Cubs Insider Weekly Farm Report: 7/17 – 7/27

AAA: Iowa Cubs

Matt Szczur has been swinging a hot bat recently. The speedy outfielder went 18-47 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI and also scored 7 runs. On the season, he has a triple slash line of .304/.368/.475. He has quietly put together his best professional season.

Christian Villanueva had quite a stretch too. He went 16-41 while hitting 5 home runs and driving in 14 runs. Villanueva now has 16 home runs and 61 RBI on the season.

Junior Lake continued to display his newfound plate discipline. Lake walked 7 times during the stretch. He has walked 29 times in 56 games this season at Iowa. In comparison, in 122 games last season between Iowa and the Cubs, he walked a total of of 20 times. Is it a small sample size? Sure, but there are a lot of signs that tell us he may have figured it out. At the very least, it gives him more ceiling/projection despite his age. [ed. note: post was completed prior to yesterday’s trade]

Mike Olt is trying to make it back to the big leagues this season, and, with the stretch he’s had, he has to be opening some eyes. Olt went 15-38 with 3 home runs and 8 RBI.

Drake Britton probably had the best start of any Iowa Cub during this stretch, going 7 strong innings allowing only 1 run. He struck out 6 and walked none.

Carlos Pimentel wasn’t as sharp as he has been lately, but he did well enough to keep his team in the game in both of his starts. Pimentel went 11 innings allowing 4 runs. The one negative was his control, as he walked 8 batters.

Jeffry Antigua was back with Iowa and he was brilliant in his outing. Antigua went 6 innings allowing only 1 base-runner. The right-hander has bounced around the Cubs minor league affiliates like a yo-yo, but he has taken it in stride and been solid all season.

Hitting Star: Christian Villanueva – 16-41, 5 HR, 2 2B, 14 RBI, 6 R

Pitching Star: Felipe Paulino – 2 GS, 11.1 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 8 BB, 11 K (1W)


AA: Tennessee Smokies

Willson Contreras went 10-37 at the dish with 5 more walks. Contreras is in the top 5 in virtually all of the major offensive categories in the Southern League. The consistency of this 23-year-old catcher has been fantastic. Until very recently, he had avoided going back-to-back days without collecting a hit all season.

Speedster Jacob Hannemann went 10-30 including a 4-5 game in which he had 2 triples and 1 double. Hannemann also stole 4 bases.

Albert Almora slugged a home run as he made his return from the Pan-American games and could really use a hot month of August to close out the season.

Recently promoted Jeimer Candelario went 6-24 in his debut stretch with Tennessee. The 21-year-old has put himself back on the map with a solid season.

Felix Pena had the strikeout pitch working in his 2 starts. The right-hander struck out 18 batters in 9.2 innings pitched. Unfortunately, high pitch counts and a bit of wildness caused him to exit the games early.

Pierce Johnson was very good again in his 2 starts. The right-hander went 13 innings allowing 4 runs and also struck out 13 hitters. Johnson remains undefeated in his 8 starts this season.

Rob Zastryzny put together 2 solid starts going 10.2 innings while allowing 2 runs. Hopefully this will be the start of a strong end to the season.

Ivan Pineyro was stellar in his 1 outing going 7 strong innings allowing only 1 run. Pineyro struck out 7 and walked none. [ed. note: more of the same regarding deadline deals]

Hitting Star: Willson Contreras – 10-37, 3 2B, 6 RBI, 5 BB, 2 R

Pitching Star: Pierce Johnson – 1 GS, 7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K (W)


High-A: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Chesny Young finally failed to reach base. Shocking, I know. On Sunday, Young went 0-4 at the plate, ending a 44-game on-base streak that was the longest streak in Carolina League history. As far as this stretch, Young was excellent going 18-48 at the dish including a 5-hit game.

Victor Caratini went 8-32 with 7 runs driven in. The catcher has been consistent after a rough start to the season. On May 17th, Caratini was batting .198, but he has raised his average 45 points over the last 2 months.

Mark Zagunis may not be hitting well currently, but he is still getting on base a ton. Zaguins went a very poor 7-34 at the plate during the stretch, but what made it bearable was that he walked 11 times. Zagunis continues to lead the Carolina League in on-base percentage.

Dare I say Brad Markey has been on the mark lately? Markey was absolutely sensational in his 2 starts, going 13 innings while allowing only 1 run. He also struck out 12 batters while walking only 2. Markey is having a bit of a break-out second half. He is 3-0 with a 0.76 ERA ever since he joined Myrtle Beach.

Jen-Ho Tseng continued his resurgence by picking up 2 more wins. Tseng went 12 innings allowing 3 runs and striking out 7 batters. Tseng has now allowed 3 runs or less in 9 of his last 10 starts. For the season he is 5-6 with a 3.48 ERA.

Paul Blackburn was solid in his 2 starts this stretch. Blackburn, who is slowly being worked back into the rotation after coming off the disabled list, threw a total of 10 innings. He allowed only 1 run and struck out 9.

Hitting Star: Chesny Young – 18-48, 3B, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, SB, 8 R

Pitching Star: Brad Markey– 2 GS, 13 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12 K (2W)


Low-A: South Bend Cubs

You may have heard that Cubs 1st round pick Ian Happ was promoted to South Bend. And if you hadn’t heard, you have now. Happ went 3-6 with a double and 2 walks in his 2 games with South Bend.

The other Baez gets overlooked at times, but not today! Jeffrey Baez was blistering hot going 17-44 at the dish with 2 home runs and 5 stolen bases. Speaking of steals, Baez has 20 in 73 games played.

Gleyber Torres came out of his mini slump, going 14-36 with 5 doubles. The shortstop also stole 3 bases. Torres sits .316/.381/.413 as of Monday. I’d say that is pretty good for a 18-year-old kid playing in his first full season in America.

Charcer Burks returned from a small injury going 9-24 including 2 doubles and a stolen base.

Speedy outfielder Rashad Crawford went 11-31 with a home run, triple, and double. The homer was his 2nd of the season.

Michael Wagner was very solid in his 2 starts, going 11.2 innings allowing 4 runs on 12 hits. He also struck out 7. Wagner has seen 3 different levels this season, but his most success has been at South Bend where he holds a 2.91 ERA in 34 innings pitched.

Tommy Thorpe was even better. One of the more under the radar starter options, Thorpe went 11 innings allowing only 2 runs on 5 hits. In 5 starts this season, Thorpe holds an ERA of 2.52.

Erick Leal had the best start of any South Bend Cubs pitcher over this stretch. Leal went 8 shutout innings picking up his 4th win of the season. The right-hander also struck out 8 batters.

Hitting Star: Jeffrey Baez – 17-44, 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 5 SB, 9 R

Pitching Star: Erick Leal – 1 GS, 8 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K (W)


Short Season-A: Eugene Emeralds

Donnie Dewees has definitely found his power stroke. Dewees knocked 3 home runs out of the park while driving in 7 runs. Overall, he went a modest 9-46 at the dish, but he did walk 4 times and stole 5 bases.

Matt Rose went 14-44 with 2 home runs and 10 RBI. Rose is tied for 6th in the Northwest League with 27 RBI.

Eloy Jimenez went 11-48 with a home run and 4 doubles. Jimenez has a triple slash line of .276/.321/.390 as of Monday.

Prior to his promotion, Ian Happ went 5-13 with 3 doubles. Happ finished his Eugene career with a line of .283/.408/.491 and his OPS of .898 ranks him 3rd in the Northwest League.

Pedro Araujo has been really good in piggy-backing the starter this season. Araujo made 3 “relief” appearances going 11 innings while allowing only 1 run. The right-hander also struck out 16 while walking only 1. Between Araujo, Greyfer Eregua, and Adbert Alzolay the Emeralds have a nice second tier of pitching prospects to keep an eye on.

Hitting Star: Matt Rose – 14-44, 2 HR, 4 2B, 10 RBI, BB, 4 SB, 5 R

Pitching Star: Pedro Araujo –  3 G, 11 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 16 K

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