Chicago Cubs Weekly Farm Report (8/30/21): Ed Howard Rakes, Owen Caissie Debuts, Yohendrick Pinango Still Underrated

I have to admit, the (giant) prospect nerd in me gets pretty excited when I see people on Cubs Twitter discussing some of the young guys in the system. Whether it’s in the form of dudes in the back end of the Top 30 getting called up to the big league squad or some of the premier talent in the organization getting their first taste of MiLB TV, I just think it proves just how invested Cubs fans are. Of course, here you are, reading the 16th edition of the Weekly Farm Report this season, so perhaps I’m really preaching to the choir here.

News in the System

  • The biggest news in the Cubs’ prospect world revolved around promotions at both the top and lowest levels of full-season ball. Starting in Chicago, Alfonso Rivas and Scott Effross got the call to make their Major League debuts on Sunday afternoon. Both men have been chronicled on Cubs Insider, with Efross transforming himself into a sidewinder just a few short seasons ago, and Rivas working at Iowa to showcase his unique talents at the first base position. I’ll admit that it gets quite difficult balancing my coverage of this team with my fandom, but some dudes you just can’t help but root for. Rivas and Effross are those dudes.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, we saw the Myrtle Beach debuts of Owen Caissie and Christian Franklin. Caissie, the best hitter in the Arizona Complex League, was part of the teenager return for Yu Darvish last season. He has already displayed the ability to tap into some of the best raw power in the entire system. Franklin was the Cubs’ fourth-round pick this season out of the University of Arkansas. He was often projected as a second-round pick, but being the leadoff man for arguably the best team in the country will do that. He has been atop the order for the Pelicans since the day he was called up.

Triple-A Iowa Cubs

  • The I-Cubs got seven games in against the Omaha Storm Chasers this week, thanks to a doubleheader that included a makeup from earlier this season. It was a rough one for the Cubs, dropping six of those seven games and giving up nearly seven runs per contest. The team is 42-60 this season.
  • Ian Miller was yet again a very impressive bat this week. He doubled and homered and put together a .316 batting average while only striking out four times in 22 plate appearances. 
  • Matt Swarmer was downright dominant in his two starts this week. He went a total of 12 innings and struck out 14 compared to just three walks. And in those starts, he gave up just one earned run on five hits.
  • Iowa hits the road to play at Indianapolis for the second time this season. In July, the Cubs took four-of-six from the Pirates affiliate.

Double-A Tennessee Smokies

  • It was a lost week for the Smokies as they had their series with the Chattanooga Lookouts cut short after just two games due to positive COVID tests on the Tennessee roster. Details on COVID-related news are often hard to come by, obviously, and details on minor league news are next to impossible to run into, so we don’t know much at this time.
  • What we do know is that the team placed infielders Chase Strumpf, Andy Weber, and Cam Balego, starting pitcher Cam Sanders, and relievers Wyatt Short and Garrett Kelly on the 7-day IL between Wednesday and Friday of this week. With just a few short weeks remaining in the season, the games are not expected to be made up.
  • Assuming their next series can occur as scheduled, Tennessee will take on the Rocket City Trash Pandas on the road. As of right now, there is no word as to if that series will play out from Tuesday to Sunday as per the schedule.

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High-A South Bend Cubs

  • South Bend dodged raindrops and dealt with doubleheaders all week and ended up getting in a full six-game set with a record of 4-2 against the Peoria Chiefs. The highlight was the 14 run offensive onslaught on Wednesday led by a two-homer, six-RBI performance from Alexander Canario.
  • In addition to the big-time promotions mentioned in the news section above, two guys playing in their age-19 seasons were called up to High-A this week: outfielder Yohendrick Pinango and catcher Pablo Aliendo.
  • What Pinango is doing this season should not be overlooked. In his first taste at the High-A level this week, he recorded a .391 batting average, including three doubles in 23 at-bats. On the season, he is striking out at an almost unbelievably low 15.9% clip while smacking 19 doubles and continuing to learn how to transform himself from a slap hitter with great bat-to-ball skills into a guy that can really turn on fastballs on the inside portion of the plate.
  • Bryce Ball had what could probably be described as his best week in a Cubs uniform. He hit two homers and two doubles and walked five times in 23 plate appearances.
  • Bryce Windham recorded a 1.132 OPS and struck out literally zero times in 18 trips to the plate.
  • Max Bain had another strong start, going five innings and allowing just one earned run on four hits, no walks, and six strikeouts.
  • Anderson Espinoza gave up two runs in four innings in his start, but the big news was the nine punch-outs he recorded to go along with some of the best K-struts I have ever seen. Get this man on Pitching Ninja.

  • The Cubs now take on the Lake County Captains at home, the second battle between the two teams this year. The Cleveland affiliate took four-of-six back at their home field at the beginning of July.

Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans

  • The Birds from South Carolina went 4-2 against their rivals, the Columbia Fireflies. That series record places the Pelicans firmly at .500 this season with a record of 51-51.
  • How about those shortstops? Big, big weeks from Ed Howard and Kevin Made this week. Howard doubled twice, homered twice, walked more than he struck out, and banked eight RBI in maybe his best week of the season. He was good for a .421/.542/.842//1.384 slash line.

  • After doing such a great job this season of limiting the strikeouts but failing to show any pop, Made changed it up this week by logging three doubles and a triple. He also flashed the leather at shortstop early in the week, making a spinning play up the middle and a diving play to his backhand. His slash line this week read .412/.444/.706.

  • Are you sick of reading about DJ Herz in these weekly updates? Too bad. 5.1 innings, two hits, one run, two walks, five strikeouts on 83 pitches.
  • Bailey Reid put up zeros with five strikeouts in 3.2 innings out of the bullpen while Porter Hodge did the same with five strikeouts in four innings.
  • You can add a couple more relievers into the mix in Myrtle, with Sheldon Reed and Frankie Scalzo, Jr. added to the roster. Reed was an undrafted free agent signing in 2020 and Scalzo (and his mustache) was drafted in the 14th round this year out of Grand Canyon University.
  • Myrtle Beach will take on the Lynchburg Hillcats at home in their second to last home series of the year starting Tuesday night.

That’s all for this week’s updates around the Cubs’ minor league system. There’s a lot to be optimistic about happening at the lower levels. Please let me know in the comments if you have any further observations to add.

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