I have to preface this piece by saying something: the Chicago Cubs have maintained a virtually endless shuttle between Iowa and the bigs this year, especially on the pitching side of the equation, looking to their Triple-A affiliate to keep things afloat.
That being said, the Iowa Cubs are off to a brutal start, entering the weekend at 13-25, the second-worst mark in Triple-A East’s Midwest Division. The I-Cubs are already 13 1/2 games out and we haven’t even hit the Fourth of July yet. It’s been a tough look and doesn’t look likely to improve anytime soon.
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There have been a handful of solid performers, including Michael Hermosillo, who’s got a 1.254 OPS in a dozen contests, P.J. Higgins, who had a .458 OBP in 11 games (but is on the 60-day IL) and Sergio Alcantara, who has since moved to the big league team to shore up the Cubs’ decimated infield depth.
No qualified Iowa hitter has an OPS above .800 with the lone exception of Trayce Thompson. As a team, the Cubs rank 15th out of 20 teams with a .706 OPS and suffer from a major lack of high-impact, high-profile talent. The most notable name in the lineup on a nightly basis is probably either Thompson, whose fame is really more tied to his brother than what he does on a field, or Dee Strange-Gordon, who has fallen off considerably since hitting .308 and swiping 60 backs with Miami in 2017.
Chicago Cubs: Bridging the gap to top prospects will be a challenge
At the Double-A level, the Tennessee Smokies boast some of the organization’s better-known talent, including the likes of Miguel Amaya, Brailyn Marquez, Brennen Davis, Christopher Morel and Chase Strumpf. By year’s end, we could see some of these guys added to the ranks at Iowa, but the long and short of it is this: most of these guys are at least two years away from being ready to make their mark at the big league level.
That’s problematic on multiple fronts. Chicago is set to turn over more than half of its Opening Day roster this winter, including three massive superstars venturing out into free agency barring an in-season extension. You could, conceivably, be looking to fill out three-quarters of the infield and an outfield spot this offseason, along with three-fifths of the starting rotation and some key bullpen roles.
And right now, at least, the organization isn’t ready to fill really any of those spots from within. That’s not to say the Chicago Cubs lack potential future All-Stars. We’re all expecting big things from Amaya, Marquez and Davis, in particular. But the front office will have to find a way to bridge the gap until they’re ready – because there’s little left at Triple-A that hasn’t already been exploited this year.