jorge soler cubsThe Cubs made another trade this weekend. This time they sent minor league veteran Drew Carpenter to the Colorado organization for a player to be named later. I would not expect that PTBNL to be anyone significant (if it does not turn out to be cash once it is all said and done), but it does start to thin the veterans out of the Iowa roster and opens up some slots for either demotions from Chicago or promotions from Tennessee. Either is possible, and I expect to see both types of transactions over the next few weeks.

A series of small deals in May is not unexpected, but we are rapidly approaching a period in which more major trades start to become unlikely. The closer we get to the draft, the more resources general managers will devote to the draft. Even if Jed Hoyer has the time to try to negotiate some large deals in late May, odds are good that his trading partners may not. Once the draft is out of the way, though, we will be ready for a full blown trade-a-palooza.

Iowa Cubs : 13-20

Iowa is staying out of the basement, but they have not been able to drift any closer to the division leading Redbirds. They’ve played roughly .500 of late, though, and they are still only 5.5 games out. Don’t write Iowa off yet. There is a lot of season left to be played.

Tennessee Smokies : 16-18

The Smokies are a team in freefall. They managed just one win last week and only two in their past ten games. Suddenly this formerly first place team finds itself 7.5 games off the pace. The loss of Jae-Hoon Ha and Justin Bour to the DL did not help matters, but there is still more than enough talent on this team to win more than once a week. I don’t think the Smokies will stay in this funk for long.

Daytona Cubs : 17-16

The Cubs are over .500 and poised for a run, just three games out of the first place in the division. Both of the biggest bats – Jorge Soler and Javier Baez – appear to be heating up to greater or lesser degree, and that’s bad news for the rest of the league. I suspect promotions (particular Soler and John Andreoli) could take a bite out of this team’s offense in the next month or so, but for the time being Daytona fans can enjoy a pretty good team playing pretty good baseball.

Kane County Cougars : 17-15

The Cougars have won eight of their last ten games and are now two games over .500. They are still 5.5 back in the division, but lately this team has been playing as well any team in the league. Right now, this might be the best ticket in the organization. If you want to see good baseball in the Chicago area, you could do a lot worse than Kane County. And you’ll even get to run the bases after the game!

Spring Check Up

The season is still young, but it is old enough we can take a hard look at some minor league performances and get an idea just where the various prospects stand. Naturally, the prospects most of us are most interested in are those ranked at the top of the farm system. These are players who have the higher odds of starring in Wrigley one day, the players that are fairly well known throughout all Cub fandom, and they are the players I’ll be checking in on today. I am not re-ranking the Bleacher Nation Top 40, not today anyway; this is just quick check on the Top 10 and how they are doing so far this season.

Jorge Soler – OF – Daytona: Weather has limited him to just 8 games in May so far, but in those games he has 3 home runs, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts, and an OPS of 1.313. With the exception of a cold spell right after his suspension, Soler has been crushing the Florida State League. This is exactly what we had hoped to see.

Javier Baez – SS – Daytona: This is not what we wanted to see. Yes, Baez has 6 HR and 3 3B. That’s good, but his power was never in question. What was up for debate was his ability to make contact, and his 42 strike outs in just 32 games is a just about as bad an early season indication as anyone could have imagined. In the majors that would put him on pace for roughly 215 Ks for a season… but this isn’t the majors. This is A ball. There is no need to panic and give up on Baez yet, but this part of his game simply has to change for the better.

Albert Almora – OF – Ex Spring Training: Thanks to a spring training injury, Almora has yet to play in a game that matters. Reports from Arizona have generally been positive, but let me remind you that just two months ago some fans were convinced Baez should open the season on the major league roster because of his spring training performance. Spring training performances are all but meaningless, and extended spring training numbers are even more so. We will find out what Almora is made of when he reports to his team (likely Kane County), hopefully soon.

Arodys Vizcaino – RHP – Ex Spring Training: The Cubs are taking their time rehabbing Vizcaino from his elbow surgery, and for good reason. He has the best arm in the organization right now, and there is absolutely no point in rushing him this season. We’ll see him in Iowa at some point this year, but I doubt the Cubs are in any hurry.

Brett Jackson – OF – Iowa: Jackson has been greatly hampered by injuries this spring, but what we have seen from him is classic Brett Jackson. He takes his walks, steals some bases, drive the ball well when he makes contact, and strikes out way too much. Thanks to the injuries and wacky Iowa weather it is too early to say for sure whether or not the changes to his swing have paid off, but the early results are not great. He is one to watch closely as the summer warms up, though.

Junior Lake – SS/3B – Ex Spring Training: Another spring training injury, and another guy the Cubs will not rush. He will report to either Tennessee or Iowa (likely Iowa) sometime this summer (possibly soon), but the Cubs will take their time and let him heal up. Now that they are starting to move some of their minor league veterans off the Iowa roster, though, I think we may be getting close to Lake joining a team.

Pierce Johnson – RHP – Kane County: Here is a guy who pretty much right on track. He is still learning how to use his pitches to consistently get professional hitters out, but every young pitcher has to do that at some point. Even while learning, though, his results have been solid. 30 K and 10 BB in 28.2 innings is a good foundation. Factor in his 1.21 GO/AO and we are looking at a guy who is pitching better than his ERA of 3.77 would suggest. I still think he’ll move to Daytona later this season, but for now he is doing just fine where he is.

Dillon Maples – RHP – Ex Spring Training: Reports from Arizona are encouraging, but remember that all spring train reports come with a disclaimer the size of Texas. The Cubs appear to be stretching Maples out on a consistent schedule; that implies he could be moved to a meaningful league in the near future. Boise is a possibility for Maples, but I think Kane County is more likely.

Gioskar Amaya – 2B – Kane County: Amaya has been streaky for the Cougars, but it looks like he is trending in the right direction. He already has as many walks in May as he did in all of April (3), and we are seeing corresponding jumps in his slugging percentage as well. His K% is higher than I like to see (25.6%), but right now that is only a moderate concern. This is another player to keep a close eye on he progresses through the season.

Juan Carlos Paniagua – RHP – N/A: Paniagua is still held up by visa issues. The political process will run down eventually, and we will hopefully see Paniagua in action with a month or two after that. For now there just isn’t much else to say.

And that’s the preseason Top 10. I’ll check in on some of the other big names next week.

  • Believe in 2015

    Can’t the Cubs help Paniagua? This is getting ridiculous!

  • Oswego Chris

    Great stuff as usual Luke…last year it looked as though Baez was as “can’t miss” as you could be…I know it’s early, but that lack of contact scary

    • SenorGato

      Personally, there were indicators in his Peoria line that he would not do well against more advanced pitching. Namely there is the 20+% K rate (and the horrible K:BB) against Peoria level pitchers despite being said to have a 70zz hit tool. Situations like this are why hype needs to be scrutinized every single time.

      • Kygavin

        You cant say Baez is struggling what is wrong with you?, He should be in the majors playing 3B because he hit over 300 and had a bunch of homers this spring!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • hansman1982

          No, no, no…

          His insane K rate and insane (low) BB rate will correct themselves. He is going to be that 1 in 1000 player that improves their BB/K ratio as they go up the chain and his average batting eye is being suppressed by his ego.

          Don’t worry, all of this is easily fixed. Just like so many other guys before him.

  • SenorGato

    – The legend in the making that is Jeimer Candelario is at .219/.343/.298 on the season with 9 doubles, 18 RS, 22 BBs, and 23 Ks over 137 PAs. Not good, but there’s some promising indicators there such as the BBs, 2Bs, and RS.

    – Had Soler as the top prospect in the system coming in because I expected Baez to struggle in High A, so yay.

    – Almora needs to hurry up and start playing for KC. He’s going to be a shot in the arm for the system this season along with the #2 pick.

    – Christian Villanueva is struggling in AA. The excuse I have for him is that he had less than 100 PAs with the Cubs coming into the season due to Daytona’s horrible weather at the end of last season, AND that he is still young for the level. Still, his first 127 PAs this year have been pretty disappointing.

    – Maples is starting for KC today from what I heard.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      Don’t give up on Christian Villanueva, he was 3 for 4 last night with two doubles, and is hitting .333 over the last 8 games. Starting to drive the ball much better, think he likes the warmer weather.

      • SenorGato.

        No intention to. I really like Villanueva as a prospect. Love that he is an easy defender, and I think he has shown some real skills offensively. His power gets knocked but between 2011-2012 he hit 31 HRs at two levels of ball he was still on the young side for and 89 XBHs total.

        He’s shown some ability to take walks, some ability to hit for average, projects as a high level defender at 3B…I’m a fan of guys who show a wide array of potential skills…he’s even shown some speed in the lowest minors, indicating that he’s a good athlete (which his D would also back).

    • unccubsfan

      Where did you hear that Maples is starting for KC? I thought he was still in EXST?

      • SenorGato.

        Someone on NSBB said it was mentioned during the broadcast. KC’s starter today is listed as TBD.

  • Die hard

    Well… Looks like reinforcements to the Alamo won’t be happening any time soon– will have to fight with what have at present…

  • JulioZuleta

    Luke, you suspected right…Maples to KC for TONIGHT’s game. (This was written last night)
    “The two teams meet tomorrow for game two of the series. Clinton sends right-hander Victor Sanchez (0-1, 2.76) to the mound against Kane County right-hander Dillon Maples, who is making his Midwest League debut.”

    • Kyle

      Yay. Now we have three interesting pitchers above rookie ball (though one is still inactive).

      • JulioZuleta

        I wonder if Clinton has milbTV. I’ve been on the fence this past week thinking about getting it, I’d like to see what he’s got.

        • Brett

          Everyone who has seen him says he looks very impressive. It’s always been about the health and harnessing the ability.

  • The Dude Abides

    One guy playing above A ball in our top ten and two additional that are injured. Look forward to see what we have in July when weather and injuries should be behind us.

    • nkniacc13

      also be interesting to see by the end of july what promotions and other players added that could change that top 10 list.

  • Rebuilding

    Great stuff, Luke. Thanks

  • hansman1982

    “but this isn’t the majors. This is A ball.”

    and K rates only get worse as you get closer to the majors.

    Theo and Jed, PLEASE trade Baez for Stanton.

    • ChicagoMike702

      Agreed! Add to that a .915 fielding percentage, .915!

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    RHP Yeiper Castillo at Daytona has been lights out his last two starts giving up only 4 hits while walking just two and striking out fifteen in ten innings of work.
    Also Zachary Rosscup LHP at Tenn. has a WHIP of .085 in 11appearances out of the bullpen, giving up only two runs, while striking out 15 & allowing 2 walks.
    It’s still early but keep your eyes on these two for future call ups.

  • nkniacc13

    So that’s Gonzalez, Carpenter and Wade who have been sent packing this week from Iowa. How many more vets do you expect to see moved before June from Iowa. BTW Gonzalez was called up by the Yanks

  • Mike Taylor (no relation)

    I have a feeling that Garza to the rotation means Villanueva to the pen, forcing a trade and/or sending down Bowden/Camp.

    Drew Carpenter has already been replaced in the AAA rotation by Guillermo Moscoso, and boy has he excelled in his 3 starts! 16/5 K/BB, 1.69 ERA in 16.0 IP w/1.13 WHIP.

    Brian Schlitter (remember him?) is 10/5 K/BB, 0.00 ERA in 17.1 IP relieving for AA.
    Zach Rosscup (remember him?) is 20/4 K/BB, 1.17 ERA in 15.1 IP relieving for AA.
    Dallas Beeler has 26/13 K/BB, 3.16 ERA in 7 starts/42.2 IP for AA (1.08 WHIP)
    Kyle Hendricks has 28/8 K/BB, 3.19 ERA in 6 starts/31.0 IP for AA (1.26 WHIP)
    Dae-Eun Rhee has 4/3 K/BB, 0.87 ERA in 2 starts/10.1 IP for AA (0.58 WHIP)

    I’m sure one of Beeler or Hendricks will get the call to start in AAA soon. Loux and Struck both got hammered in their last two starts, maybe

  • nkniacc13

    I could see a trade when Garza is ready to come back especially if they can get one that will allow them to receive a comp pick like KC’s 34th in the draft.

  • SenorGato

    Maples made it through 5 IP in his KC debut. I think this ties a career high for him, and by career high I mean ExST high.

  • willis

    Hendricks with another kick ass start. I suppose we really need to start paying attention to him.

  • Tony S

    What trade pieces would it take to pry a pitcher like matt harvey from the Mets? Theres a lot of speculation about a pursuit of david price but id rather go after one of the young guns with fewer miles on their arms and their best ahead of them. Paying for future production rather than past performance as Theo says. Would almora, baez, maples, amaya and shoulders be in the ball park or would no team ever trade a harvey type talent. It would probably require including castro.

    • Brett

      Harvey is an un-achievable right now as Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. No sense in even thinking about it. He’s not being traded under any circumstances right now.

      • hansman1982

        Unless we traded Rizzo, Castro, Shark, Soler

    • Justin

      I would do Castro, Baez, and Almora for Harvey. I don’t think the Mets would though. Harvey has so much more value than Price it’s not even funny. Price is getting ready to get paid a ton of money and has red flags already.

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