An unfortunate confluence of injuries to infielders has created a bit of a conversation about who could play third in Chicago lately, and the presence of a certain slugging third baseman in the high minors only added fuel to the fire.
But it was Christian Villanueva, one of the best defensive third basemen around, and a guy who is already on the 40-man roster, who launched two home runs for the Tennessee Smokies last night. If you read up on your minor league ballpark effects last night, you might also be interested to know that Villanueva hit his pair of bombs in the most pitcher-friendly park in the Southern League.
This does not mean that Villanueva is going to be the guy who gets the call if the Cubs do need an infielder for a few days (although his status on the 40-man roster might give him an edge), but it is a good sign for the formerly highly rated prospect. His glove has clear value for a major league team, and if he can get the bat going he may yet turn into a major league regular or utility guy.
As for his nearer term future, look for Villanueva to get the call to Iowa when Bryant makes it to the majors later this month.
Iowa – A three run sixth provided the margin in this 4-1 Iowa win.
Tennessee – The Smokies broke the game open in the third as they won 10-4.
Myrtle Beach – The Pelicans were rained out.
South Bend – The Cubs fell behind early and never recovered. They lost 6-1.
Performances of Note
- [Iowa] Kris Bryant finished 3 for 5 (all singles) and stole his second base of the season.
- [Iowa] Rafael Lopez and Mike Baxter each doubled and finished with 2 hits. Junior Lake also had a pair of singles.
- [Iowa] In addition to Bryant, Lake and Rubi Silva each tallied a stolen base.
- [Iowa] Yoanner Negrin gave up a run on 5 hits while striking out 5. The three relievers behind him gave up just one hit the rest of the game.
- [Tennessee] In addition to his two homers, Villanueva also walked twice.
- [Tennessee] Dan Vogelbach doubled twice and walked twice as he finished 2 for 3.
- [Tennessee] Albert Almora chipped in with a double, a single, and an outfield assist. His fellow outfielder Pin-Chieh Chen added a three run triple.
- [Tennessee] Frank Batista, one of the most productive closers in Smokies’ history, started this game. Not only did he hold Mississippi to a run on 3 hits over 6 innings with 3 strikeouts, he picked up his first career hit in the process.
- [South Bend] Cael Brockmeyer doubled, singled, and drove in the only run as part of his 2 for 4 night. Chesny Young, who scored the only run, also had 2 hits.
- [South Bend] Charcer Burks finished 1 for 3 and collected his second steal of the season.
- [South Bend] Trevor Clifton had no command to speak of, and did not get out of the first inning. He gave up 3 runs on 2 hits and 4 walks while striking out just one.
- [South Bend] Jordan Minch and James Farris did a nice job pitching the rest of this game out of the pen. Minch allowed a run on 3 hits over 3.1 innings, and Farris gave up 2 runs on 5 hits while pitching 4 innings.
- James Russell, who recently rejoined the Cubs on a minor league deal, might have a little more left in the tank after all. He pitched two innings last night and struck out one while allowing nothing. It is only one game and the Cubs are not exactly hurting for bullpen options in the majors right now, but it would be good to see Russell (on a lighter work load) go back to being one of the best bullpen lefties in the league.
- The rained out Pelicans game will be made up as part of a double header today. And that, in turn, sets up our next…
Today’s Game To Watch
This evening we will get to watch two really interesting right handers pitch in Myrtle Beach. Game One will be the High A debut of changeup and control specialist Jen-Ho Tseng, and Game Two will showcase 2014 acquisition Jonathan Martinez. That Pelicans offense is pretty good as well, and features a very prospecty outfield of Billy McKinney, Jacob Hannemann, Mark Zagunis, and Shawon Dunston, Jr. First pitch by the beach is at 5:05 PM ET.
Of course if you opt to follow the minor league action, you’ll probably want to juggle between watching the High-A Pelicans and the Chicago Cubs who are sending Jake Arrieta to the mound, but these are problems we’ll have to learn to manage now that we have a first place team in the majors as well as the best farm system in baseball. I wouldn’t complain too loudly about it; I doubt other fan bases will show us much sympathy.
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