MLR: Iowa Reloaded


A few of the draft picks from the first few rounds have started to sign around baseball and with the Cubs. Zeke DeVoss (3rd Round) has signed, and there are reports that Dan Vogelbach (2nd) is close to signing. That would make Treveor Gretzsky (7th) the highest of the Cubs’ picks that I am not confident will eventually sign. In the later rounds, I’m still hopeful that Ricky Jacquez (39th) will choose to join the Cubs, but I suspect the Cubs will have to go way over slot to get him, and those deals tend to be announced much later in the signing window. The deadline is August 15.

Leaving future Cubs aside, let’s take a look at the farm system with this week’s Minor League Report.

Iowa Cubs (44-51) Pacific Coast League (AAA) North: 3rd place
Iowa ended their losing streak at eight games, and then snapped off three in a row to climb back into third place. They stay at home for much of this week, and that has been good for Iowa so far this season, but then they head off for a week on the road. So far, the talent from Tennessee has been playing well. If they can keep Iowa winning on the road, the Cubs could still take the division.

There are a few names in Iowa to think about as we head for the trade deadline. Tyler Colvin and D.J. LeMahieu have already seen time in the majors, and the Cubs would like to get them back up. Brett Jackson and Ryan Flaherty are making compelling cases for major league promotions of their own. Flaherty could move into either the infield or outfielder, depending on where innings are available. On the pitching side, Jay Jackson and Casey Coleman could both help out the Cubs… or someone else for that matter.

And don’t ignore the importance of August trades. In the Iowa bullpen we have three guys, Scott Maine, Justin Berg, and Marcos Mateo who joined the Cubs in August deals. Any team with a good scouting department (like the Cubs) can do very well in August just by flipping guys like Reed Johnson for a prospect who is several years away.

Tennessee Smokies (10-13) Southern League (AA) North: 4th place
With much of their top talent in Iowa, the Tennessee Smokies are struggling. There are plenty of good players left in Double A, and the Smokies are in nearly every game, but they just haven’t figured out how to win consistently with their current roster. They have already earned a postseason appearance, so as long as they can get things figured out before the playoffs begin, they will be in good shape.

Some people have been calling for Trey McNutt to be promoted to Chicago for the remainder of the season. That would be a terrible idea. McNutt has been on the DL both for blisters and for a rib injury resulting from a collision. Since he came off the DL in June, he has not found his control. In less than nine innings he has given up nineteen hits and nine walks. If he continues to struggle I would not be surprised if he joins Hayden Simpson in Arizona for the remainder of the season, perhaps making an appearance in the Arizona Fall League. His arm is fine and, like Simpson, there is no reason to reduce his standing as a prospect in the long term. He still projects as a front of the rotation starter.

Daytona Cubs (12-11) Florida State League (High A) North: 2nd place (tie)
The Daytona Win Factory is starting to cough back to life. The Cubs had been struggling for a few weeks, but with five wins in their last seven games, it looks like things are getting back to normal. They will be home on the 21st.

One of the best players in Daytona this season came to the Cubs in an August trade. Evan Crawford, the speedy outfielder with the .394 OBP and 23 stolen bases came to the Cubs in exchange for Mike Fontenot. Matthew Szczur has joined Crawford in the Cubs outfield and is off to a pretty good start. With those two and Logan Watkins on the team, Daytona has the potential to steal a ton of bases.

Peoria Chiefs (9-14) Midwest League (Low A) Western: 6th place (tie)
This is the week we discover what Peoria is made of. They have been playing roughly .500 ball for a decent stretch now, but they really need to go on a run to get back in the division race. This week they start on a twelve game road trip. The Chiefs have not been that strong of a road team this season, but if they are going to make a run they need to start it now.

After spending a week destroying Arizona Rookie League pitching, Taiwan Easterling has been promoted to Peoria and has gotten off to a strong start. With Rubi Silva and Ben Klafcaynski, he joins a very young Peoria outfield that is worth watching. I think it is very likely that Peoria receives a few more players in the coming days. At least some of the players the Cubs get back for any of their trades will wind up in Peoria, and there are some guys in Boise who could stand to be promoted as well.

Boise Hawks (15-15) Northwest League (Short-Season A) East: 2nd place (tie)
Boise is not proving to be much of a road team and just dropped four of five on the road. For a very young team just getting established in professional baseball, that’s not too surprising nor concerning. Unfortunately, the Hawks have three more on the road before coming home for six.

One player at Boise I have not mentioned is Austin Reed. Some analysts had Reed in the Cubs Top 10 Prospects before the season began… though I have no idea why… but so far he has simply pitched like a guy in his first full season as a pro after high school. Baseball America is high on his change up, but had him listed at number ten among the Cubs’ right handed starters. With a .330 BA against and ten walks to go with his twelve strikeouts, he clearly has some work to do.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for the Cubbies Crib Minor League Line of the Week.