonzalez and pitching coach David Rosario got them ready for every situation. Kyle Twomey, Kyle Miller, and Casey Bloomquist were three pitchers who moved in and out of the pen and starting and performed when called upon for each duty.
Having watched most of the televised games this year, this really is a fun team to watch. They score runs in bunches. If they were behind by 4-5 runs, they could come back and did several times in early May. You can tell this team takes direction well. Each player made small adjustments to improve their game throughout the season. That is a testament to the coaching staff and the players.
Watching each aspect of the team work in concert with the others to win was the most rewarding part of the season. It’s a simple concept. South Bend did it really well. Congratulations!
For most teams in the system, it was not a pretty week. Iowa was 6-0 while the other affiliates went a combined 6 – 15. Yikes! Although, on Saturday, all the affiliates won, including a double header win in South Bend.
27-26 – 6-0 on the week and winners of 7 in a row! Add in the fact they are tied for first place, it was an awesome week!
Willson Contreras keeps getting hotter. Almora and Vogelbach continue to do well at this level, although Almora hasn’t had a walk in awhile. Dallas Beeler made his return and got a win on Friday, and Pierce Johnson and Aaron Brooks might be back this week. All that would be missing from their rotation would be Ryan Williams. Like I say, everything’s coming up Milhouse for this team!
Billy McKinney is back though. He is hitting .343 over his last ten. Victor Caratini and Mark Zagunis are also hot and Chesny Young is not far behind McKinney. Chesny’s hitting .341 in his last ten games. The problem is their bullpen is not doing well and they are trying to piecemeal their starting pitching ala Iowa in May. Jen-Ho Tseng should be back quickly allowing Stephen Perakslis to go back to the pen.
29-26 – They got back in the playoff hunt last week and then went 2-6 this week. There’s still hope left.
They had two doubleheaders this week and the bullpen imploded. On the bright side, Gleyber just continues to rake. His yearly average is up to .259, but for the last ten, he’s gone .316 with 2 HRs. Zach Hedges was outstanding this week, but fell short of pitcher of the week. He went 13.2 IP with 2 ER and 3 Ks. His ERA on the year is 2.39. Trevor Clifton had a nice start going 6 with 6 Ks and 2 ERs.
Like Myrtle Beach and Tennessee, their bullpen had issues this week and their bats stopped barrelling up the ball. PJ Higgins, and Ian Rice both had good weeks. Eloy was in a bit of a slump, even though he’s getting on base. He’s at .256 over his last ten. He hadn’t had a RBI in 5 games until Saturday night. Preston Morrison and Ryan Kellogg also had very nice starts this week and Carson Sands was outstanding last Sunday – 6 IP, 2 Hits, 0 Runs, and 5 Ks.
Eugene/Arizona – They begin play June 17
Justin Steele was assigned to Eugene this week from South Bend. It’s a bit of a shocker, but then again, it wasn’t. He’s had either good starts or terrible starts. I thought for sure that he’d at least be given the chance to work out his issues at South Bend.
In extended spring training, Dylan Cease allowed a hit. Jesus Castillo, Bryan Hudson, and Pedro Silverio all had excellent starts. Also, Wladimir Galindo continues to rake and hit one out of the yard on Friday.
Hitter of the Week – Willson Contreras
9/17, 3 HRs, 13 RBIs – Blistering!
Starting Pitcher of the Week –
This came down to Saturday night and it was between four pitchers. Only one had a bad outing, but Jake Buchanan was outstanding on the week. 13 IP, 9 Ks, and 0 ERs.
Reliever of the Week –
Pedro Araujo has been lights out since getting called up. He had 7 IP of no run ball this week with a win to go with 7 Ks..
Team of the Week – Iowa
6-0, their starting rotation is returning. Their best three players are hot at the same time. What’s not to like.
Coming Up This Week at Cubs Central
Monday – Cubs MLB Draft Strategy
Tuesday – Grading the Cubs 2015 draft
Wednesday – Re-grading the Grades
Thursday – The Six Pack Comes a Day Early
Friday – Live Draft Coverage Rounds 3-10
Saturday – Live Coverage Rounds 11-40
Most of the minor league affiliates released their opening day rosters on Monday. Due to backlogs, performances, change of position, and injuries, it took a while for rosters to be finalized from this weekend. There were a few surprises when they were released, especially at Myrtle Beach and Tennessee. As of Monday evening, Iowa had not been given their roster by the Chicago.
Things have changed a lot since Theo took over. In 2012, the Cubs minor league system was nearly barren. After 4 years of drafts and 5 years of international free agent signings, the Cubs system is redundant at most every position. So much so that this year’s minor league rosters have the fewest promotions of prospects. The major league team only added a few new players and that effect trickled down to the minors making fewer and fewer changes.
The Cubs are getting to the point that if a prospect is to move up a level, that prospect is going to have to dominate that level to get promoted. A mediocre performance just isn’t getting it done anymore.
Nothing is given, everything is earned. The Cubs should hashtag that.
Here are the affiliate previews I wrote back in February for each Cubs minor league team.
Most of the previews are pretty close, but today’s rosters are different in many ways. Here are ten things about the rosters I found most interesting when they were released.
- This year’s Smokies basically received only three new starting position players – Victor Caratini, Chesny Young, and Mark Zagunis. Considering that 17 of the players on Myrtle Beach won their second consecutive title, you would think more would be coming, but in reality, only these three had proficient years at the plate.
- Jonathan Martinez was an All-Star in the Carolina League in 2015. He did not get promoted to Tennessee. Then again, he’s only 21. But, how does a 2.56 ERA where opponents only hit .199 off you get you left behind? I am a little puzzled by that. Actually, I am a lot puzzled by that.
- Dave Berg and James Pugliese stay in Myrtle Beach to start the year. In 16 outings, Berg had a 1.69 ERA and was the closer down the stretch through the playoffs.
- Certain positions are being blocked. 3B, OF, and 2B are top heavy along with relievers. These are the positions where players were not promoted. For example, I don’t know why Danny Lockhart is on the same roster as Ian Happ when Happ is transitioning to second base in addition to being a first round pick and one of the top prospects in the system.
- Eddy Martinez will be in South Bend! I repeat, Eddy Martinez will be in South Bend! I was quite surprised to see this. The original plan was for him to acclimate to America in Arizona all summer. That plan has changed. And I can’t wait to see him line up beside Donnie Dewees and Eloy Jimenez every night.
- Preston Morrison is starting the year at South Bend. I thought for sure with his skillset and experience that he would be at Myrtle Beach to begin the year.
- There is no Jose Paulino or Pedro Araujo at South Bend. Both were powerful relievers last year at Eugene. I thought for sure they would be at South Bend. When Theo Epstein went out and signed several relievers this winter, most were destined to be on minor league deals at Iowa. That seems to have backed everyone up at this position.
- Carlos Sepulveda made the South Bend roster. I am actually pretty pumped about this! I look forward to watching what he can do night in and night out. Another player I look forward to on that team is PJ Higgins who moved back to catcher but advanced. Recently this weekend, he was timed at 1.91 on a throw to second……yes, that is very good in case you were wondering.
- Taylor Davis bounced all the way down to Tennessee so that Willson Contreras could be the man in Iowa.
- Iowa hasn’t been given their roster. On Sunday, Arizona Phil of The Cub Reporter had over 40+ names still on it. I wonder if the Cubs are working on some minor league trades instead of giving up some of these players for nothing.
Several players were placed on the DL including Oscar de la Cruz and Duane Underwood. They were assigned to rehab in extended spring training (EST). Three names that seem to be rising fast at EST are pitchers Junior Marte and Jose Albertos along with infielder Isaac Paredes.
In addition, 15 new players arrived for EST from the Cubs’ Dominican Academy. Most, but not all, of the 15 will stay in the US and play in the Arizona Rookie League, Some will go back and play in the Dominican. The list comes via The Cub Reporter.:
|INF Aramis Ademan||INF Jhonny Bethancourt||RHP Hector Garcia|
|OF Jose Gonzalez||RHP Jose Leidenz||3B Rafael Mejia|
|SS Rafael Narea||LHP Pablo Ochoa||LHP Eugenio Palma|
|SS-2B Yeiler Peguero||SS Yonathan Perlaza||OF Ruben Reyes|
|OF Abraham Rodriguez||RHP Andri Rondon||OF Jonathan Sierra|