Kris Bryant and Javier Baez made most of the headlines in the minors at the end of the week as the top two prospects in the system extended their hitting streaks into double digits. Baez continued his streak on Sunday and extended it to ten games with a two-hit performance that included a grand slam. Bryant’s hitting streak came to an end at ten games on Sunday.
There were several excellent pitching performances down on the farm. Juan Carlos Paniagua had an excellent outing while Paul Blackburn dominated once again. Tyler Skulina followed up his no-hitter with a strong outing. And in Iowa, the pitching staff kept racking up quality starts.
All of the good performances in the minors were overshadowed when the Cubs announced Sunday Manny Ramirez signed a minor league contract with the organization to be a player-coach for the I-Cubs.
Editor’s Note: Monday’s report covers games from Thursday to Sunday. Thursday’s report covers games Monday through Wednesday.
Low Class-A – Kane County Cougars (33-16)
Kane County made quick work of the Clinton Lumber Kings on Thursday and took only two hours and 25 minutes to dispatch of them 6-1. Paul Blackburn had another dominant effort by holding Clinton scoreless for seven innings on four hits with six strikeouts. Jose Arias surrendered an earned run and struck out two in two innings.
The Cougars broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth when Jacob Hannemann (1-for-2 with an RBI) and Carlos Penalver (2-for-4 with an RBI) started the inning with singles. Hannemann scored on a base hit by Ben Carhart (2-for-3 with a double and an RBI), while Penalver scored on a double play. In the fifth inning, consecutive walks to Jacob Rogers (0-for-1), Cael Brockmeyer (1-for-3 with a double and an RBI), and Danny Lockhart (0-for-2) loaded the bases, and Rogers scored on a sacrifice fly. Lockhart drew another walk to begin the seventh inning. After a wild pitch advanced him to second, Lockhart scored on a single by Penalver. Yasiel Balaguert (1-for-4 with a home run) led off the eighth inning with a solo home run. Rogers worked his second walk of the night, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a double by Brockmeyer.
It was another great pitching performance by Tyler Skulina on Friday as Kane County shut out Clinton 7-0. Skulina followed up is no-hitter with five scoreless innings and seven strikeouts. Michael Wagner followed and had his best outing so far this season. Wagner struck out three in three innings. James Pugliese worked around a walk with a strikeout as he pitched the ninth.
The Cougars got on the board in the second inning after Yasiel Balaguert (3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI) hit a solo home run for the second consecutive game. In the third inning, Shawon Dunston Jr. (2-for-4 with a stolen base) reached on a one out single and Jacob Hannemann (1-for-4 with a double, RBI, and a stolen base) walked and executed a double steal. A base hit by Carlos Penalver (1-for-4 with two RBI) plated Dunston and Hannemann, with Penalver taking second on a play at the plate. One out later, a single from Balaguert scored Penalver. Danny Lockhart (0-for-4) reached on a fielder’s choice with one out in the fifth and Dunston reached a bunt single. Hannemann then smacked a ground rule double that allowed Lockhart to score. Kane County loaded the bases in the seventh after a double by Ben Carhart (2-for-5 with a double) was sandwiched between two walks to Penalver and Balaguert. Penalver scored on a fielder’s choice that forced Balaguert and allowed Jacob Rogers (0-for-4) to reach first. Walks to Jordan Hankins (1-for-3) and Cael Brockmeyer (1-for-3 with an RBI) forced in Carhart.
Clinton was finally able to contain the Kane County offense on Saturday as the Cougars lost 3-2. Daury Torrez got the start and did not pitch badly. Torrez allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings. Zak Hermans went the rest of the way and struck out four in three scoreless innings. The Cougars got their only runs in the fifth inning after Will Remillard (1-for-2) led off with a single and Jordan Hankins (2-for-3 with a double) doubled one out later. A single by David Bote (1-for-3 with two RBI) plated Remillard and Hankins.
Kane County finally got the pitching performance they had been looking for all season on Sunday as the Cougars beat Peoria 7-3. Juan Carlos Paniagua had come in with high expectations and had not delivered, but was on top of his game on Sunday as he allowed an earned run and struck out four in 6.1innings. Corbin Hoffner added 1.2 scoreless innings with a strikeout. Tyler Bremer had some trouble in the ninth as he gave up two earned runs.
The Cougars first got on the board in the second inning after Jacob Rogers (2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI) hit a ground rule double and scored on a Cael Brockmeyer (2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI) longball, his first home run of the season. In the fourth inning Yasiel Balaguert (1-for-3) walked and scored on a double from Jordan Hankins (2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI). Kane County manufactured a run in the fifth after Danny Lockhart (1-for-4 with a stolen base) singled, stole second, moved to third on an error, and scored on a wild pitch. The Cougars put the game out of reach in the eighth inning after Ben Carhart (1-for-4) and Balaguert started the inning off with singles. A double by Rogers scored Carhart, and a double from Hankins plated Balaguert and Rogers.
High Class–A – Daytona Cubs (19-29)
Daytona snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Thursday as they lost 2-1 to Bradenton. The D-Cubs moved out to a fragile 1-0 lead in the second inning after Willson Contreras (3-for-4 with two doubles and a triple) led off with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly. Tayler Scott got the starting nod and had his most effective performance of the season. Scott struck out three in 6.1 scoreless innings. Scott yielded to Austin Reed after being struck on the hand with a liner. Reed has been pitching well of late and held the Marauders without a run over 1.2 innings. Zack Godley came on in the ninth and gave up a leadoff single, but struck out the next two batters. A walk put runners on first and second, but the Daytona defense failed to corralle a wind-blown pop-up that allowed two earned runs to score.
It was another difficult night for Daytona on Friday as they lost 9-2 to Bradenton. Ben Wells started and was lit up by the Marauders. Wells surrendered five runs (four earned) in 0.2 innings. Nathan Dorris was asked to pick up the slack and he allowed two earned runs while striking out two in five innings. Steve Perakslis went the rest of the way and gave up two earned runs in 2.1 innings. The D-Cubs took the early lead in the first after Pin-Chieh Chen (1-for-3 with a stolen base) walked, stole second, went to third on a passed ball, and scored on a ground out. Daytona added a run in the seventh after Jeimer Candelario (2-for-4) singled and scored on a double by Gioskar Amaya (1-for-3 with a double and an RBI).
The D-Cubs had a doubleheader on Saturday with Clearwater and Daytona took the opener 5-4. Yao-Lin Wang drew the starting assignment and allowed three earned runs with a strikeout in 4.1 innings. Andrew McKirahan pitched the final 2.2 innings and was nicked for an unearned run as he struck out a batter. There was not score in the game until the third inning when Willson Contreras (2-for-3 with a double) led off with a double and scored after singles by Gioskar Amaya (1-for-3) and Marco Hernandez (1-for-2 with an RBI). A base hit by Pin-Chieh Chen (1-for-3) loaded the bases for Bijan Rademacher (2-for-3 with an RBI), who drove in Amaya with a single. Albert Almora (1-for-3) got in the hit parade with a single that plated Hernandez and Chen scored on a sacrifice fly. Dan Vogelbach (1-for-3 with a home run and an RBI) provided the winning margin in the sixth with a solo home run.
Game two saw Daytona sweep Clearwater as the D-Cubs won 8-4. Daytona came out swinging and scored all of their runs in the first two innings. Zeke DeVoss (1-for-3 with a home run) led off the game with a solo home run. Pin-Chieh Chen (1-for-3) walked and scored on a home run from Dan Vogelbach (3-for-3 with a home run and two RBI). Jeimer Candelario (2-for-4 with a double, home run, and four RBI) followed that up with a solo home run of his own. Marco Hernandez (1-for-3) led off the second inning with a single and moved to third on a base hit by Chen. Bijan Rademacher (1-for-4 with a double and an RBI) doubled in Hernandez and Vogelbach was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Candelario cleared the bases with a double. Starling Peralta was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst as he allowed two earned runs while striking out five in five innings. Michael Jensen had some trouble and gave up two earned runs in 0.2 innings. Zack Godley bailed Jensen out by striking out two in the final 1.1 innings.
In another doubleheader with Clearwater, Daytona received excellent pitching as they took game one on Sunday by a final of 4-1. Rob Zastryzny started and it appears that the organization remains cautious after he was hit on the elbow nearly three weeks ago. Zastryzny went three scoreless innings and struck out four batters. Trevor Graham relieved and picked up a strikeout as he shut out the Threshers for three innings. Austin Reed gave up an earned run in the seventh. Pin-Chieh Chen (2-for-3 with a triple) started the game off with a bang for the D-Cubs as he tripled and scored on a single by Bijan Rademacher (1-for-3 with an RBI). Chadd Krist (1-for-3 with a double) led off the second inning with a double and scored two outs later on a triple from Marco Hernandez (1-for-3 with a triple and an RBI). Dan Vogelbach (1-for-3 with a double) became the third straight leadoff hitter to reach in the third inning as he doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch. Jeimer Candelario (0-for-3) walked and another wild pitch advanced Candelario to second and allowed Vogelbach to score. Gioskar Amaya (1-for-2 with an RBI) singled in Candelario one out later.
Daytona could only manage four hits in game two as they lost 5-2 to Clearwater. Felix Pena came off the disabled list to start and allowed three runs (one earned) with two strikeouts in three innings. Tyler Ihrig came on in relief and gave up two earned runs while striking out two in 3.1 innings. Steve Perakslis took over for Ihrig and recorded the final two outs. The D-Cubs scored all their runs in the fifth inning after Jeimer Candelario (1-for-3 with a double) led off with a double and scored on a triple form Bijan Rademacher (1-for-3 with a triple and an RBI). Rademacher later scored on a groundout.
Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (26-23)
The Smokies won in dramatic, walk-off fashion on Thursday afternoon and defeated Mobile 6-5. Tennessee was put in a position to come from behind after their bullpen failed to close out the game. Starter Corey Black put together another solid outing as he struck out seven and allowed an earned run in five innings. Jeffrey Lorick was passable in middle relief as he also gave up an earned run with two strikeouts in two innings. Armando Rivero had a strikeout in a perfect eighth. But Arodys Vizcaino was hit hard for the first time this season and surrendered three earned runs on three hits and a walk while striking out a batter.
Tennessee seemed to provide enough runs in the first two innings after Stephen Bruno (2-for-4 with two doubles) doubled with one out and moved to third on a single from Kris Bryant (3-for-3 with a double, three RBI, and a stolen base). Both Bruno and Bryant scored on a double by Charles Cutler (2-for-4 with a double and three RBI). The second inning started with a single by Taylor Davis, who moved to second on a throwing error. Wes Darvill (0-for-2) walked and Black advanced the runners with a bunt. Bruno loaded the bases with a walk and Bryant cleared them with a double. The Smokies did not score another run until the bottom of the ninth when Bruno led off with a double and Bryant was intentionally walked. Cutler then delivered a single that plated Bruno with the game-winner.
It was a rough night for the Tennessee offense on Friday as the Smokies lost 7-1 to Mobile. While Tennessee managed nine hits, they could only push one run across as pinch-hitter John Andreoli (1-for-1) singled in the sixth and scored on a double by Kris Bryant (1-for-4 with a double and an RBI). Dae-Eun Rhee started and lasted six innings as he allowed four earned runs and struck out a batter. Tony Zych’s terrible season continued as he gave up three earned runs and struck out two in an inning of work. Lendy Castillo tossed the last two innings and had a strikeout.
Tennessee received a great debut from RHP Joe Gardner on Saturday but the offensive woes continued as the Smokies lost to 2-1 to Mobile. Signed as a free agent last week, Gardner started the game and allowed an earned run while striking out two in 5.1 innings. Austin Kirk relieved Gardner and gave up an earned run with a strikeout in 2.2 innings. P.J. Francescon struck out a batter in a scoreless ninth. The Smokies scored their only run in the fourth inning on a Kris Bryant (2-for-3 with a home run and an RBI) solo home run.
It was another good pitching debut on Sunday as Tennessee provided some run support and beat Mobile 7-2. Julio Rodriguez was also signed as a minor league free agent last week and received the starting nod. Rodriguez tossed 5.1 innings and allowed an earned run while striking out six batters. Fresh off the disabled list, Hunter Cervenka struck out two and gave up an earned run in 1.1 innings. Arodys Vizcaino and Armando Rivero shut out the Bay Bears the rest of the way. Vizcaino struck out a batter in 1.1 innings while Rivero fanned two in the final inning.
The Smokies grabbed the lead in the first inning and never looked back after Rubi Silva (1-for-4 with a double) doubled and scored on a throwing error. Rafael Lopez (2-for-3 with a double) started the fourth inning with a single and moved to third on a double by Dustin Geiger (2-for-4 with a double, home run, and two RBI). A triple from Wes Darvill (1-for-4 with a triple and two RBI) plated Lopez and Geiger and Darvill scored on a single by Jeudy Valdez (2-for-4 with an RBI). A bunt advanced Valdez to second and he scored on a base hit from Jae-Hoon Ha (1-for-5 with an RBI). Tennessee added two runs in the fifth after Charles Cutler (1-for-3) reached on a one out single and scored on a home run by Geiger.
Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (26-21)
Iowa double-teamed Round Rock on Thursday with great pitching and hitting to post a 7-2 victory. Starter Dallas Beeler demonstrated once again that when his sinker is on, it can be devastating as he allowed only one earned run and struck out six in seven innings. Eduardo Figueroa gave up a consolation run in the ninth in his two innings of work.
Although he has been a regular in the lineup for most of the season, it was a coming out party for shortstop Javier Baez (4-for-5 with two doubles, a home run, and two RBI) as he began the scoring for the I-Cubs with one out in the fourth inning by hammering a solo home run. Christian Villanueva (0-for-3) walked one out later, Matt Szczur (2-for-4) singled and both scored on a double by Brett Jackson (1-for-3 with a double and two RBI). Eli Whiteside (1-for-4 with a home run and two RBI) followed with a home run to make the score 5-0. Baez smacked a two out double in the fifth and scored on a base hit from Chris Valaika (1-for-4). Justin Ruggiano (1-for-5 with a double) made it hurt with two outs again in the seventh inning as he doubled and scored on a single by Baez.
It was an embarrassing night for the Iowa pitching staff on Friday as they lost 10-2 to Colorado Springs. Starter Tsuyoshi Wada had a decent outing as he struck out five and allowed three earned runs in six innings. Yoanner Negrin, back from a stint in the Mexican League, gave up four earned runs while striking out two in 1.1 innings. Jeffry Antigua was also manhandled as he surrendered two earned runs in 1.1 innings. Blake Parker got the final out, but not before serving up a home run. The I-Cubs cut the Sky Sox lead in half in the second innings after Matt Szczur (1-for-1) and Jonathan Mota (2-for-3) singled. Szczur scored on a double play. Iowa added a run in the fourth when Szczur walked, moved to third on a single by Mota, and scored on a double play.
The Iowa pitching staff was able to redeem themselves, somewhat, on Saturday as they beat Colorado Springs 8-3. Chris Rusin had a season high eight strikeouts as he tossed six scoreless innings. Alberto Cabrera relieved and had a typical effort. Cabrera allowed three earned runs while striking out two in an inning of work. Marcus Hatley struck out the side in the eighth and worked around a hit and a walk. Frank Batista pitched a perfect ninth with a strikeout.
The I-Cubs got on the board in a hurry after Javier Baez (1-for-4 with a double and an RBI) walked with two out in the first and scored on a double by Chris Valaika (2-for-3). A single from Christian Villanueva (2-for-5 with a double, a home run, and four RBI) drove in Valaika. Luis Flores (1-for-3) led off the second inning with a walk and Rusin reached on an error following his bunt attempt. Both Flores and Rusin scored one out later on a triple by Logan Watkins (3-for-5 with a triple, two RBI, and a stolen base). Watkins scored on a fielder’s choice. Iowa added three runs in the fourth when Watkins singled and Baez doubled. With runners on second and third, Valaika launched a three-run homer.
The I-Cubs used the long ball on Sunday to get past Colorado Springs 7-3. The scoring started modestly enough in the second inning after Christian Villanueva (1-for-4) singled and scored on a double from Matt Szczur (2-for-4 with a double and an RBI). Iowa took the lead for good in the fifth after Casper Wells (2-for-4 with a double) singled, Eli Whiteside (2-for-4 with a double and an RBI) doubled, and Justin Ruggiano (0-for-2) walked two outs later to load the bases. Javier Baez (2-for-4 with a home run and four RBI) then smashed his seventh home run of the season, a Grand Slam. The I-Cubs added one in the sixth after Wells doubled and scored on a single by Whiteside. Arismendy Alcantara (1-for-4 with a home run and an RBI) capped the scoring in the seventh with a solo home run.
Kyle Hendricks started and had what could be considered a typical outing as he allowed three earned runs and struck out two in six innings. Yoanner Negrin bounced back from a poor performance two days prior and gave up a walk with a strikeout in two scoreless innings. Blake Parker pitched a perfect ninth inning.
News and Notes
Olmecas de Tobasco of the Mexican League returned RHP Yoanner Negrin to the Iowa Cubs.
The Chicago Cubs assigned RHP Joe Gardner and RHP Julio Rodriguez to the Tennessee Smokies; assigned RHP Josh Davis to the Daytona Cubs from extended Spring Training; assigned RHP Ben Wells to extended Spring Training from the Daytona Cubs; assigned LHP Michael Heesch to the Kane County Cougars from extended Spring Training.
The Tennessee Smokies placed RHP Pierce Johnson and OF Jorge Soler on the 7-day disabled list; placed RHP Matt Loosen on the restricted list; activated LHP Hunter Cervenka from the 7-day disabled list. The Daytona Cubs activated RHP Felix Pena from the 7-day disabled list.
Top Prospect Watch
Arismendy Alcantara (INF) – Iowa Cubs
Albert Almora (OF) – Daytona Cubs
Corey Black (RHP) – Tennessee Smokies
Paul Blackburn (RHP) – Kane County Cougars
Jacob Hannemann (OF) – Kane County Cougars
Kyle Hendricks (RHP) – Iowa Cubs
Tyler Skulina (RHP) – Daytona Cubs
Duane Underwood (RHP) – Kane County Cougars
Dan Vogelbach (1B) – Daytona Cubs
Rob Zastryzny (LHP) – Daytona Cubs
Note: RHP Tyler Skulina replaces RHP Pierce Johnson, who is on the disabled list