The 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.