Bryant’s Big Night and Cubs News and Notes from Down on the Farm

Kris Bryant continued tearing up Double-A pitching on Saturday night. Bryant went 4-for-5 in the Smokies 8-4 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts. Bryant not only collected a career-high four hits, he also hit his Southern League leading sixth home run. Bryant also leads the Southern League in runs scored (21) and is hitting .304/.423/.559 with eight doubles, six home runs, 15 RBI and a .982 OPS.

PrintIn the field, Bryant has committed seven errors. Mick Gillispie, the Smokies play-by-play man, discussed Bryant’s defense last week on David Kaplan’s show (87.7 The Game). Gillispie said Bryant works hard on his defense on a daily basis. Gillispie pointed out he has seen improvement in Bryant’s defense since the beginning of the season.

What will be lost in Bryant’s big Saturday night and the Smokies sixth straight win is the performance turned in by Pierce Johnson. Johnson made his third start of the season, and was pretty good. Johnson’s command was much better than his eight-walk, four inning performance the start before. Johnson gave up two runs on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts in a season-high six innings. Johnson picked up his first win at the Double-A level.

During his conversation with the beat writers on Friday, Jed Hoyer said it is too early in the season for the organization to make any promotions in the minors. Hoyer reminded the mainstream media it had only been 28 days and that is not enough time for any player to dominate the level in which they are playing in. Each player has a player development plan that lists his strengths and weaknesses. Each player knows what he has to improve on before he can be promoted.

Jorge Soler

Jed Hoyer provided an update Friday on the rehabbing Jorge Soler. Soler is playing in extended Spring Training games and Hoyer said the “reports have been good.” Hoyer and the front office is hoping Soler “is not too far off from joining Tennessee.”

Jorge Soler lost a majority of his first season of professional baseball and has already missed a month of this season. What was deemed an important year for Soler has not gotten off to a good start. The Cubs need him on the field and Soler needs to show the potential that most scouts feel he has.

In 55 games last season, the 22-year old managed a .810 OPS (.281/.343/.467) with 13 doubles, one triple and eight home runs.

Javier Baez

Javier Baez is still struggling at the Triple-A level. Baez is hitting only .167/.257/.348 in 18 games with one double, one triple, three home runs and a .605 OPS. Baez has walked six times in 66 at bats with 25 strikeouts.

Baez has struggled each time he has been promoted. After he was bumped up to High-A Daytona in 2012, Baez hit .188/.244/.400 with three doubles, one triple and four home runs in 23 games. The Cubs decided to start him in Daytona in 2013 and he dominated the level and earned a promotion to Double-A Tennessee. Baez adapted to Double-A pitching after about 10 games and finished his season at the Double-A level with a .294/.346/.638 slash line that included 15 doubles, 20 home runs and a .983 OPS.

Jim Bowden spoke with general managers of the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Astros, Marlins, Angels, Cardinals and Cubs, mainly during Inside Pitch on MLB Network, and he ranked the prospect promotions to get excited about last week. Javier Baez made Bowden’s list and Jed Hoyer had this to say about Baez’s slow start in Iowa, “He just needs to work on his approach, needs to force guys to throw him strikes. Defensively he just needs to focus and make routine plays. The early struggles in Triple-A will be good for him.”

Kerry Wood, Ted Lilly and the Draft

According to multiple reports, Kerry Wood and Ted Lilly will scout several of the players on the Cubs’ radar for the upcoming draft. Wood watched Tyler Kolek, the flame throwing, high schooler in Texas. And Hoyer said for Wood that was probably like watching himself pitch. Jed Hoyer said the Cubs plan on having Wood and Lilly “in the draft room” when the team convenes so the front office can hear their opinions.

Tyler Kolek is “one of more than a dozen players the Cubs have on their radar for the No. 4 overall pick” according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.

While the Cubs would like to add as much pitching as possible, the front office will take the best player available with the fourth pick in the draft.

Theo Epstein has said the draft is deep with pitchers, but “not necessarily elite” arms according to Comcast SportsNet. And the “Cubs would ideally take a bat, but that organizational preference gets complicated when you see a thin class of college position players.”

Minor League Ball Top 150 Prospects

John Sickels released his ranking of the top 150 prospects this past week. And the Cubs placed seven players on his list.

Javier Baez (10), Kris Bryant (12), Albert Almora (32), C.J. Edwards (42), Jorge Soler (62), Arismendy Alcantara (87) and Pierce Johnson (114) made Sickels’ list.

ChicagoCubsOnline Minor League Notes

Tom U. posted his Minor League notes on Sunday morning. Here are Tom’s observations on the Cubs’ system.

After a month of play, there arguably is not a player in the system more deserving of a promotion than Daytona’s Bijan Rademacher. The left-handed hitting outfielder is fourth in the FSL with a .355 average, fifth with a .950 OPS, and sixth with a .437 OBP.

Tennessee’s catcher Rafael Lopez saw his career go off track in 2012 with injuries, but it now appears that he is back on track. As a rookie with Boise in 2011, Lopez hit .316 with six home runs and 37 RBI in 54 games. However, he suffered a concussion in 2012. Lopez was moved up to Double-A last season despite playing only 35 games at High-A and 70 overall in 2012, and struggled accordingly. At this point, Lopez looks like a better option than Eli Whiteside (.167 in 16 games in Iowa at 34 years old), and a promotion could benefit fellow catcher Charles Cutler with more playing time.

In spite of his slash line of .304/.423/.559/.982 with six home runs, 15 RBI, and five stolen, Kris Bryant will probably not be promoted until he can cut down on his strikeouts. Currently with 34 strikeouts in 102 at bats, Bryant averages one strikeout in every three at bats.

A player who can start a lot of wheels in motion for the entire franchise is Tennessee OF John Andreoli. Relegated to being a fourth outfielder despite leading the system the past two seasons in stolen bases, Andreoli has not only fought his way into the lineup, but has also claimed the leadoff spot for the Smokies. The 24-year old is fourth in the Southern League in batting at .325, sixth with a .441 OBP, and second with 14 stolen bases. Andreoli’s continued success could force management into making some decisions about the outfield at both the Triple-A and Major League levels.

With a recent surge, both Kane County OF Jacob Hannemann and C Will Remillard have renewed speculation that they could be promoted soon in order to “fast-track” them. Hannemann has hit .316 in his last 10 games while Remillard has batted .412 over that period.

News and Notes

Mick Gillispie caught up with Kris Bryant and he is ready for whatever rolls his way.

The Iowa Cubs activated OF Brett Jackson from the 7-day DL prior to Saturday’s game. Jackson had been on the disabled list since April 16 with a right oblique strain.

The Iowa Cubs announced RHP Yoanner Negrin has been loaned to the Mexican League. The Cubs loaned Negrin to Tabasco in the Mexican League in 2012. The 30-year old was 0-1 in six appearances with Iowa this season with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP.

The Cubs signed OF Mitch Maier to a minor league contract in the off-season. Maier was unable to participate in Spring Training due to a back injury and the Cubs released him at the end of Spring Training. According to Chris Cotillo, Maier signed a minor league deal with the Royals and is expected to be ready to play in late June.

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