Anthony Rizzo has gone to big leagues, and the privilege of chronicling his potential greatness now lies with Brett. So, now that all Pacific Coast League pitchers are breathing a tremendous sigh of relief, who is the next significant Cub prospect we can look forward to making the jump?

Before the season started I expected the answer to that question, when it came up, would be Brett Jackson. Then Brett Jackson began his improbable run of hitting productively while whiffing at a huge rate. With Jackson delayed while he works out his strikeouts, Josh Vitters is likely to be the next man up. Unless Iowa goes on improbable run and makes the playoffs, I think we can expect to see Vitters in Chicago in early September. He will also likely get a long look in spring training and could be the starting third baseman out of camp.

After Vitters things become much harder to decipher. There are some pitchers that could come up at any time (Jeff Beliveau and Chris Rusin among them), but no one likely to generate much fan excitement. The next player with that potential is probably Junior Lake. He too could be up in September for a cup of coffee, but he is not likely to stick in the majors until late 2013 or early 2014. He is still in need of a lot of polishing before that day comes.

This could all change very quickly, though. July is almost on us and trades could be coming down literally any day now. I would not be surprised if the next prospect to generate Rizzo-like excitement for the Cubs arrives sooner than we think and is not currently in the farm system.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – Anthony Rizzo was not on the roster, and the Iowa Cubs lost 3-1. Coincidence?
Tennessee – The Smokies hit four home runs in their 11-6 win.
Daytona – The Cubs played another extra inning contest with the Mets, but this time they lost 4-3 in twelve.
Peoria – This game went into the tenth, but Peoria made sure it would go no further. The Chiefs won 7-2.
Boise – The hitters didn’t hit and the Hawks didn’t win. Boise lost 3-1.
Arizona – The Cubs had ten hits, but they had trouble turning those hits into runs as they lost 9-4.

Performances of the Day

  • [Iowa] After his single in this game, Josh Vitters has a nine game hitting streak. In that span he has three home runs, three doubles, and just six strikeouts.
  • [Iowa] Ryan Rowland-Smith and Michael Bowden were both effective out of the pen. Rowland-Smith pitched three scoreless innings and gave up two hits while striking out two. Bowden threw the final inning in hit-less fashion, striking out one.
  • [Tennessee] Michael Burgess was the star in this one. He was 3 for 3 with a two home runs, three RBI, four runs scored, and a walk. For the season Burgress now has eight long balls.
  • [Tennessee] Michael Brenly also had a great game. He was 3 for 4 with a double, three runs scored, and his second home run of the season.
  • [Tennessee] And that’s not all. Jae-Hoon Ha hit a three run homer, his third of the season.
  • [Tennessee] Logan Watkins was 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, and his 14th steal.
  • [Tennessee] The final two innings were pitched by Frank Batista, and once again he was nearly flawless. The right hander allowed one hit and struck out three as he earned his 12th save.
  • [Daytona] Elieser Bonne had a three hit game that included a double. Rebel Ridling also had two hits. Arismendy Alcantara had just one hit in six at bats, but it was good for three bases.
  • [Daytona] John Andreoli might have had the best game of the day for Daytona. He went 2 for 4 with a walk and a strike out, stole his 25th base of the season, and had two outfield assists, including one at home.
  • [Peoria] Pin-Chieh Chen hit his fifth triple as part of a two hit night. Along with Paul Hoilman‘s double, those were the only extra base hits for the Cheifs.
  • [Peoria] Starling Peralta tossed seven innings, allowing two runs on eight hits while striking out three. The win, however, went to converted outfielder Matthew Spencer. Spencer, recently promoted from Boise, struck out three in his two hitless innings of work.
  • [Boise] James Pugliese put up solid numbers, except in the walks category, with four and two thirds innings in which he allowed two runs on three hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
  • [Arizona] Daniel Vogelbach was 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a strikeout in this one. Trey Martin also had a good game with three hits, including a double.
  • [Arizona] Bijan Rademacher has begun playing for Arizona, and the early results from the 2012 draftee are good. Through two games he has two hits, a double and a home run.
  • [Arizona] The Cubs used a lot of pitchers in the desert yesterday, but the standout performance goes to Ethan Elias. In three innings of relieve he allowed two hits and no runs while striking out two.

Other Minor League Notes

  • Nick Struck was not particularly good yesterday, but he pitched well enough to collect his league leading ninth win. Effective but not particularly good might be the best way to describe the young right hander. In 89 innings this season Struck has an ERA of 3.74 and an opponents batting average of .242. He has 72 strikeouts against 30 walks. Those numbers are good, but they aren’t the sort of number you’d expect to see from a guy who leads the league in wins. They also are not the numbers you’d expect from the guy who is third in the league in home runs allowed. On the other hand, wins are one of the most meaningless stats we can use to evaluate a pitcher. I think the lesson to take away on Struck is that he is a guy who can consistently keep his team in the game. He probably won’t win the game himself, but he probably won’t lose it himself either. If he can keep that track record going, he could stick around baseball a long time as a fifth starter type.
  • Hayden Simpson had another effective game (three and a third innings, one run on two hits, one walk, four strikeouts), but the goal with Simpson now is just to throw strikes while working to get his velocity back. The results in Boise should be pretty good, but I don’t think those results are especially meaningful at this point.

Farm System Standings

AAAIowa Cubs : 33 – 46.
Pacific Coast League American Northern Division – Second Place: 16.0 Games Behind.

AATennessee Smokies : 3-3
Southern League North Division – Second Place : 0.5 Game Behind

High ADaytona Cubs : 4-2
Florida State League North Division – Second Place (tie) : 0.5 Games Behind

Low APeoria Chiefs : 3-2
Midwest League Eastern Division – Second Place : 1.0 Game Behind

Short-Season ABoise Hawks : 4 – 8
Northwest League East Division – Second Place : 2.0 Games Behind

Rookie LeagueAZL Cubs : 4 – 2
Arizona Rookie League East – Second Place : 2.0 Games Behind

  • ETS

    What are the odds Jay Jackson is the one after vitters? If you ignore his starting split, and only looked at his relief numbers, you’d think he was ready.

    Much of this depends on who all gets traded but if Garza, Demp, Lahair, Barney, Sori, etc, are all on the block there could be several holes to fill for half a season.

  • Leroy K.

    what do you mean Life after Rizzo? There’s more of them down there??? J/K Here’s to our next big wonder, wherever you are….

  • ETS

    Anyone have an idea of what Simpson’s velocity was at in this last start? Is he progressing?

    • Jp

      Second that ETS, I wondered that after his last outing. Is he at least in the low 90’s?

    • Luke

      According to the Boise radio guys’ Twitter feed, he was only hitting 85 last night.  I believe he was hitting 90 with Daytona on more than on occasion.

      As frustrating as this is becoming for Cub fans, there is no real sign yet that the Cubs don’t think he can ever get his velocity back up.  They almost seem to be handling him more like an injury rehab than anything.

  • Brandon – AA Correspondent

    Junior Lake needs a LOT more work in AA…..he simply cannot hit the curve ball. Why some of these pitchers continue to challenge him with fastballs is beyond belief because he gets himself out almost every time on anything off speed. I have a great picture from last night that I will send to Luke and Brett….maybe they can post it. Trust me….this guy is NOT ready.


    • Brandon – AA Correspondent

      Mike Burgess can be a stud. Defensively, he is as good as anyone out there. Offensivley, he has lots of power, but has been inconsistant. I think playing time, and a rotation in the outfield has affected him. I believe we are going to see more of him in the 2nd half. In my opinion, he can (and should) be the most feared batter in the smokies lineup. It has not happened yet, but I believe that day is coming. I think Mike Burgess is someone to watch. Trust me…..I see him every day at Smokies park. The dude is a stud.

  • Frank

    I was a big fan of getting Michael Burgess in return for Tom Gorzalanny, but disappointed last season. After a hot start to the season, he fizzled but has really stabilized the past few weeks and I’m hoping that he can be a solid 4th outfielder in the future.

    • Norm

      Burgess one of the most interesting players for me.
      In 2008, he struck out in nearly 30% of his PA.
      This year, it’s down to about 16%. But his power is a career low.
      If he can put it all together; the low K rate, the 20+ homer power, I think he can be a solid player.

      • Luke

        I really like that he dropped the K% rate while at the same time advancing to Double A.

  • Jonski

    It got lost in all the Rizzo hype ,but I post last night that mlb trade rumors .com reported Yasil Puig has been declared a free agent…scared to think what he might sign for!

    • Luke

      It might not be that much.  It is tough to find anyone other than his agent who is really that impressed with him.  Goldstein commented on him on Twitter last night: big body, raw power, serious questions about his ability to hit.

      Contrast with Soler who was drawing some praise for his plate discipline and pitch recognition along with his power, and I think Puis might not sign a contract in that category.  I still hope the Cubs can land him, though.  The more talent the better, and if just one of them hits he makes all the signings worth it.

      • Jonski

        Well I didn’t realize that maybe Theo will pass.

  • Brandon – AA Correspondent

    Well the Smokies returned home to Smokies Park (escaping Tropical Storm Debbie) and did not disappooint. As noted above, Nick Struck was not great; but was good enough to win. The early defining moment was an inning ending double play in the first where with the bases loaded, Nick Struck took a liner off his wrist which knocked his glove off…he had the presence of mind to find the ball; fire it home for 1 and Brenly fired to first to complete the inning ending double play. The boys were fired up and did not look back.

    Mike Burgess went deep twice. The first one was a towering fly ball that found the jet stream and carried into the right field berm. The second one was a bomb. I have been rooting hard for this guy all season, and am hoping that this is the beginning of a breakout 2nd half. Brenly has been swinging a hot bat as of late, and seems to be findng his stroke. He followed Burgess’ HR with one of his own. Early in the season, Brenly was anything but reliable. Now…..he is delivering. Jae-Hoon Ha hit a line drive missile over the left center field fence which hopefully will be the start of something good moving forward. He has underachieved to this point, but I remember him carrying us lat year during some of his hot streaks.

    Justin Bour and Logan Watkins continue to deliver steady play. Bour leads the league in RBI and although the numbers don’t show it…..Logan Watkins is a steady force in the lineup and on defense. I believe Logan is a leader on this team by virtue of how he handles his every day approach and the fact he plays hard every out and every at bat. Absolutely love this kid. I think we can expect big things from Logan Watkins.

    Frank Batista is NAILS. He is fearless and wants the ball in the big situation. Both he and Kevin Rhoderick form a 1-2 punch in the back endof the bullpen that if kept together, could lead the Smokies to a 2nd half title.

    I hope the AAA Cubs don’t raid the AA Smokies. These kids are starting to gel, and are young. Selfishly, I’d like to see what they can do over a full season together.

    That is all. back out there tonight for game 2.

    • Luke

      Good stuff, as always.

      Brenly might be the biggest surprise for me on this team.  To put it kindly, he was not good in Daytona last year (second season in that league).  I did not expect him to do much of anything in Tennessee.

      • Brandon – AA Correspondent

        I agree. In the 1st part of the season, he was an automatic out. Seems like he has been running into some fastballs and is turning them around, which is a nice change of pace. Make no mistake, I don’t see a MLB job in his future…but it is fun to see him enjoying some success. He is a good teammate, and the guys all seem to enjoy him. He is funny, and keeps everyone loose.

    • Brett

      Great stuff, as always, Brandon.

      • Brandon – AA Correspondent

        Happy to do it Brett. I really enjoy it.

    • rcleven

      Thanks for the post Brandon. Now that there is a local connection I will be looking forward to your posts.

  • MoneyBoy

    Brandon – thanks, as always, for a wonderful report.  It’s heartening to hear about kids progressing and a bonus to get it from an on-scene observer.  Great stuff!

    • Brandon – AA Correspondent

      I have an unhealthy love for baseball (like most readers of this site). I could go to games every day if possible. Trust me…having full season tickets to a minor league team is a commitment that not many could endure…but I absolutely love it.

      Sometimes I have to remind myself that these are 21,22 & 23 year old kids….so I try not to be too critical. But to watch these guys having fun and winning has been great. Many of these guys have experience winning together from last season’s Daytona championship season. I like watching them develop together.

  • Luke has some further breakdowns of Lake’s approach at the plate.

    He’s only swinging at pitches out of the strike zone about 12.5% of the time.  That might explain why pitchers keep feeding him fastballs.  If he won’t consistently go fishing, they have to throw strikes

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Ah, but what will happen when Lake faces pitchers who can throw breaking and off-speed pitches for strikes?

      • Luke

        I think we’ll have to wait until he faces those guys before we know for sure.

    • Norm

      This stuff is NOT accurate. Even the major league stuff on Fangraphs isn’t all that accurate.
      Look at his O-Contact %….6%.
      The lowest major leaguer on Fangraphs is Adam Dunn at 41%.

      And Swinging Strike %….78%? That’s obviously an error.

  • Patrick G

    The more I hear about Logan Watkins te more excited I get about him. From what I’ve heard, he sounds like he can be a solid player In the bigs

    • Brandon – AA Correspondent

      I believe he will be the starting 2B in the bigs in 2014.

      He has tremendous instincts, and I believe has all the tools necessary to be a very good big league second baseman.

      He has been a lot of fun to watch in AA this season.

      • Luke

        Defense is definitely his calling card (he can handle short pretty well also).  At the plate, his game is all about getting on base and using his speed.  He has a chance to be a fairly good lead off hitter.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    By bringing Vitters up in september how will that affect his arbitration clock? I would rather him do what stay down there for a full 1 more year to make sure we get an additional year of control

    • AB

      I’m not 100% positive, but since vitters is already on the 40-man, I believe it won’t count

    • Luke

      He’s already on the 40 man roster, so options would not be a concern.

      If the Cubs brought him up for 20 games or so in September, they’d probably just make up that time at the beginning of 2013.  He would start in Iowa and come up in late May or early June, depending on what the calendar said.

      I don’t think years of control or Super 2 status are going to be as big of an issue with Vitters, though.  Rizzo, because of his time on the Padres last summer, was a more difficult case.

      • Brett

        Just to put a fine point on it for folks: any time a player is on the 40-man, but spends significant time in the minors, the team has used an option for that year. So, even if Vitters stayed down this entire year, the Cubs have still used an option year.

  • Ralph

    Any word on Javier Baez’s hand injury Luke? I am going to see the Chiefs in Cedar Rapids on July 7 and 8 and would love to see him in the line up.

    • Brett

      He’s already taking batting practice, so I think he’s going to be OK by then.

      • Luke

        There are no signs that anything serious is wrong.  I think the Cubs are just being cautious with him.

        • Ralph

          Great news… thank you gentlemen.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    So what what do you think the chances Hayden Simpson is going to ever regain his velocity to fully what it was before he got sick. I know the cubs mostly want him to throw strikes right now, but if he gain velocity and regain the strikezone, then maybe he has a chance to squeeze back into the cubs top 10 prospects again if he’s able to do that.

    • Luke

      I’m still not ruling it out, but I wouldn’t count on it either.

      I think for now the best way to think of Simpson is a guy who has suffered a high risk injury and is working on coming back.  If he can regain his old form, then we’ll talk about his future and where he might rank in the Cubs farm system.  For now I’m just rooting for him to just bounce all the way back and regain his old stuff.

  • JB88

    Is there any word on Soler? We are getting awfully close to July 2nd and doesn’t the contract need to be sign, sealed, and delivered by then?

  • JulioZuleta

    I don’t think we see Vitters or Lake this year, especially not Lake. He’s definitely not ready, so why push his clock back a month by having him sit on the bench in meaningless September games.

    • rcleven

      At least not until September call ups.

  • #1lahairfan

    We are definetly not seeing lake maybe he will end in Iowa.

  • chirogerg

    Once somebody starts raking, and I mean RAKING, there should be a whole little section dedicated to them.

    Like there could have been a Rizzo watch.

    Maybe we can have Caledario Watch now…