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jorge soler cubsJorge Soler returned to the Tennessee Smokies lineup yesterday, his official first game since leaving with a hamstring injury after one at bat on April 3. Given that he doubled in that one at bat, it is only fitting that his line from yesterday includes a double as part of a two hit, two walk performance.

The Smokies had Soler hitting cleanup, just behind Bryant and ahead of Geiger, and playing right field. That gives Tennessee a lineup that opens with Andreoli and his .400+ OBP and gobs of steals, Bruno and his .400+ OBP and penchant for doubles, Bryant and his 1.067 OPS, Soler, and then Geiger, a legitimate power bat in his own right. That is a very scary top of the lineup for a Double A team.

How long will it stay together? Probably not long. Soler, Bruno, and Geiger are likely in Double A for the duration of the season. Andreoli, though, is overdue for a trip to Iowa in my book, and Bryant really isn’t being challenged at all right now and could move up sometime soon. If you want to see this very prospecty offense in action, get to a Tennessee game soon.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa - It was a quiet day for the offense as the Cubs lost 9-1.
Tennessee - The Smokies picked up their twentieth win of the season in this 5-4 game.
Daytona - Daytona was shut out, 7-0.
Kane County - Kane County took it into extra innings before pulling away for the 5-2 win.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Javier Baez went hitless in this game, but he walked twice and did not strike out. Of his 9 season walks, 7 have come in the last 8 games.
  • [Iowa] Kyle Hendricks allowed 4 runs on 8 hits in 6 innings. He struck out 6.
  • [Tennessee] Kris Bryant had another multi-hit with homer night. This time he went 3 for 4 and clubbed his 9th homer.
  • [Tennessee] John Andreoli walked and stole his 17th base of the season. If he kept up this stolen base pace over a full 140 game minor league season, he’d finish with 74 steals.
  • [Tennessee] As mentioned above, Jorge Soler went 2 for 2 with 2 walks in his Double A return. Combine that with his double before he went down with the hamstring injury, and he’s currently sporting a 1.000 OBP on the season. You cannot get him out. Ever.
  • [Tennessee] Pierce Johnson turned in a nice start in this one. Over 6 innings and 94 pitches he allowed 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8.
  • [Tennessee] Jose Veras allowed nothing and struck out one in his inning of rehab relief.
  • [Daytona] Dan Vogelbach and Gioskar Amaya had the only two hits for the Cubs.
  • [Kane County] Jacob Hannemann has decided to join the walking party. He took 3 free passes in this game, and stole his 11th base as well.
  • [Kane County] Ben Carhart, playing DH in this one, doubled twice in his 6 at bats.
  • [Kane County] Shawon Dunston finished 3 for 5 with a triple, his third. After a slow start, Dunton has suddenly started hitting very well. In May (sample size alert) he now has an OPS of 1.097 with 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, and 2 triples.

Other News

  • Alberto Cabrera appeared in the seventh inning of the Iowa, gave up five straight hits including two home runs, and left without recording an out. That is unusual, to say the least, and when pitchers and unusual get together, injury is often lurking nearby. It is something to keep an eye on.
  • The Stephen Bruno consecutive games with a double streak is over. Bruno did keep the hitting streak alive, going 1 for 3 with a walk, but he did not double.
  • How good has Bryant been lately? In the month of May (eight games, small sample size) he has as many home runs as he does walks (four), and more hits (fourteen) than he has walks and strikeouts combined (four and nine respectively). So far in May he is slugging .900 and has an OPS of 1.429. And all of that despite going hitless in three of those eight games. Those are some impressive numbers.
  • Diehardthefirst

    It’s not unheard of to promote from AA to bigs- if anyone can do it Bryant will

    • baldtaxguy

      He needs OF starts before such a move. I believe when he is promoted, it will be to Iowa and he will only play LF-RF.

      • Soda Popinski

        My thoughts, too.

      • ssckelley

        Why are we moving Bryant off third?

        • Soda Popinski

          Because have you seen our OF of the big league club? We need help there more than in the IF.

        • Chad

          His defense at 3b is average at best and his bat plays anywhere. The cubs need OF more than they need 3B. Especially if Alcantara proves to be a ML 2B.

          • Head and Heart

            I agree that a move to the outfield is the most likely scenario. But there’s no rush at this point. He sees himself as a third bagger and that’s where he wants to play. There’s no rush to get him to the big league club this season unless he gets a September call up. So for now there’s no reason to make the switch.

            • Eternal Pessimist

              It’s easier/cheaper to find a LF/RF bat on the market than a 3B. If Bryant is even a little below average at 3B I don’t see anyone kicking him off.

              • Chad

                Baez could easily play 3B and be a better defender with a pretty good bat. Olt still has time to prove he can hit in the ML and his glove is going to be much better than Bryants. Not to mention the concerns of back injuries for Bryant due to his size.

                Yes it is easier to get an OF in FA, but if you can fill both needs in house why not? I think putting Bryant in LF makes the cubs better offensively and defensively.

                • ssckelley

                  Baez could easily play 2nd as well. But honestly until Baez starts making more contact in AAA I am not going to worry about where the Cubs might play him. So for me where to play Baez is a non issue.

                • DoodtheDood

                  I’m sorry, did you just refer to Baez as having a “pretty good bat”. I think you might have just understated something a bit on accident. Elite bat would be the appropriate term.

                  • Chad

                    I don’t think that he is an elite bat yet. He has not proven he can handle AAA pitching yet. He has elite bat speed, but either his pitch recognition or patience which will allow him to become a more complete hitter and elite bat are still missing IMO.

              • ssckelley

                I have the same thoughts. Slugging outfielders are much easier to find in the free agent market than slugging 3rd baseman. I think the only reason you might move Bryant to the outfield early is if Olt proves he can handle big league pitching.

                • Chad

                  To me a lot depends if Alcantara turns out to be good enough that he has to be on the cubs ML team. If so he can play 2B and Baez at 3B. Then Bryant can move to 3B. I don’t believe that Bryant will be able to handle 3B in the ML. If so I think he spends too much time worrying about his defense when he could play OF and focus on hitting. Either way I don’t care how/when it happens but the cubs just need the best combo of players no matter what position they are. If it is better for the cubs offensively and defensively to move Alcantara to CF and leave Bryant at 3B so be it but people will have to move at sometime.

            • Thiscantbegood

              Let me just say the Cubs currently have 4 pretty solid 3rd base options coming up. If Olt can stick at 3rd then you have Bryant, Baez, Villanueva who needs to find new homes. LF would be the most ideal place for Bryant, with Soler hopefully occupying RF, and Almora in CF. That would be ideal. Then 2nd base would most likely be Baez. Alcantara would be on the bench along with Lake as the 4th OF. Yes that is a longgggggg shot. But that is what the FO sees just like many of us. 3rd base right now is weak, but it won’t be in the near future.

              • ssckelley

                But the likely hood of all those prospects making it are slim to none.

              • Eternal Pessimist

                I’ wondering if it would be better to trade the extra piece if all these guys prove to be MLB starting quality infielders. Once you move one to the outfield you lose some infielder value.

                That said, I have no idea if Bryant will ever be a legit i fielder in the bigs.

        • http://obstructedview.net Myles

          I’m not a scout, but I’ve seen probably 15 games at Iowa this year and he doesn’t look fluid at 3B at all. He’s got the arm, but the footwork is only so-so and he’s SO tall.

          • Edwin

            You mean Tenn?

          • Chad

            Exactly if his defense doesn’t play there, we can plug several guys with the glove, and if Baez goes to 3B then we can have a pretty decent glove there as well.

    • Q-Ball

      This FO will not do so, nor should they. I would like to see Bryant cut the Ks. But yeah, he’s got lots of pop, no problem there.

      With service time concerns, no matter how well he does I doubt he’ll get to Wrigley before next April

      • Chad

        Why wouldn’t they switch him to OF? He is not a very good defensive 3B and the cubs need more OF right now than IFs. So I think you will see Bryant in the OF at some point.

        I also think you will see him in September because honestly, if you don’t give him a shot in September he isn’t breaking ST with the big club.

        • ssckelley

          Eventually I think they move him to the outfield to save wear and tear on his body, but not now. He plays an adequate third base and, obviously, his bat projects extremely well there.

          I just cannot buy into bringing Bryant up at all this season. You have to put him on the 40 man roster and then start the service time. I still think the earliest we see him is end of April next season. There is enough contact issues to justify keeping him down all season.

        • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

          You keep the player at the spot that has the most value and 3B is more valuable than the OF. Finding a solid hitting OF is easier than 3B, just because we have a need now you don’t move a player to a less valuable position. Same reason Baez is at SS primarily. These are professional players than can adjust to a new position quickly, the all have the skills to play most positions.

          • Edwin

            From what I hear, Bryant is not handling 3B all that well. If he can’t handle 3B, I see no reason to leave him there just because 3B is more valuable.

            • bbmoney

              Yeah, if he proves he can’t handle it well. I’m not sure we’re there yet though, he’s not even a full season into his professional career. There’s a chance with some more coaching up he’ll be able to handle it fine. He should be athletic enough.

              A transition to the OF shouldn’t take long, so I don’t see any reason to make the move out there too quickly. Certainly don’t do it because of current MLB roster needs. That’s short sighted.

              • Edwin

                Agreed. You make the move based on the player, not on team need. At least not until it’s an actual issue with the MLB lineup.

              • Javier Bryant

                That’s another reason I like the Kris Bryant/Ryan Braun comp. both college hitters who started out as 3B. Braun moved to LF after his rookie season, Bryant might be before that.

                • Rebuilding

                  Yeah, from everything I’ve heard and seen, the best you could hope for from Bryant is to be a below average 3b, if that. Meanwhile, you have Olt, Villanueva and Baez who all profile to be above average 3b. Now Olt and Villanueva may never hit enough to stick and Baez may be ticketed for 2B, but I think it likely shakes out that Alcantera plays 2b, Baez 3b and Bryant ends up in RF. Bryant has all of the skills to be an above average RF or LF

          • Chad

            The big difference is that value is based on bat + glove and if his bat is equal at both but his glove is much better in the OF make the switch.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Value is based on how much more you contribute to run-differential than do the other guys who play your position. X HR from a 3bman is more net HR for the team than X HR is from the LFer. For fielding to balance that out, he would have to be a much, much better LFer than he is a 3Bman. If. Bryant is only below average at 3rd, then he would have to be Brett Gardber or Sam Fuld in LF (or better) to make up for the relative loss in productivity that comes from moving him to LF.

              That written, it still might be a smart move for two reasons. One, the probability of someone his size getting hurt in dives, quick pivots, etc. is going to be high. We are not necessarily talking about DL trips even: just the small nagging injuries that deteriorate productivity.

              Two, it *used* to be that you could get a good hitting LFer or RFer on the FA market. However, the last few years, nearly all of these guys have signed “DH at the end” contracts with AL teams. It’s not just the Cubs: the NL as a whole is getting shut out. So, if two of the three of Olt, Baez and Lacantara can make it (improbable but possible), then it certainly becomes a net gain for the Cubs to convert Bryant to an OFer.

              • OCCubFan

                After Troy Glaus hurt his shoulder on an innocuous-looking attempt to field a dribbler, he was never the same hitter.

  • OCCubFan

    Bryant has been awesome in May, but he is unlikely to maintain his May BABIP of about .600.

    • JeffR

      I’m not sure it has much to do with BABIP when your talking about that many at bats because how many total balls have even been in play. 3 hooks runs and quite a few walks have been taken, plus he is still striking out a lot. So it’s not like all of his hits are cheap singles that are finding gaps in the infield.

  • ssckelley

    Luke, what are your thoughts on Daytona? It blows my mind to see that team struggling as much as it does with the prospects on that team, especially offensively.

    • ced landrum

      I’m a bit surprised myself to see them doing so poorly. They didn’t have a great year last year and this is a young group, but it is disappointing to see how poorly they are hitting at this point. I am sure they will turn it around, but yikes lets do it soon.

      • ssckelley

        I know this group struggled last year in Kane County but it was mainly the pitching that was the problems. Now this group is struggling to hit.

        • ced landrum

          yes and no. Last year Almora and Vogelbach had really good years. Candelario and Shoulders had o.k. years. Amaya and Hernadez didn’t hit. I don’t think it was as great as you remember it. Again they were young last year and yes the pitching wasn’t great.

          This year Amaya and Hernandez are doing very well. Candelario and Shoulders have been terrible and Almora is right there with them. Vogelbach is picking up a little bit.

          It is just a head scratcher.

  • Soda Popinski

    Good to see Baez making adjustments. He hasn’t broken out, yet, but it’s good to see him be more selective with his pitches.

    • CubChymyst

      The recent walks are hopefully a sign of good things to come from Baez.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Making room for Baez requires imagination- Lake plays 2B too

    • Austin8466

      Um, with Alcantara working his way to the show and Bonifacio/Valbuena/Barney rotating at 2b, you will likely never see Lake at 2b in a Cubs uniform. Ever.

    • Chad

      Making room for Baez doesn’t take too much. Whether it is 2B or 3B somebody gets displaced. Pretty simple. There is a glut of IF, not a lack so why would you add someone to the IF? If Olt can prove he can handle 3B and Baez goes to 2B, I see Alcantara as a Bonifacio super utility guy. If not he can go to 2B and Baez to 3B and Olt out.

      • JeffR

        There is plenty of time to figure this out because no one is really killing it at AAA right now. If Baez or Alcantara start playing well enough they will be able to find the places to get at bats.

        • Chad

          Exactly, the talent will sort itself out. Of course there could be a trade of prospects this off season that changes the outlook entirely. You never know.

    • ssckelley

      Right now it does not because until Baez starts making AAA look easy he will not be in Chicago. I know in spring training a lot of us were clamoring for him to be up by June but now I wonder if he might need the entire year in AAA.

      Assuming Baez can make the adjustments we might see both Bryant and Baez up at the same time, next season.

      • Chad

        Most were clamoring for him to break ST with the cubs.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Is Shark combing his hair with his left hand due to soreness?

    • miggy80

      “combing” with locks like that you “brush” your hair.

    • Head and Heart

      My arm is sore after playing slow pitch. I imagine a lot of pitchers don’t do much with their right arms the day or two after throwing 80 pitches let alone close to 130.

  • Steve

    C’mon Brett….all we really want to hear about right now is Bryant and his hitting orgy.
    Bruno, Andreoli…..? I say yawn.

    Maybe for just a bit, lets have a temporary site name change to:
    Bryant Nation??

  • college_of_coaches

    Paniagua had a nice night as well. Four scoreless innings, four Ks. It’s nice to see him and Concepcion slowly and quietly rebuilding.

    • NorthSideIrish

      Underwood got the start and had a strong night too…5 IP 1 ER 1BB. He got a late start to the season but has looked really strong so far, especially for a 19 year old.

      • ced landrum

        I have been very impressed with his start this year. I was beginning to grow indifferent to him because he had so much work to do. It seems as if this is a great pattern of growth for him, so far.

      • college_of_coaches

        Yes, Underwood’s development is a good sign. Folks were pretty high on him, but he had been a “raw talent.”

  • Austin8466

    Poor Luke. Some guys on here still think Brett writes these Minor League updates lol.

  • miggy80

    I-Cubs finally come home and play some night games. Hope the weather cooperates.

  • Jason P

    There were reports Kyle Hendricks was touching 94/95 in this game. If he does that consistently, it changes things quite a bit. If he can sit 92-93 with his command, look out.

    As it is, he’s striking out over a batter per inning this year.

    • Edwin

      I’d love for that to be the case, but it seems unlikely. Could have just been a hot gun.

    • Head and Heart

      So last year he was at 89-91 and hardly walked anyone. This year he is sitting in the low 90s and walking people? What’s caused that change? Did he tweak his delivery to add more velocity? It looks like his BABIP against and LOB% mean he’s actually pitching better than his ERA shows. If this extra velocity is sustainable what does he profile as in the bigs? A number 3?

      • Jason P

        He’s still not walking that many people. His BB/9 is up about 0.5 from last year, but it’s still at a very good 2.36.

        Just because he supposedly touched 95 last night doesn’t mean he’s sitting 92-93 this year. I was just saying it would be nice if he could — and yes, I think it would have to boost his ceiling to at least a 3.

        But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

        • Head and Heart

          Oh I see. I thought you meant if he can continue to sit 92-93. That’s my mistake. The increase in K/9 though would seem to indicate he’s missing more bats at the very least. Which is encouraging. If a guy with that kind of control can find a way to miss bats consistently then he’s going to have a solid career ahead of him.

          • Jason P

            Yeah, it definitely separates him from some of the other finesse types we’ve seen the past couple years (Rusin, Struck, Raley, etc.).

  • CubChymyst

    General question: who do people like best in the Kane County outfield, Hannemann or Dunston?

    • ced landrum

      Hannemann is probably thought of more highly by the Cubs since he plays everyday. It really is a bit of an issue in KC because they have 4 pretty good prospects who need playing time. The best thing that could happen is that one of them get hot and get promoted.

      • CubChymyst

        Hannemann has been getting more starts, however, Dunston is younger and not striking out nearly as much at low A. Their are good arguments for both players so I’d figure I see what the BN community had to say. I do wish Dunston was gettugb more playing time.

    • Jason P

      Neither.

      • CubChymyst

        Which outfield to you like more in Kane County?

        • Jason P

          I don’t like any of them very much. Hannemann’s 23 and striking out 26% of the time in low-A with a noodle arm and very little present power (at his age, is he even going to fill out anymore?)

          Dunston’s okay, but seems like a definite fourth outfielder.

          Balaguert doesn’t have the greatest approach or enough power to make up for it.

          So I guess I think Trey Martin’s the guy with the best shot to emerge as a starter — but he’s also very iffy since he’s yet to put up respectable numbers in full season ball.

          • ced landrum

            In fairness to Trey he had pretty major shoulder surgery last year and only played 35 games so he hasn’t had a chance to put up respectable numbers. Plus this year might not tell us much anyway.

          • CubChymyst

            Martins number so far this season are pretty bad, but he also doesn’t have that many at bats yet since him and Dunston are splitting time in CF. I think Luke has said Martin is one of the better defensive outfielders, so he has that going for him.

    • Spriggs

      I’m a Dunston guy. I have seen him way more than the other guys, but I just like his game and his attitude. I have seen very little of Hanneman, but he seems like he’s the most highly regarded of the bunch.
      Martin is a guy to watch – to see if he can pick up his offense. He has great speed and is a terrific fielder. None better in the system IMO – possible exception of Almora.

    • JB88

      I’m definitely more curious about Hannemann. Given his speed and power that he has displayed so far, I’m hoping that, with some additional playing time, we’ll see the K rate start to drop and the average start to rise.

      It is easy to forget that he was out of baseball for two years, only played college for one year, last year, and then got hurt at Boise a dozen or so games in. He’s a lot like Soler inasmuch as the talent seems to definitely be there, but he needs the playing time to see if he can maximize it.

  • GoCubs

    Soler’s swing reminds me of Dawson’s swing.

  • CubsFaninMS

    Please don’t talk about Bryant being promoted just yet. My heart will be broken if he’s promoted before the series against the Mississippi Braves next weekend.

    • CubsFaninMS

      I’m the captain of my softball team and I’m skipping out on my game to watch the Smokies play. Yes, I need rehab.

    • ced landrum

      I bet you will be o.k. Maybe in June sometime is my guess.

  • CubsFaninMS

    The exciting thing about watching Starlin Castro this season is that he looks to be turning into the player they were WANTING to turn him into last season. Perhaps last season was a failed experiment, or perhaps he had some key takeways from what he learned that he has incorporated into his approach that he’s always used. He’s on track to hit roughly 25 home runs, 182 hits, 34 BBs, and 93 Ks. With a .321 OBP, that’s great production out of your Shortstop. Although some of these new SS prospects (Lindor, Baez, Russell, Bogaerts) will set the bar higher in general, Castro has certainly been an important asset for us this season.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I hope you are wrong about Soler spending the rest of the season at AA. I hope he turns it on and gets to AAA in July.

    • ssckelley

      I agree, Soler is the one prospect that is worth moving through the system quickly since he already has a MLB contract and is on the 40 man roster. Soler would be worth calling up in September if he has a good season.

      • another JP

        Soler is one of three prospects at AA on the fast track and Bryant isn’t necessarily included in that group. Have to think that Vizcaino and Rivero should also be in Chicago by September.

        • Rebuilding

          I have to disagree here. No one is on a faster track than Bryant. Especially not Soler, who really hasn’t even played a full season in the states, yet. Bryant is not only the most advanced bat in our system, he’s probably the most advanced bat in the minors

          • another JP

            Soler is on the 40-man roster making $2.6M/yr. There aren’t any service time issues to consider with him. Jorge could put up decent numbers in AA and still be promoted in spite of being out-produced in a huge way by Bryant because of those factors.

          • another JP

            But you have a point in one respect Rebuid… what if the Cubs were to promote Soler to the majors before Bryant? My guess is Scott Boras would be all redneck about it and accuse the Cubs of playing service time games in much the way Springer did with the Astros. And I also think Bryant could conceivably receive a major league contract offer by the FO while he is still in the minors ala Gregory Polanco. If I were in Theo’s shoes I’d be discussing what kind of contract to put together for Bryant ASAP, because A KB FA contract could get plenty expensive.

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

            If Bryant comes up and regresses at a 30% rate, he’ll still put up a better OPS than any outfielder we have right now, including Bonifacio. I understand they’re playing Schierholtz to try to get some trade value out of him, but I see the writing on the wall…

  • J

    Should I be concerned that Bryant has a .911 fielding percentage or Baez at .935 (just off his career minor league mark of .934)? By comparison for Baez, Castro was substantially better in the minors at a younger age.

    • Chad

      Most everyone will tell you that the errors in minor league games don’t mean much, but watching how comortable the player is means more. I have heard Bryant doesn’t look very good at 3B. Baez still makes rookie mistakes by rushing, but once he calms down and slows down he looks much better. I don’t think either are destined to play the position they currently play anyway.

  • jp3

    What does Bryant have to do to get to Iowa? He’s got to be close to a promotion by now. I live in Durham NC and in hoping he gets to Iowa in time to slug his way to the AAA all star game that is in Durham this year:)

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