We live in forlorn times as Cubs fans, which is a weird change considering that we now demand consistent, winning baseball after generations of infrequent success. The current iteration of Chicago’s North Side baseballers loses much more often than it wins, and because of that, the front office shuffles players back and forth to the minors so quickly it’s tough to keep up.
If you were digging on Narciso Crook, you were probably upset to discover he was shipped back to Iowa. On the other hand, Adrian Sampson, who pitched better-than-decently in a 2-1 win over the Brewers Wednesday night, didn’t take too kindly to Jed Hoyer’s decision to put him back on the Triple-A Express after stellar outings against the Braves and Cardinals last month.
“I think I handled it not the best,” Sampson said of his angry reaction after David Ross told him he was being sent down. “But I [felt] I told him what I wanted to tell him. You’ve got to be careful when things like that happen because if you say the wrong thing it deters people from wanting to keep you around. I tried to be precise with my words and let them know that I was not happy with their decision.”
The Cubs have essentially run their 26-man roster as a 40-man entity and since the start of last season, as they’ve made more roster moves than anybody. The I-80 Shuffle is as hard on the players as it is on the fans, which makes two recent moves seem a little odd on the surface.
Hoyer recently DFA’d outfielder Jackson Frazier and reliever Sean Newcomb. Both cleared and accepted their minor league assignments instead of entering free agency. Considering the big league pedigrees of each, those seem like a pair of peculiar choices. The Cubs may have told Frazier that they plan to aggressively shop Ian Happ, which could provide a path back to Chicago for the outfielder formerly known as Clint. As far as Newcomb is concerned, the Cubs might trade a couple of starters and relievers, which could provide another opportunity for the left-hander to prove he belongs in the majors.
Once a team decides to DFA a player, few make it back to the bigs after they accept the assignment, so Frazier and Newcomb are essentially banking on their past success. That said, sometimes the wake-up call of being temporarily jobless is all that’s needed to motivate a player. Nelson Cruz was DFA’d by the Rangers at the start of the 2008 season, cleared waivers, hit 37 home runs at Triple-A Oklahoma, and then played a full season with Texas the following year. In 2009 he jacked 33 homers, made the American League All-Star team, and has hit 402 bombs in the 13 seasons since.
Frazier is swinging a hot bat for Iowa, slashing .357/.500/.429 in his last 15 at-bats with a stolen base. He doesn’t have Happ’s power, however, and probably isn’t a long-term outfield solution. Newcomb, on the other hand, has been lit up recently, though he pitched well the other night. He does have a 4.39 ERA in 148 big league appearances, including 57 starts, so I’m sure the Cubs are hoping he rights the ship. How a player handles his DFA can have a lot to do with successfully seizing the next opportunity, which might come right after this year’s trade deadline.
Affiliate News & Notes
- Brennen Davis is scheduled to resume baseball activities soon and intends to play again this season.
- Davis dropped to No. 30 on the midseason Top 100 Prospects list at MLB Pipeline. Cristian Hernandez (No. 68), and Pete Crow-Armstrong (79) also made the list, and the three were joined by new addition Kevin Alcántara (98). It won’t be long until Alexander Canario joins them.
- Canario really digs salsa music but is more attached to the lyrics than the rhythm and beat.
- Crow-Armstrong has been tabbed to represent the Cubs at this year’s Futures Game.
- Frazier is determined to get back to the majors and is working on that promise by getting in some extra work in the cages at Iowa whenever he can.
- The Cubs have named Low-A Myrtle Beach outfielder Ezequiel Pagán as the organization’s minor league player of the month for June, while High-A South Bend right-hander Daniel Palencia was named the club’s minor league pitcher of the month.
- ICYMI: Outfielder Nelson Velázquez hit his first major league home run and the booming fireworks came fittingly on the 4th of July.
- The Tennessee Smokies have announced that the organization will host the third Tennessee Smokies BeerFest presented by Waste Connections on Saturday, Aug. 6. The event will take place from 4-8pm ET and will feature many local breweries and their unique brews.
All four minor league affiliates were winners on Wednesday.
Iowa: The Cubs beat the Indianapolis Pirates 4-1 on Wednesday. Newcomb did not allow a hit or a run over 2.1 innings and he added four strikeouts. Steven Brault saw his first action of the season and earned the win. Catcher John Hicks broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth inning with a three-run home run, his eighth of the year.
Tennessee: The Smokies shut out the Birmingham Barons 8-0 thanks to stellar pitching performances by Riley Thompson, Samuel Reyes, Bailey Horn, and Jeremiah Estrada. The four combined to strike out 11 Birmingham batters.
South Bend: Starter Jordan Wicks was the star last night as the High-A Cubs dropped the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 3-0. Wicks struck out six batters in five innings and allowed only two hits and a single walk. Left fielder Yohendrick Pinango drove in all three runs including one on a fast-traveling solo home run.
Myrtle Beach: The Pelicans dropped the Columbia Fireflies 11-3 thanks to a big night by Pagán. The outfielder was 3-for-4 with a home run, four RBI, and two runs scored. Shortstop Kevin Made was 2-for-5 in the contest.
If you’re looking for some left-handed power, consider Tennessee’s Matt Mervis. The multipositional slugger blasted his 20th home run of the season (seven came at South Bend), and he has 23 doubles and a 1.012 OPS to boot.
It worked! Matt Mervis destroyed this ball at that fan’s beckoning. pic.twitter.com/COHU3d7gTv
— Brad (@ballskwok) July 7, 2022
950 Miles to Chicago
It’s always disappointing when a prospect loses a little of his luster, but when healthy, Davis is still the best in Chicago’s system. Being dropped to No. 30 by MLB Pipeline doesn’t change the fact that when healthy, he’s still a top 10 talent. Davis has the chance to be a dynamic two or three-hole hitter capable of blasting 25+ home runs with double-digit stolen bases. That said, he is injured a little more frequently and it looks like now that’s a stigma he’ll have to change or continue to carry.
Davis still needs to make his swing a tad more compact, but that can be said of most players at his level and with his amount of experience. For now, his quick hands and bat speed will make up for the length of his swing. I’m encouraged that he intends to play this year, I just hope that he isn’t rushing things. The Cubs are playing the long game with the outfielder, and Davis needs to understand that and play along. If you’re looking for something to drool on while waiting on his return, check out his career .371 OBP. I know it seems like Davis has been around forever, but he’s still got just 661 minor league at-bats under his belt.
Craft Beer of the Day
Summer Vice by Raised Grain Brewing Co. (Waukesha, WI) – I belong to a Craft Beer of the Month club, and sadly, three-fourths of this month’s selection came from Sprecher, a local brewery, and they weren’t even their best beers. So I ventured over to my nearest Piggly Wiggly and picked up a four-pack of Summer Vice, a much better local choice. I probably pronounce Hefeweizen incorrectly (I just say give me German wheat!), but I do like this amber beverage quite a bit. Other reviewers claim the brew has notes of bananas but I didn’t taste that. I got more of a citrus-clove mixture that made its head wonderfully aromatic. I paired it with some seared yellowfin over greens with a homemade wasabi vinaigrette and it was a perfect combination. Beer Advocate gives it an 85 but I’d go a little higher.
Children of the Corn
The World Baseball Classic is set to return in 2023, and though the featured performers usually come with big-league experience, there are always a few minor league players that tend to shine in the tournament.
I need to catch a game at Beloit this summer just to see their dancing bat boy.
- “I’m not going to legally change my name by any means, and personally, I don’t care what anybody calls me. I know it’s weird for people to look at me and call me a different name than they have been for however long they have been. I joked around and was telling my teammates up there like ‘Clint got DFAed, but Jackson didn’t.'” – Frazier
- “There’s a lot of lost time that needs to be made up. [Getting in extra work] is something that I’m probably going to do pretty often if I can just because I need to make sure I’m ready for every game. I don’t have time to sit around and hope it happens. I’ve got to make it happen.” – Frazier
Record label Rough Trade is generally considered the true birthplace of the indie music genre. They called the retail distribution arm of their company “The Cartel” and broke The Smiths back in 1984. The band’s debut album reached number two on the UK album charts that year.