Chicago Cubs Weekly Farm Report (6/17/19): Nico Hoerner on Road to Recovery, Eugene Opens Season
News in the System
- The biggest news of the week on the farm is only really just hypothetical at this point. Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks was placed on the 10-day injured list with shoulder fatigue, which means the team will need someone to take his turn in the rotation. That spot just so happens to line up perfectly for when Triple-A starter and top prospect Adbert Alzolay is slated to make a start. The Cubs have said they’ll determine the order after Monday.
- Good news on Nico Hoerner! He is now out of the wrist splint and has returned to baseball activities. Theo Epstein hopes he will be able to resume in-game action in a couple of weeks.
- The College World Series has started up and there is only one Cubs draft pick taking the field. Third round pick Michael McAvene and his Louisville Cardinals dropped their first game to Vanderbilt on Sunday and will face off against Auburn on Tuesday at 2pm ET. Hopefully we will get to see McAvene close that one out for the No. 7 national seed.
- It appears as though Craig Brooks has finally gotten the call to Triple-A Iowa. Brooks has been the most dominant reliever in the system this year by a long shot, to the tune of a 0.92 ERA, .109 opponent average, and 41.5% strikeout rate.
- Brennen Davis was kind enough to take time and sit down with me a couple weeks ago in Dayton for an interview. So naturally, I asked him about his one-on-one basketball skills. He was a terrific interview and carries himself like he has been doing this sort of thing for years. Be sure to check out that full interview here!
- We are now halfway through the minor league season and Todd Johnson has been putting together some prospect updates for you to keep up on what is going on with guys like Aramis Ademan, Robel Garcia, and Jonathan Sierra.
- Last week was the final week of the first half for South Bend, Myrtle Beach, and Tennessee, none of which are winning their respective divisions. They will now need to finish atop the standings in the second half in order to participate in postseason baseball come September.
Triple-A Iowa Cubs
- The I-Cubs went 4-2 on the week, good enough to keep them atop the PCL North standings at 38-32. Unlike the other affiliates, they don’t have a All-Star break this week. The team will wrap up the second half of their four-game series in Sacramento before they get to come back home for the first four games of an extra long five gamer with the Round Rock Express.
- Craig Kimbrel is in Sacramento and will make his first appearance Tuesday. The expectation is that he’ll get five outings, with at least one set of back-to-back games, before heading to Chicago.
- Trent Giambrone got off to the hottest start of anyone in the system over the first couple weeks of the season before absolutely dropping off the face of the earth for the following two months or so. Last week he showed signs of life yet again as he homered three times in 18 plate appearances, raising his OPS on the season from .690 to .743 in just one week.
- I think we are officially a Robel Garcia fansite now. With two more homers and three more doubles to his tally since our last update, he leads the system with 17 bombs this year.
- Colin Rea hasn’t been mentioned too often in these weekly reports mostly because he has been consistent and not so flashy. That continued in his start last week, when he went five innings and only allowed a run on four hits. His ERA this year sits at 3.20 with a 1.29 WHIP.
- Dakota Mekkes is the hottest arm out of the bullpen in Iowa. He threw another 3.1 scoreless innings last week and lowered his opponents’ batting average on the season to .213.
Double-A Tennessee Smokies
- The Smokies wrapped up the first half with a 4-3 week to finish with a 33-36 record in fourth place in the division. The team will play an All-Star shortened week with four games against the first-half North Division champion Montgomery Biscuits starting on Thursday.
- There wasn’t a whole lot going on with the bats for Tennessee last week, but the best performer at the plate was none other than Vimael Machin. In 32 plate appearances, he slashed .321/.406/.500, which is pretty on par with his stat line for this season.
- Thomas Hatch was one of the starters I was most looking forward to seeing this season and his performances had just fallen flat coming into last week. He looked quite a bit better in his two starts on Monday and Saturday, though, throwing a total of 11 innings and allowing just two runs while striking out 11. He still gave up 13 hits, which he will need to cut down on as the season moves along.
- The bullpen arms of Jordan Minch, Wyatt Short, and Tommy Nance were lights out last week. They combined to go 14.2 innings, allowing only four hits and no runs while putting up a 12:2 K:BB ratio.
High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans
- The Pelicans finally wrapped up their nightmare of a first half of the season. The final count was a record of 21-46, good for last place in the division and out of first place by 27.5 games. Last week was a shortened version of the entire season, as they went 1-6 and watched their losing streak reach nine games before picking up a win. The good news? A brand new season starts for them this week. They get a few days to regroup before starting the second half at home as they host the Fayetteville Woodpeckers for four games.
- As it was, the pitching carried the Pelicans all week long and it was starts from three men that really stood out.
- Alex Lange went seven innings, striking out nine while only walking two and giving up only one run on three hits. You shouldn’t look up his full-season ERA (7.36).
- Alexander Vargas was a Rule 5 draft pick from the Yankees this past offseason and he has performed well as a reliever and a piggyback arm this season. Last week he was given the task of making a spot start and he went five innings of four-hit baseball while only giving up one run. Tack on a scoreless inning out of the bullpen earlier in the week and he had a pretty impressive run.
- Erich Uelmen and his sinker went for six innings on Thursday and gave up a run on four hits.
Low-A South Bend Cubs
- South Bend went 4-3 last week, going on a four-game winning streak after ending their six-game losing streak dating back to the previous week. After such a positive start to the season, the Cubs finished the first half with a 37-31 record and ended up fourth in the Midwest League East standings. They will play only four games this week due to the All-Star game, with Bowling Green coming to town for a four gamer. Their home stadium, Four Winds Field, will play host to the Midwest League All-Star game for the first time in 30 years.
- Tyler Durna continued to mash, with 11 hits in 26 at-bats including his third homer of the year.
- Brennen Davis now holds a 181 wRC+ and is proving that the Cubs were right to believe he could really blossom after focusing on baseball.
- I want to highlight Sean Barry, a reliever who did not start the year on the South Bend roster, but is now being used religiously by manager Buddy Bailey. After four more scoreless innings last week, Barry sports a 1.20 ERA in 15 innings this year. He has struck out 16 to only four walks and opponents are hitting just .183 off of him.
- Great bounce-back starts from both Derek Casey and Brailyn Marquez last week. They each only gave up one run in their outings.
Short -season Eugene Emeralds
- The short-season affiliates begin their seasons shortly after the draft concludes each year and the Emeralds began their title defense Friday with a 1-2 weekend. The first full week of the season starts up on Monday with a four-game series in Vancouver against the Canadians (yes, their name is really the Vancouver Canadians), then they come back home for the first three games of a series against the Tri-City Dust Devils.
- It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to go into the stats last week for the Ems, especially when they went 24 straight innings without scoring a run. So let’s focus more on the roster makeup.
- Edmond Americaan and Luis Vazquez made their way to consistent playing time after already seeing some time in full-season ball this year. It will be good for the slick-fielding Vazquez to be stationed in one place for a while after filling in at both Tennessee and Iowa.
- We get to see the first televised action of Reivaj Garcia, and, more importantly, I got to hear the pronunciation of the second baseman’s name. For those of you wondering, it is “Ray-Vah.”
- 2017 draft pick Jeremiah Estrada made his long-awaited Eugene debut on Sunday night and was immaculate. Literally. He threw an immaculate inning in his first inning of work. That is nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts. Each pitch was a fastball sitting in the mid-90’s.
- 2018 draft pick Kohl Franklin looked good in his first start, too. He is just 19 year old and was sitting 94-95 mph with his fastball.
- Yunior Perez also made his debut north of Arizona and touched 98 mph with his heater.