By Todd Johnson
One good month does not a promotion make. Two months, … maybe.
So far, there has not been a lot of movement up and down in the Cubs’ system this year. However, Bailey Clark moving from South Bend to Myrtle Beach was one of domination at South Bend. But most other promotions that took place were related to injury.
In the next few weeks, there will be a lot of movement as the MLB Draft takes place and 20+ new Cubs begin their careers. In addition, the first half will come to a close. I don’t expect a lot of movement when it comes to hitters, but there should be plenty of pitching movement – especially when it comes to relievers. In addition, there could even be a few players released at the higher levels.
Look for the following players to get bumped up a level fairly soon.
Tennessee to Iowa
Dakota Mekkes has been impressive since the beginning of the 2017 season. He has dominated three levels in the last 14 months. And the only reason to keep him in Tennessee would be to work on his walks. In 17.1 innings, he has walked 12. However, in the past, that hasn’t stopped the Cubs from promoting Carl Edwards, Pierce Johnson, and Dillon Maples. Mekkes is ready for the next level and could be in Chicago fairly quickly this summer if needed.
Thomas Hatch has looked much better this year. He looks pretty comfortable on the mound and with what he’s throwing. What I like most is that he is gone deep in the games this year And with solid results as he’s posted a 3.06 ERA in 9 starts. His WHIP might be a little high, but I like his ability to get out of jams. He’s also pitched 89 pitches or more in 5 of his last 6 starts. That’s big fo him as the Cubs kept him on a short leash and a 5 inning limit in 2017. He gets bumped around every once in a while, but when you start breaking down his starts, he looks to be fairly consistent. He’s more of a candidate to go at the All-Star break then he is in the first week in June.
Myrtle Beach to Tennessee
Tyler Peyton has been an eye-opener for some at Myrtle Beach. I saw this coming last summer at South Bend as he was pretty dominant the last six weeks of the season. Part of me hopes he would get a chance to start, but as a reliever he is throwing 96 mph consistently out of the pen. Add in a killer ERA of 1.29, and he should find his way to Tennessee shortly after Dakota Mekkes heads to Iowa.
South Bend to Myrtle Beach
2017 second round pick Cory Abbott is missing a lot of bats in the Midwest league, 44 Ks in 36.1 IP. He should be on the first plane to South Carolina fairly quickly at the rate he is going. His slider and fastball command are just wiping out hitters as he has posted a 2.72 ERA in 7 starts. His WHIP is 1.06 and opponents are hitting only .206 against him.
On the Edge
The main problem in promoting prospects is that there is nowhere to go for many of them. For the following list of prospects, they still need some more time to simmer in their respective affiliates before being promoted. While they may not be promoted in the next two weeks, look for their names to be bumped up in late June at the end of the first half.
Tennessee: Zack Short, Charcer Burks, and Jeffrey Baez – All three would need a place to play. Right now, there are no spots in Iowa.
Myrtle Beach: Jhonny Pereda, Wyatt Short, Casey Bloomquist, Bailey Clark, Connor Myers, and Tyler Alamo – Bloomquist has been a nice surprise out of the pen this year, along with Short, while Alamo and Pereda are part of the logjam at first and catcher in the system. Bailey Clark has been a stud throwing between 95-97. He had a couple of adjustments to make at high A but looks to have righted the ship. If Baez and Burks go to Iowa, look for Connor Myers to head west to Tennessee.
South Bend: Tyler Thomas, Javier Assad, Rollie Lacy, and Austin Filiere – All four have shown flashes of potential and have put together some impressive performances along with some befuddling ones. The pitchers probably move before Filiere does.
It will be interesting to see how this shakes down in a couple of weeks both before and after the draft.
By Todd Johnson
This month’s All-Star team was pretty fluid right up through yesterday’s games. There were prospects who stayed consistent all month. There were those who got hot early and faded late. And then there are those who got off to a rough start but turned it on later in the month. At one point, before last Thursday, they were only five pitchers who met the usual pre-requisite 3.00 ERA. Somehow, two more pulled through
As for position players, no one but Jeffrey Baez really set the system on fire. Baez, who, in the past, has dominated levels in spurts. In April, Baez hit .411 with 3 HR and 15 RBI to earn Hitter of the Month honor. They were not that many players who hit above or near .300. While that is not required to get on the team, there were clear demarcations in the levels of production across the system about who should be on the team. I did not have to leave anyone off who was on a par with current crop of all-stars.
It will be interesting to see which players get promoted here in the coming weeks. I expect some of the players in the video below to move up a level. Most of the promoted prospects will probably be relievers and maybe one of the starting pitchers.
So, without further adieu, here is this month’s minor league All-Star team.
By Todd Johnson
One of the things the Cubs management has shown a proclivity to do is to promote their top prospects in the waning weeks of the season to participate in the MiLB playoffs. This year, Myrtle Beach clinched a spot back in June by winning the first half. Eugene is just one game behind Boise for another spot while Tennessee is 3 1/2 back. Iowa is nowhere near a spot and South Bend is 10 games back despite having the best record of any Cubs affiliate this year.
No one is going to move up from Myrtle Beach to help Tennessee win. There are few players in the Arizona Rookie League who could wind up in Eugene to give the Emeralds a little push. But the biggest transition of talent is likely to come from South Bend to Myrtle Beach. The Pelicans were brilliant in the first half. Promotions, trades, and injuries remade the roster as they have limped to the worst record in the Carolina League in the second half.
Myrtle Beach is in need of some offense from the outfield, a starting pitcher, and some bullpen help. Here are a few players who could matriculate their way to Myrtle Beach to help the Pelicans win their third straight Mills Cup Championship.
DJ Wilson – The Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Month for July is the most likely prospect to head east. A natural center fielder, Wilson could slide right into the Pelicans’ lineup and provide some much needed punch from the left side. After spending the better part of June on the DL, Wilson returned and has been drawing more walks than before. He would fit right in as a Pelican.
Kevonte Mitchell – Another outfielder, Mitchell would provide some serious right handed power. In the second half, Mitchell is putting together a nice stretch of baseball showing patience and power at the same time. Just this month, he’s hitting .303 with a .425 OBP.
Bryan Hudson – The tall lefty starting pitcher has put together a good second half. In August, he has made two starts with a 0.90 ERA and has allowed only 2 ERs in his last 4 starts. For the year, he has a 3.00 ground ball to air out rate.
Jose Paulino – While he currently is a starter, Myrtle Beach needs bullpen help and that is what Paulino could provide. After struggling as a starter in April, Paulino worked his way back to the rotation over the course of May and June. In July, he had 2.20 ERA in 4 starts.
Wyatt Short – As the lefty closer at Eugene in 2016, he did not allow a run all season. This year has been a bit of a struggle at times. He has looked much better as of late with a 3.48 ERA in the second half of the year.
Mark Malave – The former catcher looks to be adjusting fine in his third year since switching to pitching. He’s struck out 20 in 20 IP since being promoted to South Bend to go along with a 2.70 ERA.
While it might be nice for the Pelicans to get all six players, odds are it will only be a couple of players arriving. I think Wilson will be get the call for sure. As for who the pitcher could be, I will be just as surprised as you.
Today is a fun day! It’s opening day for four of the Cubs’ minor-league affiliates! Weather permitting, Iowa, Tennessee, Myrtle Beach, and South Bend will take the field for the first time in 2017. It is not looking good for South Bend today as three to six inches are called for in West Michigan. As usual, I will be watching all the happenings. Then, starting this Sunday, “The Weekly” will have the players of the week. But today, it’s our annual preseason All-Star team for the first half.
What is happening today is I am picking out several players who I think will be the best at their position in the Cubs’ system through the middle of June.
I think that Victor Caratini is locked and loaded and has his eyes set on Chicago. He will be at AAA this year and more than likely, come 2018, he will be the backup catcher to Wilson Contreras. He might even see some time this summer depending on his defense.
Even though he is currently on the DL, I think Yasiel Balaguert has this position sewn up. Last year, he had 19 home run the 96 RBIs and I think he will improve upon that this year as he has been working on hitting up the middle and to the right.
There is some stiff competition for this position with Carlos Sepulveda and Yeiler Peguero competing to get their name on the Internet. However, Ian Happ wins in a landslide. It is so self-evident, that I’m not even going to explain my thinking process for selecting him.
At the age of 17, Isaac Paredes made his class A debut at South Bend in late August of 2017. This year, the Cubs will get the full effect of what this man-child can do. He earned the starting spot and hopefully some power will go along with an outstanding batting average and on-base percentage… I’ll from an 18-year-old kid.
I am going to break the mold, and tradition, and go with Wladimir Galindo who I think will do extremely well as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League. Normally, I would pick Jeimer Candelario for the spot, but I think Wladimir is determined to succeed and show his worth.
I think this was the toughest category to pick just three players. I think the deciding factor is how I project them to perform in the first half and the excitement that they will bring to the game. As a result, I am selecting DJ Wilson of South Bend, Eloy Jimenez of Tennessee, and I’m going to stun everybody and go with Bijan Rademacher of Iowa. I know I am leaving out Eddy Martinez and Mark Zagunis, but I think Bijan is going to hit more home runs than both the next two months.
I found it hard to just pick six because the Cubs development of pitchers is becoming more and more pronounced. I am going with Dylan Cease, Trevor Clifton, Eddie Butler, Erling Moreno, Oscar de la Cruz, Thomas Hatch, and I am picking Kyle Miller as a Darkhorse. I also thought about including Ryan Williams, Rob Zastryzny, and Zach Hedges. What used to be the weakness of the organization is now turning into a strength. I would not be surprised to see a couple of these pitchers make it to Chicago this year.
Last year, relievers were the strength of the organization. They helped out the big league club down the stretch and Rob Zastryzny even made it to the World Series. This year, Pierce Johnson leads a group of arms who are still a ways off from helping the big league club. Ryan McNeil, Jordan Mnch, Wyatt Short, Dakota Mekkes, and Chad Hockin are just a few of the names who will be excellent bullpen arms the spring. I know there are other bullpen arms, especially in South Bend, who could’ve been added to this list.
Last year’s preseason All-Star team played a significant role in two ways. Some of them wound up on the major-league roster and were key players in the World Series victory. Other prospects were parts of packages used to acquire Aroldis Chapman and Mike Montgomery who helped to win the World Series.
I don’t quite know what will happen this year with some of these prospects, but that’s the fun of it. In four weeks, the April All-Star team should give us a glimpse into how well this package of players listed above did on the road to Wrigley.
By Todd Johnson
I don’t think there’s any doubt that the position in the minors that will bear the most help in Chicago this year will be relief pitching. With Zastryzny, Felix Pena, and Jose Rosario on the doorstep, the Cubs will not have to go out looking for a reliever for quite some time. And still, there are other prospects who are in play to help the bullpen this year including Pierce Johnson, Corey Black, Ryan McNeil, and maybe even Duane Underwood (if all goes well).
Last year, the bullpen at AAA Iowa was the strength of that team. This year, the same is true. In addition to the aforementioned pitchers, Stephen Perakslis and James Farris could work their way into the current conversation.
One thing the Cubs did last year in the draft was select 27 pitchers, 16 of which signed. Most of them will be in South Bend this year, but a couple could make their way to Tennessee and maybe even Iowa.
As it stands, Jason McLeod has been throwing a lot of draft picks towards arms in the bullpen. Some used to be starters, but they seem to thrive as relievers in the minor leagues. Today’s post will rank the bullpen prospects in the Cubs minor-league organization
There are several bullpen arms from last year’s draft that will get their first chance in full season ball this year. They include Dakota Mekkes, Marc Huberman, Michael Rucker, Chad Hockin, and Duncan Robinson. My pick to click this year is Marc Huberman, a lefty out of USC,
Huberman came in and only pitched at Eugene last year. In a setup role, Huberman had a 1.72 ERA in 15 innings. As I watched him pitch a few times, most hitters struggle to find the ball coming out of his hand. It’s not that he was trying to be highly deceptive, rather he just hides the ball naturally. I think he might not be around South Bend very long. After pitching a full season in college,
Chad Hockin out of Cal State Fullerton might be one pitcher who benefits from professional coaching. Throwing in the mid-90s, Hockin has closer type stuff and closer experience.
Top five to watch this year
5. Kyle Twomey – Originally, Twomey was slated to be a starter. It didn’t necessarily work out that way. However, after a couple of minor injuries, he seemed to blossom in a relief role. I saw him a couple of time live in 2016 and his curveball devastated hitters in the Midwest League. Out of the pen, he had an ERA of under 1.
4. Wyatt Short – Wyatt surprised everyone at Eugene last summer as he dominated the Northwest League as the Emeralds’ closer. Pretty simply, he did not give up 1 run in 2016. He was efficient, to the point, and devastating out of the pen. He should begin this year at South Bend. Like Huberman, Short is a lefty who could advance quickly in 2017.
3. James Farris – In 2015, Farris went from a bullpen arm to the closer at South Bend and seemed to thrive in the role. At Myrtle Beach, he had an up and down season, but more up than down. Last year at Tennessee, he started to figure things out in July and August. The Cubs sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he dominated in a setup role. I think this year he’ll be at AAA and I think he could be in line for a promotion to Chicago at some point later in the year.
2. Stephen Perakslis – He’s always had mid-90s heat, and he’s always been a second-half player. I don’t know what it is about him that he seems to struggle the first half of the year and then turns it on once July 1 hits. In 2016, Stephen got some action starting for Iowa and Tennessee and seemed to thrive a bit in the role. I don’t expect him to return to that role in 2017. Instead, he will likely return to the bullpen better because of his experience as a starter.
1. Jose Rosario – Rosario has been around for a while and was off of most people’s radar after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2015. But that was as a starter. Now that he’s in the pen, his velocity has increased to the mid to upper 90s and he’s perched himself as a prospect who could actually make the 25 man roster. I doubt that he does, but he could become prospect number one to be called up to Chicago this spring or summer.
What I like most about this collection of arms is that they are a mixture of arms. They all have different arsenals and speeds at which they pitch. It’s not a cookie-cutter set of pitchers as it is a mixture of lefties and righties.
Record: 54-22 – 1st and 2nd Half Division Champions, Northwest League Champions
From start to finish they were the best team in the Northwest League in 2016. They were a team built on starting pitching, defense, and team speed. They had two highly touted pitchers to begin the year in Dylan Cease and Bryan Hudson. Although Cease would suffer a forearm strain, he still showed off the magic of his arm in the second half. The first half saw pitcher Jose Paulino post an ERA under one and was promptly promoted to South Bend. In the second half, Manny Rondon became somewhat the ace pro tempore of the staff with his ERA of 1.10.
At the plate, five different players took turns carrying the team throughout the year. First, it was Matt Rose, second, Chris Pieters took over when Rose was promoted to South Bend, and then Wladimir Galindo took over for a short time in late July. In August, DJ Wilson, Trent Giambrone, and Zack Short each had their moments. Robert Garcia showed he can handle a stick, too, and Kevonte Mitchell flashed some potential and had a much better 2016 than 2015.
In the playoffs, the Emeralds won their first series over Hillsboro with some dominating pitching from Pedro Silverio, who struck out 8 in his start. Erling Moreno did excellent in the deciding game holding the Hops to one run while striking out 7 in five innings.
Like the rest of the year, the Emeralds used good starting pitching, defense, and an excellent job from the bullpen to defeat Everett 2 games to 1 to win the Northwest League Championship! In game 3, Starter Manny Rondon scattered six hits and two walks with 3 strikeouts to only allow one run. The key play came in the top of the fifth inning when a single by Everett’s Kristian Brito plated a run but Kevonte Mitchell threw out Bryson Brigman at the plate on the same play to keep the game at 1-1. In the bottom of the inning, Yeiler Peguero singled home Robert Garcia to give the Ems a 2-1 lead. The bullpen of Duncan Robinson, Michael Knighton, and Wyatt Short did what they have done all year and shut down the opposition for the next four innings.
The championship is the first for the affiliate in the Cubs organization and the first since 1980. Congratulations to Manager Jesus Felciano, the players and the Ems organization on a job well done!!!
Team Leaders – Offense
Team Leaders – Pitching
|ERA (50 IP)||Strikeouts||WHIP||Saves||Innings|
It was hard to pick just one. There were five players who seemed to carry the team at distinct points in the season. Matt Rose, Chris Pieters, Wladimir Galindo, DJ Wilson, and Trent Giambrone all put the team on their backs and carried them for two weeks at a time.
Team Cy Young
Manny Rondon – 49 Ks in 57.1 IP, 1.10 ERA, 1.26 WHIP. Had Cease not been injured and missed three starts, I think this would’ve been his. One thing that concerns me about Rondon right now is his 1.26 WHIP and high walk rate. He does struggle sometimes, but he’s come a long way from rookie ball where he was horrible in 2015 for the Angels (8+ ERA). This year, he was able to work out of jams and relied on his defense as hitters hit .233 against him.
Breakout Prospects in 2016
To me, Manny Rondon appears to be the breakout prospect on the surface. However, I was totally stunned at the tools of Giambrone and Zack Short, both of whom are excellent on defense and had OBPs of over .400. I find that amazing, especially since Short only hit .236.
Looking Ahead to 2017
I am not quite sure what to expect for this team next year. Between fall instructs, spring training, and extended spring training,a lot of development can take place over those nine months. I think Gustavo Polanco is the one certain hitter who should be at Eugene and entrenched in the middle of the lineup come next June.
The big name for 2017 might be Jose Albertos, a young 17-year-old pitcher who spent most of 2016 on the DL but should be at fall instructs. When healthy, the youngster can top out in the upper 90s. He only made one start at Mesa where he struck out 7 in 4 innings before being put on the shelf for precautionary reasons.
Sleeper Prospect for 2017
Delvin Zinn – First, I was surprised the 19-year-old signed after being drafted by the Cubs a second time in 2016. He is extremely athletic and started playing well at the end of Rookie League.
There are eight and a half months before the next season of Emeralds baseball. A lot can happen with developing prospects in that big of a time frame, especially when many of them might only be 18-20 years old. It should be exciting to see next year’s crop of prospects in the great Northwest.
In Eugene, it was a black and white world Tuesday night. Win and you get a championship, lose and the season is over with a bitter taste in the mouth for all of the winter. Like the rest of the year, the Emeralds used good starting pitching, defense, and an excellent job from the bullpen to defeat Everett 2-1 to win the Northwest League Championship!
Starter Manny Rondon scattered six hits and two walks with 3 strikeouts to only allow one run. The key play came in the top of the fifth inning when a single by Everett’s Kristian Brito plated a run but Kevonte Mitchell threw out Bryson Brigman at the plate on the same play to keep the game at 1-1. In the bottom of the inning, Yeiler Peguero singled home Robert Garcia to give the Ems a 2-1 lead. The bullpen of Duncan Robinson, Michael Knighton, and Wyatt Short did what they have done all year and shut down the opposition for the next four innings.
The championship is the first for the affiliate in the Cubs organization and the first since 1980. Congratulations to Manager Jesus Felciano, the players and the Ems organization on a job well done!!! We will have a season wrap-up on the team a bit later this week!
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent…
Trevor Clifton was not the star of the night. Although, he could have been. The big right-hander from Tennessee finished off his high A career at Myrtle Beach with a beautiful game over the Lynchburg Hillcats. Clifton went six innings, gave up three hits, did not allow a run or walk, and struck out five. The Pelicans rattled off 10 hits and scored seven runs en route to a 7-0 shut out. David Bote is showing why he is the most valuable bat currently at Myrtle Beach as he went two for four with two doubles and two RBIs. The Pelicans now lead the best of five series 2 games to 1.
Preston Morrison heads to the mound on Wednesday. If the Pelicans win, it will be their second straight Mills Cup Championship Series trophy! The action starts at 5:30 Central.