While much of the recent focus is on the upper portion of the Cubs’ minor league system, not enough can be said about the job being done by managers Mark Johnson and Gary Van Tol for the Kane County Cougars and the Boise Hawks respectively. Both have done outstanding jobs in juggling their rosters and developing players. Johnson has had 21 position players and 22 pitchers come through Kane County, yet steer them to the best record in the Midwest League. Despite having seven different players line up and shortstop and second base and having to work with 47 players in total, Van Tol had the Hawks finishing one game out of first place as the first half of the season ended. Both managers seem to have bright futures ahead, and should be commended for establishing a winning attitude at the beginning of most of these players’ careers.
It appears as this front office will become more aggressive with promotions than they had in the past as they become more comfortable with the talent they have in the minors. The rapid rise of Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, and Kyle Schwarber have been obvious, but lost among those big names has been the elevation of infielder Chesny Young to Kane County. A 14th round selection in 2014, Young has advanced from rookie ball to short-season Boise, and from there to the Cougars. In 18 total games, Young has batted .333 with nine RBI and a stolen base. Young replaced former organizational favorite David Bote, who has been sent back to Boise.
There could be a situation brewing at the shortstop position between Boise and Kane County. The top brass has recently promoted infielder Bryant Flete to the Hawks and seem to want to take a good look at him playing short. This displaces Jason Vosler, who was directly assigned to Boise after being selected in the 16th round in the recent draft. Vosler hasn’t disappointed at the plate, as he is batting .310/.385/.448/.833 with a home run and 10 RBI in 16 games. In Kane County, Carlos Penalver has seen his average plummet to .217 with a home run and 31 RBI in 95 games. Penalver is considered the best defensive shortstop in the system but has not had a great year, committing 19 errors and fielding only .959. A change of scenery, and perhaps a few turns at second base, may be best for Penalver, who can be flipped with Vosler.
For those wondering who will be involved with the next wave of promotions, look for some reshuffling at middle infield once the trading deadline has passed. It is heavily rumored that Javier Baez will be called to the big leagues sometime between the trading deadline and roster expansion on September 1. When that occurs, expect Addison Russell to be moved up to Iowa and Marco Hernandez to replace Russell at Tennessee. From there, things get a little dicey as explained in the previous paragraph. A direction the organization may turn is to install Wes Darvill as Daytona’s shortstop and promote second baseman Gioskar Amaya to Tennessee, with super-sub Ben Carhart taking Amaya’s place with the D-Cubs. Those moves would relegate Stephen Bruno to the versatile back-up role with the Smokies, which is something he may have to get used to if he wants to progress in the system.
And finally, a welcome back to RHP Marcelo Carreno. A player to be named later in the deal that sent INF/OF Jeff Baker to the Detroit Tigers in 2012, Carreno has not pitched since that season due to shoulder surgery. Back on the mound on Thursday night, Carreno struck out two in 1.2 scoreless innings. When he is ready, Carreno figures to slot into the rotation at Double-A Tennessee. The Smokies are currently marking time with RHP Eduardo Figueroa and LHP Jeffrey Antigua in the rotation as they wait for injured pitchers Carreno, C.J. Edwards, and Ivan Pineyro to be ready.