On May 31, Ian Rice was named Player of the Week for the Midwest League. He earned the honor with a three-homer week that saw him reach base in over half his trips to the plate. Odds are pretty good, though, that a lot of Cubs fans are not familiar with Rice.
The Cubs drafted him in the 29th round last season out of the University of Houston. He signed quickly, and as a result he was able to appear in 47 games (193 PA) with Eugene, catching 18 of those games. Prior to turning pro, he caught 51 games for Houston. That is a high work load for a guy in his first professional season, and the results of that may have appeared in his .252/.375/.340 line at the plate. The walk rate was very good at 13.5%, but his ISO of .088 did not put him on too many prospect lists.
One exception (sort of) was Baseball America. In the Prospect Handbook, he was listed as the Cubs’ best late round pick and ranked fifth at catcher. In this farm system, ranking fifth behind the plate is not all that bad.
So far with South Bend this year he is hitting .383/.500/.617 with a walk rate of 20.5%, a strikeout rate of 17.9%, and an ISO of .233. He only has 78 plate appearances so far (catchers in the low minors do not tend to catch every day) so sample size warnings apply, but that is still a very good start for a 22-year-old in the Midwest League. The walk rate and slugging percentage are especially encouraging.
The Cubs will likely leave him alone in South Bend for a time, long enough at least for the league to figure out new ways to attack him and force him to adjust, but a mid-season promotion is not entirely out of the question.
- Drew Rucinski: 7 IP, 2 R, 7 H, 1 BB, 7 K
- Gerardo Concepcion: 1 IP , 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K
- Arismendy Alcantara: 1 for 4, 3B
- Willson Contreras: 2 for 3, 2B, BB. That’s seven straight games with an extra base hit.
- Dan Vogelbach: 2 for 4, 2B, 3B. First triple of the year for Vogelbach.
- John Andreoli: 0 for 2, 2 BB, SB
- Duane Underwood: 5 IP, 4 R, 7 H, 2 BB, 7 K
- Chesny Young: 2 for 3.
- Mark Zagunis: 3 for 3, HR. That four homers for Zagunis.
- Erick Leal: 5 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 K
- Tommy Thorpe: 3 IP, 2 H, 3 K
- Rashad Crawford: 4 for 5, 3B. In one game he raised his ISO by .042.
- Yasiel Balaguert: 1 for 5, 2B
- Gioskar Amaya: 1 for 2, 2 BB, SB
- Adbert Alzolay: 4 IP, 5 R, 5 H, 4 BB, 3 K. He faced six batters in the critical fifth; all of them reached base.
- Pedro Araujo: 3 IP, 1 BB, 5 K
- P.J. Higgins: 2 for 4. This guy just keeps hitting. He has five multi-hit outings in his last ten games.
- Donnie Dewees: 2 for 4, 3B
- Eloy Jimenez: 1 for 4, 2B
- Iowa has now won six straight, and as a result they are now sitting in second place in the division, one game back of a first place tie between Oklahoma City and Omaha. The Cubs have won three straight in Oklahoma City with two to play. If the offense continues to play like it has been (with the potential for more good hitters arriving from Tennessee), the Cubs should stay a part of the division hunt the rest of the season.
- Going back to May 24, Albert Almora has been very consistent in his extra base hits: he hits one double every three games (May 24, May 27, May 30). If the pattern holds, he’s due for a double today. What I’d really like to see, though, is a streak of five of six doubles (and maybe a homer or two) over a ten day span. The lack of walks does not worry me. The lack of extra base hits is more of a cause for concern.
- The Iowa Cubs were scheduled to face Julio Urias today. It sounds like it will be the Chicago Cubs who face that particular challenge instead.
- I’m not a big fan of the idea of cheerleaders in baseball, but Myrtle Beach is trying a formula that I can’t really argue with. If you are currently in grades one through eight, you can try out to join said squad of cheerleaders. The resulting army of energetic youngsters will be performing four times this season as well as appearing at community events. Performances of various natures by kids is pretty standard between innings content at many minor league games, and it sounds like this will fit right in.