Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

On Tuesday bats erupted all around the Cubs farm system; hits and runs were plentiful.

On Wednesday, the bats fell silent. Tennessee, Daytona, and Peoria all managed just one run each. All three teams lost. Iowa fared better in California, but even their performance did not quite match the onslaught of the day before.

One bat that will not go silent belongs to Peoria’s first baseman Paul Hoilman. He extended his hitting streak to 22 games and now stands alone in Chiefs’ record books.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 13 – 19
Iowa scored six times in the eighth to take a commanding lead, but the bullpen could not hold it. The Cubs lost 8-7.

This was a starter-by-committee night for the Cubs. Rodrigo Lopez and Frankie De La Cruz both pitched three pretty good innings to open the game. Jeff Beliveau followed followed with a perfect seventh inning, and the Cubs entered the eighth trailing just 2-1. After the bats exploded for six runs in that innings, Frank Batista gave up a hit apiece to the only three batters he faced to put the Cubs in a serious jam. Scott Maine came on to finish what Batista started, and then allowed three more runs to score in the ninth. Maine received his first loss and his first blown save of the season.

This may sound a bit strange, but I like to see prospects struggle for a time in the minors. Every player is going to struggle at some point, and how a player responds to those struggles can tell us a great deal about that player and their likelihood of success. For the first time in quite some time, Frank Batista is struggling. Triple A hitters may have figured out how to hit the guy that dominated High A and Double A as a closer. Now it’s Batista’s turn. The league adapted to him so he has to make the adjustments and adapt to the league. It will be interesting to see how successful he is at that task and how long it takes him to pull it off.

Anthony Rizzo and Jonathan Mota both homered for the Cubs (that’s ten for Rizzo), and Luis Valbeuno and Blake Lalli both added doubles. Combined, the Cubs scored their seven runs on only nine hits and were three for eleven with runners in scoring position.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 14 – 20
The Tennessee Smokies were held to four hits on their way to a 4-1 loss.

Dallas Beeler threw more than ninety pitches, but he could not make it out of the fifth inning. Casey Harman pitched two and a third innings of hitless relief, and Alberto Cabrera was almost perfect in the eighth (he allowed a solo home run).

Michael Burgess singled and Matthew Cerda walked twice and scored the Smokies’ first and only run on a throwing error, but the best day belonged to Logan Watkins. Watkins was the lone man on the roster who had a good day at the plate as he went three for four with a double and stole his sixth base of the season.

Watkins is increasingly looking like a future option for the Cubs at second base. His strikeout rate is a little elevated (18.7%), but that’s not bad at all given his walk rate (10.4%) and his OBP of .363. Primarily a speed threat, he does have more power than one might expect (2 HR and 3 Triples this season). Defensively he is probably the best second baseman the Cubs have in the minors right now. His .766 OPS may not look that impressive, but when you consider that he is only 22 and that the Southern League average OPS is just .702, it looks quite a bit better. Now that Adrian Cardenas is in Chicago, there is no one blocking Watkins from a promotion to Iowa. I don’t expect that to happen quite yet, but if we get into the first of June and Watkins is still performing well, I think it becomes a distinct possibility. Regardless, he should be part of the second base conversation in spring training next year. A 2013 Chicago infield of Stewart, Castro, Watkins, and Rizzo would not only be one of the youngest in baseball, it might also be the best defensive infield in the league.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 12 – 21
Daytona’s brief winning streak came to a halt on Wednesday. They lost on the road 5-1.

Zach Cates allowed four runs in five innings and earned his fifth loss of the season. He is still looking for his first win in a Cubs uniform. Knuckleballer Joseph Zeller had another good outing in relief, pitching two innings of no hit ball. Scott Weismann allowed one run to score in his inning of work to finish the game.

Arismendy Alcantara was two for four with a double, and that’s pretty much it. Those were the only two hits on the night for Daytona. Matthew Szczur reached on a walk in the eighth, and then scored from first on a fielding error for the Cubs’ lone run of the game.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 13 – 20
Peoria had their chances to score some extra runs in this game, but only one Chief crossed the plate. Peoria lost a well pitched game 2-1.

Kyler Burke pitched into the seventh inning and had a pretty good day. He allowed both runs to score on six hits and one walk. On many days that would have been good enough to win, but on this day it resulted in his second loss. Austin Reed pitched the remainder of the game in scoreless fashion.

Paul Hoilman led the Chiefs with two hits, including a triple. Outfielders Taiwan Easterling and Oliver Zapata also had two hits in the game. Easterling and Wes Darvill collected Peoria’s only two doubles. Despite the nine hits, the Cheifs’ frustrated their own offense by not drawing a single walk and by going without a hit in four chances with runners in scoring position.

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