Not every fan has the time, the patience, or even the desire to obsessively keep up with the Cubs’ minor league system, even at the higher levels. Maybe you’re one of those fans. If so, what the hell is wrong with you? Just kidding. There’s nothing wrong with that. I assure you, you’re no less of a fan.
Frankly, I’m not sure how closely I’d be following the Iowa Cubs were it not my “job” here at Cubs Insider. I will say that I’d be following less closely than this gig has forced me to. Thus far, it’s been a great deal of fun, and I look forward to following the progress of Iowa’s players.
Having said all that, in sympathy with those fans who are unable or unwilling to pay close attention to the Iowa Cubs, but who still would like to know which players are performing well (and poorly) for the club, look no further than this new feature of Cubs Insider, 3 Up, 3 Down.
Each month, I’ll take a (rather shallow) dive into the month that was and give my impressions of players that have had good (and poor) months for Iowa. Please make no mistake, this is not a scouting report, and it’s not a prediction service. I have no delusions of grandeur where prospects are concerned. But I do keep track of some basic stats, and I can tell you who has had good and bad months for the club.
Consider this a sketch of how players have performed in the month that was. Since April is old news, I’ll start with May.
Please note that these stats come from my own tracking, so you can feel free to correct me if there are some errors. But I’m fairly confident in what I’m posting here.
First, the hitting. It was a good month for Iowa hitters, overall. You’ll notice that my 3 down segment in the hitting side will contain players who didn’t actually have disastrous months. Overall, the team posted a slash line of .285/.356./.432/.788. Not bad for a team average really. There are some hitters on this team.
3 Up: (no particular order)
1. Matt Szczur – I can’t spell his name without looking 3 or 4 times. I even considered consulting these guys. I’m slowly getting there.
I also tried my best to exclude him, given that he played only 16 games in May (due to his time in Chicago), but the numbers wouldn’t allow me to. Szczur led the team in average (.364), OBP (.438), SLG (.655) and (obviously) OPS (1.092). He even managed 3 HRs (good for third on the team for the month), and 7 stolen bases in 7 attempts, second on the team behind only John Andreoli. All in all, a great, if truncated, month in AAA for Szczur, who continues to make his case for sticking with the parent club in some capacity.
2. Javier Baez – We’ve been hearing a lot about Javy’s increasingly impressive performances, so this isn’t exactly a surprise. He hit .314 with a .387 OBP, with 5 HR and 21 RBI, both tops on the team. Perhaps more encouraging, he walked at nearly an 8.5% rate and “only” struck out at about a 24.5% rate. Having a K rate below 25%, even in AAA, has to somewhat allay the fears of some Cubs fans ready to either write Javy off or utilize him as trade bait.
Yes, yes…SSS and all that. However, the numbers also support what Javy himself is saying about how he’s feeling at the plate. He’s apparently very comfortable, and he may have played himself into a call up for the Cubs’ upcoming visits to AL ballparks.
3. Taylor Davis – An undrafted free agent signed by the organization in 2011 as a corner infielder and backup catcher has been one of the hottest Iowa players going. Third for the month in hitting (.323), a .373 OBP, .532 SLG and a .905 OPS, Davis has forced his way into the lineup on a regular basis (he played 20 games for the month, primarily at catcher and first base). You won’t find Davis on any top prospects list, and I’m not at all trying to make his case to make it onto them, but it’s impossible to deny that he had a wonderful June for Iowa, and his versatility may make him valuable in the coming months.
Arismendy Alcantara – Not in the top 3 for any of your basic slash stats (.281/.346/.491/.838) (6th/9th/5th/6th), but co-led the team in home runs and was second in RBI (5 and 15, respectively). Mendy also added 12 walks and 5 steals in 5 attempts. What’s also encouraging about Alcantara’s performance is that it was not especially lucky, from a BABIP perspective. For the month, Mendy’s BABIP was a nearly-sustainable .338. Further, over the last 14 days, Alcantara’s slash line looks like this: (.341/.408/.614/1.022). We’ll have to see what happens for June, but I’m excited.
Rubi Silva – Had a very nice month hitting the ball, as long as we don’t consider OBP. I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about Silva, because in 127 PAs, he’s yet to walk (nor has he been hit by a pitch). With two sacrifices (1 SF and 1 SH), he ended May hitting .267 for the season (.329 in May) but with an OBP of only .264 (.324 in May). I’m officially on “Rubi Silva Walk Watch.” When it happens, I’ll let you know!!
3 Down: (DQed – Junior Lake and Mike Baxter, neither of whom were having a good month before their call-ups)
1. Chris Valaika – Discounting our DQ’ed players mentioned above, Valaika finished dead last in Avg, OBP, SLG, and OPS (.239/.292/.313/.605). He hit 0 HRs, had only 4 RBIs, walked 5 times, and struck out 21 times in 67 ABs. His BABIP for the month was also .348, so we can’t exactly chalk it up to horrible luck either. Having said that, it does say something about a team’s offense when this is unequivocally the worst offensive month for any player. Again, Iowa hit the ball well in May.
2. Jonathan Mota – Mota followed up a very nice April (he hit .333) with a relatively poor May, where he hit .240. Like Valaika, Mota walked relatively few times (4) and struck out a relatively large number of times (16) for rates of 7.27% and 29.09% respectively. If we want to look at the positives, however, we could point out that Mota’s 7.27% walk rate was a significant improvement over his April walk rate (2.17%).
3. Taylor Teagarden – Teagarden had a torrid April, during which he hit .348 and OPSd 1.032. But he was helped in April by a BABIP of .438. Well, there’s good news and bad news about Teagarden’s May (mostly bad). Let’s start with the good news: Teagarden walked to the tune of nearly 20% of his PAs in May, leading to an OBP of .400.
So why is he on the 3 Down list? Well, for one, it’s been a good month for Iowa hitters, so the bar is pretty high (have I mentioned that yet?). Second, Teagarden hit .264 for the month despite his BABIP, which was already high, rising by 26 points (.464). He also struck out over 35% of his PAs. We could hardly call him a “true outcome” hitter though, since he doesn’t exactly hit the ball out of the yard, with only 1 HR in May. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad though, right? Right?
(Dis)honorable Mentions: Both of our DQ’ed players, Mike Baxter and Junior Lake. Like I said, neither of them were having even decent months before their call ups in May. And as of this writing, Baxter is back down. Hopefully, he can get it back together.
Coming Soon: 3 Up and 3 Down, Pitching Edition.