With the draft just a couple of weeks away, the Cubs farm system is about to get an influx of new talent. A lot of the newly drafted players will go straight to the Short-Season A Boise Hawks, who start playing in June, and other will funnel into the Cubs spring training compound in Arizona to participate in the Rookie League. The Cubs already have some players in Arizona waiting for Boise to begin play, and some of these players along with some newly drafted players will (and indeed already have) be filtering into the Cubs Low-A franchise in Peoria. That will start a chain reaction (and, again, already has) that will bump up other players across the system.
For this week’s Minor League Report, in addition to the usual summary of the previous week’s games and quick check on some of the players, I am going to try to identify some of the of the prospects who are likely to be promoted within the system in the near future. That extra section made this week’s report extra long, so I broke it up. I posted the A-level clubs this morning, and you will find the upper level club reports below.
As always, feel free to drop any questions in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer as many as I can. Also, be on the look out in the near future for a brief preview of what to watch for during the draft.
Tennessee Smokies (28-16) Southern League (AA) North: 1st place
Not to be outdone by Daytona, the Smokies have rattled off a six game wining streak of their own and have also won seven of their last eight and have also, finally, started to open up a little ground over the rest of the division. They will attempt to sweep Mobile on Monday, and then Mississippi becomes the victim as they wrap up a home stand.
Jae-Hoon Ha has settled into Tennessee quickly, batting .296 in his first week of games, and becoming just the latest on a long list of hot hitting Smokies. James Adduci is still at .340 and I think should be moving up to Iowa when Brett Jackson comes off the DL. Meanwhile, Ryan Flaherty, DJ LeMahieu, Matthew Spencer, Rebel Ridling, and Josh Vitters are beating the cover off the ball. Spencer and Flaherty each have ten home runs, LeMahieu is hitting over .360, and Vitters has finally shed the last of his slump with four multi-hit games in the past week. Ridling, despite a slump of his own, is still hitting .330 on the season with seven home runs. The toughest job in the Cubs farm system has to be manager of the Smokies, where somehow Brian Harper is managing to find enough at bats to keep all these guys going.
Potential promotions out of Tennessee include nearly every one of their regulars. James Adduci has earned another shot at Triple A ball, and I really don’t see what LeMahieu has left to prove at Double A. Flaherty should be in the conversation, and Ridling will be once he gets over this slump. Adduci and Ridling should probably be the first two to go, so Jackson can come back and so Bour can move up, but it is getting harder and harder to ignore what LeMahieu is doing. Darwin Barney be warned.
Vitters needs a promotion, but I want him in Chicago, not Iowa. Vitters has struck out just 10 times in 150 at bats. This guy can put his bat on nearly any pitch he cares to swing at; the problem is he is not consistently patient and waiting for a pitch he can really drive. That sounds like a guy who needs to spend some time with the best hitting coach in baseball, and Rudy Jaramillo is in Chicago, not Iowa. It is highly unlikely that Vitters moves up that high before September, though.
Iowa Cubs (20-23) Pacific Coast League (AAA) North: 2nd place
Iowa went 4-2 this past week to stay just three games back of first place, but it came no thanks to the pitching staff. When Iowa wins, it is usually because the offense picks them up and carries them. Fortunately, the offense has been able to do that fairly often this season, but not quite often enough. This week the Cubs finish up a home series with Las Vegas, and then hit the road to Round Rock.
Tyler Colvin has appeared in four consecutive games for Iowa and (surprise!) he’s hitting .313 and slugging .625. I wouldn’t call him “cured” yet since he is still only hitting .182 (in 11 at bats) against right handers. However, over all, he is 3 for 8 with an OPS of 1.125 with runners on base, and the Cubs are needing a clutch hitting lefty three hitter with power and speed. Just sayin’…
The big surprise offensively has been catcher Steve Clevenger. Before he was called to Iowa to replace Castillo, Clevenger was hitting an excellent .356 for Tennessee. With Iowa, he’s hitting .519 over 27 at bats. He has two home runs in Iowa already, and an OPS of 1.432. The Cubs tend to bake their catchers in the minors longer than their other position players, but I think Clevenger might be about ready to pop out. He has been the forgotten man behind the plate going back to spring training, but as of now I think he has a better shot than Castillo to replace Hill as Soto’s backup. Clevenger bats left handed, Soto and Castillo are both righties.
Colvin and Clevenger head the list of Iowa’s potential call ups now that Campana is up, but I’ll give a nod to Jonathon Mota, an infielder who has had a solid year, as well. With the possible exception of Colvin, no one from Iowa is likely to move to Chicago without a significant injury or a trade clearing the way… and even then I’m not sure Mota would not be passed up by LeMaheiu and Flaherty.