Like Christmas morning, minor league Opening Day came this year with a shiny new present for us prospect hounds: an HD feed and centerfield camera for the Tennessee Smokies. For years, Tennessee has lagged behind the rest of the system, but they have caught up in a big way, and just in time given the number of top prospects at that level. This is not a sponsored post, but I have to tell you: MiLB.tv, for a Cubs fan, is a wonderful thing. Five levels with really great broadcasts.
Here’s what I’ve seen on there over the season’s first four days …
- Sticking in Tennessee, I think the story of the first four games is probably the performance thus far from the starting staff. This is a group we’ve been excited about, and so far, it’s been very good: 18.2 IP, 8 H, 0.96 ERA, 5 BB, 21 K. I highlighted one of those outings yesterday.
- The Smokies relievers rarely held onto those leads the starters gave them, but Tennessee escapes the weekend 3-1 with a pair of one-run wins on Saturday and Sunday. The hero in those games?
Nico Hoerner has produced the go-ahead run in the @smokiesbaseball last 2 games. Today with a bases loaded walk. Yesterday on an infield single to shortstop.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) April 8, 2019
- Hoerner is now hitting .250/.438/.333 in 16 plate appearances after last night’s pinch-hit walk.
- If we’re catching up on batting lines, I imagine you’re going to want to know about Ian Happ. It wasn’t a great weekend in Nashville for Happ, who is hitting just .222/.263/.333 after four games. Worse is probably his one walk versus seven strikeouts. However, he does have 6 RBI in four games, and his attitude has stuck out:
Been hearing nothing but rave reviews so far for Ian Happ since his demotion to Iowa.
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) April 7, 2019
- Happ having a good attitude about this process right now is probably rather critical.
- As for the other part of Iowa most likely to help the Major League team:
- Overall, the I-Cubs bullpen has pitched 17.1 IP with a 4.15 ERA, so it hasn’t been particularly special. However, if you remove Brian Duensing from the equation, the ERA drops to 2.76, with a 5.5 H/9 (that’s good), 8.8 K/9 (that’s decent), and 6.1 BB/9 (that’s not good). Rowan Wick and James Norwood each turned in gems over the weekend, as they presumably battle for Next Man Up.
- You’ll be forgiven if you forgot the Cubs added Dixon Machado and Donnie Dewees very late in the Iowa offseason, but after four games, they have been easily the best I-Cubs hitters. Machado, a good defensive shortstop, is hitting .462/.500/.615 and Dewees is at .364/.417/.818 after Iowa’s 3-1 series win in Nashville.
- Moving down to A-ball, just wanted to share that Miguel Amaya’s home run that Brett linked to is officially the farthest Amaya has hit a ball professionally. And this in a place that’s known for being very tough on power hitters.
- Don’t want to get too in-depth on this, because if his changes hold, I’ll feature Bryan Hudson more prominently soon. But I’ll tell you this: I’ve never been a huge fan of Hudson’s, and on Friday, saw the makings of a prospect I’ve never seen before. Let’s monitor where it goes from here.
Zach referenced an arm slot change that began late last season, it seems to have unlocked some extra options (and improved velo AND command). Had 10 swinging strikes.
Hudson had more K’s than IP twice last year, did it in his first 2019 start. Something to keep an eye on.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) April 6, 2019
- I had been vocal this offseason about how much Andy Weber impressed me defensively in Eugene last year. I called his fielding tools the best in the system, and hoped they’d move him to shortstop in South Bend this year. Wish granted. However, the results so far have not made me look particularly genius. In just 27 innings so far, Weber already has four errors.
- Who says the Cubs are broke? On Friday, the Cubs turned a $50,000 payment to the Orioles into $750,000 in International Signing Bonus Pool space, in exchange for allowing them to keep 2017 Rule 5 Draft pick Pedro Araujo. Phil at The Cub Reporter has the details.
- Last, I’d mention that this first time through the minor league rotations, don’t be surprised to see innings pitched totals so low. The Cubs have operated on a hard-stop 80 pitch count, and most managers are pulling their guys before that. The reins will be loosened soon enough.