This Week In The Minors: Getting Started
If you are looking for box scores and the best performances from all the minor league games this weekend, be sure to check out the Minor League Daily on Monday morning. The Daily is taking the weekend off this year, and that means Monday is doing triple duty.
The weekend now belongs to a new minor league feature, one of that will take a step back from the daily action and watch for patterns, trends, and generally take a wider view of the organization as a whole. If you are more into prospect rankings than daily box scores, this column might just be what you have been looking for.
To start this inaugural edition off, let’s check in on each team’s record through the first weekend of the season.
Iowa Cubs : 0-3
Iowa is one of the older teams in Triple A, and so far it not been a very good one. These two things are not entirely disconnected. In order to build up some depth to protect against injuries at the major league level, the Cubs signed a number of minor league free agents and stashed them in Iowa. While that depth is nice to have, it also means that a lot of the Iowa roster is made of up players who are not really major league talent. There are some legitimate prospects on this roster – Brett Jackson and Logan Watkins highlight that list – but right now this roster is best considered a long-range extension of Dale Sveum‘s bench.
That situation will change as the season unfolds. Look for the Iowa roster at the end of the year to be much more prospect-y than it is today.
Tennessee Smokies : 2-1
Iowa’s loss is Tennessee’s gain. By Double A standards this is a veteran squad that also happens to feature it’s fair share of prospects worth watching. After dropping the season opener on the road in Pensacola, the Smokies won their next two in fairly decisive fashion.
Daytona Cubs : 2-1
Thanks to Jorge Soler and Javier Baez this team will probably draw as much or more attention than any other squad in the farm system in the early going. And in the early going, they have played pretty well. Don’t let the Soler and Baez combo blind you to the rest of the talent on this squad, though. The Cubs look pretty good at almost every position on the diamond, and this pitching staff might be the best from top to bottom in the organization.
Kane County Cougars : 0-3
Don’t let that winless record fool you; this team is loaded with offensive talent everywhere you look. The Cougars are liable to score a lot of runs this spring, and until their pitching staff shakes the rust off, they’ll need to score a lot of runs to win some games. There is talent on the mound as well, though. Enough talent that the slow start doesn’t worry me a bit. This is a team that should compete for the division title in the first half of the season.
It may seem ridiculous to start talking about players that could be promoted soon when we are just three games into the minor league season, but because the Cubs were conservative at times in their roster construction, this is a topic that that merits some early season attention. And so, in no particular, here are five players that I strongly suspect could be moved up a level early this year.
Jae-Hoon Ha, OF. At age 22, Ha still fits comfortably in the Double A age bracket. However, this is the third season in which he has appeared in a Smokey uniform. Ha has already amassed 184 gamest at this level; I’m not sure he will benefit all that much from another 137 or so. His all-out-all-the-time way of playing makes him an injury risk, though, so it might be smart of the Cubs to keep him out of Iowa’s frozen tundra until the weather warms up. He risks injury enough by running into walls. No point in making that risk any greater than it needs to be at this stage of his development.
Jorge Soler, OF. Of the Cubs three best prospects, Soler should easily be the most advanced thanks to his extensive experience playing in and for Cuba. And while it is absolutely true that three games do not provide a meaningful sample size in any sense of the word, it is interesting to note that Soler has started off his season with an OPS of 1.128 and a stat line that features one home run, one walk, and one strike out. That is the sort of start that will land him in Tennessee sooner rather than later.
Frank Del Valle, RHP. This is another player who is starting his third year wearing the same uniform, and like Ha, Del Valle has little left to prove at this level of the minors. It remains to be see if this lefty is going to be a starter or reliever long term, but it is probably about time for him to see if his stuff will work as well in Double A as it has in Daytona.
Casey Coleman, RHP. Coleman did little wrong in spring training, and he kept that trend alive in his first appearance out of the Iowa bullpen. After failing to secure a job in the Cubs’ rotation last season, it looks like Coleman may have found a home in the bullpen. He does not look like a late inning option should the Cubs decide they need a new one, but he is increasingly looking like a solid middle relief candidate. I think he may be one of the first players called to Chicago.
Logan Watkins, 2B. Watkins is new to Triple A, but so far he has looked right at home at that level. He is second on the team in both walks and total bases in the early going, and there are no concerns about his defense. If anything should happen to Alberto Gonzalez before Darwin Barney makes it back to the diamond, Watkins is likely to be the next man up. And if anything else happens to Barney the rest of the season, do not be surprised if Watkins gets the call even ahead of some of the other veterans on the Iowa roster. And if the Cubs fall out of contention early and start trading in the month of May? That scenario could have Watkins in Wrigley in a hurry.
Remember, the Minor League Daily is back tomorrow with a triple dose of minor league coverage.