The records and standings might look a little strange for the next few weeks. Tennessee, Daytona, and Peoria play in leagues that split their seasons in half and track the standings separately for each half. As a result, you will see playoff-bound Tennessee sitting in fifth place and Daytona showing an un-Daytona-like .500 record.
In other news, Iowa is streaking back into contention, and Boise finds itself in first place. All that and more in this week’s Minor League Report.
Iowa Cubs (36-42) Pacific Coast League (AAA) North: 3rd place
Five straight home wins against some of the best teams in the Pacific Coast League has put Iowa in a position where they could start to think about getting into the postseason. It will still be an uphill climb, but the odds are better. Despite being under .500, they are just five and half games back. Their home stand continues through the end of the week.
For the first time this season, the Iowa pitching has stepped up for a sustained stretch. The offense has been fairly consistent all season for the Cubs, but the pitching has bounced between bad and horrific. Now it is looking solid. Not spectacular, but good enough. They held their opponent to just three runs in four of their five wins. If they can keep that trend going, they could win their division going away. Factoring prominently in this streak of good pitching are three guys recently promoted from Tennessee: Alberto Cabrera, Robert Coello, and Marco Carrillo.
Marwin Gonzalez, the All-Star shortstop for Tennessee has been promoted to Iowa to replace Marquez Smith who is on the the disabled list. Tyler Colvin has hit about .300 over the past week and is now slugging .571 for the season with Iowa. While his strikeout rate for the season still sits around 25%, more recently he’s cut that back to around 17%. For Colvin to have sustained success in the majors, he needs to keep that strikeout rate in the low 20% at most, and drive the ball to all fields. If Hendry can make an outfielder disappear, Colvin should be in line for his next shot.
Tennessee Smokies (1-3) Southern League (AA) North: 5th place
The potent Tennessee offense hasn’t come back from its All-Star break yet, and Tennessee is slumping as a result. They have been shut out twice and held to just one run over fourteen innings in the third loss. They come home this week for a series against Carolina. Hopefully that will get the Smokey bats going.
As the Cubs top brass and field scouts convene for a trade-season strategy session in Chicago, Brett Jackson has fallen into a nasty slump with just one hit against seven strikeouts in the four games since the second half began. Ryan Flaherty and Steve Clevenger, on the other hand, have been pounding the ball in the second half. Both figure to be on the discussion list for the Cubs as both are prime candidates to be promoted, should any openings appear.
Daytona Cubs (2-2) Florida State League (High A) North: 2nd place (tie)
Daytona has been hanging out around .500 lately, and for Daytona that is a serious slump. They’ll spend most of their time on the road until July 4th when the start their next prolonged home stand. This team is probably due for another 10 game winning streak, so make plans to hit the ballpark if you’ll be in Florida soon.
Rubi Silva has been sent back to Peoria, and the way is clear for the promotion of Matthew Szczur. That has not happened yet, but I think it could come literally any day now. Meanwhile, Logan Watkins took his already strong recent hitting and stepped it up another notch after the break. When the Cubs scouts take a look at his file, they’ll see that he is hitting .424 in June. Add his name beside Justin Bour on the list of players that need promotions.
Peoria Chiefs (0-3) Midwest League (Low A) Western: 7th place (tie)
Peoria has not won a game since June 12th, and their fortunes are not likely to improve on the road. For the most part it has been the offense that has not shown up. The Chief’s pitching has turned in some solid games, but it is hard to win when you have just one run to work with. Maybe a trip to Wisconsin will help. Something has to break for this team soon, or they will just about play themselves out of the second half title race before it even begins.
After posting a sterling 0.36 ERA over 25 innings for Peoria, Casey Harman has been promoted to Daytona. A lefty reliever the Cubs drafted out of college in 2010, Harman may jump as high as Tennessee before this season is out. He hasn’t pitched in Daytona yet, but we’ll keep an eye on him when he does.
Since we’ve talking about moving catchers lately, let’s check in on Micah Gibbs. Peoria’s switch hitting catcher has cooled of late, as has most of the Chief’s hitters, but his season numbers are solid. His OPS on the season is .714, and stays fairly consistent against right and left handed pitching. His strikeout and walk rates are healthy and his OBP is about where I’d like to see it. Right now he is showing virtually no power, but I have a hard time believing that a 5’11” 223lb catcher will not develop at least some pop as he progresses. He’s still got some work to do, but this guy has a shot to be your catcher of the future.
Boise Hawks (6-4) Northwest League (Short Season A) East: 1st place (tie)
Winners of five of their last six games, the Boise Hawks are the only Cub farm team currently in first place. I expect Daytona and Tennessee will correct that shortly, but it bodes well for the Cubs that their Short Season team is having success. They will next be at home on the 4th against Yakima.
So who’s ready to talk about another infield prospect? Meet Pin-Chieh Chen, a young left handed hitting second baseman from Taiwan. Any time a hitter wracks up a .926 OPS with just two extra base hits, it gets my attention. It is way too early to get excited about this guy yet, but he is definitely worth keeping a close eye on. Peoria might get a chance to watch him soon.