Cubs Notes from Down on the Farm – 05/17/14

For those who are concerned about the successes of the so called “Core Four” of OF Albert Almora, INF Javier Baez, INF Kris Bryant, and OF Jorge Soler, consider this stat courtesy of Baseball Reference. On the individual player pages, it lists the age differential between the player and their current league averages. At this time, Almora is 2.7 years younger than league average, Baez 5.7 years younger, with Bryant and Soler both 2.6 years younger. While this can explain some of the struggles, it is not the entire answer. Consider that INF Arismendy Alcantara, currently hitting .271, is 4.7 years younger than average; while INF Stephen Bruno is batting .317 and is 1.6 years younger than average. Furthermore, OF John Andreoli, C Rafael Lopez, OF Bijan Rademacher, and C Will Remillard are all at or above league average age and excelling, but are getting little to no attention.

During the past couple of weeks, it seems as if a game plan has emerged for infielder Logan Watkins. The 2012 Minor League Player of the Year has seen more playing time in the outfield this season than in the past, and has even made an appearance at third base. Watkins also seems to be the go-to pinch-hitter when on the bench. Watkins is 3-for-3 with a double and three RBI in that department this month. A lefty, Watkins’ future as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner, multi-position defensive replacement, and occasional starter appears to be in the cards.

Javier Baez isn’t the only Cubs’ Top 20 prospect experiencing frustration so far this season. Daytona 3B Jeimer Candelario is hitting only .169 with three home runs and 15 RBI in 34 games. On Wednesday, Candelario was pulled in mid-game after failing to run out a grounder that resulted in a double play, and has not been back in the lineup since then. At 20 years old, a demotion to Kane County is not out of the question to get Candelario back on track. However, no one at Kane County other than C Will Remillard seems ready for a promotion.

A player that has been performing well in the shadow of bigger stars such as Kris Bryant, Stephen Bruno, and Rafael Lopez for the Smokies has been outfielder Rubi Silva. Hitting .378 over the last ten games, he has increased his season average to .262 with four home runs, 24 RBI, and three stolen bases. Silva has cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walks this season, and remains an elite outfielder. While he will always be a free swinger and may not ever be a top prospect, he has moved into the category of complementary starter/fourth outfielder role, in a similar vein as former Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.

At 4-1 with a 2.76 ERA, 0.996 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 42.1 innings, Kane County RHP Paul Blackburn is on a similar and slightly better developmental arc than RHP Pierce Johnson was last season. The trouble is that the 20-year old Blackburn is two years younger than Johnson, so the Cubs may not be as aggressive when it comes to promotion. That said, a mid-season promotion for Blackburn and 20-year old RHP Daury Torrez (4-1/2.88/1.03/23 strikeouts in 40.2 innings) is probably not out of the question if they continue on the same path.

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"The riches of the game are in the thrills, not in the money." – Ernie Banks

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  • Tom U

    Javier Baez just hit is 4th HR of the season to put Iowa up 2-0 in the bottom of the first,.it was Baez’s first home run since April 28.

  • GaryLeeT

    “On the individual player pages, it lists the age differential between the player and their current league averages.”

    Of course I, along with every reader, appreciate your hard work, and dedication to the content on this site, but………I think the age thing is irrelevant, since the average minor leaguer never makes it to the majors. If they provided the average age of a minor leaguer who went on to have an 8 year+ career in the majors, it would be much more insightful.

    • Tom U

      Like I said, it may not be the answer, but it is something to consider. This is the first time that Baez has had to deal with a vastly different experience level than his.

      • Richard Hood

        That experience is what is killing him. When a guy can throw a bender that is a true 12/6 and hit his spot no matter what his fast ball looks like it takes a while to learn to judge him.

    • Henry

      So when they get to the majors it is split by age groups. No wonder the Cubs never win. Full of reasons short on results.

  • Tom U

    Tyler Skulina and Nathan Dorris have combined to throw a No-Hitter for Kane County this evening.

  • GaryLeeT

    Hey Tom,

    I see the MiLB is doing a battle of the Lids. I am torn between several as my favorite. The Lehigh Valley Ironpigs have a strip of bacon, There is the Vegas 51s Alien head, but my hands down winner are the El Paso Chihuahuas

    • Tom U

      Among my favorites is the Casper (Wyoming) Ghosts. Their logo actually glows in the dark.

    • Tom U

      My favorite cap of all time is of the Port-au-Prince Skulls from the outlaw Trans-Caribbean League

  • John_CC

    As per your reply on the other thread, if Sczurz were DFA who would get the promotion? I really want to see Andreoli get a shot. And what about Valaki (sp?), is he still white hot? Seems like the perfect quad A guy to give a chance.

    • Tom U

      If Szczur were to be DFA and claimed, the promotion would be between Andreoli and Rubi Silva, who probably should have opened this season at Iowa over Szczur anyway.

      However, I don’t expect anyone to claim Szczur. He would have to stay on the major league roster and he is not doing well at Triple-A so far.

      • Tony_H

        Szczur still has options left, why would a team have to keep him on their major league roster if they claimed him if the Cubs took him off the 40 man roster and had to waive him?

        • Tom U

          That’s my mistake Tony. I got used to the idea that a player who was DFAed was already out of options.

          • Tony_H

            No problem, wasn’t sure if there was something else with him from the mess up with his contract. He has a great story and I would love for him to have a major league career, even as a 4th OF and even if it ends up with another team.

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