All-Star teams are a mid-season feature in nearly every baseball league, and for most baseball publications as well. We are right around the middle of the season, so this would be the perfect time to compile an All-Minors All Star Team from the Cubs farm system. I’ve combed over the stats for every Cubs franchise from the Arizona Rookie League up to Triple-A Iowa, and I’ve selected one All-Star for each position plus six pitchers. I took the player’s age, prospect status, team performance, and minor league level into consideration as well as their individual statistics, but the individual performances were the dominant factor. This should not be viewed as a top prospects list, or even an effort to name the top prospects by position, but simply an All-Star Team drawn from all across the Cubs system. I’m sure there will be disagreements, so let me know what you think in the comments.
First Base – Bryan LaHair, Iowa Cubs
The knock on LaHair is that he is twenty eight, which is a little old to be in the minors. Despite that, his numbers have been so impressive this season that there really was not much of a contest. Rebel Ridling was not too far behind, but his numbers have dropped off a bit since his very hot start in April. Justin Bour has been inconsistent as well. LaHair has been steadily great all season.
Second Base – DJ LeMahieu, Iowa Cubs
LeMahieu is the best second baseman to come through Tennessee or Iowa this season, and he has had plenty of success at both stops. However, this was not as automatic a choice as you might think. Logan Watkins has been hitting over .400 for roughly the past two months, and it was not so long ago that Baseball America had Watkins rated above LeMahieu. Watkins is younger, but only by a year, and there is a world of difference between the Florida State League and the Pacific Coast League. LeMahieu wins this round, but if Watkins stays hot we might have a new All-Star after the season.
Third Base – Dustin Geiger, Arizona Cubs
This was the toughest decision. Ryan Flaherty has been good enough this season to earn a promotion to Iowa, and if you look at his splits, Josh Vitters is not very far behind him. Marquez Smith got off to a slow start, but has had a pretty good year for Iowa and definitely earned some consideration. Flaherty and Vitters in particular came into the season as higher profile prospects than Geiger, and I expect very good things from both in the majors one day. But I can’t overlook the nineteen year old Geiger who is hitting his way out of Arizona. He has dominated Arizona so far this season, and the only complaint I can make is that he isn’t walking very much. The clinching factor is the amount of improvement he has already shown over his numbers last season. Vitters and Flaherty probably grade higher as prospects, but at the middle of the season Geiger is the All-Star.
Shortstop – Marwin Gonzalez, Iowa Cubs
I just talked about Gonzalez on Wednesday, so I see no need to repeat what I wrote then. In brief, Gonzalez is only twenty two, a switch hitter, and has performed very well at both Tennessee and Iowa this season. Junior Lake, who is a year younger, had a very good year in Daytona but has struggled with the move to Tennessee. Dustin Harrington jumped from Boise to Daytona and earned a great deal of consideration here, but he is actually older than Gonzalez and has not quite matched Gonzalez’s numbers. And while Elliot Soto and Arismendy Alcantara have both played well in Peoria, Gonzalez has very quietly put together the best year of his baseball life.
Catcher – Steve Clevenger, Tennessee Smokies
Welington Castillo has the higher ceiling, but Clevenger has had the better year. At both Tennessee and Iowa, Clevenger has hit well, shown some power, and been very hard to strike out. Even though Castillo is actually younger by a year, Clevenger’s excellent showing during a short stretch in Iowa was enough to push him over the top. Micah Gibbs got off to a very good start in Peoria, but since then has struggled.
Matthew Szczur – Daytona Cubs
Nelson Perez – Tennessee Smokies
Evan Crawford – Daytona Cubs
Szczur has emerged as one of the best outfield prospects in all of baseball, and his presence on this list is a given. Nelson Perez, despite posting Dunn-like strikeout numbers, was very impressive with Daytona at the start of the season and has lately been looking right at home in Tennessee. Evan Crawford has emerged as one of the best bats in Daytona and is one of the top stolen base threats in the Cubs system.
Brett Jackson struggled when he came back from his hand injury, and that caused him to miss this list. Jae-Hoon Ha has had a very good season and just missed the cut. Rubi Silva struggled a little in Daytona, or else he would be have been here. Taiwan Easterling probably should be here. I went with Geiger at third despite the fact that he has only been playing for a few weeks, but I couldn’t quite overlook that Easterling has only had 28 at bats. If his OPS stays over 1.200, he’ll make the post-season list easily.
Robert Whitenack – Tennessee Smokies (DL)
Nicholas Struck – Iowa Cubs
Zachary Rosscup – Daytona Cubs
Yao-Lin Wang – Boise Hawks
Aaron Kurcz – Daytona Cubs
Eric Jokisch – Peoria Chiefs
Whitenack and Struck both started the year in Daytona and pitcher their way up the ladder. Whitenack was dominate until he needed arm surgery, and Struck has not been too far behind him. Rosscup is forgotten man in the Garza trade and has quietly been striking out more than one per inning. Kurcz and Jokisch have both pitched well both as starters and relievers, and both are holding hitters to a .245 batting average. Wang has been the ace of a very talented Boise pitching staff and highlights a good crop of international pitchers the Cubs have brought into their farm system.
There are too many guys who did not make this list but who earned serious consideration to list here, so I will only address the most glaring omission. Where is Austin Kirk? After all, the guy pitched a no hitter. He should be here, right? He was very close. The only thing keeping him off this list was a lack of consistency. He had a string of very mediocre starts in the middle of the season that cost him a slot. When Kirk is pitching well, he pitches very well. And when he isn’t pitching well, his numbers get ugly in a hurry.
And there we have it, your mid-season CubbiesCrib All-Minors Team. Remember that this is not a top prospects list, but that all of these players should have bright futures ahead of them. Did I miss anyone? What do you think?