Man, you forget until you’re in it, but June is just a packed month on the minor league side.
The draft saw the addition of 40 potential names to the mix. Five of the Cubs affiliates began play this month (three of which you can read about here and here). The Major League team’s struggles have caused all sorts of chatter about who could be called up, and of course, who could be traded. The good news is that the uppermost levels of this system have depth and names capable of helping right now. It’s probably no surprise that two from the Triple-A Iowa juggernaut are the headliners of the month.
BN Minor League Player of June: Trent Giambrone, UT, Iowa
Stats: .264/.337/.626, 9 BB, 26 K in 101 PA. 10 HR. (Read more about Giambrone here)
In the last two seasons, we’ve really seen that Giambrone is one of the most hot-and-cold hitters in the system. This year, he began April on an absolute tear. Then, he was Iowa’s least trustworthy hitter for six weeks. Things picked back up in June, and they did so with Giambrone embracing what his high exit velocity can do when it meets the new Triple-A juiced baseball. Ten total home runs, including seven in a 12-game stretch from June 14 – June 27. Giambrone, who always struggled with southpaws at the lower levels, is destroying them in the Pacific Coast League, at a .269/.358/.688 rate. He plays a different position every day. He steals bases effectively. This is a piece Joe Maddon will like to have around next year (or this year?).
Since 2010, here are the @IowaCubs players who have hit 10 or more homers in a month —
June, 2011: Bryan LaHair (10)
May, 2012: Anthony Rizzo (10)
July, 2014: Javier Baez (10)
June, 2019: Trent Giambrone (10)
— Alex Cohen (@voiceofcohen) June 30, 2019
BN Minor League Pitcher of May: Adbert Alzolay, SP, Iowa/Chicago
Stats: 25.2 IP, 17 H, 2.10 ERA, 8 BB, 34 K, 4 HR-A. (Read more about Alzolay here)
I think even if we didn’t want to count Alzolay’s Major League contributions, he’s still my winner for this designation, because the three starts that preceded his call-up were so darn good. The biggest thing about this month for Alzolay is that his change-up has evolved into a plus pitch, and he’s showing insane confidence throwing it all the time. It’s a game changer for him, and raises the ceiling of what he can be in a Major League rotation. It’s crazy to think the curveball hasn’t really been a big league weapon yet, because it certainly was in his June minor league starts. Alzolay’s maturity in terms of fastball command and controlling his (quick) tempo has been a cherry on top. What a treat he’s been.
Adbert Alzolay, Wicked 81mph Curveball. 🤢 pic.twitter.com/hgnE9pcseZ
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 26, 2019
BN All-System Team, June
Catcher: Jhonny Pereda, 23, Tennessee. Stats: .339/.414/.403, 8 BB, 10 K, 71 PA. I had hoped this season would be a step forward in the power department for Pereda, but that has not manifested. Instead, he’s developed one of the best batting eyes in the system, and this month he’s finally started to have some hits drop. Pereda is a minor league free agent at season’s end, and his re-signing would be of absolute importance to me. Good leader, good contact skills, good batting eye, good receiver.
First Base: Tyler Durna, 22, South Bend. Stats: .372/.465/.535, 12 BB, 13 K, 101 PA. It’s probably time for a promotion, here. Durna has been South Bend’s most consistent player, a defensive force and a really smart hitter. In his last 41 games, he’s got a .943 OPS, and he’s established himself as one of the best contact hitters in the system. Player of the Month could easily have gone to him.
Second Base: Giant Trombone, 25, Iowa. See above.
Co-Shortstops: Dixon Machado, Iowa. Stats: .340/.446/.617, 8 BB, 11 K in 56 PA. Rafael Morel, DSL Cubs 1. Stats: .324/.388/.554, 8 BB, 8 K in 85 PA. These two are only 9 years and 273 years apart in age, but I couldn’t choose who was more impressive, mostly because both are so low in plate appearances. Machado provides a real feeling of safety that the Cubs could manage worst case scenarios at shortstop, while Morel provides that dream that only a teenage prospect we’ve never seen play can invoke. What a difference.
Third Base: Christopher Morel, 20, South Bend. Stats: .299/.319/.483, 3 BB, 19 K in 94 PA. Two Morel’s in one infield. Rafael’s brother was a favorite of Bert’s in Arizona, routinely flashing batting practices more impressive than behemoth specimens like Jonathan Sierra and Nelson Velazquez. Morel has the DNA of Javier Baez without all of that talent; he just can’t help but be exciting.
Left Field: Cole Roederer, 19, South Bend. Stats: .273/.314/.470, 3 BB, 18 K in 70 PA. Yes, a lot of this is one day, and you can read more about Roederer here. Something to watch: just three walks for Roederer this month. He needs that to be higher. And yet, when he’s swinging a hot bat, you just want him to explore the evolution of his power game.
Center Field: Brennen Davis, 19, South Bend. Stats: .296/.406/.494, 13 BB, 16 K in 97 PA. Of course, the impossibly hot start has slowed a little bit. We knew it would. But Davis has now entered a point of his numbers being trustworthy to speak to his talent level, and what they suggest is really exciting. His natural command of the strike zone, both in terms of walks and strikeouts, is super mature for someone with his age and playing history. He’s not running quite as much as we expected, and I think we’re getting an indication that the upside here is more slugger than five-tooler. But make no mistake: this is the highest ceiling in the system.
Right Field: Yohendrick Pinango, 17, DSL Cubs 1. Stats: .391/.475/.506, 14 BB, 9 K in 101 PA. We’re now a month into his career, and he still has reached base in every single game. Pinango, signed for $400,000 last July, has been a really pleasant surprise, and is absolutely the breakout star of the Cubs two Dominican Summer League teams. And what a name.
Designated Hitter: Robel Garcia, 26, Iowa. Stats: .274/.346/.621, 9 BB, 35 K in 107 PA. This was the month Garcia really found the spotlight, getting Big Journalism treatment from Tommy Birch and Sahadev Sharma – and little old me – as well as becoming the eponymous savior of Cubs Twitter. Garcia’s power is no longer a question, the question will be how his contact skills evolve as he gets more at-bats in the organization. Noteworthy that Garcia played four positions this month, including the final four games in left field. The Cubs are exploring what he can do.
A Few More Names of Note: Cam Balego, Myrtle Beach. Gioskar Amaya, Tennessee. Connor Myers, Tennessee. Fernando Kelli, Eugene.
— Tennessee Smokies (@smokiesbaseball) June 25, 2019
Starting Pitcher: Adbert Alzolay, 24, Iowa/Chicago. See above.
Starting Pitcher: Alec Mills, 27, Iowa. Stats: 29.2 IP, 25 H, 3.34 ERA, 8 BB, 26 K, 4 HR-A. Mills has a 2.78 ERA in his last six starts, and doing that in the PCL is just so darn impressive. After a rough start, he’s found something that works, and has been particularly good with that change-up to lefties. Part of me wants to see Mills in the bullpen, exploring if he can recreate last year, but right now he’s executing perfectly what the Cubs need: providing a worst-case starter option if the big league team needs it.
Starting Pitcher: Alex Lange, 23, Tennessee/Myrtle Beach. Stats: 25 IP, 18 H, 2.52 ERA, 6 BB, 22 K, 2 HR-A. Boy am I happy that he’s righted the ship. Lange has pitched well in two Double-A starts since a semi-unexpected promotion, proving that at least some of his struggles in High-A were due to the crazy-awful batted ball luck he was receiving. His secondaries play, his fastball is back up a tick or two, and there’s no reason he can’t have a good second half and be back on the radar.
Starting Pitcher: Faustino Carrera, 20, South Bend. Stats: 23 IP, 22 H, 2.35 ERA, 5 BB, 18 K, 1 HR-A. I’m not exaggerating here, Carrera has literally been quality every single time out this year. This kind of consistency at age 20 in a full-season league for the first time is unheard of. While I think Riley Thompson is the South Bend starter most in need of promotion, I’m certainly hoping the Cubs allow Carrera’s last couple starts this season to be in Myrtle Beach.
Starting Pitcher: Kohl Franklin, 19, Eugene. Stats: 12.2 IP, 10 H, 1.42 ERA, 4 BB, 18 K, 0 HR-A. It’s just three starts and a handful of innings, but Franklin earned a spot here because he’s seriously busted onto the prospect scene with his performance. The Cubs got a steal with his above-slot selection in the sixth round last year, and he’s going to keep getting better. Already in possession of a top-three changeup in the system, Franklin has the projectability to build on his 92-95 mph fastball, and the feel to develop more consistency with his curveball. Exciting.
#Cubs 2018 6th Rd pick Kohl Franklin, an overslot prep signing out of Oklahoma, struck out 8 batters in 4 innings last night.
Most of his success came on the back of an impressive changeup.
So, let's take a look at a minute of Franklin throwing that pitch throughout the outing. pic.twitter.com/OFF2uLB4jI
— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) June 22, 2019
Two More SP’s I just need to mention: Justin Steele, Tennessee. Riley Thompson, South Bend. With more than three starts, they’d have found a spot, I think.
Reliever of the Month: Jack Patterson, 23, South Bend. Stats: 19 IP, 11 H, 0.95 ERA, 9 BB, 22 K, 0 HR-A. His versatility and dominance has made him one of South Bend’s most valuable players in the last six weeks, and it’s also very soon going to earn him a trip to Myrtle Beach. Patterson is just destroying every kind of hitter in every kind of situation; he simply is ready for a new challenge. This kind of success from the 32nd round last year is nice draft work.
Other Reliever Months of Note: Sean Barry, South Bend. Rowan Wick, Iowa. Garrett Kelly, Myrtle Beach. Ben Hecht, Myrtle Beach. Dakota Mekkes, Iowa. Wyatt Short, Tennessee. Duane Underwood Jr., Iowa. Man, this is a fun group of dudes that deserve more words.