Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

tennessee smokies logoMost Cubs’ fans are aware of the Smokies primary catcher. His name is Kyle Schwarber, and he is a ball destroying left handed slugger who is one of the best prospects in baseball. But while Schwarber gets most of the scrutiny, there is another catcher on this roster we should be paying more attention to than we have been.

Willson Contreras is only 22 years old, and through his first nineteen games in Double A he is hitting .333/.405/.467. Contreras has become a fixture in the middle of the Smokies’ lineup, adding some right handed balance to the lefty duo of Schwarber and Dan Vogelbach. He only has one home run so far this season, but seven doubles pad his slugging percentage and his relatively low strikeout rate (roughly 17%) helps keep him productive.

I have not yet watched him enough to get a sense of how he looks behind the plate, but the reports from those who saw him last year were positive. At worst he looks like he has the ability to stick at that position. Offensively, I doubt he develops into a significant slugging force at the plate, but he shows signs of hitting for a fair average with a solid on base percentage at the highest level, and enough pop to launch ten or fifteen homers a year. That certainly places him a tier or two below Schwarber on the prospect scale, but he is emerging as a guy we should be monitoring with interest as the season progresses.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – The Cubs came back from a first inning deficit to win this one 2-1.
Tennessee – The Smokies tied it up in the seventh, but lost in thirteen innings by a final of 4-3.
Myrtle Beach – A six run rally early and a five run burst late propelled the Pelicans to a 14-6 win.
South Bend – The Cubs offense went cold in this 2-0 loss.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Arismendy Alcantara had another nice game. He doubled, walked, and struck out just once.
  • [Iowa] Matt Szczur, now on his way back to Chicago, walked twice and homered before being removed to pack his bags.
  • [Iowa] Javier Baez struck out once, but he also walked, singled, and stole his first base of the year.
  • [Iowa] Eric Jokisch had a nice start (6 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 5 K), but take a close look at the work put in by the bullpen. Brian Schlitter allowed one hit and struck out one in his inning, Justin Grimm allowed a walked and fanned 2 in his inning, and James Russell finished the game by allowing a lone hit in the ninth.
  • [Tennessee] Pin-Chieh Chen finished 2 for 2 with a homer (his first) and 5 walks. Those 5 walks tied the Southern League record for walks in a game.

  • [Tennessee] Willson Contreras doubled twice and finished 3 for 5 with a walk. Jacob Hannemann also doubled in this one.
  • [Tennessee] Stephen Bruno had another multi-hit game, finishing 2 for 6.
  • [Tennessee] Felix Pena allowed 2 runs on 2 hits and 5 walks while striking out 4 over 5.2 innings.
  • [Tennessee] Stephen Perakslis had a nice game out of the bullpen. He pitched most of the extra innings, lasting 3 innings without allowing a hit and striking out 3.
  • [Myrtle Beach] The Pelicans’ game was chock full of offense, but the best day probably belong to Jacob Rogers. Rogers finished 3 for 5 with his 4th home run as well as a walk.
  • [Myrtle Beach] Other notable performances came from Mark Zagunis (2 for 6, 2 doubles), Billy McKinney (2 for 4, triple), Jeimer Candelario (2 for 6, double), Carlos Penalver (2 for 4, double), and Daniel Lockhart (2 for 5, stole base).

  • [Myrtle Beach] And on the mound, Michael Heesch struck out 3 over 3 innings while allowing just 2 hits.
  • [South Bend] Jake Stinnett allowed just 2 runs over 5 innings despite allowing 7 hits. He only walked one, though, and struck out 5. Francisco Carrillo and Tyler Ihrig allowed just 2 hits between them in their 4 combined innings of relief.
  • [South Bend] Charcer Burks singled and stole his 6th base of the season for the Cubs, and Cael Brockmeyer chipped in a pair of walks. Those were the offensive highlights from a tough game for the Low A Cubs.

Other News

  • Yesterday Dan Vogelbach and Jeremy Null picked up the honors as the Cubs Player and Pitcher of the Month for April. Vogelbach spent the month of April being one of the best all around hitters in the minor leagues for Double A Tennessee while Null was up in Low A South Bend establishing himself as one of the best pitching prospects most people weren’t talking about.
  • Tyler Skulina also picked up some hardware yesterday. He was named the Pitcher of the Week for the Carolina League thanks to his stellar start on Sunday. In that game he struck out eight over six shutout innings and sat down the first fourteen batters in a row. That is the sort of game we knew Skulina had the talent to produce, and it is the sort of game we have not seen a great deal of from him, at least until now. I suspect we are watching Skulina in the early stages of his breakout season.

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