MLLotW: Another Breakout Season Underway?


There were a lot of options for the Cubbies Crib Minor League Line of the Week honor for the week ending May 8th. Daytona went 6-0, and the last time they accomplished that feat they won the award. Cameron Greathouse pitched a fantastic game for Peoria, one of the best pitched games in the Cubs system this season. Evan Crawford had an excellent week for Tennessee, which is the only full season farm team to not have a Line of the Week award to one of their players (Robert Whitenack has one, but he earned it with Daytona). Meanwhile, guys like Rebel Ridling and Jae-Hoon Ha continue to play exceptionally well and more than deserve some recognition.

In almost any other week, Daytona would picked their second team award for their winning streak (which, by the way, is still going) and the impressive fashion in which they are winning. But not this week. This week there is one guy who we didn’t expect to be an offensive force at all, but who is making a lot of noise with his bat. If he keeps this up, he will shoot up the system like a rocket and force the Cubs into making some very difficult decisions in a year or two.

This week’s winner is Micah Gibbs, a switch hitting catcher for Low-A Peoria.

While Micah Gibbs was praised by Baseball America as being among the best defensive catchers in the 2010 draft, the Cubs third round pick did not crack their Top 30 prospects list. Given that he only hit .197 in 43 games with Boise and the Rookie League after the draft, it isn’t hard to see why he missed that cut. While he hit pretty well in college, that was with a metal bat, and those numbers don’t always translate to the professional leagues.

Don’t worry. As opposing pitchers are learning this season, he can hit just fine with wooden bats as well. He’s hitting .359 and slugging .469 in 18 games for the Chiefs, striking out in roughly 20% of his at bats. As a switch hitter, it doesn’t matter what side the pitcher is throwing from. Against right handers he hits for a higher average (nearly .380), while against lefties his average drops to about .310 and his slugging percentage jumps to .526. While his power numbers are a little lower than we might like them to be for a catcher, it’s probably a touch early in his career yet to think about that. That’s just about the only criticism I can make. His numbers range from very solid to drool worthy, especially his .450 BA and .650 SLG with runners in scoring position.

During the first week of May, Gibbs continued a nice little hitting streak. Because he splits time at catcher, he doesn’t play every day so his hitting streak goes back to late April, and is currently up to a league leading thirteen games. That hitting streak, combined with what so far looks like a breakout season, puts Gibbs over the top and gives him a Line of the Week.

So what happens if Gibbs can keep this production up? I think he will move up to Daytona around mid season and become the primary catcher there. If he hits well in Daytona, he could be in Tennessee by year’s end, but I think that would be pushing it. I do think he has an excellent chance of starting 2012 in Tennessee, and that’s when things start to get interesting. If his bat holds up in Double A, the Cubs will have to decide whether or not he could replace Soto by 2014 or so. A switch hitting catcher who is solid defensively and hits well in the clutch is not a bad deal, and Soto could bring back a lot in trade if the Cubs opt to commit to Gibbs. Is Gibbs good enough to make Soto expendable? We’ll see. That’s a question we will hopefully be debating quite a bit next summer, if not sooner.