Despite some good pitching up and down the minors, every team in the Cubs’ farm system is at least four games under .500. I expected Peoria and Tennessee in particular to be better than their records indicate, but the season is still young. Wins aside, there are a number of prospects putting themselves on the promotion radar or otherwise showing marked improvements in their games. With the first month of the season nearly in the books, I’m fairly happy with what I am seeing. The Chicago Cubs are struggling, but help is most definitely on the way.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 9 – 13
Another day, another pitching duel. There have been several of these in the Cubs’ farm system lately, and the Cubs’ farm teams seems to come up short more often than not. This game was no exception. Nashville scored late and won a 3-0 decision.

Chris Rusin pitched six good innings and left the game tied at zero. Rodrigo Lopez posted a scoreless seventh. Casey Coleman, pitching out of the bullpen after making a handful of starts, struggled. He allowed all three of the Sounds’ runs to cross the plate and was handed the loss.

Iowa managed a mere three hits in this game. Josh Vitters slugged a double, but that was the only extra base hit of the day. Anthony Rizzo reached base twice with a hit and a walk.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 10 – 14
Tennessee had plenty of chances to put the hurt to Jacksonville; most of those chances slipped away. The Smokies left nine ducks on the pond in this 6-4 loss.

Dallas Beeler started for the Smokies and was not terribly effective. We’ve seen better out of Beeler. He left after five with his first loss of the season. Casey Harman and Alberto Cabrera both allowed a run in relief, and in both cases the run was scored on a round tripper. There was one bright silver lining to this cloudy picture, however; the Smokies’ pitchers did not walk a single batter.

Meanwhile, the Smokies’ offense should feel like they could have won this game. With nine hits and five walks they had the opportunities to score some more runs, but it just didn’t happen.

Michael Burgess had a great day, going 2 for 4 with a double, a home run, and three batted in. Matthew Cerda‘s two hits included a double. Jae-Hoon Ha also had a nice day at the plate; he reached base three times on two hits and a walk. Justin Bour had two singles as well.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 7 – 15
Typically when a team sends four pitchers to the mound without any of them lasting three innings it is a bad sign. For Daytona, it was the formula for a 7-2 win.

Matt Loosen was the starting pitcher. In the third inning he handed the ball to Eduardo Figueroa, who earned the win. Firgueroa was perfect for two and a third innings before leaving the mound to Brian Schlitter. After two innings of his own, Schlitter gave way for Tony Zych in the final two innings. Combined the Cubs’ pitchers gave up just 2 runs on 5 hits with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts.

The Cubs took advantage of some Lakeland miscues in the first inning to score four unearned runs off the previously untouchable top pitching prospect Jacob Turner. Turner is now 0-1 on the season despite his glitter ERA of 0.00.

Szczur led the Cubs with one hit (a double), two runs scored, and his twelfth stolen base of the year. Before the start of the season, some internet writers (like me) had picked on Szczur for not using his speed to greater effect on the bases during the 2011 season. Since we aren’t even out of April yet and he already has twelve steals, let’s just say I think this particular area of his game is good shape.

Also having good days are the plate were two of the Cubs’ Cuban contingent. Rubi Silva was 2 for 4; he is now batting .338 this season. Elieser Bonne was 3 for 4 with a steal, his sixth of the year. Going 2 for 4, although not from Cuba, was shortstop Arismendy Alcantara. If Alcantara makes it to the major leagues, Pat Hughes will have a lot of fun discussing his name.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 9 – 14
Peoria scored three times in the first inning but could not hold that lead. They lost a close one 6-5.

Jose Rosario and Austin Reed combined to allow all six of Fort Wayne’s runs. Yao-Lin Wang was, once again, perfect in relief. If the Cubs decide to keep Wang in the bullpen, he should be high on the list of candidates for a mid-season promotion. If they move him back to the starting rotation he may be high on that list anyway.

Paul Hoilman and Eduardo Gonzalez both doubled and Taiwan Eastering had a two hit day. Other than that, the Chiefs’ spread their offense around. As a team they were a respectable 4 for 10 with runners in scoring position. On a lot of other days that would be have been good enough for a win. On this day, they fell just short.

  • Fishin Phil

    Luke, How far away do you think Chris Rusin is from the big team?

    • Brett

      I’m not Luke, but here’s Rusin’s problem: his upside is a decent 4th/5th starter, and his time-line is September or 2013. He’ll be ready. But the Cubs are *loaded* with 4th/5th starter types, and it’s hard to see Rusin beating them out if they’re all around next year. I also think the Cubs are going to be loading up on pitchers for the next several years, and he’s going to face a roster crunch. In terms of ability (not stuff), he’s a left-handed Casey Coleman. How easy is it to see Coleman in the rotation next year? It’s not. And that’s Rusin’s problem.

    • Brett

      That all said, maybe he could become a quality middle reliever (doesn’t seem to have the overpowering stuff to be a late-inning guy, or a LOOGY) or long reliever.

      • Luke

        On the other hand, he is left handed and is one of the few homegrown, high minors left handed starters in the system.  I wouldn’t rule him out as a fifth starter in 2013… or even later this year in the need arises.

        • Brett

          Definitely not ruling him out, and I agree that I expect this front office to prefer left-handed starters at Wrigley.

  • daveyrosello

    Szczur = Tony Campana with a bit better bat and a much stronger arm. He’s going to have to hit for some power though if he ever wants to be more than a 4th OF in the bigs. I agree with those that say Szczur has generally been overrated as a prospect by Cub fans.

    Rubi Silva is an interesting case, he was kind of dismissed by a lot of folks after last year, but I think he’s at least a marginal prospect, and perhaps more. Lord knows the Cubs don’t have a lot of other options at 2B right now in the system other than Torreyes (DeVoss is certain to get moved), so some promise from Silva is encouraging.

    Hardly a scientific data point, but my uncle has seen a couple of Chiefs games now and has come away impressed with Easterling. He might be a superior OF prospect to Szczur right now.

    • Luke

      Baseball America ranked Matt Szczur in the mid 60s among prospects in all of baseball. It isn’t just the Cubs who think highly of him.  Most prognosticators project him as a 15+ HR guy in the majors.  That’s plenty of power for a high OBP speed oriented center fielder.  He should be fine.

      I’d have to disagree that the Cubs are lacking in second base talent, as well. Watkins, DeVoss (who is showing improvement at second – he could easily stick), Torreyes, Silva (who I think is destined for the outfield), Amaya, and even Cardenas are all possibilities at second.  None of them may evolve into Hall of Fame players, but I think any one of them could push Barney to the bench.

      • Drew

        I agree with all of that Luke, except I’m not sure I’m ready to call Szczur an “high OBP CF’er”.

    • Drew

      Szczur=Campana with a bit bigger bat?

      -I’m not ready to label Szczur yet with one full MiLB season under his belt, but I don’t see that comparison. Both lack patience at the plate and both are fast, but thats where it stops for me.

      As you noted, Szczur has a much stronger arm, will probably end up a MUCH better OF’er, and has MUCH more pop. He may not be a can’t-miss guy yet, (or ever) and he may be over-hyped, but that comparison seems like a stretch.

    • JedTheoHoyerMacLloyd

      Your Uncle is impressed with Easterling and the holes in his game, considering he is a football player, like the other white dude?

      Gotta give credit to Theo, Jed, Mac, and Fleita. Soon enough, they will fill the entire minor league system with Latinos and get rid of all the white trash and ghetto boys.

      They know baseball. They know it so well the DR facility will blow away the rathole the Major Leaguers play in at Wrigley.

      Be patient. What’s 104 plus years………….and waiting?

      To the contrary, these clowns have no idea what a real baseball is.

      Ask Theo about Place?lol

      Bonne went 0-4 again, but the 45 year old nephew of O.F. should rebound enough to hit .195 in Daytona, and he has his arse covered by Perez. If these guys fail, then maybe more guys from the DSL will take their shot at it.

  • mark

    Szczur’s BA is slowly inching upwards (.221) from the Marlon Byrd levels (Cubs version, not BoSox) that he started the season with. Of note is that every one of his extra base hits has come in the last 10 games.

    Meanwhile, the Cubs’ other top OF prospect is hitting .233 at Iowa and was 0 fer 3 last night with 2 SOs. That has to be worrying for Cubs management.

    • Brett

      I can only assume that Jackson is pressing.

    • Drew

      Szczur’s walk rate is certainly encouraging so far this year (13 in 103 PA); at least one good thing to take away from a bad start.

      • Brett

        I’ll confess: I expected Szczur to tear up Daytona to start the year. He’ll still probably make Tennessee by later in the year, but I thought he’d be pushing for a promotion already.

        • Ryno G

          I did as well. But it’s not like he isn’t showing us some good things. I certainly didn’t expect him to walking or swiping bags this much. Hopefully the hitting is starting to come around. He also was hitting for quite a bit more power than people originally thought he would last season, so hopefully that comes with it.

  • cubs1967

    Jackson may not be what everyone thinks…….he does strike out way too much and has at every level; all the more reason Cespedes should of been signed; but Ricketts makes the McCaskey’s look like drunken sailors on a spending binge.

    • Brett

      Jackson’s existence had nothing to do with the Cubs’ failure to sign Cespedes. They made a healthy offer. The Athletics made a far superior offer that was fraught with risks the Cubs weren’t willing to take. I’m not ready to call the Cubs’ decision stupid after less than a month of Cespedes playing in the bigs.

      • Cubs1967

        i didn’t say it did…………the cubs have no OF prospects near major league ready but jackson and if he fails………then?? scuzur is highly overrated and it’s showing so far and neither of them are big HR guys.
        and the a’s offered 2 more year; not really far superior and besides this is suppose to be a new regime with team theo; didn’t we hear during the entire tribune regime how tried,, but just came in 2nd on a big time FA. time to land the big FA; 2nd place is for losers.

    • djriz

      The Ricketts WILL spend money when it will matters.

      Cespedes, if he wanted to, could probably been convinced to sign with the Cubs.

      • Njriv

        He could have easily signed with the Cubs, the Cubs offered him more money than the A’s did. What it came down to was the amount of years. Cespedes wanted a 4 or 8 year deal giving him the opportunity to get big money out of the gate or a chance for him to sign a bigger contract after the 4 years. The Cubs offered him 6, which seems reasonable for someone who said they were seeking a 4-8 year deal but not for Cespedes’ reasoning.

      • Cubs1967

        teams get built over time………not all at once. if there is a FA; get him; not when they are ready.