The Tennessee Smokies, Double A affiliate for the Cubs, lost game four of the Southern League Championship Series at home on Sunday. That lost meant that the Mobile BayBears won the series three games to one. Tennessee’s fantastic season is over.
The Smokies’s offense rallied late, posting three runs in the seventh, but the bullpen could not keep Mobile in check last night, and the margin grew too wide for the Tennessee bats to bridge. The middle of the lineup was uncharacteristically silent in game four. The Arizona Diamondbacks have a very good pitching staff in Double A; when it mattered the most that pitching held the potent Tennessee offense in check.
Jae-Hoon Ha got the game off to a good start for the Smokies with a solo home run in the first. Before the night was over he picked up another hit and two more RBIs. The center fielder played well throughout the postseason to cap off a very good 2011 campaign. He will likely be moving up the Cubs prospect rankings in the offseason.
The other big bright spot for Cub fans is Trey McNutt. Despite an injury plagued season that severely limited his innings and effectiveness at times, McNutt pitched four pretty good innings despite four walks. He took the loss, but only two of Mobile’s runs came off McNutt.
This season has been disappointing for Cub fans who expected to see McNutt jump into Iowa, or even Chicago, by the end of the year. Going forward, though, there is no reason to be down on McNutt. He still has a great arm, is still the best pitching prospect in the system, still projects as a front of the rotation kind of guy, and we can still expect him to be fighting with Andrew Cashner and Matt Garza for Opening Day starts for much of the next decade. When CubbiesCrib releases their prospect rankings in the offseason, McNutt is certain to be in the top five.
Now that the minor league seasons are all over I will begin reviewing each of the rosters for the farm teams. The first team on the pedestal will be Iowa. That article should arrive later this week.
All in all it was a good year for the Cubs. Tennessee, Daytona, and Boise all made the playoffs. Tennessee advanced to their Championship Series, and Daytona took home the Florida State League title. While several high profile prospects were derailed by injury, we also had a very promising cast of characters emerge from obscurity. To top it off, the Cubs turned in one of the best drafts I can remember this franchise ever putting together. The Cubs farm system should be seen as solidly in the middle of the pack among all major league teams, probably somewhere between 11 and 16 on the rankings. It is on the rise though, and with the stash of talent in the low minors and the Cubs commitment to building from within, things are only going to get better.