It has been about three weeks since the last edition of “Future Alert”, and I apologize for the delay. The biggest news from the past three weeks is that Albert Almora and Jorge Soler will not make their long-awaited returns to action during this regular season, but are expected to play for the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League along with Kris Bryant.
Iowa – Mike Olt‘s struggles have been well documented and are said to be related to vision problems. Olt is still batting below .200 in AAA this season, but had his undisputed best game in the Cubs organization on Saturday. Olt went four-for-four in the game, hitting a home run and a double, scoring two runs and knocking in two. Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks has followed up a dominant showing at AA Tennessee with a 2-0 start to his AAA career. Sporting a 2.42 ERA through twenty-six innings, Hendricks has a 1.08 WHIP in the extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, and has struck out twenty-two batters while walking just five.
Tennessee – While his defense may still be shaky at shortstop – eleven errors in Tennessee alone – Javier Baez continues to mash offensively. In one-hundred and eighty-eight at bats in AA, Baez has hit seventeen home runs, drawn seventeen walks, and knocked in forty-four runs. With a monstrous 1.008 OPS, Baez is ticketed to Iowa to start next season, and it is highly likely that he won’t be done moving up for the year, possibly debuting in Chicago mid-season. Matt Szczur continues a solid season from the lead-off spot in the lineup, with a solid .351 OBP, but lacks power, leaving his OPS at a just decent .723. Arismendy Alcantara has struggled to keep his batting average up – just .250 in his last ten games – but his OBP over the same stretch in more than a hundred points higher and his OPS sits in the mid-.850’s, up from his season mark of .794. Christian Villanueva has been silently putting together a solid couple of months, and Brett Jackson has started to hit for more extra-base power, though his OPS remains at just .585.
Daytona – Besides Tennessee, Daytona is unarguably the prospect hot-spot in the Cubs organization, especially after both Kris Bryant and Dan Vogelbach were promoted on the same day. Bryant has been absolutely raking, batting .368 now with an OPS that surpasses that of even Javier Baez. Meanwhile, Vogelbach has been a walking machine, with an OBP of .410 before a one-for-three performance with two more walks on Sunday. Pierce Johnson and C.J. Edwards highlight the Dayton pitching staff, but both Corey Black (acquired in the Soriano trade) and Ivan Pineyro (acquired in the Hairston trade) have been pitching well recently.
Kane County – Kane County is the home of underachieving prospects this season, as none of Jeimer Candelario, Marco Hernandez, or Gioskar Amaya have progressed as well as the Cubs had hoped this season, and those that have succeeded – Johnson and Vogelbach – have since moved on to the higher levels or the minors, or in Almora’s case, put up good numbers but battled injuries throughout the season. The Cougars also hold the distinction of being the first team in the Midwest League to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
Lower Levels – For Boise, nobody compares to the production Kris Bryant brought in his brief stop at the Cubs short-season A affiliate, but Kevin Encarnacion has been a force, batting .360 with a .968 OPS. A good amount of the Cubs pitching talent currently resides in Boise, namely Juan Paniagua, Dillon Maples, Paul Blackburn, and Duane Underwood. Boise is currently tied for first place in its division. AZL is floating around .500, the DSL Cubs are in first place, and the VSL Cubs finished second and lost in the league championship game.