Cubs’ Minor League Daily: Iowa Today, Chicago Soon?

The goal of any farm system is to produce players for the major leagues. Player promotions, whether from Iowa to Chicago or from Peoria to Daytona, are a routine and necessary transaction in any farm system. The middle of May is when player movement often begins, and that date is fast approaching. There is a lot of baseball to be played in the near future, but already a few candidates for early promotion are emerging at all levels of the farm system. Tracking these trends will be an ongoing story over the next couple of weeks.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 5 – 3
Chris Rusin opened the game with seven good innings, and Manuel Corpas joined Scott Maine in closing out an 8-2 Iowa win.

Rusin only collected one strikeout in Thursday’s game, but he still got the win by keeping the Isotopes off the bases. Only eight men reached in Rusin’s seven innings of work. Any time an Iowa starter can hold his opponents to just two runs, the Cubs’ Triple A club is going to have a very good chance of winning.

Dave Sappelt drove in three runs on a base hit and a solo home run. Ty Wright and Josh Vitters each added a double to the cause as Iowa collected 14 hits and left only seven on base.

Anthony Rizzo added more fuel the call-up fire with his three hit performance. On the one hand, the Cubs can keep him in the minors until July and try to give themselves an extra year of control. On the other hand, Rizzo’s bat and glove would both be welcome on a major league team that has trouble scoring runs and has lost some close games. The Cubs do not want to rush their leading first base prospect, but like Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, he is looking very comfortable in Triple A. If that continue into late May and early June, the Cubs may find themselves with a roster full of interesting decisions.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 4 – 4
Dallas Beeler gave up just three hits in six innings of work, but the Tennessee batters could not put together enough runs for the win. The Smokies lost this game 4-1.

Once again, the starting pitcher did not amass flashy strikeout numbers; he just kept the other team off the bases. This has been the hallmark of a number of games across the farm system this season, and it could be interpreted two ways. It could be that the Cub pitchers are just not good enough to consistently strike batters out, or it could be that the new Cubs’ front office is instructing their young pitchers to get hitters out in the most efficient way possible. We’ll keep an eye on these trends over the course of the season.

Elliot Soto raised his batting average to .389 with a three hit game. Michael Burgess collected two more hits, but only catcher Michael Brenly was able to cross the plate. The Smokies were just 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left eleven on base.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 1 – 6
Daytona finally put an end to their horrific streak of multi-error games. The Cubs’ one error qualifies as their best defensive performance in days. Unfortunately, the offense could not collect enough hits and Daytona lost 5-4.

That Daytona scored even four runs was impressive given that they only managed five hits all night. However, they did walk eight times and left ten men on base. Only Richard Jones had a multi-hit night, but thanks to the frequent walks both Elieser Bonne and John Andreoli reached base twice.

I think the pitching has been good enough for Daytona to have a much better record this season. If they can clean up their defensive issues and find a way to score just a few more runs, this is a team that could go on an extended winning streak. Even though their record is depressing, I think Daytona as a team is better than that record indicates.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 3 – 4
Catcher Rafael Lopez had another big game at the plate, but the Peoria Chiefs came up a bit short, losing to Wisconsin 4-2.

Patrick Francescon did not repeat the strikeout-rich performance from his previous start, but he did continue the trend of the day and kept the runners off the bases. He allowed three runs to score (two on home runs), and that was enough to take the loss. Austin Reed was effective in two plus innings of relief.

At the plate, Peoria managed just six hit against ten strikeouts. Other than Lopez, none of the Chiefs had a statistically good day. It is not uncommon for very young professional teams to have trouble scoring runs on the road, so the lack of offense out of Peoria is not entirely unexpected. It will interesting to see how promising players like Reggie Golden and Pin-Chieh Chen make the necessary hitting adjustments as the season progresses.

If you are a subscriber to MiLB.TV, you can see Peoria play during their series with Wisconsin. The only time you can watch the Cubs’ Low A team via the online streaming service is during their road games in Wisconsin, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity while it exists.

Luke Blaize is the Minor League Editor at Bleacher Nation. He can be found on Twitter as ltblaize.

43 responses to “Cubs’ Minor League Daily: Iowa Today, Chicago Soon?”

  1. ETS

    My thoughts from the game

    Vitters saw 3 pitches through his first 2 at bats. Take that for what it’s worth.

    Rusin has a good move and picked someone off first.

    Sappelt and Rizzo both looked very good at the plate.

    1. Brett

      Good stuff, ETS. Thanks for passing that on.

  2. ETS

    Rizzo plays so far from the line. I know Sveum is a believer in not playing to close to the line on either side of the field. Is this something the cubs are doing at all levels? Part of the “Cubs Way” perhaps?

    1. Njriv

      I think thats more of confidence in his range.

  3. florida Al

    gunna try and catch daytona either this saturday or monday in dunedin..

  4. Norm

    Reggie Golden got hurt rounding first base in the 9th inning and couldn’t put any weight on his leg, was helped off the field…don’t know any more, but that doesn’t sound too good.

    1. ShootTheGoat

      No, it doesn’t.  Hopefully, whatever it was, he can bounce back quickly..

  5. ShootTheGoat

    Hayden Simpson was not mentioned with the Daytona wrap… I think he had another good outing considering where he was in his baseball career just a year ago.  Hope he can keep it up!! (5-2/3;7 hits;3ER;1BB;1SO;1HR) Like I said, not bad considering.

    1. MikeW

      Had a buddy who was there. Said his velocity was again non-existent. That velocity needs to come WAY back or he’s just a non-prospect. At this point i’m completely writing him off.

      1. ShootTheGoat

        Not saying he’s a top prospect. Just saying compared to last year at this time, He’s come a LONG way.  Last year, he wasn’t even lasting an inning or two, and he was getting shelled for ungodly ER’s which in turn had him demoted 1-2 times till he was just working out at the cubs complex in Arizona (I think). Let’s just say last year was a nightmare. I’m sure hoping he can get his velocity back as well.

  6. Cedlandrum

    I have doubted your like for Elliot Soto Luke. I may be swayed if he can show he can hit consistently, because we know he has great hands and can move at SS. Hope he can keep it up. Even if he only hits in the 285-295 range that would be great value for him because of how good he is with the glove.

  7. JasonB

    “The Cubs do not want to rush their leading first base prospect, but like Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, [Anthony Rizzo] is looking very comfortable in Triple A.”

    No offense Luke because I think you do great work, but I don’t agree with this statement.  While Rizzo is handling AAA pitching with ease right now, I would not argue the same for Jackson or Vitters.  Jackson’s contact rate is still below 70% and that rate would only get worse if he is called up now.  He needs to dramatically cut down on the Ks before he is ready (I’ll continue to argue that the contact rate needs to be >75% for a prolonged period of time before he is promoted).

    And while Vitters is hitting for a high BA and showing some surprising patience, where’s the power?  Is he sacrificing power for patience?  A punch and judy 3B is not what the big club needs and he needs to put the combination together before he is ready IMO.  Rizzo’s early season performance is the only one of these three that is worthy of a major league call-up.

    Sorry for the rant, and like I said, I think you do great work, but the Wittemeyers and Sullivans are soon going to start fanning these flames so I think we’re going to need voices of reason before fans grow too impatient.  This FO should be given the opportunity to move these kids at what they believe is the right pace without lynch mobs forming.

    1. ShootTheGoat

      (Vitters) Would you rather him be batting .220 or .230 with 1-2 homeruns (showing power), or be batting over .400 (hitting what they give him).  Hitters that have gap to gap power, if patient, will always get their share of HR’s…Just my opinion.

      1. KCubsfan

        Its not like Vitters was ever projected to be 35 Hr guy. He was projected to be a 300 with 25HR guy. So him not hitting a HR yet isnt a big deal.

        1. ShootTheGoat

          Couldn’t have said it any better.. Tried to, but failed…LOL

          1. JasonB

            Looks like two people have the pitchforks out already

            1) Vitters won’t hit .400 all year – to say he’s lucky right now is an understatement to say the least

            2) He isn’t even showing gap power – he has one extra base hit this year and an IsoP of .042 (in the PCL no less).  With that IsoP, he makes Ryan Theriot look like Babe Ruth.

            1. Kyle

              Don’t focus on the box score stats. Look at the peripherals.

              3 BB and 2 K in 28 plate appearances is an excellent start against advanced pitching.

              He’s as likely to have an iSOD .058 all year as he is to hit .450. Neither of those things are going to happen, so it’s silly to focus on either. You can’t proclaim one as pointless luck and then use the other as evidence of some sort of trend.

              But the consistent contact and flashes of patience are both very positive signs.

              1. JasonB

                “But the consistent contact and flashes of patience are both very positive signs.”

                I agree, as stated in a post below, but you’re missing my point.  Luke is suggesting that he is ready right now (I want to all caps this but also don’t want to be one of those guys) and I am saying that he isn’t and have laid out plenty of evidence as to why that’s the case.  Improved patience is nice but until he can demonstrate that along with power, it means nothing.  It could be SSS, it could be a different approach – the latter is the one that I’m keeping an eye out for.

            2. Mrp

              I’ve been watching most of the Iowa games and most of Vitters’ hits are not cheap. He is hitting frozen ropes on most of his at bats right now. They just aren’t finding the gaps quite yet. I’m not willing to say he is ready to be called up at this point (mainly because of his defense) but don’t tell me he is just getting lucky right now. The guy is locked in at the plate.

              1. JasonB

                Good to know – numbers obviously don’t tell you things like that.

                But I don’t care how good of a hitter you are – a .500 BABIP is unsustainable so nobody can say that he isn’t getting lucky right now.  Ty Cobb had the 2nd highest BABIP in the history of baseball at .378.  Do you really think Josh Vitters is 122 points better than Ty Cobb?  Perhaps my argument is cemantical as he would still be hitting well without the inflated BABIP, but nevertheless, it’s still true.

                1. SirCub

                  Just cause it isn’t sustainable doesn’t mean he is getting lucky. He might just be in a groove.

                  1. Mrp

                    Yeah, that was my point. I understand that he isn’t going to keep this up, but he sure as hell isn’t getting lucky right now. The kid is hitting laser beams.

    2. Kyle

      You’re trying to hard to parse the stats.

      Vitters has been making consistent, solid contact against the most difficult level of pitching he’s ever faced. That’s plenty to be excited about.

      1. JasonB

        And there’s a third

        What facts am I trying to parse?  Vitters is showing zero power and that’s a fact – he has a .042 IsoP.  If he were making “solid contact” as you suggest, don’t you think he’d have more than one extra base hit?  How is that parsing facts?  And his BABIP is currently .500 while prior to this year, he has a BABIP closer to .300 – do you really think his current BABIP is sustainable?

        I’m encouraged by his start but Luke is implying that Josh Vitters is ready for MLB and that simply is not true – he needs to show much more.  Corner infielders with questionable defense are not singles hitters in the show.

        As for Jackson, ask any baseball person with a half a brain if they would promote their top prosepct if he had a contact rate less than 70%.

        1. Kyle

          Sorry, I missed the context.

          In the context of “is Vitters ready for MLB,” well, of course not. Especially not because of his start.

          Like I said in the other post: the .058 SLG is just as much of a small-sample fluke as the .450 BA is. You can’t put aside one as a fluke and put up the other as something to be noticed. Like I said, the most encouraging stats for me in this sample are the K/BB ratio. 2 Ks and 3 BB in 28 at-bats is a fantastic pace, and those sorts of peripherals are less prone to sample-size fluctuations than slash stats.

          How close is Vitters to the majors? Closer than most people think, imo, But I don’t think that because of his hot start. I think that because:

          1) The standard for being an acceptable MLB 3b is pretty low right now. If Vitters could do something like 270/300/400 right now, that’d be a heckuva lot better than what we’re going to get out of our actual 3b this season.
          2) His MLEs in AA weren’t as bad as people think. The SL a pitcher’s league.
          3) I think a bit more of his defense than a lot of people. It’s not as good as it needs to be, but he’s not a complete butcher either.

          I’m a lot more worried about Jackson than Vitters, to be honest, though partially that’s because Jackson comes with higher expectations. His position and glove will give him a big fallback in the big leagues, but I don’t think it’s nearly as certain that he’s going to hit at the big-league level as some Cubs fans would like to believe.

          1. JasonB

            “2 Ks and 3 BB in 28 at-bats is a fantastic pace, and those sorts of peripherals are less prone to sample-size fluctuations than slash stats.”

            He’s always flashed the contact and the walks are nice.  I won’t be convinced that he can do both the patience thing and the power thing until he shows it though because he still hasn’t shown he can do both in tandem.  My concern right now is that he has a different approach (trading power for patience) and if that’s the case, then I don’t know if his new skill set makes him any better of a hitter than the free swinger we saw earlier in his career.

            But I agree with your basic premise and am as excited about Vitters right now as I have been in the last couple of years.  Just have to see how it plays out.  Obviously, my hope is that he puts it all together because that’s a good thing for the Cubs.

  8. Spencer

    The whole “extra year” thing is a bit of a misnomer. If they wait til July, the “extra is just July through the end of the season. Its like an extra two months.

    1. Brett

      Hey, that’s what I said. :)

      The caveat, though, is that the year at the end of control would be an additional “peak” year for most players, so there’s still value in doing it, even if the “extra” time you’re really netting is the few months in the first year.

      1. Spencer

        I’m only slightly sorry for plagiarizing your words haha. Again, good meeting you yesterday – I had a great time.

        1. Brett

          Likewise and likewise.

  9. Norm

    Actually none of their performances are worthy of a call up because it’s only 35 plate app’s…

  10. mark

    In defense of Vitters, he’s at AAA to change his hitting game–to become more selective. So far in the limited number of ABs he has done that. In 24 ABs he has 3 BBs but still only 2 SOs. If he can build up confidence that taking a few pitches won’t lead to strikeouts (see Sveum’s recent remarks about taking pitches), the power may come back. No one doubts that he has some power. So far it’s a very promising start for Vitters–he’s progressing at what he’s supposed to be working on. The fact that in his first 2 of 4 at bats he only took 3 pitches–on a night that he was 2 fer 4 with a 2B and an RBI–should bother no one. Overall, it’s progress. He’s also hitting very well with runners on/in scoring position.

    Re Rizzo, his 7 SOs may be a bit concerning. We already knew he could rake AAA pitching, but he had a rough attempt at a transition to the MLB level. Same with Jackson. He’s still striking out a lot.

    1. die hard

      way too soon for any call-ups….let them prove selves over entire season as Cubs arent going anywhere anyway..no sense to ruin their careers by early debut

  11. mark

    Norm, I agree. They all have things to work on, things to prove, and it’s too soon to tell.

  12. Webb

    Any update on Junior Lake’s progress? I think he is one of the more intriguing prospects in the system. Remember, Hunter Pence plays an “ugly” game too.

  13. djriz

    ON:

    VITTERS-would we prefer him to be hitting a buck eighty? Always rather have a good start than bad, right? Nothing more than that. Could he fill in for Stewart now if need be? Maybe. Is he ready for the show? Probably not?

    JACKSON-does he strike out too much? Sure. But when he does hit it, he hits it hard. Does anyone have a list of very productive players with lots of strikeouts? He would be better than Byrd right now, but why rush it?

    RIZZO-most ready of group, but at this point LaHair has done nothing to warrant getting demoted for. Let’s enjoy him tearing up triple A.

    We all knew what we had, we all know what the plan is, so let’s not get all wiggy after a week. Besides, to be playoff viable in 2014/15, we need 2 of the above three to become starts (it would be nice if the other was an above avg. player), so their development is the priority.

    SO-dream big things, but it’s only been a week!

  14. JulioZuleta

    In more not-so-good news I read Maples is injured and won’t throw until June.

    1. Brett

      I knew he was dealing with some issues, but yikes. Then again, he was going to start out at Boise anyway (at most), and they don’t start until June.

      1. MikeW

        right but i’d say any chance of him going to Boise is eliminated if he doesnt throw til June. That’s not good. Lets cross our fingers.

  15. Tony

    Great work on these write ups. I like it if Vitters is sacrificing power for patience. This is a make or break season. He had a good season last year but we need to see him take that next step forward. I like him as a LF in the future. I think Baez will ultimately move to 3B. Any word on how Trey Mcnutt is faring? He had blister issues which hampered his development last year so I’m hoping for a strong rebound. He’s got some good potential if he can get the finger issues out of the way. Luke, great work on these articles. These generate a great deal of debates and informative talks. With 14 minor league roster spots on my fantasy team I take all the info I can.

    1. Kyle

      McNutt I don’t believe has allowed a run yet, in two starts totalling about 7 innings combined. He’s getting Ks and not getting hit, but he’s having a bit of a walk problem.

  16. Kyle

    Rizzo has home runs Nos. 4 and 5 already tonight in Iowa. He’s just destroying the PCL right now.

    1. Mrp

      Yeah they certainly weren’t cheap either. Jackson and Castillo also went deep. Pretty good day for the Cubs org overall.