Quite a bit of fun – and less fun – prospect items to discuss …
- The Tennessee Smokies lineup, man. You can gush and gush about the things that Kris Bryant has done, the doubles machine that is Jorge Soler (he has doubled in all six of his games this year), the pure hitting of Stephen Bruno or the on-base absurdity of John Andreoli. And I do. But I want to reserve today’s gushing for outfielder Rubi Silva, who struggled through an awful start to the season, but is breaking out in a big way. You may recall that Silva, 24, is a former Cuban defector who received $1 million to sign with the Cubs several years ago, and who has been slowly making his way up the minor league ladder. He had a first really notable year in 2013, when he reached AA. He’s repeating the level this year, partly due to an outfield glut at AAA Iowa, but probably also so he can work on some approach issues. Given that his 7.0% walk rate is blowing away his career mark, I’d say some good things are happening. And he’s very, very hot: at the start of May, Silva’s OPS was just .528. In two weeks, he’s jumped that thing more than 200 points to .748. In his last ten games, he’s hitting .447/.500/.763.
- Speaking of the Tennessee lineup, one of the best slash lines comes from a guy we don’t talk about much (and we talk about a lot of those guys): catcher Rafael Lopez, who is hitting .326/.458/.537. Yes, he’s older – 26 – but catching prospects do tend to develop later, and he was an older college catcher, who only just started his professional career at 23. If he can handle the duties behind the plate, he could be an interesting near-term back-up option for the Cubs.
- Quotes from Farm Director Jaron Madison on Javier Baez and his struggles at AAA here in the Sun-Times. It’s what you would expect – came out of the gate slow, started to heat up and then got hurt, and is overall just adjusting to not seeing many fastballs – and it sounds like the biggest thing is just Baez pressing too much to try and get going. If that’s what this really is, then these struggles at AAA could end up being the best thing for him long term. I’m not trying to put lipstick on a pig here, as Baez’s start has been brutally bad (and you’d rather it wasn’t, all things equal), but it is worth remembering that we’re talking about one month’s worth of games by the youngest player in AAA. If he’s still striking out this much in mid-June, and showing far less power than usual, then you can start to be concerned that there’s a deeper issue here. At present, “adjustment struggles” and “small sample” seems like the most logical hybrid explanation.
- Albert Almora has struggled a bit in the early going at High-A, but he had a nice three-double game yesterday. And he did it in front of his father, who is recovering from prostate cancer. (Almora added a couple hits, including a homer, today.)
- No word yet on whether C.J. Edwards (shoulder) is ready for throwing yet. He was to take a couple weeks off after his diagnosis of shoulder inflammation back on April 25, and then start a throwing program to build back up arm strength. We’re in that range now, and Arizona Phil says that, although Edwards is in Mesa, he isn’t throwing yet.
- Pitching prospect Josh Conway (the would-have-been-first-rounder that the Cubs got in the fourth round in 2012 because of Tommy John surgery) is finally pitching in game action in Arizona, per Arizona Phil, after reinjuring the arm last year and having a second surgery. Phil indicates that Conway’s velocity is down in the 89/90mph range, whereas it had previously been in the 94mph range. That might not mean much, because we don’t know where he is in his process, nor how accurate the gunning is there (or was before).
- Cubs pitching prospect Ivan Pineyro has been placed on the disabled list with a strained forearm, which is hopefully all it is (as you may know, distinguishing “forearm” and “elbow” injuries is a little tricky, as it all comes together at the same spot – sometimes “forearm” injuries are precursors to “elbow” injuries). Pineyro, 22, had been pitching at AA, posting a 3.60 ERA over 35 innings there. He’s struck out 29, but walked 17, so it was a mixed start to the year. The Cubs acquired Pineyro – a back-end top 30 type prospect – in the Scott Hairston deal last year.