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kyle hendricks iowa cubsIf you like winning, you loved this past week in the minors. While Tennessee has lost some close games and has fallen in the standings as a result, everyone else has put together some very nice winnings streaks. The Cubs organization now contains two first place teams (Iowa and Kane County), and Daytona has finally emerged as one of the hottest teams in the Florida State League.

The good news extends past team records as well. While we are still a little shy in the sample size department (and here is your blanket warning for all stats in this article), there are a number of players performing very well in the early part of the season. Whether you’re looking for prospects to help in Chicago or just great baseball in general, there is a lot to like in the Cubs organization right now.

Iowa Cubs : 13-9

The surging Iowa Cubs won five times last week are now in a first place tie with Oklahoma City in the American Northern division. Their record is still lopsided with more game at home (where they are 8-8) and more success on the road (5-1), but that should start to even out. For now, their 13 wins are tied for second most in the Pacific Coast League, and they have the fewest road losses.

They come home to play Omaha on Monday, and then hit the road for games in Nashville and New Orleans over the weekend and into next week.

Tennessee Smokies : 10-13

Tennessee’s current three game losing streak has dropped them into a tie for dead last in the North division. As one of the youngest teams in the League, it isn’t surprising to see the Smokies have some early season struggles, but I wouldn’t take their position in the standings as an indictment of the talent on this team. Not yet, anyway.

However, this is a bad time to be slumping. Their upcoming schedule is not an easy one. After wrapping up the current series with first place Huntsville on Monday, the Smokies head to Chattanooga for five, then come home for five against Birmingham, and immediately hit the road again for series in Jackson and Mississippi. After Tuesday they do not have another day off until May 20, and three quarters of those games are on the road.

Daytona Cubs : 8-14

The Daytona Cubs have woken up and are starting to climb up the standings. Winners of three in a row and five in the past week, Daytona is now out of the cellar. Unfortunately, they are still nine games behind first place Dunedin.

Currently the Cubs have just two home wins, but if they are going to make a run at the division in the first half, they are going to have to win a bunch of home games. Starting Thursday they will play twelve of fourteen games at home in historic Jackie Robinson Stadium. One interesting thing to note about The Jack is that it has a parking lot just behind pretty much the entire outfield wall. Dan Vogelbach has eight hits in his last three games and is about as hot as a hitter can be right now. Anyone visiting the stadium in the near future might want to keep that in mind when choosing where to park.

Kane County Cougars : 16-6

Kane County has ridden their current five game winning streak to a two game lead in the division and the best home record in the Midwest League. They are ten games over .500, lead Peoria by a pair, and have been all but unstoppable lately.

They hit the road for Cedar Rapids on Monday, but return home on Friday for series against Burlington and Wisconsin. Those three teams are in third, fourth and fifth place in the division right now. If the Cougars stay hot, they could just about turn the Western Division into a two team race by the middle of the month.

Off To Some Good Starts

Kris Bryant, 3B – Tennessee

He has a slugging percentage of .577, a walk rate of 15.7%, and it seems like I’m writing good things about this guy just about every day. Even his strikeout rate is down to 27%, a still high but tolerable rate given his ability to earn consistent walks. He should break the 100 plate appearance plateau this week, and that point we can officially begin the irrational excitement.

Arismendy Alcantara, 2B – Iowa

He only has two walks, but that’s not such a bad thing given the rest of his line. He is now hitting .301/.310/.554 for Iowa, and has performed almost equally well from both sides of the plate (he is a switch hitter). Last year he had a walk rate over 10%, so I’m not too concerned about that aspect of his game long term, particularly given that his strikeout rate is doing just fine. One of these days I hope to see his combination of power and speed atop the lineup in Chicago.

Kyle Hendricks, RHP – Iowa

Hendricks has not finished with a strikeouts per nine innings number over 7.71 since his first season a professional when he pitched out the bullpen in the Northwest League. He currently has a K/9 of 9.12. Not only that, through 30.2 innings he has yet to allow a home run and is piling up ground balls at a phenomenal GO/AO pace of 2.80. Among those with at least 20 innings pitched in the Pacific Coast League, his FIP of 2.77 places him fourth, and his K% of 26.0% ranks him ninth. If he stays healthy, there is no reason he shouldn’t be starting games in Wrigley sometime this summer.

Marco Hernandez, SS – Daytona

It was not that ago that Hernandez was better known for his glove than his bat, but now this switch* hitter has an early season line of .328/.375/.388 with a triple and two steals, and is emerging as a factor in the Daytona offense. He’ll likely remain a full season in Daytona, but if he keeps hitting like this throughout the season the Cubs could easily opt give him a shot in the Arizona Fall League in October.

*Last season he was listed as a switch hitter, but this year he is billed just as a left handed hitter. I’m not sure if the Cubs had him drop his right handed swing or if there is an error on the player listings, so for now I’ll keep him down a switch hitter.

Bijan Rademacher, OF – Daytona

For a time he was practically carrying the Daytona offense by himself, but he hasn’t stopped hitting now that the rest of the Cubs are firing up. His season line reads .365/.452/.540 with two home runs, a walk rate of 11.6%, and strikeout rate of 20.3%. Going back to last season he has now played in about sixty games at the High A level, and I’m not sure he needs many more. If he is still hitting like this in a couple of weeks, look for the Cubs to find a way to get him to Double A.

Carlos Penalver, SS – Kane County

The pool of infield prospects in the Cubs system is seemingly bottomless, and right now Penalver is working on moving up that depth chart in a hurry. Speed is a big part of his game, and his .291/.360/.367 line features six steals in six chances. In 72 games last season he stole just nine bases in twelve chances, so the uptick is a welcome improvement. This is just his first full trip into a full season league and he does not turn 20 until mid May, so I suspect the Cubs are content to let him develop in Low A all year.

  • Funn Dave

    Hi all,

    I’m considering subscribing to milb.tv but I’ve got a couple questions that I’m hoping someone can answer:

    Does anyone know the approximate ratio of night games to day games?

    I’m guessing I don’t have to worry about blackouts?

    The website says milb.tv offers “some” playoff games. What does that entail, exactly?

    Thanks in advance. Also, Brett or Luke, have you considered putting a link on Bleacher Nation to subscribe to milb.tv or mlb.tv, similar to the one you have to Amazon? Idk how the site does financially, but I’m sure people would subscribe through here if it was offered.

  • SenorGato

    Praise Jah for Bryant, but I do like me some Alcantara. Glad to see someone acknowledge Hernandez’s strong April, and glad to see Penalver is also showing some skills.

    Seems like this year is Bryant, then Alcantara, Hendricks (who I’m not super excited about in this “everyone’s a potential 2/3″ world of prospects), a whole shitload of potential relievers (Rivero watch: 17 Ks in 10 IP, 4 H, 5 BBs), then a whole bunch of players looking forward to putting April behind them.

    As far as Baez’s early season struggles – I think it’s taking him a little longer because he had so few AA PAs. 240 isn’t alot, they must have really bought into his talent to send him to AAA on that. I think he’ll catch up and squeeze out a callup at the end of the season.

  • ssckelley

    Second year in a row that I have to check the MiLB GameDay app to find any good news about the Cubs organization.

  • addks

    What is a good ISO?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Certainly anything about .150 gets your motor going, I think, but it kind of depends on the player. Over .200 is excellent for anyone.

    • Tyler_31
  • Medicos

    Only two cities (LA and Chicago) have 4 pro teams playing:

    12:00—–Bulls (1-2) Channel 7
    1:00—–Cubs (7-16) Channel 9
    1:15—-White Sox (12-13) CSN
    2:05—-Blackhawks (3-2) Channel 5

    Great day to watch all 4 of our pro teams kick some ass!!!!

  • Kyle

    I wouldn’t be too worried about where to park for Vogelbach. While his BABIP is finally normalizing and that’s nice, his power continues to play down significantly in games. He doesn’t seem to have the uppercut swing it takes to consistently get balls into the air to take advantage of the raw power.

    • JM

      That’s ok. There have been a lot of guys (and I’m not putting DV in that category) that have Hall of Fame careers without hitting a lot of homers.

      Would be great to see more power, but the Cubs have long been without a high average hitter that puts the ball in play regularly. Who was the last guy? Grace?

      • Brocktoon

        Juan Pierre.

        • JasonP

          Starlin Castro, excepting last year?

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Pierre was not such a player.

          • JasonP

            Lead the league in hits and AB/SO in his one season with the Cubs. His average was *only* .292 or .023 better than the league average and just inside the top 1/3 of all qualifying batters for BA that year.

            I’d say he qualifies as “a high average hitter that puts the ball in play regularly” for his time with the Cubs and generally for his career.

            • JM

              At any rate, though I didn’t specify this, I was thinking of a guy that did it year in and year out. Someone the Cubs could count on.

              Grace did it for a decade or more.

          • Brocktoon

            WTF kind of player was he then?

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor

    Luke, Marco Hernandez has 18 PA this year as a right handed hitter, with a .278/.278/.278 slash line, wOBA .255, 38.9 K%, .455 BABIP, so they may have told him to cut it out… 1 PA, 1 K as L vs L, so I don’t know.

    His stats look better vs RHP: 54 PA, 9.3/11.1 BB/K%, .354/.415/.438, .400 wOBA.

  • Kyle

    I’m not sure if you feel like it’s your job to be positive or if you really aren’t seeing the turd of an April this was for our farm system.

    Baez has been dominated, Soler is still hurt, Edwards’ projected lack of durability is hitting him already, Almora has OBP problems, Johnson missed time with an injury. Without a year-long injury, it’d be hard for a month to be worse for our top prospects.

    It’s a glass half-full, half-empty thing, I guess. I see a 23% K-rate and a .310 OBP from Alcantara, even with the nice power, and I see a guy who is destined to be a weak starter or strong reserve in the majors. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of perspective, I guess.

    • ssckelley

      It must be your job to sniff out the turds. Because if there are turds laying around you are the first person to point them out.

      God forbid we find some positives in the farm system!

      • Brocktoon

        I think Kyle’s point is there are too many turds laying around him. 4 of our Big 5 have fallen short of hopes thus far. It’s obviously a SSS, but it seems odd to put the rosy spin on the month of April like Luke has.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          The entire point was to look at the positive stuff.

          • jp3

            That’s be a short sentence if positives were the qualifier.

          • JM

            Some people are incapable of such things.

          • Kyle

            That’s what I wasn’t sure about. Was Luke intentionally looking for good points, or did he look at the Cubs’ minor leagues in April and think “Yeah, this is pretty good”?

      • Kyle

        I keep thinking I won’t have to point them out, but people are so willful about ignoring them.

        • TommyK

          Didn’t you get the memo? Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of the Cubs!

      • Jon

        With the exception of my backyard, if there was a turd laying around, I sure hope someone would point it out to me

    • Coach K

      Maybe you should write a guest post like Sahadev does occasionally and you can ignore all positives from the organization and only focus on everything that sucks.

    • SenorGato

      I think Alcantara’s upside is higher than that, but that is a duh statement. Weak starter/strong reserve is about where he’s at, but he could develop into something by his mid-late 20’s in the majors if the development process doesn’t stop after the minors. On a more aesthetically pleasing frame, he’s short and compact, his tools and athleticism would draw drools, and he has shown quality secondary skills in the minors.

      A strong reserve wouldn’t be bad if if if, and if whoever has him can keep mining away they might find themselves a MIF starter one day.

    • blublud

      You see a .310 OBP, I see a guy hitting over .300 with 13 XBH, 6 for 6 in SB with a 865 OPS. I see a guy with a .362 wOBA and a .253 ISO. I see a guy who needs to walk more, but he is having a decent season.

      • Kyle

        “decent seasons” at AAA do not lead to being good starters at the MLB level.

        He’s on track to be a bench piece or a weak starter.

        • blublud

          Right. A 15% XBH rate, .865 OPS, .253 ISO, a .362 wOBA and a nice mixture of power and speed doesn’t lead me to a bench projection. If it does, then there is about 2 starters in all of the minors.

          • ssckelley

            Kyle pretty much projects everyone as a bench piece. That way he is rarely wrong.

            • JasonP

              It is a proper betting strategy.

              If you predict that a .300 hitter will make an out every at bat, you’ll be right 70% of the time. If you predict he’ll get a hit 3 out of 10 times, you’ll only end up being right 58% of the time.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I tend to hit the negatives as they happen. The injuries to Soler, Edwards, Almora, and Baez, for example, have all be covered. As have the offense struggles in Daytona, the lackluster performances from some pitching prospects, various bullpen failures, and so forth and so forth.

      For me, though, the extensive of the negatives doesn’t make the positives any less real. Just because there is bad news doesn’t mean we should ignore the good and pretend it doesn’t matter because there is also bad. Both should be covered, and so I cover both.

  • Jon

    Baez has cut down on his Ks the past few days but I’ve noticed a lot of ground balls. Without seeing the ABs alive I wonder if this is just bad luck or robbing Peter to pay Paul?

    • Kyle

      I’m hoping/guessing that ground balls is a sign that he’s getting closer to getting the timing down on offspeed pitches, but not quite there yet.

      He’s gone from way out in front to just a little out in front. The next stop is bonerville.

    • JM

      Remember when Sosa would go into a slump? He would be just terrible. In Sosa’s case! as soon as he started hitting the ball the other way! I knew he would get back into another groove hitting homers. Maybe the same will be true of Baez. Maybe making contact is the start of better things to come.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      I have to believe that the opposition has changed their approach of how the pitch Baez.. How he adjusts will determine when he gets a call up. I see now reason to rush him at this point. Unfortunately we have a few stinkers taking up roster spots for the time being. I’d like to see Valaika get a shot, but things are crowded in the infield. Sweeny and Schierholtz have been a disappontment and truthfully aside from Kalish and Bonifacio the outfield has provided very little offense.

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