Well isn’t this exciting – if not slightly unexpected.
The Iowa Cubs just got a little bit deeper and a little bit better today, as two hot-hitting, interesting Tennessee Smokies just got promoted up the ranks.
Third baseman Jeimer Candelario and corner outfielder Mark Zagunis will each make the trip up to Iowa, to begin (what is hopefully) the home stretch of their Minor League journey to the Majors.
The pair of promotions was first reported by the Smokies Radio Network on Twitter:
— Smokies on Radio (@SmokiesOnRadio) June 8, 2016
Zagunis, 23, was selected by the Cubs as a catcher in the third round of the 2014 MLB Draft. After a while, Zagunis’s time behind the plate was phased out, and he was transitioned into the outfield. He has always shown excellent patience and has developed an advanced approach at the plate that likely helped earn his call up.
In 51 games (211 plate appearances) at Double-A Tennessee this season, Zagunis slashed .296/.403/.446 (.399 wOBA) with a 14.2% walk rate and just a 17.1% strikeout rate. Although his overall production had already been great, the Cubs were hoping he’d tap into the power a bit more, given his potential future as a corner outfielder (.151 ISO). That said, since the beginning of May, Zagunis has achieved a .214 ISO, while slugging .545 with 10 doubles, 1 triple and 4 home runs. The power arrived and he got his promotion. (Not that the first necessarily caused the second, but just noting.)
Candelario, 22, was signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic back in September of 2010. Always a well-thought-of prospect, Candelario really made a name for himself late last summer, and then over the winter into the spring. After a brilliant showing in the Arizona Fall League (.329/.371/.610, 5HR, 6.7% walk rate, 11.2% strikeout rate), Candelario wowed Cubs fans in Spring Training. Through 42 plate appearances, the switch hitting third baseman slashed .350/.381/.675 against some real Major League pitchers before returning to Double-A Tennessee to start the year.
He did ultimately hit a bit of speed bump upon his return, though. Across 56 games (244 plate appearances) Candelario slashed just .219/.324/.367, albeit with a 13.1% walk rate and an 18.9% strikeout rate (102 wRC+). That said, from May 19 on (78 plate appearances), Candelario slashed .278/.333/.458 with 20 hits, including 5 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs. Given his overall profile and fairly high potential, the promotion was well-deserved.
So that’s a couple more top prospects entering the just a phone call away distance to the Major Leagues. Upon Albert Almora’s eventual return to Iowa, that team is going to be flush with top prospects, and that means good things for the Chicago Cubs.