The Cubs’ organization is littered with players who have been promoted to new levels over the course of this season. It is also littered with players who are altering their approach to hitting or are adjusting to new roles on the mound. None of that is to mention players who were recently drafted adjusting to life as professionals, either in their first taste after being drafted this summer or players who are in the first full year of their professional careers. As August continues, the minor league season is reaching an end point. For the players who are adjusting to new levels, the off-season will provide them a time to learn and tailor their games to continue their growth. For those closer to MLB, the end of the minor league season can come with the potential of a big league call, making every opportunity in Iowa that much more valuable.
Logan Watkins (60 Day DL, Out for Season, Torn Achilles Tendon), Will Remillard (60 Day DL, Out for Season, Tommy John Surgery), Austin Reed (60 Day DL, Tommy John Surgery), Marcelo Carreno (60 Day DL, Shoulder Surgery), Trey McNutt (60 Day DL, Shoulder), Jose Rosario (60 Day DL, Tommy John Surgery), Trey Masek (60 Day DL), Wladimir Galindo (60 Day DL, Left Wrist Inflammation) Eric Jokisch (7 Day DL, Rib Cage), Michael Jensen (7 Day DL), Steven Perakslis (7 Day DL), Tayler Scott (7 Day DL) Dan Vogelbach (7 Day DL, Oblique), Tyler Pearson (7 Day DL), Tyler Skulina (7 Day DL), James Pugliese (7 Day DL), Duane Underwood, Jr. (7 Day DL, Elbow Inflammation), Shawon Dunston, Jr. (7 Day DL), Sam Wilson (7 Day DL), Yasiel Balaguert (7 Day DL)
Eugene Emeralds: 4-4, 2nd Place Northwest League South Division
Justin Steele has made 6 starts to this point in short season ball. He’s thrown only 30 innings and his 2.40 ERA and 3.00 FIP say good things about him to this point. However, he’s allowed 12 unearned runs to go with the 8 earned he’s surrendered. While the unearned runs are not entirely on him and he hasn’t been hit particularly hard, his left on base mark is an uncommonly low 48.7%. All of this is still part of a small sample size, but as far as the 2014 5th round pick goes, it’s been an up and down run with the Emeralds so far.
2015 2nd round pick Donnie Dewees has played in 36 games with the Emeralds to this point. His 4 HRs tie him for the team lead with recently promoted 2015 1st round pick, Ian Happ. His 9 doubles are second on the team. He has stolen 8 bases in 11 chances. And his strike out rate is a very respectable 17.8%. On the flip side, Dewees is hitting only .240/.294/.380. It’s not unusual for new draft picks to have up and down opening seasons are being drafted, and Dewees is no different. There are clearly some things to like about the beginning of his professional career, which serve as positive building blocks for the rest of this season and moving into his first full professional season next year.
South Bend Cubs: 19-21, 5th Place Midwest League Eastern Division
The beginning of the season did not go how Jeffrey Baez would have liked. Over the last months, though, he has made up for lost time in a big way. Since July 10, Baez is hitting .424/.436/.687, with 5 HRs, 2 triples, 7 doubles, 17 driven in, and 10 stolen bases in 102 plate appearances. He’s had 13 multi-hit games of the 23, and along that same time, he’s also only struck out 12 times. It’s taken a lot to replace Gleyber Torres in this space this season, but a month with an OPS of 1.123 is a good thing to talk about.
Although a 4.12 ERA and 4.31 FIP in low A don’t jump off the page and may not seem worthy of discussing in length, Erick Leal has also been on a bit of a recent tear. Over his last 5 starts, Leal has an ERA of only 2.00, a WHIP of 0.92, and has pitched at least 6 innings in each start. His last start came on Tuesday night against Kane County, where Leal threw 9 hitless (1 BB) innings in an eventual 1-0 loss in 12 innings. In his first full season, Leal has surpassed his high total for innings and seems to be only getting stronger as the season winds down.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans: 24-17 2nd Place Carolina League Southern Division
2014 14th round draft pick Chesny Young just hits. He started the season in South Bend where he played 28 games to a tune of .315/.385/.380. After an early promotion to Myrtle Beach, he’s been even better. Currently, Young is hitting .329/.385/.395. While he doesn’t come with a lot of power (only 1 HR), he is a really good contact hitter who can split gaps, knocking 11 doubles and 3 triples with the Pelicans. While he doesn’t walk a ton, only 7.6%, Young doesn’t appear to go up hacking. He drives pitches left in the strike zone, and doesn’t chase too many pitchers’ pitches. While his .370 BABIP may fall in higher levels of the minor leagues and his 10.9% strike out rate may creep up, it would be a surprise to see either get too far away from where they are. The 22 year old infielder can hit.
One round after the Cubs picked Chesny Young, they picked Jeremy Null. Null also started in South Bend (and dominated), but hasn’t had the same success in his 5 starts with Myrtle Beach. His 4.33 ERA and 4.24 FIP are both considerably higher than his 2.33 ERA/ 2.58 FIP were in South Bend. His strike outs are down, his walks are up (although 1.00 BB/9 is far from worrisome), and he’s getting hit harder. Five starts is still part of an adjustment period for a pitcher, so these numbers should serve as more of a contrast in level of competition than alarming information about the 6’7″, 225 pound righty.
Tennessee Smokies: 18-21, 3rd Place Southern League North
Billy McKinney just hits, man. Since being moved to AA, he’s at .273/.332/.391 with 22 doubles and 2 HRs. His strike out rate is a tick below 15% and he’s walking greater than 8% of the time. Although he is somewhat limited as to where he may play defensively, McKinney has continued to show a more mature approach that many players of his age (will turn 21 on 8/23). As he continues to move up the organizational ladder, he may force the team’s hand. Either move him to MLB or trade him. The latter is more likely with McKinney, but if he continues to hit as he has, his value will only continue to increase.
Moving out to the bullpen has been a lesson in humility, to say the least, for Corey Black. While it is an adjustment, a pitcher with the stuff that Black has usually doesn’t fall off the map. He has allowed 19 earned in 28 innings out of the pen (6.11 ERA), and walked 16. His strike out totals are solid, punching out 34, but he has been wild and it has caused him to allow a lot of runs to cross the plate. It hasn’t been all bad, as he’s had some effective outings, but adjusting to a different schedule and routine has been a struggle for Black to this point. If and when he figures it out, though, he still has the potential to be a very solid mid to late innings reliever.
Iowa Cubs: 61-51, 3rd Place Pacific Coast League American Northern Division
It’s been a disjointed year for Javier Baez. He missed much of April after his sister abruptly passed away. Then he missed more time with an injury. He’s been back with the I-Cubs for 10 games since his fractured finger has healed, and he’s hit .255/.327/.574 with 3 HRs, 4 doubles, and a triple. He’s also striking out 32.7% of the time since coming back. While he has hit some absolute bombs and has shown some signs of altering the approach that led to a tough MLB debut, this year has not gone how either Baez or the organization could have planned. The overall numbers look better for Baez, but because his season has been inconsistent, in terms of playing time and performance, it is unlikely he makes a return to the Cubs before September…and that’s ok.
Carl Edwards, Jr. (C.J. Edwards) may be positioning himself for a late season call-up. Over the last month, Edwards has been much better in the bullpen for the I-Cubs. He has allowed only 3 earned in his 9 outings (12.2 IP, 2.13 ERA) since July 6 and they all came in 1 appearance on July 24. Walks remain the only limiting factor for Edwards, who has 11 in this last month and 21 in 27.2 innings in AAA, but his stuff has been excellent. Even with the excessively high number of walks, his WHIP is 1.23. He has been kept out of serious trouble, for the most part, by a 30.4% K rate. It should be expected that Edwards debuts at some point in September. If he gets his walks under control, he may never go back to Iowa.