It’s been awhile since we’ve touched on the minor leagues this season. dmick has been busy. Seeing as I held the post of “minor league wonk” fairly recently, I thought I’d give a short synopsis of each team so far.
Arismendy Alcantara has not been so great this year. His walk rate is down precipitously, so even though he carries a .275 average, he’s the owner of a .290 OBP. The power has shown up, especially in doubles/triples power, and it isn’t like he’s lost at the plate. I’d just like to see more power.
Javier Baez has been terrible so far. .149/.232/.311. He also leads the team in errors. It’s still quite early, but he isn’t exactly forcing the issue for the brain trust at this point.
Pet prospect Logan Watkins continues to impress in a utility role. He’s batting .265/.375/.353 in part time action; the only blemish so far is the high K rate.
Vitters is staying healthy; that’s important for him. Unfortunately, he’s also batting .196. I’m the only person on this blog who is still a believer (inasmuch as I believe he can be a major league regular or 4th OF), but it’s saying something when the FO reaches into the Iowa bag of outfielders and pulls out Chris Coghlan to replace Sweeney.
Christian Villanueva has less power this year, and he’s striking out more. Villanueva’s good 2013 put him back on the prospect map, but he’s taken a large step back this season. It’s early (of course), but he’s really struggled this year.
Kyle Hendricks has been pretty unlucky this year. He’s striking out a lot more people than he used to, which is obviously a good sign. The novice would point to his K/BB remaining pretty constant (3.7 last year, 3.7 this year) and think he hasn’t improved. This is the primary reason why K/BB is such a garbage stat. People don’t really care about the ratio, they care about how many more strikeouts a player has than walks. His K%-BB% is 18.4%, a huge improvement from last year’s 13.5%. The primary problem Hendricks has faced this season is an atypically low strand rate. It’s 61% this year, and his career number is more like 77%. You would expect nibblers like Kyle to have a lower and lower strand rate as they climb the ladder, but not this low. When that rebounds, his ERA will too (and his FIP is 2.57).
Pet Prospect Tsuyoshi Wada has been insane this season. 0.64 WHIP, 0.57 ERA, 37 K in 31.1 innings. If a SP gets traded or hurt, Wada has to be the next man up. If he isn’t, there is no justice.
Eric Jokisch has given up the longball this year but little else. His 1.19 WHIP will play, as will his 6.16 innings per start. Most impressive are his 5 walks in 37 innings.
Alberto Cabrera has been dynamite for the I-Cubs this year.
Jorge Soler is working his way back from his latest injury. His next injury is scheduled for May 14th.
I had a twitter spat with Sahadev Sharma and Harry Pavlidis last week about Kris Bryant. I said that I wouldn’t give Bryant a pitch in the ZIP of the plate. They said I didn’t get the purpose of the minor leagues and you wouldn’t want to admit defeat in any case. I maintain that pitching smart is still a part of development; pitching to Kris Bryant isn’t smart. He’s batting .295/.417/.543. He’s striking out too much, but who gives a shit. Kris Bryant is the best hitter in the Cubs minor league system. He’s also proving the critics at 3B right, and a move to RF is probably imminent. The little I’ve seen of Tennessee this year has been Bryant just not looking comfortable at third.
I told Sahadev that if I have to choose between pitching to Bryant or pitching to Rafael Lopez, I’m pitching to Lopez every time. Of course, Lopez has a higher OPS (.977 to .960) on the season than Bryant now. Rafael is on fire, turning in the best performance of a Cubs minor-leaguer this season. .310/.456/.521 gets a lot of people to notice.
Pet Prospect Stephen Bruno is working his way back from an injury last year, but still hitting ok. .250/.370/.369, mainly at 2B.
We can hopefully exhale about C.J. Edwards. His injury does not appear to be serious (with pitchers, they aren’t serious until they suddenly are). He’s been predictably sublime this season.
Corey Black is walking everyone right now. If he pitched against Mike Olt, I wonder what would happen (Mike Olt strikes out on 4 pitches).
Ivan Pineyro has been sturdy this year, but nothing special.
Armando Rivero is in AA for no reason. He is, right now, a MLB quality reliever. He’ll embarrass the minor leagues until he’s called up.
I thought Pierce Johnson was broken when he walked 8 in one game. Since then, he quieted down and delivered a yeoman’s performance yesterday. He’s walked more than he’s fanned. That’s not so good. I wasn’t as high on Johnson as everyone else was last year, and I think he’s showing his true colors now, more-or-less. I think I’d take at least 3 pitching prospects in our org over him right now (Tseng, Edwards, Blackburn), and there’s a possibility of a few more.