May is a big month in the minor leagues. It’s when you start to appreciate what’s real, what actually changed in the offseason. It’s when the first promotions start to happen. For the Cubs, it’s seen the return of a few guys that were held back in Arizona. It also was a good month for highlights, be it Javier Assad’s soccer kick or Derek Casey and Peyton Remy’s no-hitter.
Let’s jump right into our monthly review.
BN Minor League Player of May: Vimael Machin, IF, Tennessee
Stats: .369/.440/.534, 13 BB, 3 K in 116 PA.
Just look at that incredible walk-to-strikeout ratio. It reads like a misprint. I mentioned Machin in February as a potential sleeper following a great performance in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Sure enough, Machin has been able to continue, or even build, on that success. Machin was sent to Iowa in April when the I-Cubs had Zack Short and Cristhian Adames on the Injured List, and returned to Tennessee when Addison Russell came back. He’s been the Smokies best player by a longshot since then. Machin is a slight build with a groundball approach, but it’s his understanding of the strike zone and his own limitations that makes him so successful. As a versatile utility man with a good approach, he could have a big league future – not a bad get for a senior sign in the 10th round of the 2015 draft.
BN Minor League Pitcher of May: Javier Assad, Myrtle Beach
Stats: 30.2 IP, 18 H, 2.05 ERA, 11 BB, 26 K, 2 HR-A. (Read more about Assad here)
A lot of competition for this spot, but I think when we think about this month, Assad is the guy we’ll remember. He was on SportsCenter. He had a scoreless streak that surpassed 20 innings. He had one of the better starts the Cubs farm has had all year. While he mixed in one bad start on May 21, Assad was just brilliant in the other four, and the fact that he’s doing this at age 21 does nothing but help push the award his way.
— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) May 4, 2019
BN All-System Team, May
Catcher: Taylor Davis, Iowa. Stats: .310/.408/.548, 6 BB, 11 K, 49 PA. Starting off with a slight cheat. Those numbers include Davis’ grand slam in the bigs, but the catcher position on the farm didn’t have a great May, and Davis was very solid (.937 OPS) in his 10 games back with Iowa at the end of the month.
First Base: Phillip Evans, Iowa. Stats: .291/.421/.466, 18 BB, 18 K, 126 PA. Evans fell off after an impossibly hot first half of May (1.201 OPS), but his plate discipline is such that it allows him to keep his head above water even when he’s in a slump.
Second Base: Vimael Machin, Tennessee. See above.
Shortstop: Andy Weber, South Bend. Stats: .291/.339/.398, 7 BB, 24 K in 112 PA. Sure those numbers might not blow your socks off, but when we league-adjust, we can appreciate that Weber was the SB Cubs best hitter in the month. Weber notched multi-hit games ten times in May, all while continuing to gain comfort in his move to the shortstop position.
Third Base: Robel Garcia, Tennessee/Iowa. Stats: .283/.383/.535, 14 BB, 39 K in 115 PA. What more can we say? Garcia was promoted to Iowa on May 9, and has seen very little fall-off in his numbers. He did enough to earn a spot in my top 21, and while the strikeouts are piling up too quickly, they’re not holding back his overall production just yet.
Left Field: Kevonte Mitchell, Myrtle Beach. Stats: .254/.341/.535, 10 BB, 17 K in 82 PA. I mentioned Mitchell’s power before the season, but worried he might lose regular work after a really slow start to the season. Luckily that didn’t happen before a big May, where he was the Pelicans best hitter and really got to flex his power stroke with five home runs. Mitchell is tied for the most home runs in the Carolina League.
Center Field: Brennen Davis, South Bend. Stats: .375/.464/.500, 3 BB, 4 K in 28 PA. I know it’s incredibly silly to put in a guy with just seven games, but there wasn’t a great option, and I know that when I look back at this season, I’m going to remember that Davis was flown from Arizona to Indiana on short notice and immediately acted as he belonged. He’s a part of the narrative for this month.
Right Field: Roberto Caro, Tennessee. Stats: .288/.420/.400, 18 BB, 25 K in 102 PA. Caro and Machin helped bring stability to the Smokies order in the absence of Nico Hoerner with prodigious on-base skills. Caro reached base in every start in May except for one, and also adds a speed element (8 steals in May) that is a rarity nowadays.
A Few More Names of Note: Tyler Payne, Myrtle Beach. Carlos Sepulveda, Myrtle Beach. Ian Happ, Iowa.
Starting Pitcher: Javier Assad, Myrtle Beach.
Starting Pitcher: Colin Rea, Iowa. Stats: 32.2 IP, 25 H, 1.93 ERA, 11 BB, 26 K, 2 HR-A. Rea has a really good candidacy to be Pitcher of the Month, and I just leaned Assad ever-so-slightly. If Pedro Strop and Junichi Tazawa didn’t need work on May 28, maybe Rea gets a complete game shutout and grabs the award. Read more about Rea here.
Starting Pitcher: Tyson Miller, Tennessee. Stats: 37.1 IP, 31 H, 2.39 ERA, 4 BB, 34 K, 3 HR-A. That strikeout-to-walk ratio is pure insanity, and like Rea, you could go with Miller as the month’s best pitcher and who would argue? There was just one bad start mixed in there – six runs in 4.2 innings – Miller has allowed two or fewer in every other start this year. Read more about Miller here.
Starting Pitcher: Faustino Carrera, South Bend. Stats: 29.2 IP, 20 H, 2.43 ERA, 5 BB, 22 K, 4 HR-A. Really impressive month for the 20-year-old Mexican southpaw. The lefty has actually been the most consistent pitcher in a really good South Bend rotation, with one or two earned runs in all nine of his starts this season.
Starting Pitcher: Cam Sanders, South Bend. Stats: 24 IP, 20 H, 2.25 ERA, 13 BB, 21 K, 1 HR-A. Sanders was on this list in April thanks to a 1.89 ERA despite allowing more walks than strikeouts. The good news is he found more strikeouts in May, in part thanks to a big breaking slow curveball.
Starting Pitcher: Cory Abbott, Tennessee. Stats: 28 IP, 21 H, 2.89 ERA, 9 BB, 29 K, 2 HR-A. Decided to go with a 6-man rotation for the May awards, because Abbott deserved inclusion with a very consistent month.
Reliever of the Month: Ryan Lawlor, South Bend / Myrtle Beach. Stats: 15.2 IP, 10 H, 0.57 ERA, 6 BB, 22 K, 0 HR-A. The Cubs signed Lawlor from Independent League baseball last June, and the decision keeps looking better and better. While we should expect some dominance for a 25-year-old lefty in A-ball, Lawlor deserves credit for his big strikeout totals in May, where he whiffed 22 of the 62 batters he faced, and didn’t slow down after a mid-May promotion. Overall this season, left-handed hitters are hitting just .121/.256/.182 off Lawlor, and I do wonder if because of his age, continued success in the Carolina League might push another promotion, especially if one of the two lefty relievers in Tennessee below get the bump to Iowa.
Other Reliever Months of Note: Craig Brooks, Tennessee. Wyatt Short, Tennessee. Junichi Tazawa, Iowa. Peyton Remy, South Bend. Ethan Roberts, South Bend. Jordan Minch, Tennessee. Tim Collins, Iowa.
IOWA: 19-13 in May, 33-23 overall record, first place in the Northern Division. The I-Cubs led going into June by seven games. This has been the Cubs best AAA team in quite some time, led by a lot of home runs and a veteran bullpen. The sheer number of MLB-caliber players on the roster doesn’t hurt, either.
TENNESSEE: 15-15 in May, 26-27 overall record, 4th in Northern Division. This blows my mind: the Smokies have led the Southern League allowing 4.55 R/G. I think of the Smokies and think of all the great seasons by individual pitchers (Miller, Abbott, Brooks, Short), but the Smokies have been wildly inconsistent game-to-game.
MYRTLE BEACH: 12-17 in May, 19-36 overall record, last place in the Southern Division. The Pelicans played better baseball in May after a disastrous April, but this team doesn’t have the horses to keep pace in the Carolina League.
SOUTH BEND: 16-14 in May, 29-24 overall record, fourth place in Eastern Division. The top two teams in each division in each half make the playoffs, and so South Bend stands just three games back of second-place Lake County for the Eastern Division’s second playoff spot. This squad was bit hard by the injury bug in April, nice job by manager Buddy Bailey to keep them afloat.