I had a reader send me a question on Twitter yesterday (you did know you can follow me on Twitter, right?) that I had to stop and think about for a bit. The question, from @dougwilsoncpa, was this: “In your opinion, who are the top 3 “upside” starters in the system?”.

The first two are easy: Dillon Maples and Trey McNutt. We can rank those two in either order, but they are going to be the top two upside starters in the farm system.

But what about the third guy? If I allowed draft picks, it would probably be Pierce Johnson. There are some concerns about his mechanics, but he has No 2 starter potential. He hasn’t signed yet, though, so he’s out.

The Cubs have a lot of potential No 3 or lower starters in the minors, and they come in all varieties. They have the crafty lefty in Chris Rusin, the nasty curve ball in Robert Whitenack, the durable workhorse in Dallas Beeler, the inconsistent strikeout artist in P.J. Francescon, and at least a half a dozen more besides. I could make a great case for Michael Jenson, or Dae-Eun Rhee, or even Austin Kirk. By the end of the season some of these guys will have separated themselves, but for now we are practically splitting hairs.

So, out of that pool, who has the most upside and joins Maples and McNutt in the top three? I’m going out on a limb a bit and taking Jose Rosario. He is raw, inconsistent, and has a lot of developing to do, but when he has it all together he can look brilliant. I think both his fastball and slider can be plus pitches; if he can polish off a decent change up he’ll have the arsenal he needs to be a legitimate No 2/3 starting pitching prospect.

Questions and comments about the farm system are always welcome, but be warned. You too could have your questions turned into the opening of a Minor League Daily Report. In addition to Twitter and the comments section below, you can always drop a line in the Minor Leagues and Prospects section of the Message Boards. If you’ve asked about something in the comments in the past and have not gotten a reply, post your question in Luke’s Corner so I’ll be sure to see it. Don’t have a Message Board account yet? This might be a good day to start one.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 27 – 34
The Iowa Cubs split a doubleheader at home against Nashville on Friday. The bats showed up for their 5-4 win in the opener, but fell silent as the Cubs were shut out 6-0 in Game Two.

Rodrigo Lopez struck out six in his six innings of work in the opener, but it was Mike MacDougal who got the win for pitching a scoreless seventh. Ryan Rowland-Smith started Game Two and pitched well, but he only lasted four innings and took the loss. Michael Bowden, making his Iowa debut, took the brunt of the damage as he allowed three runs to score in just a third of an inning. Catcher Juan Apodaca pitched the final inning. Despite walking three, he only gave up one run. That’s not bad for a catcher.

Anthony Rizzo and Luis Valbuena both hit home runs in Game One of the twin bill. They also, along with Josh Vitters and Ty Wright, had two hits each. Vitters, Valbuena, and Wright all doubled for the Cubs who were a solid 4 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

Game Two did not go so well. Rowland-Smith helped his own cause with a double, but was left stranded. Dave Sappelt and Brett Jackson also doubled, Jackson as part of a two hit night.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 29 – 33
Tennessee won their fifth straight game by a final of 4-3.

Nick Struck allowed three runs in the fifth, but otherwise he put up zeroes in his six innings of work. Marcus Hatley struck out three in two innings of relief, and Kevin Rhoderick did best Marmol impression with a three walk save.

Wellington Castillo, now rehabbing in Tennessee, started this game at first base. He went 2 for 3 with a two run homer. Logan Watkins also had two hits in the game, and stole two bases as well. He now has 11 steals this season.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 27 – 32
Daytona split a doubleheader of their own last night. The won Game One 3-2, but fell in the nightcap 4-3.

Robert Whtitenack pitched the first two innings of the first game and allowed one run on three hits. Hayden Simpson took over for another two innings and allowed another run on two hits for the win. A.J. Morris threw two perfect innings, and Tony Zych breezed through the seventh for his fifth save.

In Game Two, P.J. Francescon strick out six in five innings of work, but he also allowed three runs on eight hits. Jeffrey Lorick pitched the final two frames and took the loss.

Greg Rohan led all Cub hitters in Game One with both a double and a home run. Taylor Davis and Micah Gibbs (both sometimes catchers) each had a stolen base in the game. I have no idea why Daytona has suddenly decided to have their catchers stealing bases, but I like it.

In Game Two, Rohan again had two hits, as did Ronald Torreyes. Arismendy Alcantara added three hits of his own. Elieser Bonne stole his eleventh base of the season, and Alcantara stole his fifteenth.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 29 – 32
Not only did the Chiefs complete a sweep of Cedar Rapids, they did so while setting a franchise record for consecutive shutout innings. Peoria’s pitching gave up no runs in over 29 innings as they absolutely dominated this series. Including their 4-2 win on Friday, the Chiefs have surged to within three games of .500.

Jose Rosario was not quite as good in this start as he had been in his past two games, but two runs and four strikeouts over six innings is not a bad day on the mound. He won his fifth game of the season. Sheldon McDonald had another impressive performance, striking out three in two innings of relief, and Yao-Lin Wang nailed down the ninth for his seventh save.

Anthony Giansanti (in left field for this game) led the team with three hits. Pin-Chieh Chen and Yaniel Cabezas both had two hits each, including a double for Chen. Wes Darvil added a triple. Chen and Oliver Zapata both had a stolen base in the game; that make ten for Chen and eight for Zapata.



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