A smattering of bits from the minor leagues to get in front of you today …
- One of the biggest minor league mysteries this season has been the absence of Chris Coghlan. The Cubs signed the veteran outfielder and former North Sider to a minor league deal back in March, but he has yet to grace any Cubs affiliate with his presence. Well, as it turns out, Coghlan is recovering from a shoulder issue with his AC joint and is building back up from that, according to Cubs Director of Player Development Jaron Madison, via Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. “No real timeline for him … just waiting to see how he feels and taking it step by step, once he gets back to 100 percent,” Madison said. Coghlan will be ready at some point this season, but even after he heals up and even after he gets back into the lineup in Iowa, he’ll have to prove he’s worthy of a roster spot on a team with a loaded positional group as it is. Coghlan has been very good when with the Cubs over the past four years, but some time has passed, and there’s no guarantee he’d still be that guy.
- You know who’s having himself one heck of a season? The Cubs’ second first-round pick from last season, Alex Lange. Lange, a righty from LSU, is in High-A this season and has walked only two over his last four starts, while striking out 23 and allowing zero runs in three of the four starts. For the season, then, he’s got a 3.28 ERA with an even better 2.85 FIP. He’s not getting a ton of ground balls (42.6%), but he has gotten a ton of infield pop-ups (28.3%) which usually indicates plenty of weak contact.
- The Cubs’ first first-round pick from last season, right-hander Brendon Little, has had less success this year (4.47 ERA, 4.44 FIP) in a league lower than Lange’s, but he was known to be less polished coming out of the draft than his LSU counterpart. He certainly looks the part:
Only the second time I’ve seen #Cubs Brendon Little and he looked sharp.
— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) June 12, 2018
- But of course, there’s also this:
#Cubs Brendon Little is leaving the game in the 5th after visit to the mound from the South Bend trainer.
Looked uncomfortable on final pitch, possibly hip flexor or groin related. Called conference at the mound.
Final Line: 4.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K. 64 pitches (44 strikes)
— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) June 12, 2018
- Sigh. Little was putting together his second consecutive solid start when he had to leave the game with the trainer in the 5th and there hasn’t been much news on what’s happened since. Hopefully, it was just a bit of acute discomfort that never shows up again … but we’ll see. The Cubs are not providing an update for now, per the South Bend Tribune. That’s pretty typical for minor league injury situations.
- Over the offseason, the Cubs signed former Braves reliever Shae Simmons to a split Major/Minor league deal and he’s been pitching in Triple-A Iowa, albeit unsuccessfully, ever since. Indeed, had Simmons been dominating, he might’ve been called up during through the revolving door at the back of the Cubs bullpen. Because not only is he already on the 40-man roster, but he’s had some big league experience and success. For the I-Cubs this season, however, his walk rate is greater than his strikeout rate and about the only thing he’s done well is keep the ball on the ground (52.8%). “His velocity is definitely there,” I-Cubs Manager Marty Pevey told the Des Moines Register. “It’s just a matter of his command of his secondary pitches that he needs to improve on and become more consistent with. But he’s done a great job for us.”
- The way Simmons sees it, his number one priority – to this point – was getting and staying healthy. So to that end, maybe there’s still hope for him yet. If Simmons has truly just been focusing on staying on the field, than there’s reason to believe his numbers can improve once the Cubs “let him loose” so to speak. And to be fair, his strikeout rate has risen (21.1%) and his walk rate has fallen (15.8%) over his past nine games, but neither is where you want to see a 27-year-old former Major Leaguer, even in a hitter friendly league like the PCL.
- And finally, FanGraphs has released their updated top 131 prospects rankings (Why 131 prospects? Because now we’re talking about it (Coming soon: Bleacher Nation’s top 37.5 prospects)) and two Cubs make the cut, but neither makes the top 100. Shortstop Aramis Ademan checks in at #104 and Adbert Alzolay checks in at #116.
- Both are widely considered among the Cubs’ top three prospects, with Jose Albertos usually thrown into the mix. Unfortunately, Albertos last pitched over two weeks ago at South Bend, where he had an extremely rough go of it thanks to a total loss of command (18.69 ERA, 9.64 FIP, 36.8% BB rate), and is currently in extended Spring Training in Arizona slowing things down.
- Alzolay, meanwhile, also got off to a mixed start with the I-Cubs this season (4.76 ERA, 4.73 FIP, some great outings, some poor) and is now out until after the All-Star break:
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) June 11, 2018
- And Ademan is slashing just .228/.328/.339 (91 wRC+) in 202 High-A plate appearances. So, for these guys, it’s not as if you could argue with the rankings on performance bases right now.