The AAA All-Stars were announced today, and the I-Cubs get four representatives…
— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) July 3, 2014
No real surprises in the group there. And all of them have been quite good this season, so they are all deserving of the recognition. In addition to the all-star nod, Arismendy Alcantara earned PCL Player of the Week honors last week with a .517 average and scoring 8 runs.
In other prospect news, two of last year’s International Free Agent signings, Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres have been playing in the rookie league. Jimenez, who at 17 is a full grown man, hit his first professional home run on Wednesday night. Also in the line-up in Mesa has been Jorge Soler, as he recovers from hamstring issues that have plagued his 2014 season.
Injuries of Note: Cael Brockmeyer (7 Day DL), C.J. Edwards (7 Day DL, Shoulder), Giuseppe Papaccio (7 Day DL), Ivan Pineyro (7 Day DL, Right Forearm Strain), Hunter Cervenka (7 Day DL), Jen-Ho Tseng (7 Day DL, Shoulder), Jorge Soler (7 Day DL, Hamstring Strain), Daniel Canela (7 Day DL), Marcos Mateo (7 Day DL, Lower Back Strain), Gerardo Concepcion (7 Day DL, Foot), Yao-Lin Wang (7 Day DL), Lars Anderson (7 Day DL), Edgar Gonzalez (7 Day DL), Jonathan Sanchez (7 Day DL), Dillon Maples (7 Day DL), Jose Arias (7 Day DL), Nathan Maldonado (60 Day DL), Brad Renner (60 Day DL), Danny Lockhart (7 Day DL), Anthony Prieto (60 Day DL), Austin Reed (60 Day DL), Jeff Lorick (7 Day DL), Julio Rodriguez (7 Day DL), Christian Villanueva (7 Day DL), Rubi Silva (7 Day DL)
Record This Season: 9-11, 2nd Place (- 4.0) NWL South
This year’s first round pick, Kyle Schwarber has been replaced among high draft picks in Boise by fellow catcher and third round pick, Mark Zagunis. He, like Schwarber did in his short stay at Boise, is abusing NWL pitching to the tune of a .438/.550/.625 in a very small sample size. It’s not much, but it is a nice start. OF prospect Jeffrey Baez is not hitting a ton, with only 15 hits in 79 ABs, but 9 of those hits have been for extra bases, including 2 triples and 4 HRs. This is another Baez that Cubs fans figure to hear more about moving forward.
Kane County Cougars
Record This season: 9-3, 1st Place (+ 0.5) MWL West; Won MWL West 1st Half Division Championship
No slowing down for the Cougars in the 2nd half, continuing the team effort of strong pitching. They’ve added some impact hitting to the line-up, however, with Kyle Schwarber coming from Boise after the all-star break, and picking up right where he left off in the Northwest League. He is at .390/.500/.780 since being moved up to Kane County, with 4 HRs and 9 RBI. One thing to note is that Schwarber, being an advanced college bat, is still probably too advanced for this league at this time. However, unless the D-Cubs make a run at the 2nd half division championship in the FSL, Schwarber may stick around Kane County out of the organization’s desire to get their youngsters a taste of playoff action…which the Cougars will have this season.
Record This Season: 8-5, 3rd Place (- 2.0) FSL North
There’s some great news out of Daytona of late…and that is we can end the Amber Alert for Albert Almora‘s bat. He has a .395/.435/.558 in his last 10, and has upped his season numbers to .266/.292/.357. The season numbers are still unspectacular, but the resurgence of hitting is a welcome sight. One thing to note on Almora is that he is still somewhat young for the Florida State League and it is a notorious pitcher’s league. In that regard maybe the slow start was expected (albeit, not as slow as it was), and it is great to see him adjusting to the league. The road to Wrigley may be longer than we expected, but there is still no reason to be down on Almora as a prospect.
Record This Season: 10-4 1st Place (+ 2.5) Southern League North
There is something deeply disappointing about Christian Villanueva going on the disabled list…and it is that when he returned to Tennessee, he found the bat that he left there in 2013. He was hitting .311/.367/.467 in his return to the Smokies after a rough couple of months at Iowa. As a prospect who gets very little publicity because of the other highly ranked prospects in the system, Villanueva has a lot of value to the Cubs, either as a potential major leaguer who can play stellar defense at the hot corner or as currency to acquire other pieces if he becomes blocked. Either way, it would be nice to see him back on the field and continue to hit and head back to Iowa.
Record This Season: 47-38 1st Place (+ 3.0) PCL American North
Since the last recap, the I-Cubs have been on a tear, winning 12 of 15 and picking up 7.5 in the standings to claim a 3 game lead in the American North division. Coincidentally enough, that surge has aligned with the arrival of Kris Bryant. After a feast or famine stretch of either home run or strike out, Bryant has adjusted in a big way to the PCL. His .345/.419/.764 slash line is very similar to what he slashed in AA (.355/.458/.702) and in only 15 games, has managed to hit 6 HRs (including a grand slam), drive in 18, and reduce the strike outs after an initial plethora of them. He’s adjusting to AAA as well as any of us has expected he would…and that is helping out Javy Baez. After that horrific start, Baez has moved to a .240/.307/.433 on the season. One number worth mentioning…8.4%. That is Baez’s walk rate on the season, which has been boosted by a late run where is walk rate is in the ballpark of 20%. It is this adjustment that is truly exciting. A Javier Baez who is willing to take walks and force pitchers to throw him strikes is going to be a very deadly Javier Baez. It is unlikely we see either of these guys in Chicago this season, as neither are on the 40 man, but if they continue to hit like they have been, they could lead the I-Cubs to the AAA playoffs and gain postseason experience that is more valuable than anything they get at the major league level in 2014.
Oh, also worth mentioning, Manny Ramirez showed up. In 12 ABs, he has a .250/.250/.500 and has hit his first I-Cubs HR. His primary duty will be to mentor the two guys I talked about above, though. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to watch Manny be Manny a little bit.