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tennessee smokiesThis could be a depressing second half of the season for the North Division of the Double A Southern League. We are just two weeks into the second half and the Smokies have already opened up a two and a half game lead. That’s not the depressing part. The depressing part, for everyone but the Smokies anyway, is how much better the Cubs Double A squad is able to get.

For example, take a look at the Smokies outfield right now. Everything-man Anthony Giansanti would have had the most power of the outfielders currently on the Tennessee roster had Kevin Brown not been elevated from Boise to help out. That situation changes completely, though, when Jorge Soler returns to Tennessee. Soler will immediately be one of the best offensive prospects in the league; that’s a nice addition to a roster.

The infield stands to receive a similar infusion of offensive potency. Last year the Smokies had the Southern League leader in doubles in Christian Villanueva. He recently returned to Tennessee and is right now on the disable list. Assuming Villanueva makes it back this year (I am not sure what exactly his injury is) he would join Soler in adding a second potent bat to the lineup.

And that’s not all.

Pierce Johnson has just returned to Tennessee, but that still means C.J. Edwards and Ivan Pineyro are on the DL. Edwards we are fairly confident should be back in the next month or so; I do not know the timetable (or the exact injury) on Pineyro, but if he does make it back that means the Smokies will have finally reassembled the Daytona Championship rotation from 2013.

Keep in mind that the Smokies were winning at a .714 pace in the second half even with all the injuries (sample size alert). Now add two quality bats and two good starters.

And that’s still not all.

Should Tennessee become a clear favorite to clinch a postseason slot, and should Daytona fall out of the running, then the Cubs are likely to promote a couple of bats from High A for the stretch run. Dan Vogelbach would be a candidate for such a promotion, as would Bijan Rademacher. Albert Almora, if he continues to play well for the second half, would make some sense as well.

So to recap, we are taking an already good Smokies team, adding some serious slugging from the disabled list, adding some high quality pitching prospects from the disabled list, and accounting for potential stretch run promotions from the next rung down. I think you can see why the North Division of the Southern League might be a rough place to be in the second half.

But wait, there’s more!

The Cubs are expected to be active on the trade market, and we generally expect them to acquire players who could be ready for the majors in the next year or so. Those sorts of prospects are sometimes found in Double A. It is impossible to project what prospects, if any, the Cubs could acquire and assign to Tennessee, but there is a strong and distinct possibility that the Tennessee team could be in for another talent infusion as a result of some deals.

There is no guarantee that events will play out this way just as there are no guarantees of anything when discussing prospects, but on paper it certainly looks like an already good Smokies team could be a whole lot better by the time the playoffs roll around (assuming they hold it together and make the playoffs). That’s good news for us, but bad news for the rest of that division.

Strangely, though, I don’t feel too sorry for them.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – Iowa scored twice in the seventh and won 4-3.
Tennessee – Tennessee put together a five run second and the pitching took it from there. The Smokies won 7-0.
Daytona – The Cubs allowed a few too many late runs and lost 4-3.
Kane County – The Cougars fell behind early and never recovered. They lost 8-5.
Boise Hawks – Boise struck early and piled on late for this 8-2 win.
Arizona – The Cubs withstood a late rally to secure the 6-4 win.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Kris Bryant doubled, singled, stole his first base as an Iowan, and struck out once.
  • [Iowa] Javier Baez doubled, walked, stole his 15th base, and did not strike out. Over his last ten games he has more walks than strikeouts. I do not recall him ever having a similar stretch to this at any point in his career (but I haven’t scoured the numbers to be sure). His line in his last ten is .344/.488/.500.
  • [Iowa] Arismendy Alcantara tripled for the 11th time and finished with two hits.
  • [Tennessee] Welcome back Pierce Johnson. In his first Double A start since hitting the disabled list, Johnson threw 92 pitches over 7.1 shutout innings. He allowed just one hit, 2 walks, and struck out 5.
  • [Tennessee] Andrew McKirahan made his Double A debut in relief. Over the final 1.2 innings he allowed 2 walks, 2 hits, and struck out 2.
  • [Tennessee] Kevin Brown is enjoying his time in Double A. The left fielder finished 3 for 4 with a double in this one. Jae-Hoon Ha also doubled as part of a 2 hit game.
  • [Tennessee] Luis Flores hit his first Tennessee homer of the season in the fifth.
  • [Daytona] Another good day for Albert Almora. He finished 3 for 3 with his 16th double and drew his 10th walk of the season. Almora has walked 3 times in his last 6 games, and has multi-hit games in 3 of his last 4.
  • [Daytona] Marco Hernandez, who finished 2 for 4, was the only other Cub to have more than one hit.
  • [Daytona] Justin Amlung allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits and a walk over 5 innings in this one.
  • [Kane County] Jacob Hannemann had his 4th multi-hit game in his last 5, finishing 2 for 5 with another double.
  • [Kane County] The Kyle Schwarber home run drought is up to 3 games, but the hitless streak stopped at 2 as Schwarber finished 2 for 4 with a walk.
  • [Kane County] Speaking of walks, Jacob Rogers and Will Remillard both drew 3 of them. Cael Brockmeyer then replaced Remillard, and he walked too. In total the Cougars drew 11 free passes in this one.
  • [Boise] Mark Zagunis finished 2 for 3 with 2 walks. Mark Malave finished 2 for 4, with one walk.
  • [Boise] Jesse Hodges hit his 4th homer of the season and finished with 2 hits. Jeffrey Baez added his second triple of the year for his hit.
  • [Boise] Erick Leal allowed a run on 5 hits and a walk over his 6 innings on the mound. He struck out a pair.
  • [Arizona] Eloy Jimenez hit his first professional home run and finished 2 for 4 as the DH.
  • [Arizona] Ricardo Marcano doubled and also finished 2 for 4, as did Alberto Mineo.
  • [Arizona] Dillon Maples has made it back on the mound. He allowed 2 hits in 2 scoreless innings, striking out 2.
  • [Arizona] Jordan Brink made his professional debut, striking out 2 in a flawless inning.

Other News

  • Most of the time I look to Baseball Reference and FanGraphs for my minor league numbers, with Minor League Central coming into play time to time for certain splits that the other two sites to not handle too elegantly. There is one more site that I am increasingly looking to for all sorts of interesting data, though, and that is MLBfarm. The data visualization tools here are based (I think) on the game recaps provided with the same boxscores I link in the “Scores from Yesterday” section of the Daily, so I would be cautious in interpreting the numbers on that site. For example, assuming that the heatmap is displaying exact locations of balls hit would probably be a mistake since there is no PitchFX or similar data available for the vast majority of the minors. Even so, this site does a great job of providing nice visualizations for a lot of quality comparative data. If you haven’t explored it before, you may want to take a few minutes and check it out.

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