In January of 2014 word came out of the Dominican Republic that a nasty car crash had involved multiple Cubs’ prospects. Later we would learn that two of them in particular, outfield Kevin Encarnacion and pitcher Jose Zapata, were injured seriously enough that their future was in serious question.
Modern medicine is a wonderful thing, though, and last fall we learned that both players were on the diamond in Arizona. Not only were they again healthy, they were baseball healthy and returning to their careers.
And yesterday the story got even better as Kevin Encarnacion made his first start of the season (he pinch hit on the 27th). After a 2 for 3 day, his early season average now sits at .500.
After the 2013 season Encarnacion was one of the young Cubs that I had flagged to monitor closely. He received the Prospects Progress treatment in October of that year thanks in large part to a patient plate approach and some very promising results from the left side for the then-switch hitter. He did not rank among the Cubs’ best prospects, but he was a name to remember and a player from whom a breakout season in 2014 would not have surprised me.
Later on, when we get some good video of him in action and he amasses some additional stats, we’ll take a look at how his stock as a prospect measures up in the aftermath of his injury and the lost year he suffered as a result. For now, though, I think we can just be happy that this story has a happier ending than anyone had any right to expect last January. He’s healthy. He’s back. And that’s awesome.
Scores From Yesterday
Iowa – Thanks to late game heroics, the Cubs won 3-2.
Tennessee – The Smokies lost 3-0.
Myrtle Beach – The Pelicans swept a double header. The won the first one 5-3, and then took the nightcap 6-3.
South Bend – South Bend did their scoring late, but despite fifteen hits they could not find enough runs. They lost 5-4.
Performances of Note
[Iowa] Donn Roach allowed 2 runs on 7 hits and a walk over 7 innings for the Cubs while striking out 2.
[Iowa] The offense mostly came from the top of the order. Arismendy Alcantara had a hit and a walk, Adron Chambers finished 1 for 4, and Matt Szczur drove those two home in the ninth with his 3rd homer. Szczur finished 2 for 4 with his 4th steal of the year.
[Tennessee] Frank Batista gave up 3 runs in his 5 innings on the hill, but the bullpen gave up nothing after that. Stephen Perakslis worked one inning, Tyler Ihrig provided 2 innings, and Fernando Cruz took care of the final frame.
[Tennessee] Bijan Rademacher reached twice on a single and a walk, but he was the only Smokie to do so. Anthony Giansanti and Billy McKinney had the only other hits.
[Myrtle Beach] Jeimer Candelario and Ben Carhart both doubled in the first game, but it was catcher Victor Caratini who had the best game. He finished 3 for 3 with a double of a his own.
[Myrtle Beach] Mark Zagunis reached 3 times in Game One on a single and 2 walks. He added another walk in Game Two.
[Myrtle Beach] Kevin Brown finished 2 for 4 with the only extra base hit in the second game, a double. Carlos Penalver also had 2 hits.
[Myrtle Beach] As a team and between the two games yesterday, Myrtle Beach drew 13 walks against just 9 strikeouts.
[South Bend] Ryan Williams gave up 4 runs on 7 and hits in this game, one of his roughest of the year. He only struck out 2 and walked no one.
[South Bend] Andrew Ely finished 4 for 5 with 2 doubles and his first homer of the year. Yasiel Balaguert doubled, homered (his 3rd) and also finished 4 for 5.
[South Bend] Kevin Encarnacion and Charcer Burks both finished with 2 hits.
If you did not see Matt Szczur’s walkoff homer yesterday, then you have some catching up to do.
Brett provided some coverage of the draft yesterday that you should definitely check out if you missed it. Right now there seems to be a consensus that the Cubs have narrowed their list to between four and six players they expect to be on the board at number nine, but there is virtually no agreement who those four to six names might be. If you want to read over a good list of candidates, then I’ll refer you back to the excellent work done by Dan Kirby at Through The Fence Baseball. Here are his pitcher candidates for the Cubs, and here are the hitters. Odds are pretty good that the Cubs ultimate pick is on one of those two lists.
Barring one of the top college arms falling or the Cubs working out a very good deal with one of the injured pitchers, I tend to think the Cubs will again lean towards the best bat on the board. Unfortunately, that does not narrow the field very much. Things may be come clearer in the next week and a half, but I would not count on it. This draft could be very, very interesting.