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cubs azl spring training logoThis is going to be a busy week on the minor league front. The biggest event will come early in the week as on Tuesday we have a plethora of prospects participating in the Midwest League and Southern League All-Star Games. That also means we are just about ready to reset the records and start the second half in Low A, High A , and Double A.

Over in Short Season A, the Boise Hawks will be making their first road trip this week. That may not seem like a big deal, but it often seems that early season road trips are rough in the Northwest League. This will be one of the first big tests for that talented (especially on the pitching side of things) roster. We won’t be able to draw any conclusions this early in the season, but a strong showing would be good to see regardless.

This weekend the AZL Cubs fire up their season in the Arizona Rookie League. This league is at the lowest level of affiliated ball in the United States and should feature quite a few draft picks from 2014 and 2013 as well some top International Free Agent signings – including, perhaps, Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres. This will mark the first time we get actually useful stats from meaningful games for many of the players who have spent time in extended spring training this year. Arizona begins play on Saturday.

And finally, this weekend also marks my first trip to Iowa and the first time I will see the Iowa Cubs in person in some time. I’ll be right behind home plate on Friday night, and on Saturday I’ll be over in Section U on the first base side of the field. If you see a fairly stoic guy with a short beard and a fedora wearing black, that’s probably me.

Scores From The Weekend

Iowa
Friday – Iowa and Sacramento swapped big innings, but Sacramento’s was a little bigger. The Cubs lost 7-5.
Saturday – This game was scoreless until the fifth, and Iowa was never really in it after that. They lost 9-4.
Sunday – An eighth inning Baez bomb gave the Cubs the cushion they needed in this 4-3 win.

Tennessee
Friday – The Smokies did not let this one stay close. The pulled away for an 8-2 win.
Saturday – Rallies in the eighth and ninth led to a Smokies loss, 6-4.
Sunday – A four run rally in the ninth pushed this game to extras where the Smokies walked off in eleven. In the end it was a 7-6 Smokies win.

Daytona

This was All Star weekend in the Florida State League. Daytona played no games.

Kane County
Friday – The Cougars did not muster much offense in this 3-2 loss.
Saturday – They had all kinds of offense in this one, including 19 hits, but lost anyway 12-11.
Sunday – It lasted twelve innings, but once again Kane County came up short. They lost 5-4.

Boise Hawks
Friday – Boise won their season opener 4-2.
Saturday – Two big innings carried them to this 10-5 win.
Sunday – It took three big innings to keep them perfect, but they pulled it off for an 11-9 win.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Javier Baez had gone 5 days without a hit (and with 9 strikeouts) coming into Sunday, but in that game he turned in a 2 for 4, 2 steals, no strikeouts performance that included his 10th homer.
  • [Iowa] Arismendy Alcantara, meanwhile, hit safely in every game this weekend and finished the three games with 4 hits (including two doubles), a walk, a steal (his 12th) and a strikeout.
  • [Iowa] Matt Szczur had a big 3 for 4 game on Saturday, and followed that up with a 1 for 4 performance that included his 11th steal yesterday.
  • [Iowa] Kyle Hendricks pitched a good game Sunday. He threw 104 pitches over 7 innings and held Sacramento to just 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6. His Ground Out/Fly Out ratio was 8-5.
  • [Tennessee] Matt Loosen struck out 5 over 5 innings and allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks on Friday. Lendy Castillo struck out a pair in 2 perfect innings of relief.
  • [Tennessee] Corey Black threw 57 pitches through 3 innings in the start on Sunday. He allowed a run on 2 hits and a walk while striking out 5. Pretty much the whole bullpen worked in support of Black with the standout performances coming from Arodys Vizcaino (1 IP, 2K) and Armando Rivero (2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K).
  • [Tennessee] Kris Bryant did not homer this weekend. In fact, he has not homered since June 9. What he did do this weekend was keep alive a hitting streak that stretches back to June 5, hit his 20th double, draw 3 more walks, and strike out just 3 times.
  • [Tennessee] Second baseman Stephen Bruno raised his season OPS to .848 with 5 hits across Saturday and Sunday.
  • [Tennessee] Rubi Silva added 3 of his 4 weekend hits on Sunday, and also tacked on his 5th steal. Anthony Giansanti also had 3 of his 4 weekend hits on Sunday.
  • [Kane County] Paul Blackburn (5 IP, 2 R, 4 H, 3 K) and Josh Davis (3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 4 K) combined to pitch a very solid game on Friday.
  • [Kane County] The best pitching of the weekend, though, were the sterling 5 innings turned in by Jen-Ho Tseng on Saturday. He allowed nothing but a hit and two walks while totaling 8 strikeouts.
  • [Kane County] Jacob Hannemann doubled and finished 4 for 6 on Saturday. Also on Saturday, Carlos Penalver doubled and finished 3 for 5 with his 15th steal. Saturday also saw a pair of hits from Ben Carhart, extending his hitting streak to 6 games. On Sunday these three combined to go 0 for 16.
  • [Kane County] Jordan Hankins collected 2 doubles as part of his 4 hit game on Saturday, and then on Sunday launched his 3rd homer as part of a 2 hit game.
  • [Kane County] Yasiel Balaguert picked up 2 more doubles and hit both his 4th and 5th home runs this weekend.
  • [Boise] Kyle Schwarber homered twice, walked once, and struck out once as he began his professional career by pounding out 7 hits in 3 games.
  • [Boise] Jeffrey Baez is also off to a great start. Not only has he hit in every game, he already has 3 steals on the season.
  • [Boise] Justin Marra, a catching prospect who has been lurking in the low levels since being drafted in 2011, opened his season with a 2 for 4 game that featured a home run on Sunday.
  • [Boise] Tyler Ihrig struck out 5 in 5 innings of work in the season opener. He allowed one hit. David Garner picked up the save by striking out 4 in 2 innings.
  • [Boise] Erick Leal struck out 4 while allowing a run on 3 hits and a walk over 5 innings on Saturday. Trey Lang (2 IP, 4 K) and Francisco Carrillo (2 IP, 3 K) were both effective in relief.
  • [Boise] Trevor Clifton got rocked for 4 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks in 4.1 innings on Sunday, but he did strike out 5.

Other News

  • Baez had been so good in the games leading up to his five game drought that his OPS in his last ten games is still .843, and his current June OPS of .763 is his currently his highest monthly total on the year. That 0-for stretch began after the game in which he fouled a pitch off his face. Maybe that incident messed with his timing and it took a few games to get things back in order? Hard to say, really. If he takes off on another hot streak, though, that wouldn’t be a bad theory.
  • The Cubs drafted Josh Conway in the 2012 draft, taking him in the fourth round despite Conway having recently had surgery. Two years and another surgery later, we finally get to see what this guy can do. He has the potential to emerge as a very significant pitching prospect for the Cubs. However, given that he has already had two surgeries, expectations should probably be fairly muted for now. Conway is the scheduled starter for the Hawks in today’s game.

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