Chris Donahue/Iowa Cubs

The Chicago Cubs named their minor league Pitcher and Player of the Month yesterday, sending both awards to Tennessee. Neither pick matched my own selections, but I can’t argue with either of them.

The pitcher of the month went to Nick Struck. The right hander posted a 2.45 ERA over five starts in June while striking out 23 in 29 innings. Second baseman Logan Watkins earned Player of the Month honors by hitting .352 with an OBP of .452 and a thirteen game hitting streak. Both players have major league potential, Struck as a back of the rotation starter and Watkins as a quality starting second baseman, and both could be in Chicago in the next year and a half or so.

[Brett: I think Luke was being very clever with that headline, but I can’t be certain…]

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – With their 4-1 loss, the Cubs fell twenty games out of first place.
Tennessee – The Smokies took advantage of four Chattanooga errors and won 6-4.
Daytona – Daytona used a six run sixth inning to power their way to a 7-3 win.
Peoria – The Chiefs had three errors and were the victims of a shut out. They lost 6-0.
Boise – Boise took an early lead but could not hang onto it. They lost 7-5.
Arizona – The Cubs out hit the Rangers 12 to 9, but they lost anyway 5-4.

Performances of the Day

  • [Iowa] Chris Rusin struck out five in six good innings of work, but a rare bad game by Jeff Beliveau wasted the effort.
  • [Iowa] Josh Vitters went 2 for 4 with a double, the Cubs’ only extra base hit of the night.
  • [Tennessee] Greg Rohan has finally reached Double A, and on Monday he announced his presence with a four hit game that included two doubles. Here’s a suggestion for Southern League pitchers: find out what Chattanooga’s scouting report on Rohan was, then do something else.
  • [Tennessee] It wasn’t just Rohan hitting on Monday. Jae-Hoon Ha, Junior Lake, and Michael Burgess each had two hits apiece.
  • [Tennessee] Dae-Eun Rhee did not have a good game, but his bullpen of Tony Zych, Ty’relle Harris, and Frank Batista picked up the slack with four scoreless frames.
  • [Daytona] P.J. Francescon allowed two more home runs, but he only gave up three runs and struck out five in his six innings of work. Ryan Searle followed up with two perfect innings of relief.
  • [Daytona] Elieser Bonne had a 3 for 3 game to lead the Cubs. Matthew Cerda collected two hits along with his first steal of the year.
  • [Peoria] Jose Rosario did strike out seven in seven innings, but he also allowed ten hits. Sheldon McDonald struck out three in two hitless innings of relief.
  • [Boise] Gioskar Amaya had three hits for the Hawks, including his fifth triple of the season. He also had a stolen base.
  • [Arizona] Daniel Vogelbach hit his second home run of the season. He has now homered in consecutive games.
  • [Arizona] Hunter Ackerman pitched three scoreless innings, striking out three. Arturo Maltos-Garcia did allow a run on one hit in his one inning, but he also fanned three.

Other Minor League Notes

  • The Cubs are definitely still willing to make mid-season promotions when and where it makes sense. Without counting them up, it seems to me that the pattern and rate of midseason roster shuffles has not changed much under the new front office. For example, Nelson Perez, Greg Rohan, and Tony Zych are all fairly recent promotions to Tennesee, and all relocations were well deserved. This lack of a change in organizational management is not too surprising considering that the man directly in charge of the farm system, Oneri Fleita, has not changed.
  • Peoria finished the first half of the season with a prolonged hot streak that put them in Wild Card contention in the final week of play. With that good finish, I thought they would be certain to get off to a strong start in the second half and hang around first place for the remainder of the season. Whoops. The Chiefs are now five games under .500 and four games behind the leaders. They still have time to recover, but this is an unexpected and disappointing start.
  • The Hawks only allowed four hits in their loss yesterday, but the ten walks they gave up were enough to ensure the loss.

Farm System Standings

AAAIowa Cubs : 34 – 51.
Pacific Coast League American Northern Division – Third Place: 20.0 Games Behind.

AATennessee Smokies : 6-6
Southern League North Division – Third Place : 2.0 Game Behind

High ADaytona Cubs : 7-5
Florida State League North Division – Second Place : 0.5 Games Behind

Low APeoria Chiefs : 3-8
Midwest League Eastern Division – Third Place : 4.0 Game Behind

Short-Season ABoise Hawks : 6 – 12
Northwest League East Division – Third Place : 4.0 Games Behind

Rookie LeagueAZL Cubs : 8 – 3
Arizona Rookie League East – Second Place : 1.0 Game Behind

  • Stuart

    How long til Vogelbach is sent to Boise, hes off to a torrid start

    • Luke

      If he keeps it up for another week or two, the Cubs will probably think about it.

  • Cubbie Blues

    Just looked up Baez. He is 11 of 12 SB, .382 OBP, 4 HR & 6 HBP in 97 AB. Not a bad start.

  • ETS

    I know it’s early but Vogelbach’s line of .462 .500 .846 excites me. I still consider him a fairly long shot, but a long shot that’s fun to watch. I hope to catch him live once he is assigned to a team.

    • djriz
  • Cerambam

    hey luke, im not sure if bjax has been sitting every now and then lately, or his performance has been just mediocre enough to not include in these updates, but i was wondering if, considering his importance and relative celebrity, that you can include what bjax does in the previous day’s game no matter how poor his performance is?

    • ETS

      he is mentioned pretty often. Remember he only stuck out once and that was almost the headline!

    • Andy

      Why not just go back to the previous days posting?

    • Luke

      I’ve had similar requests for Javier Baez, and it is not a precedent I want to set right now.  Mainly, it comes down to time and how much of it I have to work with.

      I do provide a link to every single Iowa box score in the Yesterday’s Score section, so it shouldn’t be hard to see exactly what Jackson did yesterday, even if I don’t mention him.

      I’m looking at other ways to refine this daily feature that might allow me add (among other possibilities) a daily section of watched prospects, but I don’t expect to make any changes in format this season.

      • Cerambam

        ok thanks ill check out the box scores. You and brett shouldn’t have made me so obsessed with the minor leagues haha

    • Brett

      If you want to see his performance every day, you could click on the link to the box score, which Luke always includes. It would kind of defeat the purpose of this post to include one guy’s performance every single day.

      Edit: Yeah, I didn’t see Luke’s comment…

    • djriz

      Look at the bright side, we finally have enough prospects doing well that Luke doesn’t HAVE to report on players that had bad games.

  • ETS

    I hate to be a hater, but saying a rare bad outing by beliveau makes me cringe a little. I have seen him throw live several times this year and each time am not impressed. His fastball lacks velocity, his pitches lack crispness. Make I just catch him when he has been used alot, but it seems like he either gets a shelled or puts together enough “atom” balls to get out of it.

    • Brandon – AA Correspondent

      Wow…..that seems hard for me to believe. Not that I am doubting you, because you were there….but last year in AA he was pretty unhittable. To the point that I considered him a pretty good candidate to make the MLB Cubs out of spring training. Hopefully this is a short stint down the path of wildness…..or perhaps, you are voodoo to this young guy. haha

      Thanks for the report.


  • ibcnu2222 (John)

    Any news on Soler?

    • Andy

      His signing was made official over the weekend, will be assigned to EXST.

  • Idaho Razorback

    I love the new way Luke does his write-ups. Now I see each minor league teams box scores. Things I noticed from yesterdays games. Josh Vitters is now over the .300 mark, hitting .301. Ty’Relle Harris has been a solid set up man for Frank Batista at Tennessee sporting a 1.62 ERA. Wasn’t he hit by a car in the parking lot outside of the stadium last season? Chadd Krist has been getting all the starts behind the plate for Boise since signing and is hitting .361. Off hand I think he was our 10th round pick out of Cal. Willson Contreras has a cannon of an arm as I saw him throw out 2 base runners at Spokane last week and has thrown out 7 of 10 runners this year has been playing RF, LF, 1B, & DH since Krist has signed. Taylor Scott, the Aussie, has a 2.20 ERA as a starting pitcher for Boise. Dan Vogelbach seems to be a much better player as he was projected to be a Bob Hamlin or Steve Balboni type player. Apparantly Vogelbach has learned how to play the piano that he has been carrying. And finially Trevor Gretzky came into yesterdays game hitting .059, went 2-4 and is now hitting .143.

    • Brandon – AA Correspondent

      Ty’Relle Harris was in fact hit by a car last season, and it ended his season. His comeback has been remarkable, and you can tell that the leg still gives him a few fits. He sets up the back end of our bullpen wonderfully for Rhoderick and/or Batista. There is a distinct difference in the size of his lower legs as a result of his accident, so I have been very impressed at his ability to generate the drive in his legs needed to pitch at such a quality level. He is an elder stateman on the Smokies and as a UT alum….he is very well liked in this part of town (Go Vols). We all are rooting for Ty’Relle and I believe a promotion to AAA could be coming soon.

  • Dave H

    I just wanted to say that this is a great addition to the BN website. The info on the minors on a daily basis is awesome! Keep up the great work Ace and Luke! Don’t change a thing now. If you don’t someones name for 2 weeks then worry.

  • Norm

    Re: Vogelbach
    It’s been 9 games. Can we give him a month?

  • MightyBear

    Boy it seems like every pitcher that does well is projected as a back end of the rotation guy. Seems like we have a thousand of those and zero front of the rotation guys. How old is Pierce Johnson? Was he a senior? Luke when do you think he will be ready? (Sorry about all the questions, I am deeply concerned the Cubs don’t have any number 1’s in the system. I’m sure Theo and everybody else is concerned too)

    • Norm

      They don’t have any #1’s. #1’s are a rare breed…there probably aren’t more then 10 in all of the minors that could be considered potential Ace’s.

    • Luke

      True aces are rare, and the best place to get them is in free agency or, sometimes, in the first two or three picks of the draft.

      Potential number two starters are more common, and the Cubs do have some of those.  Dillon Maples and Pierce Johnson both have that ceiling (and don’t worry that Maples has not pitched yet, that has nothing to do with his ceiling or his status as a prospect).  Trey McNutt was in that class until it started looking like that he was headed to the bullpen.  There are several mid-rotation guys (potential No 3 starters) in the minors who could yet elevate their game to No 2 status.  Michael Jensen, Jose Rosario, Robert Whitenack, Taylor Scott, and more could all make that happen.

      And I think the pitching situation will look quite different after July 31.  I expect we’ll see at least one or two potential No 2 types in the system when the trades are settled.

      • MightyBear

        Thank you kind sir.

      • Brandon – AA Correspondent

        Eric Jokisch could be making a case to be a #2 or #3 at a higher level. I also still like Dallas Beeler a lot…..he has been plagued by very poor run support in his outings, but looks like he could find his way into a rortation and be a mainstay. Poise under duress is what these kids in AA must develop. Seems to me when an error is committed behind them that some pitchers feel liek giving up a run is acceptable because it won’t count against their ERA. I want bulldogs on the mound. Give me some tough guys.

        But I agree….I have not seen any ACE type stuff come through AA in the past 3 years. (Except for other teams).

        GO SMOKIES!

        • Luke

          Jokisch is another guy I’m fairly impressed with.  I went to a Peoria game last season specifically to see Hayden Simpson, Micah Gibbs, Matt Szczur, and Elliot Soto.  Gibbs had the day off, Szczur was sick, Soto only came in for the late innings.

          The trip was still well worth it, though, because I came out of that game fairly impressed by Eric Jokisch and Arismendy Alcantara.

        • AB

          Whats the deal with Beeler and Rhee??

          Their numbers are ugly and Rhee is giving up a ton of HR. I like to use AA as a litmus test to see if guys will stick in the rotation or not. It seems alot of Cubs prospects tagged as #2/#3 guys haven’t been able to cut it at Tennessee (Carpenter, McNutt, Rhee). This makes me really pessimistic when I see projections of guys in A-ball such as Kirk, Loosen, etc.

          Struck certainly seems to be the strongest and most advanced of the group with a small chance of making sticking around as a back of the rotation type guy.

          • Luke

            The bad news on Rhee is that he is not striking people out at the same rate he did in Daytona.  I suspect some of the pitches that used to net him strike outs are now going over the fence, but I have no proof of that.  At some point he will have to make that adjustment.

            The good news is that he is producing ground balls at a prodigious rate.  His GO/AO is  1.80 right now, well up from his 1.35 last season.  Sometimes ground ball pitchers have elevated ERAs in the minors due to inferior defenses, but I don’t know for sure that is the case here.  If he can keep the GO/AO up and cut back on the HR/9, I’m not going to worry about him just yet.

            Beeler walked too many guys in the first half of the season.  He is looking better so far in the second half.

  • Puma0821

    Luke, I’ve been wondering when Bour or someone will get the call to replace Rizzo in Iowa. It seems like they are patching it up with guys like Lalli, DeWitt, and Vitters over there. If not Bour then who? Could they call up an infielder like Lake or Watkins and Slide Vitters over? Although I assume they would like to give Vitters as much time as possible @ 3rd. Also speaking of those guys, do you see in general any of Lake, Watkins, Ha, Burgess and Bour getting the promotion to AAA and how soon?

    • Brandon – AA Correspondent

      I think Rebel Ridling is the answer for Iowa. He was just not hitting in AA this season (because he was out of position and I think that really affected him mentally). He also lost 20+ pounds in the off season and I think that affected hi power. He is a good first baseman and I think they sent him to High A to get his confidence back and then are going to send him to AAA on a direct flight. Justin Bour has been doing very well lately, but I still think he is pretty young for AAA. Justin has lost osme weight during the season and has improved on defense (I was pretty critical of his glove a month or so ago, but he is working hard and the results are proving it.) He has hit every step f the way, and been an RBI machine. Selfishly speaking there is no need to rush this kid. Between Lalli and Vitters, Iowa should be in decent hands. Again, I think Rebel Ridling is your guy.

      I hope they call Lake up to AAA…..because frankly he needs to be exposed for the fraud that he is. When you see him in person, you will see. He is a headcase. He can hit a fastball and can run a little bit, but I just don’t think this guy is worth the hype. He is laughable on breaking pitches and makes a ton of errors (yes….he is young..but I just don’t see a very high baseball aptitude). Frankly, I believe many on the Smokies feel the same way…I know the fans do. Just sayin… careful what you wish for. I hope I have to eat my words, because nothing would make me hapier than to see him succeed, but for me…..this guy is overrated. Think Ruben Rivera…enough said.

      Watkins, Ha, Burgess and Bour are all pretty young. Granted, they are the kids that are carrying the Smokies right now, but remember ,this is a .500 club. It’s not like we are blowing people’s doors off. I believe an entire year of seasoning together is good. When I think about who projects to a big leaguer from this group, I actually think Watkins has a pretty high ceiling, and Burgess….if he keeps developing power could be a nice corner outfielder. Bour can hit, but I really think he is trade bait at this point in a deal with the Cubs. Looks like fist base will be tied up fo rthe next decade. Jae-Hoon Ha is an amazing talent….who does a little bit of everything ,but nothing particularly amazing. He is a solid defender with a plus arm. I love this kid, and could see him making an impact in the show, but I am not sure. I never thought Campana would make it, but his speed fill a niche. Not sure what niche Ha’s skill will fill….but he is fund to watch.

      You can tell I am biased..because I like my Smokies….so hopefully trhey own’t blow up our club to fill holes in AAA. I’d like to see them stay together and succeed here in TN. I think we have a real shot at winning the division in the 2nd half.

      • djriz

        Kinda think calling Lake a fraud is unfair and insulting.
        He may never make it, probably won’t, but that doesn’t make him a fraud. just a guy trying to play baseball.
        But then again, with all your years of professional scouting, you know better than me.

        • Cubbie Blues

          Hey Sorano, Jobu needs a refill.

        • Drew7

          I’ve been thinking the same thing. Lake has made huge strides in AA this year with his plate-discipline, and has improved in nearly every offensive category (no easy task, especially in the Southern League).

          Obviously its good to have a firsthand account of a player, but sometimes a little objectivity is needed.

          Brandon- not trying to discount your opinion, as its always appreciated.

    • Luke

      I’m not sure what the plan at first in Iowa is long term.  Ridling should have been the guy, but he did not play well at all in Tennessee to start the season.  He’s back in Daytona now and is playing first every day, but I don’t know that the Cubs have the confidence in him quite yet to jump him up to Iowa.  I wish they would, but that is in part because I’d like to see Hoilman shipped up to Daytona.

      Burgess is finally having some success.  I think the Cubs will leave him in Tennessee.  Bour only has half a season in Tennessee; I see no reason to rush him either.

      Ha is a different story.  He came up midseason last year, so he has about a full year of Double A behind him.  I think he could go to Iowa anytime.  In doing so he’d open up center field in Tennessee for Matt Szczur to come north at some point.

      Lake has cooled off quite a bit, but he’s still playing fairly well.  He also was a midseason promotion to Tennessee last year so it isn’t impossible he’ll go to Iowa soon.  I think, though, the Cubs will want to be careful with this one.  He is not polished by any stretch of the imagination, and that means he should stay down.  On the other hand, if he is not being challenged in Double A, he may need to go to Iowa to be tested against tougher competition.  There is a good case either way.  Long term, though, especially with Vitters breaking out in Iowa, I’m not sure where Lake fits into the Cubs’ plans.  I really wouldn’t be surprised if he is traded by the end of the month or over the winter.

  • Tommy

    Luke – can you explain short season A to me, please. How does it differ from Low A? Is it players that are signed midseason, so they stick them there instead of sending them directly to Peoria? I guess I just don’t understand what the difference is at all. If you could explain it, I’d really appreciate it.

    • Drew7

      Not Luke, but Low-A and Short-season A are referring to the same level: Boise. Full-season A is in Peoria and high-A or A+ is in Daytona.

      • Luke

        That’s how Brett does it, but I am not in that camp.  High A is Daytona, Low A is Peoria, and Short Season A is Boise.  The Short Season leagues, in my book, are too different to be considered A ball, and just referring to it as Low A makes it sound too comparable to the full season leagues when the full season leagues are totally different animals.  The SS leagues should be always be referred to as SS for that reason.

        Though the shorthand of A+,A, A- is fairly standard, I greatly prefer A+, A-, SS-A.

    • Luke

      Short season is a mix of this year’s draftees (often college players), last year’s high school draftees who needed some extra practice time in spring training but who are too advanced for the Arizona League, and players working back from injuries or changing positions.  In terms of the age spectrum, it spans from “just drafted 18 year old” up to “will go to High-A next season 21 year old college draftee”, and that can make interpreting the stats from this league a little tough.

      It should by no means be considered just a lower level of a full season league (and that’s why I always refer to it as Short-Season A, not Low A).  You could think of it as a catch-all league for players who have no room on full season rosters but who would not be challenged in Arizona.

      It is also a pretty good training ground for players learning how to manage their life while playing baseball full time.  They get the total experience of long road trips, day games after night games, checking into a hotel at 3AM when they have a game starting at 1:20 PM, and so on.  That can be an exhausting aspect for a lot of players.  Since the short season leagues are, well, short, the exhaustion factor is lessened.

      I would guess you see more shuffling in and out of the SS-A teams than at any other level.  Need to stretch a reliever into a starter?  Send him to Boise.  Want that outfielder to start for a week at first base before turning him loose in High-A?  Send him to Boise?  Got a who guy hasn’t caught a pitch in thirty months but who now needs to be catching?  Send him to Boise.  As a result, you probably see more strangeness per game in the Short Season leagues than you do at any other level.  But you also may have the best concentration of talent at any level other than Double A.

      That help?

      • Tommy

        That helped immensely! Thanks Luke – great explanation. I appreciate the time you took to reply, bud.

  • Jason “Thundermug”

    Why do the majority people doubt that Vitters can be our 3rd baseman of the future ? I like him alot and would love to see this kid get an opportunity to show what he can do.

    • nkniacc13

      There are a couple of reasons.
      1. He hasn’t exactly blown the doors off but he is young for his age and his bat is suppose to carry him.
      2. Most see Baez having to move from SS to 3rd and they lke him more than Vitters

    • Luke

      There are still questions about his defense.  That is the primary reason.  If he can demonstrate that he can handle third in the majors I don’t think a lot of fans would hesitate to list him as the third baseman of the near future, at least until Baez is ready (2015 or so).