The Cubs scored a rarity Friday night as all five of their top minor league teams, and six of the total of eight, won. Three of the wins were in blowout fashion as Iowa pummeled Colorado Springs 16-3, Boise smashed Hillsboro 11-1, and the DSL Cubs topped the Phillies 10-2. The system also won the close ones as Tennessee edged Jackson 6-5, Daytona prevailed 1-0 in a pitcher’s duel, and Kane County outlasted Beloit 3-2 in ten innings.
It took three seasons, but it appears that the organization is becoming true to their word about using Triple-A Iowa as a place for players to finish their development. Over the past few years, the roster for the I-Cubs looked more like “The Island of Misfit Toys” rather than having players one a step away from the big leagues. A prospect-heavy roster that includes top ten players in INF/OF Arismendy Alcantara, INF Kris Bryant, INF Javier Baez, and RHP Kyle Hendricks is currently 42-37 and a half game out of first place in the PCL American North division. Their record is only five games behind the Las Vegas 51’s (New York Mets) for the best in the Pacific Coast League.
After seeing more rehab cases then the Betty Ford Clinic last season, the AZL Cubs seemed to have returned to what their purpose is, a rookie team. Thirty-two of the members of their 42 player roster are either making their United States or professional debuts, with only RHP Jose Arias, LHP Gerardo Concepcion, and OF Jorge Soler considered to be on a rehab assignment. The “baby” Cubs are handling themselves well, as they are off to a 4-2 start.
With all the attention on Arismendy Alcantara, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez, a couple of prospects are flying under the radar in Josh Vitters and Stephen Bruno. The erstwhile top prospect Vitters is enjoying a nice comeback as he is currently batting .243/.301/.385/.686 with seven home runs and 27 RBI in 64 games. Vitters has hit .389 in his last ten games and has shown improvement in the outfield. Injuries marred the 2013 season for Bruno, and he has had some trouble keeping himself in one piece this season. However, Bruno has collected enough at bats to rank 13th in the Southern League in batting at .299. Bruno is only 19 points behind SL leader Taylor Motter (Montgomery/Tampa Bay), and could challenge for his second minor league batting championship (2012 Northwest League) if he can stay on the field.
In what was once a vast wasteland, third base has become possibly the best position in the entire organization. Major League followers are familiar with the travails of Mike Olt, and most know about Kris Bryant. But Christian Villanueva is not pouting over his demotion to Tennessee and is batting .351 with a home run and seven RBI in nine games since returning to the Smokies. Jordan Hankins and Jeimer Candelario are still getting their feet under them as they were flip-flopped from Daytona to Kane County. Jesse Hodges is being challenged by Alex Tomasovich at Boise, while Joe Martarano may be on the way soon. The rookie league has Adonis Paula and Roney Alcala, and will also soon see draftee Kevonte Mitchell. For those looking for a prospect deep in the bushes, 17-year old Wladimir Galindo is batting .297 and leading the Venezuelan Summer League with five home runs.