The Cubs are in the playoffs!
The Daytona Cubs, that is. This should come as no surprise given well Daytona has been playing, how many long winning streaks they have gone on, and that the Florida State League is one of those leagues that awards first and second half champions a trip to the post-season. Now that Daytona has clinched the Cubs are guaranteed some playoff baseball in their system, I think we might see a few more current Daytona Cubs given a shot at Tennessee. In particular, with Brad Snyder possibly on the way out in Iowa, look for Brett Jackson to move up to Iowa, Jae-Hoon Ha to head back to Tennessee, and Matthew Szczur to be promoted to Daytona in the coming weeks.
Iowa Cubs (28-35) Pacific Coast League (AAA) North: 3rd place
The Iowa Cubs had a chance to play themselves into contention, and they let it slip away. Iowa now sits at seven game below .500 and seven games behind first place Omaha. They won just one game last week while they were at home, and now face a road trip through Omaha and Albuquerque.
Alberto Cabrera has not fared well in his promotion to Triple A. In his last start he lasted just 3.2 innings and gave up eight runs on eight hits and four walks. If there is a silver lining here it is that he did strikeout three; that is the most he has struck out in a single game for Iowa since he came up. On the other hand, Jay Jackson is now pitching more like the guy we thought he would be going into the season. He has snapped off five pretty good starts in a row now, including a seven inning game in which he gave up just one run on June 1. He’s still surrendering too many hits for me to be totally comfortable with giving him a start or two in the majors, but at least he has a shot of pitching himself into that position.
Tennessee Smokies (40-24) Southern League (AA) North: 1st place
Despite taking just two of five from second place Jacksonville at home, Tennessee won three in row at Carolina and now enjoys a three game cushion at the top of the division. A home stand against Chattanooga rounds out their week and gives them a chance to add to that lead.
In two starts since jumping all the way up from Peoria, Dallas Beeler has pitched pretty well. He’s not giving up many walks, has surrendered just one home run in eleven total innings, and is allowing right handed hitters to hit just .188 off him. Nicholas Struck has also pitched very well since coming up from Daytona. He has pitched well enough to win all three of his Double A starts, but just got his first one June 10.
Let the Josh Vitters watch begin. In his last ten games he’s hitting .429, raising his season average back up to .289. While his batting average has been up for several weeks now, his power has not followed it. Until now. In the last ten days he has slugged .679, raising his season SLG to .453. I’m still not sure where on the diamond he’ll ultimately play, but I’ve seen enough to be comfortable bringing him north anytime now. He likely won’t get a chance until September.
Daytona Cubs (44-19) Florida State League (High A) North: 1st place
We’re into the middle of June and Daytona still has not lost 20 games, and that’s despite actually suffering a three game losing streak this past week. They bounced right back with a sweep of second place Clearwater, clinching a spot in the September playoffs.
Now back with Daytona after his stint filling in for Brett Jackson in Tennessee, Jae-Hoon Ha has picked up right where he left off and is now working on a five game hitting streak. Over those same five games Logan Watkins has wracked up ten hits of his own and has raised his season average up to .223. After a slow start, Watkins is hitting .412 in June and has his one home run and two of his seven stolen bases in this month.
Peoria Chiefs (33-30) Midwest League (Low A) Western: 3rd place
Three losses to Western Michigan and three wins against South Bend leaves Peoria right where they started the week, third place in the division and three game over .500. The Chiefs could use a Daytona-style winning streak since they are seven and a half games out despite their winning record. A home stand against Wisconsin and a road trip to Quad Cities offer the chance to make up ground.
In any organized league, and especially in the low minors, it is easy for a relief pitcher to get overlooked. The work that lefty Casey Harman is doing out of the pen for Peoria is getting hard to ignore. In 21 innings on the season, Harmon has given up just 11 hits and 1 earned run. He’s striking out just over a batter per inning, but has just three walks. Neither right handers nor lefties are able to hit him consistently. Harmon is emerging as a lefty reliever who could play a role for the Cubs in years to come.