Up in the Majors – Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have both had their shares of up-and-downs this season, but are showing signs on heating up. Castro’s OBP lays at a mere .291, thus dragging his OPS down to just a .683, but the young shortstop has only had one-hundred and seven at bats. Rizzo’s stat line looks ugly at first with .202 batting average and a .292 OBP, but with eleven extra-base hits – eight of which were home runs – Rizzo’s slugging has carried him to a .782 OPS. Both have room to improve this season, but the starts are not as bad as they may seem at first glance.
Iowa Cubs – With Josh Vitters and Junior Lake sidelined – and no impact pitching with Arodys Vizcaino yet to play – Brett Jackson and Logan Watkins have been the two top prospects to watch at the level of the Cubs’ farm system nearest to the major leagues. Jackson is batting just .233, but is getting on at a .333 clip and slugging a .433, and one can logically expect these numbers to go up in the coming weeks as he gets over his injury that has limited him to just sixty at bats in 2013. Watkins is batting a not much prettier .263, but with twenty-two – yes, twenty-two – walks already this season, his OBP is an astounding .422 to go along with a slugging percentage of .450, very good numbers even in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Tennessee Smokies – The Smokies are loaded with fringe prospects who are either attempting to regain some stock or are beginning to burst out and pick up significant hype. Ronald Torreyes, one of those aiming to burst out, is batting .341 in fourteen games since joining the team. Matt Szczur, a former Top 100 prospect who struggled in his late-season promotion to Tennessee last season, is getting on base at a .366 clip and slugging a .409, with two home runs, hopefully beginning to develop some of the power he failed to find last year. Arismendy Alcantara‘s numbers aren’t great – his OPS is just .734 and he has eight errors already this season – but he has shown great signs of becoming one of the better shortstop prospects in the game, although there is doubt that he will be able to play the position at the major league level. Christian Villanueva was the hundredth-best prospect in baseball last season, according to Baseball America, but has struggled mightily to begin this season, with just one home run and an OPS of just .588.
Daytona Cubs – The good news is that Javier Baez has officially heated up (five home runs and a .819 OPS to go along with eleven errors that make Arismendy Alcantara’s defense look a lot better). The bad news – and perhaps the more unexpected and probably an overhyped non-issue – is that Jorge Soler has gotten in to trouble again as he has watched his numbers fall. This time, the Cuban outfielder didn’t run hard enough in the game… twice! The Daytona Cubs, with support from Chicago’s front office, benched Soler from Sunday’s game before he got back into action for Monday’s rain-shortened victory over the Palm Beach Cardinals (Cubs have to be able to beat the Cards at some level, right?).
Kane County Cougars – Dan Vogelbach has hit four home runs and has posted an OPS of .779 – good, but not Dan Vogelbach good – while other position prospects from the normally stacked Cougars lineup have faltered. Marco Hernandez is hitting just .254, Gioskar Amaya just .241, and Jeimer Candelario – a near top hundred prospect according to Keith Law – an even worse .231. The Cougars should get rebounds from these three prospects, and getting a guy named Albert Almora shouldn’t hurt much either. Pierce Johnson has a respectable 3.50 ERA but an ugly 1.44 WHIP from the mound.
Draft – Seems that the Cubs are likely down to choosing between Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray. These two college prospects are potential aces and whichever doesn’t get taken by Houston will provide the Cubs with a true power arm with the potential to most quickly through the minor league ranks. Either one would be a huge boost to the farm system, but Gray seems more likely to fall to the Cubs than Appel does.