Down in Arizona, the big league club is getting healthier by the day, with Olt starting to take batting practice after having the cast removed from the fracture in his forearm. With players like Mike Baxter and Jonathan Herrera filling roles on the major league roster that they weren’t necessarily expected to, players getting healthy and returning will make the entire system healthier, as the players expected to serve as minor league depth will likely reclaim their places in Iowa.
Logan Watkins (60 Day DL, Out for Season, Torn Achilles Tendon), Will Remillard (60 Day DL, Out for Season, Tommy John Surgery), Trey McNutt (60 Day DL, Shoulder), Jose Rosario (60 Day DL, Tommy John Surgery), Anthony Carter (7 Day DL), Barret Loux (7 Day DL), Daniel Schlereth (7 Day DL), John Andreoli (7 Day DL), Michael Jensen (7 Day DL), Pierce Johnson (Extended Spring Training, Lat Strain), Rob Zastryzny (7 Day DL), Matt Brazis (7 Day DL), Michael Wagner (7 Day DL), Tyler Pearson (Inactive), Dan Vogelbach (7 Day DL), Erick Castillo (7 Day DL), Shawon Dunston, Jr. (7 Day DL, Right Arm), James Norwood (7 Day DL), Daniel Lewis (Inactive), Justin Marra (7 Day DL)
South Bend Cubs: 20-28, 7th Place Midwest League Eastern Division
Last year, Jeffrey Baez made his full season debut in the latter stages of the Kane County season. During that initial stint, he had some success in the Midwest League, but not anywhere near enough for him to move up to high A ball. This year, it looks like the mid season promotion he got last year is unlikely to happen again. With a .193/.258/.272 slash line, 1 HR, and 4 RBI, Baez is not off to the start that made him an intriguing name in the system last year. It’s not all doom and gloom for Baez, though. His walk rate is still a decent 7.2% and his strike out rate is down from last year and is at a very respectable 16%. So while the contact numbers for Baez haven’t been good, he may be due a little bit of regression and a bit of a spike in his current .226 BABIP.
In many ways, the season Jeremy Null is currently having is worth marveling over. His ERA is a dazzling 1.89, his FIP is 2.31, his K/BB ratio is 13.00, and his BABIP allowed is .320. The BABIP is a bit on the high side for someone who has such impressive numbers otherwise. Unless he starts walking more people or really missing his locations, Null could actually get a bump in the positive direction of his 1.07 WHIP. For as much has been written about him, Null is earning the continued praise. As these numbers remain consistent further and further into the season, less can be pinned on the dreaded “small sample size” bias and more can be attributed to “dominating the level”, which may get him promoted to Myrtle Beach.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans: 29-15, 1st Place Carolina League Southern Division
It will not be often that a 40th round pick (1214 overall) gets discussed here. But Jacob Rogers is earning some recognition for what he’s done since signing with the Cubs after being selected in the 40th round in 2012. One of last season’s offensive catalysts in Kane County has carried over his solid play to high A. Currently, Rogers is pacing the Pelicans with 5 HRs. And while his .245 average doesn’t jump off the page, his 13.1% walk rate and his extra base power have allowed him a solid .245/.341/.397 slash line. A .738 OPS doesn’t bring the tingles Cubs fans have been accustomed to from prospects the last few years, but with South Bend and Myrtle Beach lacking real power hitters at the time being, Rogers is at least trying to cover for some of the deficiency until Eloy Jimenez makes his full season ball debut.
While pitchers like Duane Underwood and Jen-Ho Tseng have gotten the most attention from the group of pitchers who worked in Kane County last year and have since moved to Myrtle Beach this year, Daury Torres is one of the steady arms in that rotation who may make an appearance in the majors in a few years. He doesn’t miss many bats, and his numbers are less impressive than they were last year, Torres leads the Pelicans in innings pitched this season while remaining fairly effective. The difference between this season and last appears to be the BABIP against him is currently 74 points higher than it was last season, while his strike outs and walks have remained relatively the same. The spike could be due to more advanced hitters taking aim at a pitcher who is constantly around the zone, but don’t discount a little bad luck. Torres is never going to be a stud in the system, but he could eventually wind up in the bullpen with his low to mid 90s sinking fastball.
Tennessee Smokies: 25-22, 2nd Place Southern League North.
At the time he was promoted from Myrtle Beach, Jacob Hannemann was lighting up the Carolina League. It has not been the same offensive story in the Southern League, though. After 29 games, his .189/.241/.260 and 30.1% strike out rate are less than stellar showings. 113 plate appearances makes that a small sample and it shouldn’t be a surprise than Hannemann is still adjusting to the level. Furthermore, although Hannemann is 24, he was away from baseball for such a period that being in AA only 2 years after being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 Amateur Draft is still somewhat impressive, if not a bit too aggressive from the Cubs’ point of view. As he adjusts to the level, look for him to combine with Billy McKinney and Albert Almora to form a fun outfield to watch, both offensively and defensively. Speaking of defense…
On the mound, Corey Black has continued to perform at a consistent pace. This season, he’s improved his strike out and walk numbers, and kept the ball in the yard better than he did last season (when it still wasn’t bad), improving his 4.68 FIP from 2014 to 3.02 through his first 8 starts in 2015. If he continues to perform at this level, and if the major league team continues to have shaky contributions from the bullpen, Black may be the next Smokies pitcher to get a call to Iowa after Carl Edwards, Jr. got the call on May 29th.
Iowa Cubs: 23-23, 2nd Place Pacific Coast League American Northern Division
He’s starting to get hot, folks. Javier Baez is up to .286/.366/.480 after returning to the I-Cubs, and he is hitting the ball with more consistency, more authority, and while cutting back on the strike outs. His game will always have some, with a 25% strike out rate, but with his walk rate at a career best 8.0%, he appears to be seeing the ball as well as he ever has and is coming to the plate with a more refined approach than he ever has. Time will tell when Baez makes his return to Chicago, but at the moment, Baez is making all of the adjustments he needed to make in order to return to the Cubs and not replicate his difficult first taste of Major League Baseball.
After being acquired from the Seattle Mariners for Welington Castillo, Yoervis Medina has made 3 relief appearances for the I-Cubs. The numbers in 3 innings with Iowa are meaningless (which is good because the numbers are not). He was effective with both the Mariners and their AAA team in 16 outings in that organization before being sent to the Cubs. After he adjusts to his new team and new organization, he may be the next reliever on the track to Wrigley in what has been a chaotic early season on the mound for both the big league club and their top minor league affiliate.