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iowa cubs mascotIf you are looking for box scores and the best performances from all the minor league games this weekend, be sure to check out the Minor League Daily on Monday morning. The Daily is taking the weekend off this year, and that means Monday is doing triple duty.

The weekend now belongs to a new minor league feature, one of that will take a step back from the daily action and watch for patterns, trends, and generally take a wider view of the organization as a whole. If you are more into prospect rankings than daily box scores, this column might just be what you have been looking for.

To start this inaugural edition off, let’s check in on each team’s record through the first weekend of the season.

Iowa Cubs : 0-3
Iowa is one of the older teams in Triple A, and so far it not been a very good one. These two things are not entirely disconnected. In order to build up some depth to protect against injuries at the major league level, the Cubs signed a number of minor league free agents and stashed them in Iowa. While that depth is nice to have, it also means that a lot of the Iowa roster is made of up players who are not really major league talent. There are some legitimate prospects on this roster – Brett Jackson and Logan Watkins highlight that list – but right now this roster is best considered a long-range extension of Dale Sveum‘s bench.

That situation will change as the season unfolds. Look for the Iowa roster at the end of the year to be much more prospect-y than it is today.

Tennessee Smokies : 2-1
Iowa’s loss is Tennessee’s gain. By Double A standards this is a veteran squad that also happens to feature it’s fair share of prospects worth watching. After dropping the season opener on the road in Pensacola, the Smokies won their next two in fairly decisive fashion.

Daytona Cubs : 2-1

Thanks to Jorge Soler and Javier Baez this team will probably draw as much or more attention than any other squad in the farm system in the early going. And in the early going, they have played pretty well. Don’t let the Soler and Baez combo blind you to the rest of the talent on this squad, though. The Cubs look pretty good at almost every position on the diamond, and this pitching staff might be the best from top to bottom in the organization.

Kane County Cougars : 0-3

Don’t let that winless record fool you; this team is loaded with offensive talent everywhere you look. The Cougars are liable to score a lot of runs this spring, and until their pitching staff shakes the rust off, they’ll need to score a lot of runs to win some games. There is talent on the mound as well, though. Enough talent that the slow start doesn’t worry me a bit. This is a team that should compete for the division title in the first half of the season.

Promotion Watch

It may seem ridiculous to start talking about players that could be promoted soon when we are just three games into the minor league season, but because the Cubs were conservative at times in their roster construction, this is a topic that that merits some early season attention. And so, in no particular, here are five players that I strongly suspect could be moved up a level early this year.

Jae-Hoon Ha, OF. At age 22, Ha still fits comfortably in the Double A age bracket. However, this is the third season in which he has appeared in a Smokey uniform. Ha has already amassed 184 gamest at this level; I’m not sure he will benefit all that much from another 137 or so. His all-out-all-the-time way of playing makes him an injury risk, though, so it might be smart of the Cubs to keep him out of Iowa’s frozen tundra until the weather warms up. He risks injury enough by running into walls. No point in making that risk any greater than it needs to be at this stage of his development.

Jorge Soler, OF. Of the Cubs three best prospects, Soler should easily be the most advanced thanks to his extensive experience playing in and for Cuba. And while it is absolutely true that three games do not provide a meaningful sample size in any sense of the word, it is interesting to note that Soler has started off his season with an OPS of 1.128 and a stat line that features one home run, one walk, and one strike out. That is the sort of start that will land him in Tennessee sooner rather than later.

Frank Del Valle, RHP. This is another player who is starting his third year wearing the same uniform, and like Ha, Del Valle has little left to prove at this level of the minors. It remains to be see if this lefty is going to be a starter or reliever long term, but it is probably about time for him to see if his stuff will work as well in Double A as it has in Daytona.

Casey Coleman, RHP. Coleman did little wrong in spring training, and he kept that trend alive in his first appearance out of the Iowa bullpen. After failing to secure a job in the Cubs’ rotation last season, it looks like Coleman may have found a home in the bullpen. He does not look like a late inning option should the Cubs decide they need a new one, but he is increasingly looking like a solid middle relief candidate. I think he may be one of the first players called to Chicago.

Logan Watkins, 2B. Watkins is new to Triple A, but so far he has looked right at home at that level. He is second on the team in both walks and total bases in the early going, and there are no concerns about his defense. If anything should happen to Alberto Gonzalez before Darwin Barney makes it back to the diamond, Watkins is likely to be the next man up. And if anything else happens to Barney the rest of the season, do not be surprised if Watkins gets the call even ahead of some of the other veterans on the Iowa roster. And if the Cubs fall out of contention early and start trading in the month of May? That scenario could have Watkins in Wrigley in a hurry.

Remember, the Minor League Daily is back tomorrow with a triple dose of minor league coverage.

  • CubFan Paul

    Box scores would have been better.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Those are coming. This isn’t that.

    • King Jeff

      “If you are looking for box scores and the best performances from all the minor league games this weekend, be sure to check out the Minor League Daily on Monday morning”

      • CubFan Paul

        I can read Jeff. My point was: there was games yesterday.

        • King Jeff

          There are box scores on about 100 sites on the internet. I’d rather have writeup from an informed writer than a box score I can find with almost no effort.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          It’s a Sunday, dude. What’s with the sense of entitlement?

          • CubFan Paul

            No sense of entitlement, just wanted the morning BN fix.

            It’s bad enough the minor league daily format/layout changed last season where it’s less in depth, now it’s gone from the weekend.

            • CubsFaninMS

              Should somebody call the wahhmbulance?

            • cubbiesOHcubbies

              YEAH…… The nerve of Brett and Luke to feel as though they are allowed to have some sort of life outside of this website. I am willing to bet very few people that read this site, if any, work 7 days a week for 6 months straight. Give the guy a break. BOO HOO, the minor league reports aren’t as in depth…… BOO HOO, they aren’t 7 days a week. Get over it. Great job as always Brett AND Luke.

  • mysterious4th

    Jae-hoo ha reminds me a lot of a younger Reed Johnsoon. Which wouldn’t be entirely a bad think. I bet after he hits the ivy and brick (especially if the ivy hasn’t fully grown in and it pricks like hell) for the fist time even at half speed he will re-think his aaproach of doing whatever he can to get an out.

  • OCCubFan

    ” In order to build up some depth to protect against injuries at the major league level, the Cubs signed a number of minor league free agents and stashed them in Iowa. While that depth is nice to have, it also means that a lot of the Iowa roster is made of up players who are not really major league talent. There are some legitimate prospects on this roster – Brett Jackson and Logan Watkins highlight that list – but right now this roster is best considered a long-range extension of Dale Sveum‘s bench.”

    So the long-range extension of Sveum’s bench cannot win at the AAA level???

  • Good Captain

    What is the earliest date Watkins can be called up to avoid triggering an early start to his arbitration if you recall?

    • CubFan Paul

      BJax’s call up date may be tied to his arbitration clock also

      • King Jeff

        Isn’t his clock already started because he was up last year? I could be wrong, I am still confused by some of these rules.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          When you’re on the 25-man roster, you accumulate service time. Three years of service time (or two years plus enough to put you in top 22% of two-plus-year types) and you reach arbitration. Six years of service time and you reach free agency.

          Separately, players (with a few exceptions) have three options years. If a guy is on the 40-man roster and doesn’t spend the entire year in the big leagues, that is using an option year, regardless of whether he’s ever called up (example: Matt Szczur last year).

          • King Jeff

            Okay, but does the arbitration clock stop when a guy is sent down? Or does it start and not stop from the time he is called up?
            That kind of sucks that Sczcur has used an option year already, but I guess it’s better than losing him altogether in the Rule 5 draft.

            • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

              I’m not Brett but I think when people refer to the “clock starting,” it is under the assumption that the player is going to spend the entire rest of his career on the big league staff. So that’s the reason for timing guys like Harper and Rizzo. A service year is something like 172 days, or you get a full year if it’s only like a few weeks you spend in the minors. So I guess the only way you’re earning service time in the minors is if you’re within that small window that will give you a full year of service time for that year. Otherwise yeah, it stops.

          • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

            The way I think of that second rule: everyone on the 40 man roster is technically “called up” in Spring Training, and must be sent down. So that uses the option even though they didn’t get any time in the regular season. The Rule 5 draft and these option years helps ensure players will eventually play in an organization if the first doesn’t actually want them/have room for them.

            • King Jeff

              Does this also mean that Vitters and Jackson have already used options?

              • hansman1982

                Yes.

                • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

                  Yup. Eventually after paying your dues, you have to be put on the 40 man or be exposed to someone who will give you big league time. Then eventually (3-4 years), you have to stick on the big league roster or be exposed to someone who will give you big league service time.

                  • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

                    give you big league playing* time

                    • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

                      Erm, not necessarily playing time, but a roster spot … I’m done now, stupid no edit button

              • hansman1982

                Don’t want to link away, Brett, but this may solve some questions:

                http://www.thecubreporter.com/cubs-40-man-roster

                Jackson will have 2 years of options left after this year and Vitters just has next year.

                • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

                  That’s a handy chart. Thanks man.

    • hansman1982

      Somewhere around June 1 (to answer your question).

      After May 1-ish Watkins won’t become a free agent until the winter after the 2019 season (if my math is right).

      • King Jeff

        Mid-June is usually the cutoff date for super 2′s, but there are a lot of guys that have stuck with their respective Major league teams early this year that could affect that date, if I am remembering the process correctly.

      • FarmerTanColin

        With the rate of players getting extended, think there will be an impact on the importance of service time? Watkins definitely has regular potential but not so much about the star factor and the real big bucks.

  • nkniacc13

    Watkins is likely mid June

  • FarmerTanColin

    I think thats like 11-12 straight losses at “The Lab”. I-cubs just can not win there. Anyone going to the home opener Friday in Des Moines?

    • King Jeff

      I think there is going to be a decent Bleacher Nation contingent there. Check the message board, I think there is a group that is planning to get together there.

  • AB

    Don’t some of these guys in AAA (Bugesevic, Nelson, Maysonet, Wade, Carpenter) usually have opt out clauses if they are not activated by May 1??

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Many of those types, do yes (or there’s a retention bonus type situation). I think we’ll probably see a couple of them gone within a few weeks (for a lot of reasons, including promotion decisions coming down the road).

  • http://JUICEDMOTORSPORTS.COM JUICED1

    Michael Heesh had a pretty nice game for Kane County. Local kid drafted in the 7th or 8th round last year. Anyone have a scouting report on him?

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