Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 06/21/10

The Smokies have won the first half title! The Iowa Cubs have closed the gap in the PCL American Northern division with a very strong week. The Chicago Cubs are busy trying to get all of their draft picks signed. The Boise Hawks have gotten their season underway. Jim Hendry cited Brett Jackson and Darwin Barney as two Cubs’ prospects that probably have a future at the big league level.

All that and more in today’s Down on the Farm Report.

AAA-Iowa Cubs – (38-32)
Suddenly, everything seems to be going the I-Cubs way. A spectacular 7-1 week last week propelled them to the top of their division. The Omaha Royals and I-Cubs are battling for the top spot in the PCL American North. Iowa has benefited from guys that have been sent down from the big leagues and then played well. They have a very experienced pitching staff and a lot of good arms that have major league potential. Does Ryne Sandberg’s ability to develop these players and turn this clubs’ season around after a slow start speak to his managerial prowess?

On Thursday night the I-Cubs had their five-game winning streak come to an end when they fell to Round Rock 6-5. The Cubs were close to another win, but Jay Jackson could not solve the Express to complete the five-game sweep. Jackson allowed six earned runs on eight hits in four innings to fall to 3-6. Jay did go 2-for-2 at the plate. James Russell, Justin Berg and Scott Maine combined for five shutout innings in relief to keep their team in the game. Welington Castillo had two hits and three RBI including a two-run homer and a double. Click for full box score.

The homestand continued in Des Moines as the I-Cubs opened up a four game set with Albuquerque on Friday. A quality start from J.R. Mathes (6.1 IP, 3 R, 5 H) helped them to the victory. Brad Snyder went 3-for-4 with a single, a double, and a triple. Cleanup man Micah Hoffpauir got a much-needed two-hit game. Click for full box score.

In the bottom of the 14th on Saturday, Jim Adduci singled home Welington Castillo to end a marathon game and give Iowa a 3-2 win. Third baseman Marquez Smith led the offense with three hits. Thomas Diamond struck out six and gave up only two runs in his six-inning start. Jeff Samardzija (4 IP, 2 H, 0 R), John Gaub (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R) and Justin Berg (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, Win) were all fantastic in relief. Click for full box score.

The hitters were baffled by Isotope pitching on Sunday in a 4-0 Cubs loss. Casey Coleman only surrendered one run in five innings but that was all that Albuquerque would need to hand Casey his sixth loss of the year. James Russell gave up a run in each of the two innings he worked. Robinson Chirinos worked on boosting his .230 average with a two hit game. Click for full box score.

Iowa Cubs Player of the Week: Bryan LaHair
“LaHair is on fire!” not only sounds like something that was told to Ron Santo at Shea Stadium in 2003, but is also a sentence that has been uttered a lot by the media and fans that follow the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate. Bryan was hoping to earn a spot on the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, but when Lou Piniella opted to go with a veteran presence on the bench, he has done nothing but hit at Triple-A. LaHair has hit safely in nine of his last 11 games and is hitting .361 during that stretch with a pair of homers and seven runs knocked in. For the year, he’s hitting .294 which ranks second on the club.

Upcoming Games and Probable Pitchers:
*All Times CDT
Today Vs Albuquerque 12:05 (Mitch Atkins)
Tuesday VS Omaha 7:05 (Jay Jackson)
Wednesday VS Omaha 7:05 (J.R. Mathes)

AA-Tennessee Smokies – (42-27)
The Smokies have clinched the first half Southern League North Division Championship! They clinched when the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx fell to Chattanooga 5-0 on Saturday night. Word got out to Mobile in the first inning of the Tennessee game against the Bay Bears. With a playoff spot already in the bag, the Smokies enjoy an off day today before starting the second half tomorrow. The Smokies have now advanced to the postseason three of the four years they’ve been affiliated with the Cubs.

A tough 12-6 defeat at the hands of the Bay Bears on Thursday ruined a three-game winning streak. Austin Bibens-Dirkx has been solid most of the year, but he was hammered for seven runs on eight hits in 3.1 innings. He served up two homers that highlighted the Mobile scoring. Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez went 3-for-5 and Tony Thomas hit two doubles. Click for full box score.

The Smokies downed Mobile 3-2 on Friday to put themselves on the threshold of a first half championship. Ty Wright went 3-for-4 and continued to produce in the middle of the Tennessee order. Josh Vitters has dropped to eighth in the lineup but responded well and went 2-for-3. Luke Sommer got his first win of the year with two shutout innings. Click for full box score.

After learning of the good news on Saturday, the Smokies dropped a meaningless game 4-3. Alex Maestri allowed the winning tally in the bottom of the ninth. Starter Chris Carpenter’s line looked like this: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. Ty Wright continued to crush the ball with three more hits. Click for full box score.

Tennessee finished out the first half by beating Mobile 3-1 on Sunday. Hung-Wen Chen was terrific over six scoreless frames and notched his eighth win of the year. David Cales slammed the door with save number eight. Click for full box score.

Tennessee Smokies Player of the First Half: Ty Wright
Not only does Wright probably lead the team in “Player of the Week” awards, but he also leads the club in RBI (50), home runs (10), and doubles (19). He has been in the lineup almost every single night. Wright has sat out only three times all year … and has found a home in the three-hole in the order and in left field at Smokies Park. Wright is one Cubs’ prospect whose stock has gone up this year so far.

Upcoming Games:
*All Times CDT
Today Off Day
Tuesday VS Carolina 6:15
Wednesday VS Carolina 6:15

Class-A Daytona Cubs – (33-34)
Although the season has been up and down for the team through the first half, prospects like Brett Jackson and Rafael Dolis are looking promising. Luis Flores, Ryan Flaherty and Rebel Ridling have also been swinging hot sticks as of late. On the pitching side of things, Dolis, Aaron Shafer, Luke Sommer, Jeffrey Beliveau and Marco Carrillo all have ERAs under three.

Dunedin beat Daytona 6-4 at The Jack on Thursday. Former big leaguer David Patton got the blown save and loss by allowing three runs in the eighth. The D-Cubs got multi-hit games from Ryan Flaherty, Rebel Ridling and Kyler Burke but they stranded seven men on base. Click for full box score.

The series continued on Friday as Daytona had two four-run innings to win 12-4. Former LSU star D.J. LeMahieu went 4-for-5 with four RBI. Catcher Mark Reed got two hits and drove in three of his own. Brett Jackson was the perfect table setter with two hits and a walk. Jackson scored three times. Michael Brenly went deep in the second inning for his second bomb of the year. Click for full box score.

The rubber match of the series on Saturday was an 11-inning nail biter. The Cubs beat the Jays on a single by Mark Reed that plated Jose Valdez. First baseman Rebel Ridling went 3-for-5 to boost his average to .286. Dae-Eun Rhee pitched six innings and gave up only two runs on three hits. Click for full box score.

The D-Cubs enjoyed Father’s Day off and will return to action tonight.

Daytona Cubs Player of the Week: Brett Jackson
The same week that General Manger Jim Hendry mentioned him in a radio interview as a guy who will fit into the big league picture at some point soon, Brett Jackson continued to live up to all the hype. He started the week by playing in the FSL All-Star Game on Sunday. Then, he hit .429 over the first six post-break regular season games for Daytona. His best night of the week came against Lakeland on Monday when he hit for the cycle (4-for-6, three RBI). Jackson, who is from California, has had no trouble hitting in the Florida heat so far this summer.

Upcoming Games:
*All Times CDT
Tonight @Lakeland 6:00
Tuesday @Lakeland 6:00
Wednesday @Lakeland 9:30am

Class-A Peoria Chiefs – (38-31)
The Chiefs have finished out the first half on a positive note. They are seven games over the .500 mark and in third of eight teams in the Midwest League Western Division. The Chiefs will now take four straight days off for the All-Star Break. The game will be in Fort Wayne on Tuesday featuring four Peoria players: Hak-Ju Lee, Matt Cerda, Logan Watkins and Trey McNutt. Trey McNutt is slated to start the game.

After an off day Thursday, a refurbished Peoria club beat the Quad Cities 7-2 Friday night. Nelson Perez scored three times and raised his average to .300 by going 2-for-4. Ryan Searle improved to 3-4 with six innings of one-run ball. Click for full box score.

Aramis Ramirez’s hitless game contributed to a 7-3 Peoria loss to the River Bandits on Saturday. Rami, who hit second and played the hot corner, did draw a walk. Francisco Guzman went 2-for-4, as did Perez and D.J. Fitzgerald. Jeffry Antigua gave up only one run in four innings and fanned six. Click for full box score.

Ramirez got his only hit of the rehab assignment in Peoria’s 12-2 rout of Quad Cities on Sunday afternoon. The Chiefs honored the dads with an offensive outburst. Aramis was 1-for-3 as the DH with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. Jae-Hoon Ha went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs. Rob Whitenack (5 IP, 2 H, 1 R) and Nick Struck (2 IP, 2 H, 1 R) both had decent stuff on the hill. Click for full box score.

Peoria Chiefs Player of the First Half: Trey McNutt
For Peoria, it only takes a quick glance at the stat sheet to determine who their best pitcher has been so far this year. McNutt has a sparkling ERA of 1.51 and a perfect record of 6-0 in his 13 starts. Most recently, he has shut down Great Lakes and Burlington- tossing five scoreless against each club. McNutt, who may move up to Daytona soon, leads the league in ERA and ranks near the top of the Midwest League in many other categories.

Class-A Short Season – Boise Hawks
The Hawks started out the year with a 7-0 loss in Yakima on Friday. However, they managed their first win of the year in a 5-3 decision on Saturday night. They will open up the home portion of the schedule tomorrow as they host Salem-Keizer.

The Cubs signed first round pick Hayden Simpson this week. He is headed for Idaho where he will join the Hawks soon. Many of the Cubs other draft choices have already been locked up and will head out for either Boise or Mesa. So far they’ve reached deals with 15 of their selections from the draft that was earlier this month.

Remember
If you have any questions or comments regarding my posts, feel free to email me at cubsblogmailbag@aol.com. All suggestions are welcome. Also, I write a blog where I post daily on the Chicago Cubs over at www.everythingcubs.blogspot.com. For more minor league updates you can follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/cubsfarmupdates.

Quote of the Day

"The man says 'play ball' not 'work ball,' you know." - Willie Stargell
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