It’s All-Star season in the minors, and Cub prospects have already represented the organization well. Meanwhile, as Dayton and Tennessee are assured a post-season slot, Peoria and Iowa begin their fights to climb back into one and Boise’s campaign gets underway. The minors have never been busier.
Buried in all that business are some great stories, breakout performances, and a lot of talent on the way to rescue the Chicago team. As you read through the Minor League Report for the week ending June 19, you can’t help but be reminded that help really is on the way.
Before we head into Report, a special Congratulations to Justin Bour (1B, Daytona) for winning the Florida State League All-Star Home Run Derby. The future of the Cubs at first base is in flux right now, but I think we have to seriously consider Bour a contender for the job in a year or two.
Iowa Cubs (31-39) Pacific Coast League (AAA) North: 4th place
Iowa went 3-4 on the week, but slipped a notch into fourth place in the division. The offense continues to hold up, but the pitching is just not there for the Cubs. They do come home this week for a long home stand, June 21 through July 3. Even though they are eight games under .500, they are only 7 games back in the division. The Cubs are one good hot streak from being right back in the mix.
The news from Iowa isn’t all bad. Casey Coleman is looking like the guy we expected him to be and should be able to jump right back into the Chicago rotation when an opening appears. Alberto Cabrera appears to be settling in to Triple A and could a factor for the Cubs in September. Blake Parker, recently arrived from Tennessee, has been doing very good work in the pen, especially against left handed hitters. Tyler Colvin, once again with Iowa, has been pounding the ball. He just missed hitting for the cycle on June 17 and has picked up at least one extra base hit in three of his four games since going back down. That’s a good sign. In his last, abbreviated stint with the Cubs he was making solid contact, but hitting the ball right at people. If his hits are starting to fall, he could be in position for a strong second half if room on the Chicago roster opens up. It is much too early to be thinking about giving up on this guy.
Tennessee Smokies (43-27) Southern League (AA) North: 1st place
After a 3-3 week, the Smokies are still safely in first place and assured of a spot in the September playoffs. This week the team heads to the Southern League All-Star game… well, half the team anyway… and then starts a road series in Birmingham.
Junior Lake got off to a slow start when he was promoted to Tennessee, but now looks like he’s off and running, hitting .313 with a home run and two stolen bases in his last ten games. He’s held his strikeout rate to about 20% in Double A, and that is very encouraging. This is looking like the breakout season we were hoping for. Meanwhile, Brett Jackson looks like he has shaken off the last effects of his hand injury and is back to hitting like his old self. I would like to see he and Josh Vitters moved up to Iowa in the next few weeks, while they are hitting well. Both are playing themselves into serious consideration for the 2012 Chicago team.
Daytona Cubs (46-21) Florida State League (High A) North: 1st place
A 2-2 week for the Cubs led into the Florida State League All-Star Game, which turned into the Daytona show. The best players on the best team in the league came through in the clutch and gave the North Division the crown. Daytona starts the second half of the season with a 2/1 split series with Lakeland, and then head to Clearwater.
The Logan Watkins Show continues. After a miserable start, Watkins has exploded offensively, hitting .410 so far in June. Watkins is a fast, left handed hitter who could be right at home playing second, short, or center. At the other end of the scale is Rubi Silva, who is slumping. Despite that slump, he is only striking out roughly 20% of time. I would not be surprised to see him break out any time now.
Peoria Chiefs (33-37) Midwest League (Low A) Western: 5th place
The All-Star Game arrived at the perfect time for Peoria, who had lost seven in a row and fell to fifth place in the division. The pitching has been there in several of those losses, but the offense has completely disappeared. The Chiefs scored just three runs in their last four games. After the All-Star Game, featuring six Chiefs, Peoria starts their fight for a second half playoff slot at home against Kane County.
After pitching out of the pen, largely behind Hayden Simpson, all season, Eric Jokisc made his first start on June 16th, and picked up his first loss despite throwing seven innings of four hit ball. One unexpected bright spot for the Chiefs has been Angel Guzman who is with Peoria as he starts to work his way back from arm surgery. At one time Guzman was one of the best pitching prospects in the Cubs system, but just as it looked like he was going to claim a spot near the back of the Cubs bullpen his career was derailed by arm trouble. If he can make it all the way back, he will be a welcome addition to the Chicago bullpen in 2012.
Boise Hawks (1-2) Northwest League (Short-Season A) East: 2nd place (tie)
This week we welcome the Boise Hawks to the Minor League Report. With only three games in the books I can’t draw any conclusions from the Hawks season just yet, but we’ll certainly keep an eye on them. This week they finish up a trip to Eugene and head home for their opener against Tri-City.
There just aren’t enough hitting stats to talk about yet, but the pitching has already provided us with a story or two. Ben Wells pitched well in his first start for the Hawks, but he was eclipsed by the performance turned in by Taiwanese right hander Yao-Lin Wang: five innings, two hits, six strikeouts. That’s a good way to start a season.
Be sure to check back on Wednesday for the Cubbies Crib Minor League Line of the Week.