Chicago Cubs Weekly Farm Report (9/13/21): Morel’s Strange Season Continues, Young Arms Impress
What a brutal week in the system. For prospect watchers like myself, it feels like the last couple of weeks have been spent waiting for statistics to “finalize.” There is just one more week of games left for three of the four full-season affiliates and I feel like I have seen everything I need to see from these guys. I am ready for the offseason to begin so I can do some deep dives into all the individual performances.
Well, the players are apparently just as ready for the offseason because they are limping to the finish line. Combined, the four teams went 8-16 this past week with some rough performances. But there are just a couple more of these things, so let’s make some positives out of the week, shall we?
News in the System
- It came out late on Sunday night that Brennen Davis has been promoted to Triple-A Iowa, a move we fully expected as the season wore down to a close. Iowa will play two more series once the other three affiliates are done with their seasons and getting Davis more at-bats at a higher level seems like a pretty obvious decision to make.
- I want to use this section as an opportunity to mention the tremendous work done by a couple of photographers down in Mesa. Rich Biesterfeld and John Antonoff post pictures on the daily with some of the dudes we simply can’t get our eyes on when watching MiLB.tv. Some of the most exciting players in the farm system can be found down in the Arizona Complex League right now and pictures of Drew Gray making his debut or James Triantos and Kevin Alcantara teeing off are glorious sights.
Enjoyed watching @Cubs 2021 3rd round draft pick @drew_gray5 make the first start of his professional career in Saturday's ACL game. 2 innings pitched 4 K's – very impressive debut! #Cubs #CubsProspects #MiLB #ArizonaComplexLeague pic.twitter.com/sgEoY6UQHF
— Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22) September 12, 2021
James Triantos vs Kevin Alcantara. Choose your fighter.
📸: @baseballinfocus pic.twitter.com/agYBRqEewX
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) September 11, 2021
- Michael McAvene was spotted throwing down on the complex earlier this week. It is a big step for a guy who has missed the entire season up to this point because of arm troubles. He seems like a pretty good fit for the Arizona Fall League this year so he can make up for some lost time.
Very pleasant surprise today while dropping by @SloanParkMesa! Live BP and a new pitcher was coming in – turned out it was @mkill55. What a great surprise to see him back on the bump and he looked good! #MiLB #Cubs #CubsProspects #LouisvilleBaseball pic.twitter.com/MpXWVZXRIQ
— Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22) September 8, 2021
Triple-A Iowa Cubs
- Why do I always start these things out with the team’s record? Iowa went 1-5 this week against a loaded Toledo roster. Their record this season is 46-68 and they have a -70 run differential.
- I’m glad I can start off the hot performers with Trayce Thompson. He banged out five homers this week, a record not even Alexander Canario has been able to top this year. Thompson is now the leader in the system with 21 bombskis on the season.
- Abiatal Avelino and the death by a thousand cuts season continues to roll on. This week he OPS’d 1.110 and only struck out once in 15 plate appearances. His season has been arguably the most underrated of anyone in the system.
- Two different starters recorded 10-K outings this week. The first was Cory Abbott as he walked two and gave up four hits and no runs in six innings. It was a much-needed dominant outing from Abbott.
- Matt Swarmer was the other, going seven innings without walking a soul. He gave up two runs on a pair of longballs.
- The I-Cubs travel to Omaha starting Tuesday night to wrap up the “normal” portion of their schedule. After that, they will end the season with a pair of short five-game series.
Double-A Tennessee Smokies
- The Smokies went 2-4 on the week, including a big 14-1 defeat to begin the set. Their crazy win came on Wednesday night as they entered the bottom of the ninth inning down 9-6. A leadoff tank from Davis followed by a two-run bomb from Bradlee Beesley tied things up, then Christopher Morel sent the people home happy with a walk-off shot a mere 10 minutes after Jason Heyward sent the Northsiders home happy on the same night.
Game of the year last night for the Smokies. Rallied from down 9-6 in the 9th. Who else but Christopher Morel to come up with the biggest hit of the night! pic.twitter.com/yALRuBTunX
— Frank La Sala (@franklasala) September 9, 2021
- Speaking of Morel, he doubled three times and walked five times in 26 plate appearances in addition to the homer on Wednesday night. A strong final week will keep his OPS above league average for the season despite just a .215 batting average and an OBP below .300.
- I want to point out the performance that Harrison Wenson has put together at the plate over the last couple of weeks. He hasn’t gotten full-time at-bats since he was called up to Double-A, but he has been terrific in the opportunities he has gotten. The impressive game manager behind the plate is 6-for-15 with two homers, two doubles, and seven RBI in those two weeks. That’s an 1.407 OPS, if you’re keeping score at home.
- While the starters were rough and the bats couldn’t rally enough runs, the bullpen did it very best to keep the Smokies in games late. Bryan Hudson, Samuel Reyes, Eury Ramos, Scott Kobos, and Burl Carraway logged 14 total innings and gave up no runs on five hits while posting an 11:4 strikeout to walk ratio.
- Tennessee will finish the season on the road in Biloxi to take on the Shuckers. A big, big week could pull their season to an even 50 wins.
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High-A South Bend Cubs
- It was another 2-4 week from the Cubs, dragging their record down to 50-63 this year. They have a brutal -83 run differential.
- Miguel Pabon made his full-season debut, getting the call up from Arizona this week. Add him to the mix of shortstops aged 21 and under in the Cubs system.
- I’ll admit it: I’m a Yonathan Perlaza stan. He had eight more hits including two doubles and a tank, and he did it with an 8.7% strikeout rate this week. His OPS on the season is now 15% better than league average.
- Zach Leigh, the Cubs’ 16th round pick, went two innings in his South Bend debut and threw 22 of his 26 pitches for strikes while hitting high-90s with his heat. He struck out four.
- Jordan Wicks made start number two and stretched to an extra out: 1.1 innings, one K, and a bunch of zeros besides that.
- Tyler Santana made his first professional start and went four innings of three-hit ball. He struck out six, walked just one, and didn’t give up a run.
- South Bend will also end the season in the Quad Cities. The last time the two teams hooked up, South Bend went 2-4.
Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans
- The Birds were the big winners this week, going 3-3 and maintaining that all-important .500 record on the season. In order to finish the season as average as possible, they will need to put up another 3-3 week while outscoring their opponent by…61 runs.
- There were a couple of super fun debuts in Myrtle this week as we got to see both Miguel Fabrizio and big Felix Stevens take the field. It will be a nice cup of coffee for them before they return to this level to begin the 2022 campaign.
- I think the Cubs are on to something down here at the lower levels with some pitching prospects. We saw a big career-best from Tyler Schlaffer last week and this week I was super impressed by Daniel Palencia and Porter Hodge.
- Palencia recorded seven strikeouts in 4.2 innings and gave up just one run. He continues to work in the high-90s with his fastball even as he logs upwards of 80 pitches. Hodge went a cool 5.2 scoreless innings with four hits, no walks, and six punchies.
- The Pelicans are the only affiliate ending their season at the ol’ home ball field. They take on the Augusta GreenJackets, a team they have seemingly played 400 times this season. In reality, they have an 11-13 record against the Braves affiliate.