MLR: Streaking In The Minors


This week in the Minor League Report there is some good news about some big names on both sides of the ball, and we have a few more guys breaking out in the low minors. Meanwhile, a loaded Daytona team is getting more dangerous by the day as they rattle of their third six game winning streak of the season. All the farm teams are in playoff contention and two start the week in first place.

Iowa Cubs (14-16) Pacific Coast League (AAA) North: 2nd place
Home field was not friendly for Iowa as they went 2-5 on their home stand to fall under .500. The good news is that they are still in second place despite the slump, and that they aren’t in real danger of falling out of contention just yet. It was the pitching that let Iowa down this week, giving up run totals of 5,9,9,11 and 11 in loses to Round Rock and New Orleans. Iowa will get a chance to change their fortunes on the road as they launch an 8 game swing through Colorado Springs and Reno this week.

The highlight of the week was probably Saturday when Robert Coello shook off his struggles to pitch 8 innings of 4 hit ball, and Scott Maine struck out 5 in 2 innings to get the win on a Brad Snyder pinch hit solo shot in the bottom of the tenth. Offensively, Tony Campana’s 9 game hitting streak ended Saturday. Hitting .337 with 6 stolen bases, it isn’t impossible we’ll see him in Wrigley this season… possibly ahead of Brett Jackson.

Max Ramirez was released (not surprising) and Todd Wellemeyer retired (somewhat surprising) this week, leaving Iowa a man down. Doug Davis is likely to join the team for a few days.

Tennessee Smokies (18-12) Southern League (AA) North: 1st place
Tennessee has cooled after their fast start and is playing .500 ball, but was able to sneak into first place in the division anyhow. They dropped 3 of 5 in Mobile this week, but head home for 5 against Huntsville before taking for for Chattanooga again.

Rafael Dolis is getting some work out of the bullpen now. I think this is a move made with 2011 and Chicago in mind more than his long term role as a player. He has performed just fine as a starter, and scouting reports seem to indicate he has the pitches to continue in that role. Robert Whitenack is continuing to pitch well. His strikeouts have fallen off a bit since his promotion from Daytona, but the walks are staying down as he just keeps winning. Now that Dolis is in the pen, Whitenack and Trey McNutt are starting to distance themselves as clearly the top starters on the team.

At the plate, Rebel Ridling is starting to come back to earth (he’s only hitting .358 now) and Josh Vitters looks like he’s starting to emerge from his slump. He is continuing to not strike out, with just 6 in 99 at bats, but he’s not drawing walks either, totaling only 5. As expected, Brett Jackson has crossed the 100 at bat line, and his numbers are solid if not spectacular. I would say he is an outside candidate to be promoted to Iowa, but I think even that is premature.

Daytona Cubs (22-8) Florida State League (High A) North: 1st place
Daytona is at it again. They did not lose this week, tearing off 6 wins in a row, 5 of them on the road. In the six games, their offense did not score fewer than five runs. After one home game with Brevard County, Daytona takes off for Jupiter. Six games marks their longest win streak of the season, but they are playing well enough to start thinking 12.

This week it was Evan Crawford’s turn to catch on fire. He has reached base in 9 consecutive games, getting at least one hit in 8 of them and multiple hits in 5. Crawford is a fast, right handed hitting center fielder with not much power but who has enough speed to pick up six doubles and two triples on the year. Michael Burgess looks like he might be starting to harness his power at the plate and cut back on the strikeouts a bit. He has a 5 game hitting streak going with just 3 strikeouts in 20 at bats over the 5 games. More significantly, he walked 4 times in those 5 games, nearly doubling his season total to 9 (alongside a total of 30 strikeouts in 100 at bats). If Burgess can tame his all-or-nothing swing, he could be the most dangerous slugger on the Cubs’ payroll not named Soriano.

Peoria Chiefs (16-14) Midwest League (Low A) Western: 4th place
Peoria has won 4 of 5 so far on their homestand against Clinton and Kane County, and they’ll try to continue that success this week against Burlington before heading off to Kane County for three games… their last road games until May 27. If you are anywhere near the Peoria, this month would be a great time to see some very promising players before they get sent to Daytona.

Hayden Simpson likes Peoria. In his two home starts this season he has an ERA of 1.08. In four road starts, 5.60. The big pitching news this week came from Cameron Greatehouse who was masterful in his 7 innings of 1 hit ball, and from Su-Min Jung who arrived from extended spring training and started twice, giving up just 1 run in 10 innings. Jung pitched well for Peoria last season and could be a candidate for Daytona with a few more solid starts.

At the plate, it is Elliot Soto’s turn to be the hot bat for the Chiefs with a 9 game hitting streak. He is hitting over .340 at home as opposed to about .270 on the road this season. Meanwhile, Micah Gibbs has his own hitting streak of 12 games going, during which he has raised his batting average over a hundred points. Gibbs, a switch hitting catcher taken by the Cubs in the third round in 2010, has piled up 22 hits in just 17 games. I expect he will be sent to Daytona by mid June. Matt Szczur, who has recently raised his average back up to .308, could be making that trip soon as well.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for the Minor League Line of the Week.