I don’t pay a lot of attention to minor league standings (and by a lot I mean any).
So when I heard last night the Myrtle Beach Pelicans had won their seventh game in a row, I was curious about where they stood in the Low-A East. And then I saw: second place! Hey, great!
How far out of first you ask? Well, little did I realize the Pelicans were in the same division as the 1927 Yankees. They’re 17.5 games behind the Tampa Bay’s Charleston Riverdogs, who are 60-24 with a +171 run differential. A juggernaut of a team within a juggernaut of an organization.
But still, credit to Pelicans manager Buddy Bailey for turning things around with this team that seemed outclassed pretty darn often the first month. And congrats to him for taking the spot of the fourth winningest minor league manager of all-time during this hot streak. Cubs are lucky to have him leading their young men.
Let’s break down a good day, 4-0 from the full-season affiliates, in the minors for the Cubs.
Five Stars of Cub Farm, 8/10.
HM. Perlaza, Caissie, Warkentin, Bocchi.
5. Keegan Thompson.
4. Cam Sanders.
3. Nick Martini and Michael Hermosillo.
2. The Smokies 2-3-4: Nelson-Brennen-Nelson.
1. Kevin Alcantara and Alex Canario. Again.
Color on a big night tomorrow at BN.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) August 11, 2021
Honorable Mention: I have not given Matteo Bocchi love in Five Stars nearly enough this year, despite the fact that he’s largely been South Bend’s most reliable multi-inning pitcher. Last night he piggybacked off Anderson Espinoza and allowed just one hit over 5.2 innings to finish off a 6-2 win.
• Bocchi has a 30% strikeout rate in High-A, and I remember watching Cole Roederer in Spring Training describe to the right fielder how much movement he was seeing on Bocchi’s pitches from center.
• Two singles and a walk for Owen Caissie last night, who is still somehow in the Arizona Complex League. Please promote this man.
• Shout out to Matt Warkentin’s bomb and Yohendrick Pinango’s double and steal for providing the comeback in the aforementioned Pelicans victory.
• Last 50 games for South Bend corner outfielder Yonathan Perlaza: .272/.348/.489 and a 123 wRC+. Nine extra-base hits now in his last 12 games, including an absolute tank last night.
Not sure where this ball went, but Perlaza appears to have gotten all of it. pic.twitter.com/rm5B15aT6g
— Brad (@ballskwok) August 11, 2021
Five: Keegan Thompson
Four more scoreless innings for Thompson as an Iowa starter, that makes 10.1 now without an earned run since he began stretching out. The pitch count got to 55, which likely puts the right-hander three or so starts from following in Justin Steele’s footsteps and returning to Wrigley Field as a starting pitcher.
The highlight of this outing were the two at-bats where uber prospect Bobby Witt Jr and Thompson faced off. Each was a seven-pitch affairs (so Witt represented more than a quarter of Thompson’s total pitches), with a strikeout and a fly out to the warning track. What I thought was emblematic of the whole outing was that among those 14 pitches, the only curveball that Thompson threw was the pitch that earned the first inning strikeout. I still think of the curve as his best pitch (it had both the lowest wOBA and highest Whiff% while in the Majors), so I think he needs to embrace far greater usage with it as a starter.
Four: Cam Sanders
Allowed a leadoff home run on a first-pitch 95 mph fastball, but then pitched six innings without allowing anything else of real consequence. It marks Sanders first start allowing fewer than three earned runs since June 29th, and his first allowing less than two earned runs since May 22nd. It’s been a weird year for the hard-throwing righty, with too many walks and way too many home runs obscuring a nice jump in stuff (and strikeout rate).
Because his raw stuff is so good, he’s going to make a really fascinating case for being added to the 40-man roster this winter, which would protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The numbers suggest you shouldn’t, but I would not be surprised if another team sees a guy that’s been to the high 90s in the past and tabs him for a middle relief role for 2022.
Three: Nick Martini and Michael Hermosillo
Let me first quickly acknowledge this massive hot streak Nick Martini is on. In his last 23: .390/.495/.662 with more walks (13) than strikeouts (12) in 93 plate appearances. It’s great.
But this section is about Michael Hermosillo, whom the Cubs need to call up today (in my opinion (and Brett’s)). Amidst a career season at the plate, Hermosillo has twice suffered minor injuries at really bad times. First at the end of Spring Training and more recently, right before the trade deadline that would have opened up a spot for him. Instead, the Cubs were left claiming Joneshwy Fargas off waivers and selecting Greg Deichmann’s contract to fill their outfield, two spots that surely would have gone to the 26-year-old Ottawa, Illinois native with the four-digit OPS had he been healthy.
The good news is that Hermosillo returned to the Iowa lineup last night, and picked up right where he’d left off in mid-July.
First game back since July 23? No problem.
Michael Hermosillo is 2-for-2 with a double and this solo home run! pic.twitter.com/N1q1HMkoim
— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) August 11, 2021
I honestly don’t see a reason why Hermosillo couldn’t give you a really solid Jake Marisnick impression in 2022, which is really valuable with a team that only otherwise has left-hand hitting outfielders. He’s a minor league free agent at the end of the year, but you’d protect him from that by adding him to the 40-man roster now, and you’d still have plenty of time to assess if he can make enough contact in the Majors to be worthy of future playing time. Do it, Jed.
Two: Nelson Maldonado, Brennen Davis, Nelson Velazquez
Combined 7-for-13 with five extra-base hits in the Smokies 7-6 victory.
I’ve touched on all three of these guys this year, so let me briefly update some numbers here. Brennen in the last 33 games, not counting the Futures Game: .298/.413/.658. Last night sure looked like a home run off the bat to me, but somehow hit the top of the outfield fence instead.
Nelson Maldonado, last 47 games: .335/.401/.528, and he should finish out the year as the Smokies everyday first baseman with Jared Young now in Iowa. Finally, we have Nelson Velazquez, who wasn’t particularly hot when the Cubs decided to bump him up to Double-A last week, just 7-for-49 in the 12 games prior to his promotion. But he’s reached base in every game since joining Tennessee, and if there was any doubt, his power followed him:
One: Kevin Alcantara and Alex Canario
Both guys have a hit in every game they’ve played in a Cubs uniform. Alcantara now has home runs in two consecutive games; Canario has home runs in three. I wrote about Canario yesterday, and then he added his first opposite field hit in High-A and an absolute bomb.
So Cubs Alexander Canario hit a homer that, not to be dramatic, literally left the planet pic.twitter.com/SIJA6UaYUf
— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) August 11, 2021
So great to have more power like that in the system. And then we have Kevin Alcantara, who just hasn’t seemed raw at all during his stint in the Arizona Complex League so far. Seems to have a really good knack for finding the barrel despite a mildly complicated swing. My friend John in Arizona beautifully captured the home run from two days ago, and it gives you appreciation for the raw power the Cubs are working with here. Throw on 30 pounds of muscle here, quiet the load to the swing, and let the instincts handle the rest and the Cubs should have a mighty good prospect in two years.
— John Antonoff (@baseballinfocus) August 10, 2021