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javier baez aflI am not a fan of July. It is a scorching, humid month that is loved by electric companies and air conditioning repair people, but certainly not by me. I can be very happy without ever again having cause to ponder whether or not I could fry an egg on that sidewalk, or bake cookies inside the car. If humans finally learned a trick from the bears and started hibernating for a time, July is the month I would happily sleep right through.

But as bad the weather is in July, the baseball is good. July is the month when the most recent crop of draftees start to show us what they can do as professional players. Prospects playing well enough to advance rapidly have generally settled into their new level and are hopefully starting to produce as the month draws to close. Sample sizes from even the short season leagues are high enough that we can start to draw some meaningful conclusions from the numbers. As a minor league writer, July is a great month.

Or, to be more precise, July is a great month after it has happened and I have the data to sift through. That is what we will be doing in this edition of This Week In The Minors, sifting through the cumulative players stats from July and looking for some of the best lines from the month.

First, though, we have some playoff races to check on.

Iowa Cubs : 51-63

The Cubs are in free fall. Not only have they lost eight games in a row as I am writing this, they also feature the most road losses in the Pacific Coast League (41). They are now six games out of first place and a disappointing twelve games under .500. Barring a home winning streak even more stunning than this road slump, the Cubs may be out of it.

Tennessee Smokies : 24-17

The Smokies are still in first with a slim half game lead, but they have so far been unable to shake the Birmingham Barons. The rest of the division is lurking about five games out. Given that the Smokies have three straight series against sub-.500 teams coming up (@Jacksonville, Montgomery, Chattanooga), these next two weeks would be a great opportunity to stretch that lead out a little and start to put this division away.

Daytona Cubs : 22-14-1

The playoffs are in sight. Daytona is the last Cubs farm team to win a league championship; they stand a very good chance of getting a shot at winning another one. Their lead over the second place Yankees is up to 4.5 games. On top of that, the Cubs are the only team in the North division that is over .500. Daytona is tied for the league lead in road wins, has the fewest home losses, and is continuing to win no matter who the Cubs promote off that roster. This could be a fun September for fans by the beach.

Kane County Cougars : 14-26

All of the sudden Kane County has figured out how to win. They are 7-3 over their last ten games and now lurk just two games under .500 at home in the second half. They are so far out of playoff contention as to be reduced to little more than spoilers at this stage, but it is good to see this talented roster start producing wins. They are still in the basement for now, but it is easy to imagine them climbing up into the middle of the pack before the season ends.

Boise Hawks : 5-6

On the one hand, the Hawks are in last place in the division. On the other hand, they are one game out of first place. The South division of the Northwest League is a tight one, at least so far. Boise has the talent (particularly on the mound) to win this thing, but it will not be easy.

Arizona AZL Cubs : 3-4

Arizona is also in a tight division, lurking just two games back of the first place Giants. The AZL Cubs have already had some trouble winning on the road, though, and that does not bode well for their chances in the second half of their short season.

Great Lines of July

Gioskar Amaya

An OPS of .904 will draw attention at any level from any player, but even more so when it is coming from a second baseman. For July Amaya shrugged off his June struggles in a big way and posted a line of .319/.414/.489 with two triples, two home runs, and three steals. He walked eleven times against seventeen strikeouts in over a hundred trips to the plate. That is a good month for the twenty year old infielder.

Dan Vogelbach

Amaya’s OPS of .904 is nice, but Vogelbach’s .917 is nicer. With four home runs and an impressive strikeout to walk ratio of 12 to 17, Vogelbach dominated the month to the tune of a .330/.417/.500 line. That sort of production could propel him into Daytona before the end of the summer.

July was also the first month this season in which Vogelbach did not steal a base.  Perhaps the rest of the league is catching on to the base running prowess of Vogelmach.

Javier Baez

We can’t talk about slugging without mentioning Baez. Baez also joins the over.900 OPS club with a monthly figure of .917, but Baez managed that gaudy total despite batting just .228. Featuring an impressive 11 home runs for Tennessee , Baez finished the month with a Double A line of .228/.297/.620. He also finished with 34 strikeouts against 9 walks. I suspect that his disturbing strikeout rate is about to start dropping, just like it did in Daytona, and I would not be surprised if his SLG drops with it. That is not a bad thing, though. It can drop quite a ways from .620 and still be very, very good.

Trey Masek

Masek gave up three runs in July, but all three were unearned. His ERA for the month, and for his season with Boise, remains at a tidy 0.00. Masek worked eleven innings across six games last month; he struck out fourteen in that span. On top of that, his GO/AO wound up at an outstanding 3.75. It looks very much like the Northwest League hitters are just not able to do much against Masek. That is somewhat expected because Masek is a college guy, but it is still very good to see.

Dillon Maples

We’ll finish this list off with Maples as much because of what this month means for his season as because of his success. The success is legitimate, though, with fifteen strikeouts over thirteen innings in four games. His ERA finished at 1.38 and his GO/AO landed at an also impressive 3.20.

Most importantly, though, he appears to have shaken the control issues that plagued him in Kane County before his demotion. I continue to suspect that those control issues were connected to a change in his mechanics. Likewise, I suspect his success in Boise means that he is getting comfortable with those changes and is having more success repeating his delivery. I would like to see him bounce back to Kane County and pitch well for a start or two; we’ll see if the Cubs allow him that chance.

There are, of course, more excellent July lines worthy of attention that are not listed. Cael Brockmeyer, for example, or Kyle Hendricks. Dustin Geiger would be a candidate, and so would Corbin Hoffner. And there are likely more besides those. Feel free to call out any other candidates in the comments. With eight teams (including the Dominican and Venezuelan squads) playing all month long, there are sure to be a handful more not listed here.

  • abe

    I think in a year from now the Cubs will have a few more top 100 prospects, and one of them might even be a pitcher!!

    • Bilbo161

      Sickles already has CJ Edwards in his top 100 with his mid season update.

  • jt

    Christian Villanueva?

  • Good Captain

    What’s your prognosis on L Castillo at this point? I know he’s strung some good innings together down in KC but ….

  • Ivy Walls

    I don’t know Baez’s slugging is close to Aaron’s, that would be nice in the middle infield.

  • MoneyBoy

    Luke … Your minor league reports continue to be outstanding. It’s wonderful reading.

    For all the wailing about rain in FL, they’re about to enter hurricane season. Let’s hope that isn’t as bad as it’s forecast to be.

    I remember there was chatter about Maples’ delivery when he was drafted. Wasn’t the concern that the organization would want to change it for fear of injury? How much does Johnson have to do with individual players … if you know!

    • King Jeff

      We’ve been in hurricane season for a month already.

      • MoneyBoy

        Kinda thought so KJeff

      • CubsFaninMS

        I believe hurricane season starts June 17 (may be a day or two off) but the threats go up between August and October.

  • Ivy Walls

    Speaking of Hoffner, he is the kind of kids you see suddenly come out of the crowd, drafted in the 14th round, his WHIP is 0.79. He what Epstein is talking about, getting (45 pitchers new into the system) and increasing the odds that a few get real good.

  • OkieCub

    Curious if there is any concern that all the rainouts in Daytona is detrimental to prospect development. Has there been any consideration to relocating out of the FSL? Is that even an option?

    • Kyle

      This gets brought up like three times a week, so I’m assuming it’s been considered.

      But there’s only two other A+ leagues. The Carolina League has 8 teams (some of whom prefer Northeastern MLB parent clubs) and has rainout problems almost as bad as the FSL’s. The California League has many of the smallest parks in the minor leagues, creating a really screwy offensive environment that some think screws with hitters and pitchers who stop there. It’s like playing in a league of Coors Fields.

      • wvcubsfan

        Maybe the Cubs can just install a dome of Florida and that will take care of the problem.

      • OkieCub

        I was thinking of a new Midwestern league. I know here in the NE Oklahoma area I can think of about 12 cities within 3 hours that could support a 2-3000 seat stadium.

        • ssckelley

          I think the minor league teams are owned and operated separate from MLB, the MLB teams simply supply the players. I believe the Arizona rookie league is the exception from this. So it would take these midwestern cities building stadiums and someone starting up a league to do this, like an independent league and then hope to attract the interest of MLB ballclubs.

          • OkieCub

            Yes, I know it would be a major undertaking. But I know some of these cities (Muskogee, Hot Springs, Joplin, etc.) have had MiLB before at one time. I don’t know, just idle Sunday morning daydreaming.

          • TheDondino

            Most minor league teams are independently owned, however a number of High-A teams are owned by the parent organization. 7 of the 5 FSL teams are owned by the parent club (Cubs are not one of them) as well as one each in the Carolina and California leagues.

        • wvcubsfan

          To start a new league (other than an independent league) one would have to shut down. Then you’re going to get into a huge PR problem.

          • ssckelley

            especially since Florida is the home to many teams in the spring.

  • http://www.1000caloriesaday.com/ Frank

    I don’t know if anyone has seen this write up on Eloy Jimenez, but here the link and a couple of videos of him taking batting practice.

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1724738-everything-cubs-fans-need-to-know-about-international-prospect-eloy-jimenez

    • Scotti

      An awful read. Just a mashup of the pre-signing reports and video and then “caution” about 16- y/o internationals taking longer than older prospects (ya think?).

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Why are we talking about baseball prospects when we should be discussing the prospects for who is going to be the next Doctor Who?!?!?

    • wvcubsfan

      What?

      • wvcubsfan

        Who’s the doctor?

        • DocPeterWimsey

          We will know in 100 minutes.

          • Hansman1982

            Thanks to local cable I won’t actually know for another 3 years. Hooray PBS!

        • MoneyBoy

          Who’s on first, Doctor Who.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Actually, you could put him at all 9 positions, and then have a couple of relievers. One of them would have to coach, however: he was a bit old.

            Oh, and they would play cricket. Brilliantly, I might add.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    All the college and JC pitchers from the 2013 draft have been doing very good at Boise, not just Masek. Zastryzny, Skulina, Frazier, Wilson are all throwing well with low ERA’s and WHIP.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Forgot to mention Godley as well fro the 2013 draft pitching well at Boise.

  • Mick

    What is the injury with Dunston?

    • brunsmk

      Leg injury according to Carrie Muskat. Asked her about it the other day on twitter.

      • Mick

        Thanks. I really like this kid–lead off man someday.

  • Big Joe

    Just got back to the hotel, after the Kane County vs Clinton game.
    Kane County got shelled. Final score Clinton 11, Kane County 1.

    A few notes/thoughts:

    Albert Almora left the game, after his second at bat. It looked like he tweeked something in his lower back. It didn’t appear serious, but hell, I’m not a doctor.
    I’m not sure who’s bigger, Dan Vogelbach, or Rock Shoulders. Side by side, it was close.
    Jose Rosario got ROCKED. But, as folks often point out, minor league baseball isn’t about statistics. With that said, I loved his arm. He came in relief, and has a very live arm.
    I had a very good time. I sat next to a guy that happens to run a Cubs related website. After chatting for a while, he gave up the information. I’m sure many of you have heard of it, but it was news to me. The site is called northsidersreport.com. I’ll have to check it out.
    I managed to get the attention of Vogelbach as he was leaving the field. I got an autograph, and about 2 minutes of small talk. Nice guy. He had a rough day at the plate, and was obviously irritated with his day. He still took the time to stop and chat, one on one. Nice guy.
    All in all, it was a lot of fun.

  • Casey Turner

    I was at the game as well- my big note on the day: Jeimer looks great at third!

  • Dumpgobbler

    What I love about our system is our Depth. Soon Olt will be up. If it proves too much for him Villanueva will be up shortly. If neither of those guys can handle it, Candelario and Bryant should be on the horn, with Bryant obviously getting hte lions share there. In the outfield you have a slew of guys who project as ML guys in Szczur, Jackson, Hoon-ha, Almora and Soler. Even guys like Shoulders and Golden could become something. Then you have Vogelbach who I’m fairly certain will have the bat that plays at the ML level. Guys like Hernandez, Alcantara, Almaya, Baez, Watkins all could be ML MIF in different impacts obviously. Its hard to believe we wont be able to field a quality team in 3 or so years. We have quietly built up a slew of pitching depth as well. No Taillons or Coles, but some interesting arms nonetheless.

    • Josh t

      I hope it takes more then 2 good games for him to get promoted. He should look half way decent for 2 weeks before we should even consider bringing him up (IMO). But it would be exciting to see him play at wrigley.

  • Josh t

    Another nice day for Baez. I am really starting to think Baez has hope to learn plate discipline. Been reading and seeing some nice things of how he’s starting to try and be patient. I still need to see him have patients for at least half a year to a year of good plate plate approach before I think he could be a super star. If he could ever learn to walk at a decent clip then he could be special. (Not that you guys need to hear that to know that)

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