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Cubs Minor League Update | Improved play but similar concerns in May

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Jun 26, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; The cap and glove of Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez (9) rest in the dugout against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As the calendar flipped from April to May, Mother Nature grudgingly gave up on her balky Spring and provided all of us with what can be considered “baseball weather.” But as the skies cleared and the temperatures soared, the mood remained rather pensive across the Cubs’ four full season affiliates. While performance improved, questions about quality remained.

The Low-A South Bend Cubs were not immune to this dichotomy, seeing wide fluctuations throughout the squad. The pitching staff generally improved, led by May Pitcher of the Month Cory Abbott, who went 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA and 1.19 WHIP for the month. Eric Uelmen (2-2, 2.16, 1.12) showed dramatic change from the start of the season, while Rollie Lacy (1-1, 3.38, 1.35) joined the rotation from the bullpen.

However, April mainstay Javier Assad took a bit of a nosedive (1-2, 3.91, 1.54) and phenom Jose Albertos fell apart so much he was demoted to extended spring training.

In the field, catcher Miguel Amaya continued his ascent to the top of the Cubs’ prospect chart by slashing .286/.366/.513 with nine homers and 33 RBI through June 12. Player development also seems to have found a home for Jared Young, as a move to left field along with time at first base was accompanied with a .292/.356/.509 line, including seven home runs and 36 RBI at the plate. But defense remains an issue, as the 84 errors by the S-Cubs is among the worst in the Midwest League.

Following a disastrous April, High-A Myrtle Beach went 14-14 in May led by Player of the Month Jhonny Pereda. Always known as a good defender, the 22-year-old has gone .288/.370/.401 with four home runs and a team-high 30 RBI at the plate. The offense also has a little lightning and thunder, as outfielder Connor Myers (.281/.336/.386) has 13 stolen bases while first baseman Tyler Alamo (.254/.299/.465) has gone deep eighttimes and driven in 27.

On the mound, Alex Lange (2-2, 3.12, 1.15) has been a rock for the Pelicans, fanning 24 in 26 innings. Meanwhile, fire-balling Bailey Clark has gone 1-2 with a 2.93 ERA and 32 Ks in 27.2 innings since a promotion from Low-A. Wyatt Short (2.81, four saves) and Tyler Peyton (1.52, five saves) have been an effective left/right combination in the back of the ‘pen.

Double-A Tennessee remains around the .500 mark as last month’s standout Jeffrey Báez has fallen from his lofty .411 average to a still-respectable .297/.367/.500 slash line with six home runs, 24 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. Left-handed hitter Jason Vosler (.234/.342/.490) currently leads the Cubs’ minor league system with 11 home runs and 40 RBI.

The biggest news about the Smokies pitching staff is that Trevor Clifton parlayed a 1-1 May with a 2.36 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 25 strikeouts in 26.2 innings to a promotion to Triple-A Iowa. Clifton will be joined by reliever Dakota Mekkes, who saved three in four opportunities to raise his mark to eight for the season. The 6’7” Mekkes allowed his first two earned runs of the season, which raised his ERA to just 0.81 for the year with a 0.99 WHIP, while he has fanned 30 in 22.1 innings.

And then there are the Iowa Cubs. The team has bounced back from its abysmal start of the year, but they still have the worst record in the Pacific Coast League. Top position player prospects David Bote (.268/.345/.484, eight HR, 25 RBI) and Mark Zagunis (.255/.384/.335, three HR, 19 RBI) have seen time in the big leagues, but have plummeted from their lofty starts. Infielder Chesny Young shook off a bad beginning to bat .325/.361/.377 in May, but is having difficulty finding playing time behind Bote and 30-something infielders Ryan Court and Mike Freeman.

Top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay scuffled after a hot start, going 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in May before going on the disabled list with a lat strain. After lefty reliever Randy Rosario (0.47 ERA in 19.1 IP) was moved up to the parent club, the most consistent pitcher for the I-Cubs has been Duane Underwood Jr. The former second round pick (2012) had a 3-2 May, striking out 24 in 34.2 innings with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP.

Born and raised on Chicago's Northwest side, attending Ladies' Day games with his mother and walking five miles to Wrigley Field with his brother has made Tom Usiak a Cubs fan for as long as he can remember. A social worker and former teacher, an early interest in player development was natural for Tom, as he remembers following the minor league careers of players such as Bill Caudill, Donnie Moore, Karl Pagel, Lee Smith, and Jim Tracy in the late 1970's. Know as "Tom U" across the internet, Tom is entering his eighth year covering the Cubs minor league system, writing for prestigious sites such as Chicago Cubs Online and Cubs Den. Over that period, Tom has published interviews with top prospects such as Aramis Ademan,Willson Contreras,Jeimer Candelario,Dylan Cease,Ian Happ,Eloy Jimenez,and Gleyber Torres. Tom also has a close working relationship with the front offices of all four of the Cubs' full season minor league teams. A guest on South Bend Cubs play-by-play man Darin Pritchett's radio show on WSBT radio for the fourth straight year, Tom has also written monthly articles for the South Bend Cubs' stadium program.

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Chicago Cubs

Cubs lose a frustrating game to the Brewers

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Sep 3, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Chicago Cubs pitcher Cole Hamels (35) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports


The Cubs came into the their three-game set with the Brewers playing well, but they didn’t play so well on Monday night. Cole Hamels had another solid game, but the offense couldn’t hit Zach Davies in his return from the DL and several small errors doomed this game. The Cubs lost, 4-3. Sean Sears and I talked about that, today’s game, and a crucial decision by Kris Bryant on the last play of the game.

In the second segment, we talked more about Hamels vs. Davies and some comments from Hamels that were … interesting. In the final segment, we talked about the NL Central and cast our unofficial NL MVP ballots.

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Chicago Cubs

Javy Baez is having a special season

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June 26, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Javier Baez (9) rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports


On today’s show, we’ll quickly go over the weekend games and highlight the excellent pitching from Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and Jose Quintana this weekend. In the second segment, we’ll preview this week’s series with the Brewers and talk a little about Javier Baez‘s season and why it’s so special.

And finally, we’ll wrap the show taking a look at the NL Central and I have a few notes on new Cubs catcher Bobby Wilson.

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Chicago Cubs

Cubs win in Atlanta, but lose Jason Heyward to injury

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Aug 30, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez (9) reacts center fielder Albert Almora Jr. (5) after making a catch against the Atlanta Braves during the ninth inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy -USA TODAY Sports
Adam Hagy -USA TODAY Sports


The Cubs had a short layover in Atlanta on their way to Philadelphia, and they picked up a win against the Braves. Mike Montgomery was excellent for the first few innings but ran out of gas in the fifth, giving up four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings with six strikeouts. The Cubs’ bullpen — even Brandon Kintzler! — combined to shut the Braves down the rest of the way, and Chicago pulled off a 5-4 victory. Sean Sears and I talked about that in the first segment, then looked ahead at tonight’s game against the Phillies.

In the second segment, we talked about a variety of little topics: The Bobby Wilson trade, Kris Bryant, Terrence Gore, and Jason Heyward‘s hamstring injury. To finish things out, we talked about the NL Central and updated the standings. I even did some math to explain just how hot the Cardinals would have to finish the 2018 season to win the division.

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