Well May has come and gone. It’s time to take a quick peek at the top 3 levels of the Cubs minor leagues. We all know the story at the big league level but what’s happening down on the farm? Who’s hot and who’s not? Any surprises? Let’s dig right in.
Iowa Cubs (AAA)
- Wilson Contreras! Enough said, right? The kid is doing everything you want as far as the stat sheet. His current line is .331/.421/.566 and this follows his batting championship in the Southern League last year. It’s no longer about “if” he is going to make it to Wrigley but “when” he will get his promotion. We still feel no rush to get him promoted unless we see a dramatic decline in production from Ross or Montero. We still have to be hesitant to turn over the starting position to a rookie and expect him to handle the #1 pitching staff seamlessly.
- Albert Almora is also probably ready for his promotion. His current line is .315/.332/.452. We have seen a big drop ins walk rate over the one he turned in from the 2nd half of the season at Tennessee. This has also been the main talking point as to why he may have difficulties at the highest level. There is no debate about his glove as it probably will win several gold gloves over his major league career. Expect him to make his debut later this year and probably take over the CF duties full time in 2017.
- Dan Vogelbach is being talked about once again. His current line is .309/.427/.509. He is proving to be the type of hitter the Cubs thought he would be. But the same restrictions still apply as he is more of a DH type. He plays a decent 1B but will never surpass Rizzo in Chicago. It would be nice to see the Cubs showcase his skills with the September call up and hope for the best. He will still probably be tied to each and every trade rumor tied to the Cubs.
- Ryan Williams was drafted in 2014 in the 10th round. He decided to sign quickly and let his performance speak for itself. He has quickly moved up the ladder and is proving to be the anchor of the Iowa starting pitchers. He is 4-1 with a 3.30 ERA. He has 30 K’s and only 12 BB’s in 43 innings. The 24 year old won’t overpower you but throws strikes and has a knack of knowing how to get hitters out.
We could also mention several other intriguing players that could play a role soon for the Cubs. Guys like Spencer Patton, Carl Edwards Jr., Felix Pena and Gerardo Concepcion are all guys to keep an eye on. Currently the Iowa Cubs are 24-26. Let’s keep in mind that the minors are a place to develop players. It would be great if they were also playing .700 baseball but it’s more important that we have a few guys on the squad that are ready to fill in for the Cubs if needed.
Tennessee Smokies (AA)
Down at Tennessee we have a lager group of players to keep an eye on. We just want to discuss a few of the names everyone might be familiar with but the team has many players to choose.
- Chesny Young is really making a name for himself. He has a current line of .311/.397/.374. He also has played a pretty solid 2B with only 2 errors in 48 games played. He has more walks (26) than strikeouts (22) and has won the Southern League player of the week at least once.
- Paul Blackburn also won the pitcher of the week along with Young. He having a very solid season to date with a 3-1 record and a 1.62 ERA. He leads the team with 61 innings pitched and has doubled his strikeouts (32) over his walks (14). He’s still not ranked in the top 30 prospects in the system but we think he should be.
- Duane Underwood Jr. has yet to breakout and impress at Tennessee. He is the Cubs best hope for a #1 type of homegrown starter. The Cubs have been ultra conservative with Underwood this year. He just arrived in Tennessee and only has 26 innings under his belt. The record is 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA. He is currently ranked as the #4 prospect in the system and expect to see much better results from the big right-hander.
- Mark Zagunis started off slowly but has quickly heated up this month. His current line in .293/.406/.420. Take a look at these splits from April and then in May:
We would also like to give a shout out to Bijan Rademacher, Billy McKinney, Jacob Hahnemann, and Jeimer Candelario. Outside of Rademacher, all of these positional players have had a bit of a disappointing season to date. All have shown signs of breaking out of the funk and hope to have better production for the rest of the season.
It should also be mentioned that Brad Markey leads the team in wins with 5 against only 1 loss. We are still waiting for Corey Black to show us something besides his tweets as to why the Cubs should hang onto him. Rob Zastryzny leads the team with strikeouts (42) and although he has been used as a starter, could give the Cubs a much needed lefty arm in the bullpen.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A+)
- Gleyber Torres is the #1 prospect in the Cubs system. It was a bit concerning to see him struggle like he did to start the season. What was even more alarming was the strikeout rate of 25.6% in the month of April. But Torres has righted the ship in May and looks to be putting up his typical offensive numbers.
- Ian Happ was last year’s #1 draft choice and hasn’t disappointed. His current line is .273/.392/.426. He has cooled a bit for the month of May but it’s a long season and he is a “professional” hitter. We fully expect him to produce like a #1 draft choice should. In his short time with the Cubs, he’s played all 3 OF spots and 2B. We also expect to see this as he moves up through the system.
Down at the lower levels we still have a lot of excitement.
- Eloy Jimenez is starting to break out at South Bend. His current line is .328/.370/.538 and just won the player of the month for May! He is still just 19 years old so may be a few years before we could start talking about what kind of impact he might have for the Cubs.
- Carson Sands is 5-0 with a 2.91 ERA at South Bend. We have high hopes for this 21 year old and expect him to make more noise as he works his way closer to Chicago.
- Dylan Cease was highlighted last month here at CubsChat. We are still waiting for him to be assignned. He will probably be on his way to Myrtle Beach soon and can’t wait to see what he can do with that big right arm.