Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

major award leg lamp trophyToday, the Chicago Cubs announced their organizational player and pitcher of the month for July, and it’s a couple of less-heralded names who nevertheless deserve recognition. I actually find these to be a little more fun than when an obvious, big-time, name prospect gets the award.

On the positional side, it’s a Baez getting the nod, but maybe not the one you know – it’s outfielder Jeffrey Baez, who currently plays for the Low-A South Bend Cubs. Baez, 21, has tantalized scouts for a while with his power/speed (or at least quality base-running) combination, though as he moved up the ladder, his strikeout issues became more pronounced. When he reached full-season ball in 2014 as a 20-year-old, his strikeout rate raced past 30%, and it was clear that there was work to be done.

Well, Baez is back in full-season Low-A this year, and, as he’s worked on his approach, his results have improved as the year went on (.303/.333/.490 since the end of May) – culminating, for now at least, in a breakout, enormously-productive July. Baez’s line now stands at .257/.301/.397, which is slightly above-average for the Midwest League. The power is down slightly, and the walk rate – 5.5% – is quite a bit down from recent years. On the bright side, though, Baez’s strikeout rate is a scant 15.8%.

He will very much be a guy to watch heading into 2016. (Together with so many other Cubs outfield prospects – seriously, if the last wave was about the impressive infield talent, just wait until the full complement of outfield talent starts emerging in the next two years. You’ll see.)

On the pitching side, Brad Markey gets the nod after he was bumped to High-A and shifted into the rotation. Since becoming a starter again this year on July 1, Markey has posted a 1.30 ERA and 2.75 FIP over 5 starts, striking out 18.0% of the batters he faced and walking just 3.3%. Markey, 23, was a 19th round pick for the Cubs last year out of Virginia Tech, and spent time in Extended Spring Training this year, presumably working on some things before it was time to bring him out into full season ball. I don’t have a ton to offer you in terms of scouting on Markey, who was a senior when he signed with the Cubs. He’s on the smaller side (listed at 5’10” or 5’11”, depending on where you look), so it’s possible he was underrated coming out of college. Although he was drafted by the Mets in the 35th round in 2012, he did not sign and was not a big-time draft prospect in 2014. So far, this is already looking like a scouting and development win for the Cubs, even if Markey developed no further. But he’s getting starts in a loaded Myrtle Beach rotation just one year removed from the draft, so you can bet the Cubs believe there’s more that he can achieve.

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