The next time you hear or read someone claiming that the Cubs have a terrible farm system or that they are trading away all their best talent, I have your response. Just one word.
If an eleven game winning streak (on-going) and a .760 winning percentage doesn’t get their attention, then maybe Tennessee will. The Smokies are winning at a .640 clip and feature a guy who is second in all the minors in RBIs. Not good enough? Then how about Peoria’s .560 record and 18-8 home record. Still not cutting it? Then whatever you do, don’t mention Iowa.
The Cubs are stocked with a ton of talent from Double A on down, and some of the youngest are not even in a full season league yet, but it just has not gotten to Iowa. Since the lower rungs of the organization are outperforming the upper rungs, I’ll start this week’s Minor League Report with Peoria.
Peoria Chiefs (28-22) Midwest League (Low A) Western: 2nd place
First of all, congratulation to Hayden Simpson on picking up his first win of the season at home on May 26 against Wisconsin. Simpson, who has been on a pitch count all season, just had not managed to get the required five full innings necessary in a game the Chiefs won. He’s pitched pretty well several times, but his 2H, 7K performance on the 26th might be his best game of the season.
After their extended stay at home, Peoria promptly dropped their first two road games, but I’m not worried. The pitching for the Chiefs is just too good to allow them to go into a prolonged slump. Their road trip continues this week through Cedar Rapid, Lansing, and into Great Lakes.
Austin Kirk is pitching extremely well, and is near the top of a decent list of left handed pitching prospects tearing up the low minors. It will be a few years before we can start talking about these guys as potential major league pitchers, but they are on the way. Matt Szczur, back off his leave of absence, is making a case to be promoted to Daytona. I think he should get that promotion soon.
Daytona Cubs (38-12) Florida State League (High A) North: 1st place
Daytona is moving past the world of good into the world of ridiculous. They are 26 games over .500… and it still May! Last I checked, they had the best record in all the minor leagues… but Tennessee was only six games back. Stay tuned.
If the Cubs are going to continue their streak, it will be on the road in Charlotte, and then in one of those weird 2/1 home/away splits with Brevard County. Clearwater, in second place behind the Cubs, is now 7 games back and fading. After all, they are only playing .627 ball. Daytona could be wrapping up a first half title and postseason birth before much longer.
So how are the Cubs doing this? Great question. That’s an article of its own (and that article is coming). Evan Crawford is part of the reason as are Justin Bour and Junior Lake. Lately, though, Matt Cerda has found his bat and kicked his average back over .300. On the pitching end of things, Dae-Eun Rhee is emerging as a pretty good starter in recent weeks alongside established guys like Struck, Rosscup, and Kurcz. There is no real ace on this Daytona staff now that Whitenack has gonet to Tennessee, but they just keep winning games.
Tennessee Smokies (32-18) Southern League (AA) North: 1st place
Tennessee is starting to shake off their own pursuers, opening a three and a half game lead over second place Jacksonville. The Smokies are in a great position to seal a first half title and postseason birth, and I don’t expect any mass promotion to Iowa until that happens. In the meantime, they are setting off on a five game trip to Huntsville. After that, they return home to try to put away Jacksonville.
Ryan Flaherty is second in all of minor league baseball in RBIs with 50. As impressive, I think, is that he only has 4 errors despite playing at second, third, and in the outfield. Flaherty looks to be a more powerful version of Blake DeWitt, and if DeWitt is traded in July, I think Flaherty could get the call to replace him. Similarly, DJ LeMahieu is looking like a younger, better hitting Jeff Baker. If Baker is moved, we might get to see LeMahieu in Chicago. Meanwhile, shortstop Marwain Gonzalez has quietly built up a .315 BA and a OPS of .821. I’m not sure what his road to the majors looks like, but he’s a strong candidate to appear on the next version of my Most Likely To Be Traded list.
On the pitching end, Alberto Cabrera strung together a couple of good starts and promptly got promoted to Iowa. We can read that as (1) an endorsement of Cabrera’s arm, (2) an indication that Iowa badly needs pitching, and (3) a sign that the Cubs realize they have a backlog of pitching and that they are starting to move people up the ladder.
Iowa Cubs (22-28) Pacific Coast League (AAA) North: 2nd place
Hang in there Iowa, help is on the way. Despite being 6 games under .500, Iowa is only 5.5 out of first place. They can get back in this thing if they can get some pitching, and Tennessee is starting to send some up. Winners of just two games in the past week, Iowa really needs to go on a run. Next up for them is a trip to Nashville, followed by a home series with Omaha.
Marco Carrillo and Blake Parker have arrived from Tennessee to reinforce the Iowa bullpen, and Alberto Cabrera is in the Iowa rotation. More help will come as the Double A talent starts to be pushed north by the Daytona Unbeatables, but it will be a while yet before the changing of the guard is complete.
Tyler Covin is continuing to pound lefties and struggle against right handers, but his numbers against right handers are improving. If Quade was serious when he said that Colvin will be back as soon as his bat is going, then Colvin in on track to be back in Chicago in a week or two.
Jonathon Mota is continuing to have a nice season at shortstop, but his way forward is definitely blocked by Barney and Castro. Clevenger is hitting very well at catcher for both Iowa and Tennessee. This is by far his best year in the minors, and I have to think the Cubs are thinking about him as the replacement for Hill as Soto’s backup.