The Chicago Cubs named Javier Baez and Brooks Raley their minor league Player and Pitcher of the Month for July, and this month I cannot argue. I am doing exactly the same thing. Baez has been as good a hitter as anyone in the farm system lately (except for one flaw), and Raley’s numbers in July would be good at any level. When you realize he was pitching in the Pacific Coast League, the decision became easy.
But this was a lot closer than I first thought it would be. Baez in particular took the top honor by a thin margin over another infield prospect who has been quietly hitting up a storm in the low minors.
Hitter Of The Month
Runner Up: Gioskar Amaya.
We all know what Baez has been doing lately. He finished July with a line of .368/.397/.679. Just in that one month he hit three triples, seven home runs, and stole eight bases. He has had a few bad games, but for the most part he was clearly the best player on the field no matter what field he was on.
But he only walked twice. Yes, he hit .368 and guys who hit .368 don’t need to draw a lot of walks, but this isn’t a case of not drawing lots of walks. He only walked twice in an entire month. I used to get on to Josh Vitters (who also had a nice month) for his low walk rate, but his was at least higher than 2%. Baez had a BB% of just 1.7% for the month, down from 6.8% in June. Despite hitting .035 higher than he did in June, his OBP actually went down from June to July. That’s a problem.
Baez is a very good hitter, but very good hitters should not be walking at a rate of 1.7% over any extended period of at bats. However, the 6.8% number in June strongly suggests that he can work counts and can earn the free pass. That is reassuring enough that I am only slightly concerned about this being an ongoing issue, but it is an area that I will be watching very closely in the future.
And that brings me to Gioskar Amaya. In July the second baseman hit .330/.407/.567 for Short Season A Boise. His four triples, four home runs, and six stolen bases do not quite match Baez, but his 13 walks against 20 strikeouts for the month do stand out. Because Baez enjoyed his success at slightly higher level and at about the same age as Amaya, Baez is the clear winner this month. But don’t dismiss Amaya. In a farm system that is deep with potential second basemen, Amaya might just be the best of the bunch.
Pitcher of the Month
Raley did not win a game in July, but that does not matter, because wins are among the most worthless stats for pitchers anyway. His 0-4 record masked an ERA of 2.12, an opponents batting average of .254, a GO/AO of 1.58, and 28 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. That is a good month for any pitcher at any level; it is doubly impressive coming in the Pacific Coast League. His worst start of the month came in Albuquerque on July 23, but even in that phone booth of a Little League launching pad he managed to limit the damage to just two earned runs.
The Cubs’ front office is thought to prefer left handed starters, and Raley is a decent one. He is likely a back of the rotation starter at best, but I would not be at all surprised if Raley and fellow Iowa lefty Chris Rusin have a chance to take the No. 4 and No. 5 slots in the Cubs rotation within the next year.
Ever since Anthony Rizzo was promoted to Chicago the Iowa Cubs have had a revolving door at first base. Finally, at the beginning of August, Greg Rohan was promoted to fill that void.
That promotion was somewhat surprising considering that Rohan had been in Daytona as late as June. The corner infielder had hit at every stop in the minors, but he just couldn’t seem to make any headway in a Cubs system that featured other good hitting corner infielders ahead of him. Finally in July he was bumped up to Tennessee. He did not waste the opportunity.
As a member of the Double A Smokies, Rohan put together a monthly line of .250/.353/.500. He matched his season high for home runs in a month with five. Most encouragingly of all, he only struck out in about 17% of his trips to the plate against the tougher pitching, and he walked a very respectable 11% of the time.
Rohan’s future is that of a 1B/3B/OF utility player. He’ll have value off the bench due to his power, but I don’t see hit bat holding an everyday job on the field. Still, with his power and defensive versatility, if he can prove to be one of those guys who thrive in pinch hitting situations, he could be a fixture on the bench in Chicago for a very long time.
The Cubs took Bijan Rademacher in the June Amateur draft; I doubt very many Cub fans noticed. He was taken in the 13th round, but due to the way the new CBA rules affected the draft, he should probably be considered more of a 7th or 8th round guy. The left handed hitting outfielder has the size that promises some power, and he showed off that some of that power with a .566 SLG in 14 games with Boise. He has yet to match those numbers with Peoria, but he did hit his first professional triple with the Chiefs.
Rademacher is definitely a fringe outfield prospect, but there are some parts of his game that I already like. He has appeared at three different levels in the minors this season, but his strike out rate is consistently staying under 20%. Likewise, his walk rate has crept a little higher at each stop he has made as he moves up the system. The sample size is not enough to be definitive of anything yet, but those are still trends that are encouraging to see.
We are nearing the end of the minor league season now. With the exception of possible playoff games for Arizona, Boise, and maybe Tennnessee, minor league play will end in the first week of September. Instead of an August Monthly Awards, I will bring you a Year End Edition once all the Cubs’ farm teams have been finished their seasons.