Yesterday was the final day of the minor league regular season, as Brennen Davis homered and Yovanny Cruz hit 99 mph. Iowa and South Bend move onto the postseason, and the AFL is around the corner, but the majority of the Cubs farm system transitions into offseason mode.
We’ll have a lot in way of recaps still to come – the all-August/September team this week, the all-organization team once the playoffs are over – but I wanted to go stream-of-consciousness today on the general subplots I’ll think about the most as I look back on this season.
- Robel, Robel, Robel, Robel. For me, it’s one of the best stories in baseball this year, no matter if the MLB struggles continue. The two month period of “is this possibly real?” was so fun. He made it through the final round of Double-A cuts as a bench infielder, and three months later, was popping dingers for the big league squad. And a year ago, he was in Italy.
- Good years for the High Ceiling Guys. I’m thinking of specifically Brennen Davis and Brailyn Marquez here, but you can extend it down to even people like Christopher Morel and Kohl Franklin, too. Davis didn’t show up to South Bend until a rash of injuries hit the club in late May, but when he did, he immediately started producing. Davis reached base in his first 16 games with South Bend, a stretch where he showed off his power stroke and walked as much as he struck out. Marquez struggled so much in the first half, but better sequencing and a few grip/mechanical changes unleashed him in the final two months.
- Speaking of Brennen’s injury: hit by pitches in the hand/wrist area. Gosh was this annoying for the Cubs this year. The first one happened on April 9, when Zack Short broke his hand taking one up and in. Two weeks later, Nico Hoerner did the same. Later in the year, Brennen Davis had a hit by pitch break his finger. There were more than these three, though they proved the most costly. Cubs Den’s Michael Ernst has a theory I like: pitchers are combatting the loft angle emphasis with more high four seamers, and low-level pitchers don’t have the control to execute that pitch.
- While I’m here complaining: the juiced ball in the PCL. I won’t re-hash how problematic it’s been, but when I think about this, I think most about Tyson Miller. Perhaps the Southern League’s most consistent pitcher in the first three months, Miller ran into Triple-A and found a different sport altogether. In Tennessee: six home runs in 88 innings. In Iowa: 13 home runs in 48.2 innings.
- Miller was amazing those first two months, with a 17-inning scoreless streak in May, but there are three pitcher streaks I’ll remember more. First was Jack Patterson, who went from June 13 to August 7 without giving up a run. More than 35 innings. The run took him from Low-A reliever to Double-A starter. During that time, Brailyn Marquez took off in a big way. On July 25, Marquez allowed a single in the fourth inning. He wouldn’t allow a hit again until August 13, a streak spanning 48 batters. Finally, Cory Abbott finished the year with a good one: 11 consecutive starts with three hits allowed or less. Batters hit .117 off Abbott in the final two months. [Brett: As I read that paragraph, I didn’t think the third streak could possibly top the first two … but then there it was.]
- When I think about hot streaks by pitchers, I’ll also have to remember that first Adbert Alzolay big league appearance. It was a “holy cow” moment the system hasn’t produced on the pitching side, and it was followed 11 days later by the opposite feeling, when Alzolay was beat up in Pittsburgh, sending him back down to the minors. He’s now back with the big league club, and it’ll be interesting to see how his year wraps up.