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javier baez aflQuite 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.
  • Q-Ball

    Stephen Bruno…is he a “pop-up” prospect? Or just a college/org type guy who is starting hot? He’s certainly demolishing AA ball right now, and is getting interesting at 2B

    • Noah_I

      Bruno is a legit prospect, but he’s a guy with the type of skill set that can destroy the minors, but struggles a fair amount in the Majors (high BABIP, high OBP heavily influenced by HBPs, slugging rate buoyed by a lot more doubles than home runs). But definitely an interesting guy and a true prospect.

  • blars82

    I’m really curious to see which hitters outside of the big 4 succeed in the big leagues. And speaking of the big 4, it’s good to see Almora starting to hit with some power the last couple of days.

  • willis

    Towel drill time for Edwards…

    I agree about Baez. I said end of May it would be time to look harder at the numbers than we are right now, but early-mid June is fine too. I do agree if he is still struggling like this come then…concerns will mount.

  • ssckelley

    Which letter did you get on that excuse bingo card posted yesterday? :D

  • Lou Brown

    ARGGH! Not Pineyro. I can’t believe we wasted such a valuable trade chip in Scott Hairston for a guy with elbow problems. #FireTheo

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Since I have been paying a lot of attention lately to the minor league teams, Bruno has really caught my eye. He is absolutely killing AA pitching. Everybody is drooling over the power bats, but pure hitters are hard to come by. But with Alcantara at Iowa it seems that for the time being Bruno is going to have to play second fiddle. My hope is that come mid-summer some of these guys taking up roster spots will be either traded or released so we can take a look at some of the guys in AAA and in turn promote guys like Bryant and Bruno to Iowa.

    • Chad

      Agreed, need these guys to be on base for the big boppers! I think Alcantara could make the move to CF, or another team this off season and that would open some room up for Bruno. Need as many good baseball players as we can get that’s for sure and you can’t have just power in the lineup.

      • CubChymyst

        Moving Alcantara to make room for Bruno is unwise. Alcantara is younger, has better speed and more power than Bruno has shown so far.

  • JakeMac

    Sorry for the repeat question from a few days ago, but anyone have an update on Kevin Encarnacion? I haven’t heard much about him since the car accident this off-season.

    • http://iawrestle.com On The Farm

      “Encarnacion suffered serious burns on his arm, torso and foot, and also suffered other injuries to his throwing arm. Encarnacion, who is recovering in an Arizona burn center, says he’ll play again, but it’s obviously hard to know how long his recovery will take. ”

      http://www.bleachernation.com/2014/02/21/prospect-notes-jimenez-torres-almora-encarnacion-vogelbach-more/

      That was from a Feb post, which may have been the last update you saw too.

      • ssckelley

        I would be surprised to see him at all this season as burns can take forever to heal. Honestly he is lucky to be alive.

      • CubsFaninMS

        In 2012 I had some major friction burns (my body vs. asphalt at 70 MPH) that required skin graft surgery on part of my legs, arms, and hand. It took me approximately 8 months to recover to where I could do cardio and weights again. One of my skin grafts failed, which extended my recovery for a few months. His burns are likely worse than mine but this may provide some comparison.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Almora was 2 for 4 today with a homer. Nice to see him heating up.

    • aaronb

      Still only 4 walks in 132 plate appearances. That isn’t going to fly at the higher levels.

      • fortyonenorth

        Or you could say he’s got 4 walks in his last 40 or so PAs–but that wouldn’t fit your “glass half empty” style.

        • Brocktoon

          Or you could look at the entirety of his season.

          • ssckelley

            Or you could look at his career numbers, which is a much bigger sample size. A 4.2% walk rate is not good but much closer to league average.

            But yeah, much more fun to tear down one of our top prospects 32 games into a season.

            • ari gold

              I agree with ssckelley. Why don’t we let the season play out. If he has a 7-8% walk rate the rest of the season, I think we can safely say he’s made an adjustment. Remember he makes contact pretty easy, so he’s probably going through an adjustment period where he’s learning to wait for a pitch he can drive. Not everyone can be Buxton or Trout.

            • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

              Agreed, also, you can live with a low walk rate when you have a low K rate (11% this year, 10.5% career). Almora will never walk much, but his plus hit tool will keep his strikeouts at a minimum as well. I definitely liken him to the good years of Starlin Castro.

              • Edwin

                I figure if his power picks up a little, I liken him to the good years of David DeJesus.

                • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                  I don’t think he’ll ever have the on base skills that DeJesus had/has, but his power should be right in line with or better than DeJesus. David consistently posted walk rates in the 8-10% range, and I see Almora sticking more around the 5%. If he can pick up the walks a little bit though, I think that’s a fair comparision.

  • Thiscantbegood

    And Starlin Castro only has 9 walks in 154 plate appearances. Who cares, as long as he can hit he will be fine. Plus, he is a great defensive CF which is what the Cubs do not have.

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