Safe to say we all love a good playoff race, and thanks to the crazy playoff procedures in the minor leagues, the month of August will feature a couple for the Cubs farm system.
Amazingly, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, who sport an atrocious 41-64 overall record, are currently tied for a playoff spot! Since it appears the Down East Wood Ducks will win the Carolina League’s Southern Division in both the first and second half, the second Southern Division playoff team will be the team that finishes in second place in the second half. You follow that? Well, the Pelicans are 20-18 since the All-Star Break, tied for second with the Fayetteville Woodpeckers.
And in the Midwest League, a similar story. Four teams make it from the Eastern Division, and because the Great Lakes Loons and Lake County Captains are both doing well after clinching first half playoff spots, the Wild Card team would currently default to the division’s fourth place team: the South Bend Cubs. Hey, it doesn’t matter how you get there; a chip and a chair.
Elsewhere, Iowa still holds a 9-game lead in their division, while it’s too early to tell how the Northwest or Arizona Leagues will shake out. The only thing that seems a certainty is Tennessee will miss the playoffs. Onto some notes:
- South Bend vaulted into that playoff spot thanks to a dominant sweep over Lansing. The star of the series was Andy Weber, who reached base in an insane 13 of 17 plate appearances in the series. Weber, who just turned 22, now has a 110 wRC+ in the Midwest League, in a year while transitioning back to shortstop (he spent much of his time at University of Virginia playing second base). I really like Weber’s actions defensively, and his bat is showing signs of picking up. After a crazy-bad 16 games to start the season, Weber is hitting .298/.355/.430 in his last 78 games.
On absolute fire right now: Andy Weber.
3-for-3 today, which means he’s reached base 11 times in 14 plate appearances in this series.
Also noticed this: in Weber’s last 25 G, 13 walks in 111 PA. Just 17 walks in his 286 PA before that.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) July 29, 2019
- South Bend exploded for 17 runs on 20 hits yesterday, with the last push coming from home runs by Brennen Davis and Cole Roederer. Davis had started the day 0-for-5, with three outs coming from line drives to center field in which the outfielder left his feet. So in his last at-bat he just hit a nuke to center. Roederer, meanwhile, drew 3 walks early in the game on some fabulous plate appearances. Then, on the first pitch he saw in the ninth, got his arms extended on a fastball and crushed it to right. Roederer is hitting just .167 in July, but his more important numbers are staying okay thanks to 20 walks in 103 plate appearances.
Not to be outdone, Cole Roederer ambushes a first pitch fastball for a 2-run homer of his own to give the Cubs their 16th and 17th runs of the game: pic.twitter.com/WBBP2bHQGa
— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 29, 2019
- South Bend lost D.J. Artis to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans yesterday, as Artis was promoted to make room for Brennen Davis’ return to the active roster (following a finger injury earned from bunting). Artis reached base in all eight games with South Bend after returning from his own injury, and the organization saw enough to bump him up. Artis is the system’s best leadoff prospect, as he draws a ton of walks, takes his hit by pitches, and is a nice 18-for-19 on the basepaths.
- Coming back to South Bend soon is outfielder Nelson Velazquez, who rehabbed in Arizona and hit home runs in back-to-back games. That exceeded Velazquez’ home run total in his first 41 games with South Bend this year, but we know the power is in there. I’ll be heading with the family to watch the SB Cubs today, if Velazquez or Chase Strumpf happen to want to join the squad today. Nudge nudge.
- Big thing to watch for tonight: Jack Patterson is pitching for Myrtle Beach, and he’s one scoreless outing from a 0.00 ERA in July. This covers his entire time with the Pelicans, and in fact, he hasn’t allowed an earned run since June 12. I’ve written about Patterson before, so I won’t re-hash it here, but needless to say, he’s the breakout star of the second half. (Please do not trade him.)
- Everyone loves to talk about former first round pick Brendon Little, and so it’s worth noting that he’s been very solid in his last four outings: 17.1 IP, 10 H, 1.04 ERA, 11 BB, 20 K. Some of the bad luck indicators from last year have switched back in his favor, and he’s also been more consistent with his secondaries. Little turns 23 soon, I might look to promote him to Myrtle Beach for his last 3-4 starts, and he has to be one of the names getting considered for the Arizona Fall League, doesn’t he? You’d think Little, Riley Thompson and Cam Sanders would all be drawing consideration for promotions to Myrtle Beach.
- If there is a rotation promotion shake-up coming, I want Erich Uelmen to get the bump to Double-A. He’s been really good in his last five outings, and even better on video: 34.2 IP, 27 H, 2.08 ERA, 8 BB, 34 K. Uelmen is handling lefties this year to the tune of a .547 OPS allowed, which is really big for him. I know he’s trying a cut-fastball some, but I think a lot of that improvement is just really understanding how and where to throw his slider to left-handed hitters. And commanding that vicious sinker to the armside corner of the plate. Uelmen’s GB rate is still above 60%. He’s a good one, with the floor of a very solid-looking reliever.
- A note that once we get through this Trade Deadline, and Brett has slept enough to edit me, I’ll do the next round of rankings around here. Definitely some shake-ups in this edition, and thinking about going a little deeper this time, out to 30 names or so.