The Chicago Cubs have tabbed AAA Iowa third baseman Kris Bryant and Low-A Kane County right-handed pitcher Juan Paniagua the organization’s minor league player and pitcher of the month, respectively, for the month of June.
For Bryant, 22, it’s the second straight player of the month award, and was something of a no-brainer after he finished up polishing off AA and then continued ripping it up at AAA. On the month, he hit .354/.447/.781 with 11 homers. He won the AA Home Run Derby during the month, to boot.
July is next for Bryant, presumably.
Paniagua getting the pitcher of the month nod was a pleasant surprise, though, by the numbers, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Over 20.1 June innings, Paniagua allowed just 2 earned runs, struck out 26, and walked just 5. Clearly, something clicked for Paniagua in June after a couple years of struggles and limbo.
You may recall that Paniagua was the Cubs’ big international signing back in 2012, after he’d signed twice previously with the Yankees and Diamondbacks, but had those contracts nullified over questions about his name/age/etc. Related visa problems limited Paniagua’s 2013 season, and this year is really his first full year of pitching in the organization. At 24 and possibly a future reliever, you’d like to see Paniagua moving fast up the ladder, but, until June, his performance didn’t appear to be justifying it. Now, we’ll see.
For now, he’s mostly been starting at Kane County, and maybe that will continue. On the year, Paniagua has a 2.97 ERA over 69.2 innings, striking out 65 and walking 33. If Paniagua makes good on the obvious talent and emerges this year as a legit starting pitching prospect for the Cubs, despite the age, it could be exciting.