CWe start this week with the somewhat surprising news of OF Junior Lake being optioned to Iowa, who has only 16 games left in their regular season. As Neil pointed out in the comments of a previous piece this should not be taken as poor roster management, but rather as a final notice for Lake. Although the Cubs may retain his last option by recalling him within 20 days, Lake is now on make-or-break status for the rest of his career. He can no longer simply rely on being “toolsy” to warrant roster consideration, he has to produce. Lake still has some value, although diminished somewhat, in a future trade but needs to get his act together. Lake has performed well in the Dominican Winter League in the past, so going somewhere else such as the Mexican Pacific League or the Roberto Clemente League in Puerto Rico may be a bigger challenge.
As reported last week, management found a dignified end to Cubs career of OF Brett Jackson, trading him to the Diamondbacks for RHP Blake Cooper. There is currently a piece about Jackson’s odyssey through the minor league system in development, so look for it in the future.
The Cubs released catcher Chadd Krist earlier this week. Selected in the ninth round in 2012, Krist has seen his numbers decrease as he has moved up the system. Krist batted a combined .274 with four homers and 29 RBI in 56 games after being drafted, but only hit a combined .255 with five home runs and 36 RBI in 77 games and .220 with four homers and 18 RBI in 52 games this season. Moreover, Krist was the victim of improved catching talent in the system falling behind Ben Carhart, Victor Caratini, Cael Brockmeyer, Will Remillard, Justin Marra, Mark Malave, and Alberto Mineo as far as development. There is also the possibility the 2014 draftees Kyle Schwarber and Mark Zagunis remain at the position. In all, Krist was not able to keep pace, best of luck to him in the future.
Speaking of Zagunis, his surprising promotion to Kane County with a few weeks left in the season may be a prelude to the near future. By signing early, Schwarber now has 98 at bats in 29 games for Daytona with 16 regular season games left to play. Schwarber may end up with more than twice the exposure than Kris Bryant had last season at the level which was 57 at bats in 16 games. That may be enough for Schwarber to advance to Double-A Tennessee next season without seeing time in the Arizona Fall League, which Bryant participated in. In turn, it may open a spot for Zagunis, who is hitting a combined .291 with two homers and 29 RBI in 44 games since being drafted. The exposure to playing with some of the game’s top prospects may be enough to leap-frog Zagunis over Daytona to start 2015 in Tennessee.
Finally, here is an official update as to where each team stand with a few weeks left in the season. Iowa is currently tied for first place with Omaha (Royals), while Tennessee holds a one game lead over Chattanooga (Dodgers). Daytona is two games ahead of Tampa (Yankees) in the second half standings. Kane County has already locked down a playoff spot and is currently in first place by one game over Cedar Rapids (Twins). The Cougars also have a five game lead over West Michigan (Tigers) for the best record (78-45) in the Midwest League. Boise is currently four games out of first place. If the Hawks cannot win the second half of the season, they will have to hope that first half champion Hillsboro (Diamondbacks) does and qualify with next best overall record. It appears that the AZL Cubs will finish out of the playoffs, as their 5-10 record is last in the East division. The DSL Cubs are in second, nine games behind the Rangers with seven left to play. The VSL Cubs ended their season with a 28-40 record, which put them in fourth place.