It’s time for your weekly minor league report. Daytona is streaking, Peoria is getting rained out, and not even a long road trip can slow Tennessee down. Some key prospects are back with their teams this week, and that could take some pressure off in Chicago. Meanwhile, warmer weather means hotter bats for several prospects, but one big name is in a strange sort of a slump.
Iowa Cubs (9-8) Pacific Coast League (AAA) North: 2nd place
Iowa took three of four from Albuquerque this past week, before dropping their first two in Memphis. Hopefully they can turn their road fortunes around, because they stay in Memphis for two more games, and then head to Omaha for four.
Probably the biggest news for the Cubs this week was the return of Jay Jackson. On April 21 Jackson made his first start of the season and went five innings, giving up two runs on two hits and striking out four. With Jackson back in Iowa, I think the Chicago Cubs suddenly have a lot more breathing room with regards to their own rotation issues. Now it is possible that Bibens-Dirkx could come up for a start, or possibly Jackson himself after another few starts in Iowa. Wellington Castillo is also back in Iowa now after his rehab stint in Daytona.
Tennessee Smokies (12-5) Southern League (AA) North: 1st place
Road trips appear to agree with the Smokies. After taking three of five in Carolina, they won their first two games in Jacksonville. This week features three more in Jacksonville after which they return home for five against Carolina, and then head to Mobile.
Not everyone is thriving, though, as Josh Vitters has slipped into a bit of a slump, hitting just .188 in his last 10 games. I wouldn’t worry about him though. Even in this slump he isn’t striking out, with just one in his past 32 at bats. Meanwhile, Rebel Ridling and Ryan Flaherty have kicked their game up another notch, and Brett Jackson continues to excel. Trey McNutt is back from his short blister-induced DL stint, and was effective in his return.
Daytona Cubs (13-5) Florida State League (High A) North: 1st place
Daytona lost on April 18th, and they haven’t lost since. This is the second time this season they have won six straight. This week they finish up a trip to Dunedin, and then come home for a series against Tampa.
Pitching is the story in the Cubs winning streak. In the six wins they haven’t given up more than three runs. Not surprisingly, Robert Whitenack picked up one of those wins, but this week he’s only been one of a number of effective pitchers. Offensively, Jae-Hoon Ha and Nelson Perez continue to play well. Junior Lake is starting to heat up, and is riding a five game hitting streak that includes 4 doubles, 5 steals, and one home run. Michael Burgess is also continuing his all or nothing approach, with a home run in ten percent of his at bats, and a strikeout in thirty percent.
Peoria Chiefs (8-8) Midwest League (Low A) Western: 4th place
Bad mid-western weather continue to torment the Cheifs. They’ve played two rain-forced double headers this past week including a sweep in Quad Cities and a split at home. This week, weather permitting, they hit the road for a long trip through Clinton, Beloit, and Burlington.
Micah Gibbs and Arsimendy Alcantara are starting to heat up for Peoria. Gibbs could be the best catcher in the system other than Castillo, and Alcantara is a young shortstop out of the Dominican Republic. It’s hard to say yet how good Alcantara can be, but don’t forget that name. Meanwhile, Rubi Silva and Pierre LePage are trying their hardest to hit their way out of the bad mid-western weather and into sunny Florida. If they keep hitting like they have been, it will happen. Meanwhile, Hayden Simpson has struggled a bit since his strong opening start. Lefties are hitting over .400 off him right now, and his strikeout numbers are way down. On the other hand, Graham Hicks has proven very effective in his past few starts and Austin Kirk is continuing to pitch well.
Be sure to check back on Wednesday for the Minor League Line of the Week.