News in the System
- This is the final week of the first half for the two Single-A teams as well as Double-A Tennessee. The way the playoffs are set up for those three leagues is different than what we traditionally see at the MLB level, as the first-half winners and second-half winners get nods. If a team happens to win each half, they receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs at the end of the year. As it stands now, the South Bend Cubs are the only team that still has a hope of winning their division for this half.
- Last week included three of the most important days in an organization’s season. The 2019 MLB Draft took place on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and the Cubs took 40 new players that they hope to throw into their farm system soon. If you missed any of the actions, you can read all about the first-round pick Ryan Jensen, second round pick Chase Strumpf, the relievers taken on Day 2, or the large number of selections in the later riounds.
- The short-season Eugene Emeralds start their season this week. Their Opening Night is on Friday as they get going with a three-game set against the Hillsboro Hops. The Opening Day roster includes fun names like Jeremiah Estrada, Kohl Franklin, and Reivaj Garcia.
- All-Star selections were announced for Tennessee and South Bend last week. Representing the Smokies will be P.J. Higgins, Vimael Machin, Cory Abbott, Craig Brooks, and Tyson Miller. Taking the field for the SB Cubs is Andy Weber, Brailyn Marquez, Riley Thompson, Cam Sanders, and Jeff Passantino.
- It was the worst week of the season as far as records go. Combined, the four affiliates went 4-19. Not great, Bob.
- The Iowa Cubs had one of the craziest games you will ever see on Saturday, when they lost in 12 innings by a score of 8-7. The game featured three runs scored in extras, outfielder Jacob Hannemann pitching a full inning on the mound and getting the loss, and pitcher Duane Underwood Jr. not touching the mound, but instead manning first base in extras.
- The organization announced their pitcher and hitter of the month for May and the winners both call Tennessee home. Machin won the award on the offensive side of the ball after slashing .369/.440/.534 with 12 doubles. Craig Brooks took home the hardware for the pitchers after the reliever put up a 0.82 ERA (actually worse than his season-long ERA) while striking out 21 batters in 11 innings.
Triple-A Iowa Cubs
- The I-Cubs had an absolutely brutal week, putting together a six-game losing streak in their worst stretch of the entire season. Never fear, they still lead the division with a 34-30 record. They will look to turn things around with one more game against the Albuquerque Isotopes before they use an off-day to travel to the West Coast for a three-game series with the Fresno Grizzlies and the first half of a series with the Sacramento River Cats.
- There was not much to like when it came to the pitching staff in Des Moines last week. One guy that I had an eye on was Tony Barnette, who is making his way back from injury. He only gave up a hit on three innings and struck out three in the process without giving up any runs.
- The bats were a little more friendly to the box scores. Mark Zagunis looks more and more like the Jeimer Candelario story during his time with the Cubs. After not performing the best at Wrigley, Zagunis has looked much better in his first week in Iowa. He doubled three times and hit .467 in his 15 at-bats.
- Phillip Evans and Donnie Dewees put up OPS numbers of 1.032 and .985, respectively. Evans doubled three times and homered and Dewees homered three times.
- 19-year-old Luis Vazquez continues to fill in on the Iowa roster and the kid put up his first homer at that level. He had an OPS of 1.051 in just 12 at-bats.
- The Cubs released reliever Matt Carasiti last week. He was signed this offseason after spending the previous year playing overseas. He spent the 2017 season in the Cubs system after coming over from the Rockies in the Zac Rosscup deal.
Double-A Tennessee Smokies
- The Smokies were not much better than their big brothers in Iowa last week. They also got off to a six-game losing streak to start the week, but turned things around with a win on Sunday. That 1-7 record has pushed them to 29-33 and out of the race for the first-half division champion. The guys from Kodak will play two more games against the Chattanooga Lookouts to finish that series before they travel to Pensacola to take on the Blue Wahoos for five games.
- This week was all about guys hitting the injured list and returning to Tennessee in Double-A.
- Eddy (Julio?) Martinez made his way back to the lineup and performed really well. He homered and doubled and walked in 17.4% of his plate appearances.
- Justin Steele had one of his best starts of the season, going five innings of one-hit ball without giving up a run. He struck out six compared to three walks but missed his next scheduled start with an apparent injury.
- Bailey Clark appeared in a game for the first time since May 2 and did not give up a run in his 0.2 innings.
- Michael Rucker found himself back in Tennessee after a quick trip up to Iowa and looked much better out of the bullpen than he has the rest of the season. He went seven innings and only gave up a run on four hits. He had a 9:2 strikeout:walk ratio.
High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans
- It was a strange week for the Birds with a scheduled off-day on Wednesday and cancelled games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday due to rain and wet field conditions. The result was only three games played and a 0-3 record. That puts them at 20-40 this season and well out of contention for the first-half crown. The pitching staff should be well-rested as they play a three game series against the Fayetteville Woodpeckers and a four-gamer with the Down East Wood Ducks this week.
- In a tough week to give updates on players and their performances, the big story was Erick Leal making his season debut at the full-season level. It was not a pretty start as he gave up four runs in four innings, but it was good to see him back on the mound after skyrocketing up prospect lists last season.
- Ryan Lawlor has now put in 9.1 innings since getting the promotion from South Bend and he has been lights-out. He has struck out an absurd 16 batters in those innings while only walking only three. Both his ERA and WHIP are 0.96 in Myrtle Beach.
- Zach Davis is another name to look out for as the season wears on. He has not hit for much power at all this year (.345 slugging) but he has hit for a good average (.273) and has gotten on base at a decent clip (.346) due to his 7.6% walk rate. Oh yeah, and he has stolen 20 bases in just 38 games.
Low-A South Bend Cubs
- South Bend actually put together the best week of any team in the system and they only had a record of 3-3. They got off to a hot start with three wins but have quickly followed that with a three-game skid. Their record is 33-28 and they are still not mathematically eliminated from the playoff race as they sit 6.5 games back of first place. To round out the first half, they will match up with the Great Lakes Loons for one more game and then they head back home for four games with the Lansing Lugnuts. Their final three games will be on the road against the West Michigan Whitecaps. The Midwest League All-Star game is then being played at Four Winds Field next week.
- It was a good week on the mound for the starters. Faustino Carrera led the charge with six shutout innings. He gave up only two hits, struck out four, and walked none.
- Riley Thompson and Peyton Remy followed suit, both going five innings of one-run ball. Thompson gave up four hits and Remy gave up two.
- Chris Morel plays so much like Javy Báez. His big arm, 24/7 hustle, and his huge swing all resemble Javy and his time coming up through the system. As we wait for his big breakout, we will settle for an impressive week. He doubled and homered twice on his way to a 1.143 OPS.
- Tyler Durna has been one of the most consistent hitters on the South Bend roster and he added another homer, triple, and double last week. He is walking at an 11.1% rate and striking out at an 11.5% rate on the season.
- After being out for a little over a week due to injury, Cole Roederer made his way back to the lineup on Saturday. I expected for the team to keep him out until after the All-Star break, but he banged out two hits and scored a run in his return.