Successes are from the top down this week as Welington Castillo, Luis Valbuena, Anthony Rizzo, and Josh Vitters have led Iowa to the best team batting average in the Pacific Coast League. Tennessee is third in the Southern League in pitching thanks to the efforts of Trey McNutt, Dallas Beeler, Dae-Eun Rhee, and Brooks Raley. Rubi Silva continues to be a beast in the Florida State League, while opportunities go unfulfilled for Peoria in the Midwest League.
Whatever league you’re in … check out Monday’s Down on the Farm Report. Note: Monday’s report will cover games from Wednesday to Saturday. Thursday’s report covers games Sunday through Tuesday.
Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (3-6)
After losing the first two games of the week, Peoria bounced back on Wednesday as the top of their batting order strutted their stuff in a 5-3 win over Quad Cities. The Chiefs got on the board in the third inning, as Ryan Cuneo, fresh off the disabled list, was hit by a pitch. Paul Hoilman (1-for-2) doubled and Reggie Golden (1-for-3) walked to load the bases. Eduardo Gonzalez brought home Cuneo on a fielding error, while Hoilman scored on a Taylor Davis groundout. Leadoff man Zeke DeVoss (2-for-5, double) and Wes Darvill (2-for-4) were on in the fourth when Cuneo (2-for-3) slammed his first homer of the season.
Michael Jensen got his second start of the season, and struck out five in six innings. He let in his first runs of the year, allowing the River Bandits to score three times in the first inning. After that, he faced only 18 batters over the next five innings. Yao-Lin Wang replaced Jensen in the seventh and struck out three over two scoreless innings. Andrew McKirahan was a little shaky in the ninth, being bailed out by a double play, but survived to earn his first save.
In a very close contest Thursday, Peoria’s pitching fell apart in the late innings and allowed the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers to pull ahead to defeat the Chiefs 4-2. Starter PJ Francescon gave up a first inning solo home run, but looked in control until the sixth inning. Francescon surrendered a leadoff homer, a single, a wild pitch, and an RBI single before giving way to Austin Reed. After walking the first batter of the ninth inning, and a bunt advanced him to second, Reed uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the clinching run to score. The Chiefs’ offense revolved around Brad Zapenas and Rafael Lopez. Zapenas was 1-for-2 with a walk, stolen base, and two runs scored. Lopez batted 3-for-4 with a stolen base and an RBI. Pin-Chieh Chen also drove in a run as he was 2-for-4 with a stolen base.
The Chiefs’ offense continued to misfire on Friday, wasting some scoring chances and placing undo pressure on their pitching as they lost 5-2 to Wisconsin. Peoria tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth after Marco Hernandez (2-for-3, double, home run, stolen base, two RBI) doubled home Eduardo Gonzalez (1-for-3). But Hernandez made a baserunning error on a Brad Zapenas (1-for-4) grounder, ending the scoring threat. Starter Jose Rosario then allowed three earned runs in the bottom of the fourth to put the Timber Rattlers in front for good. Rosario ended the evening with four earned runs and two strikeouts in five innings. Bryce Shafer followed and wasn’t as bad as in previous outings. Shafer gave up an earned run and posted two strikeouts in two innings. Jeffrey Lorick stayed perfect on the season with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Pin-Chieh Chen may have awakened at the plate by going 2-for-4.
Peoria once again failed to capitalize on scoring chances as they lost Saturday’s game 4-3 to Wisconsin. Over the past three losses, the Chiefs have left 12 runners in scoring position with two outs. Peoria had to play catch-up once again as the Timber Rattlers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Starter Ben Wells ended up going 5.2 innings with five strikeouts. Wells did not give up any other earned runs after the first inning. Reliever Scott Weismann recorded the final out for Wells in the sixth. The Chiefs scored two runs in the third as Zeke DeVoss (2-for-5, home run, three RBI) homered with Pin-Chieh Chen (1-for-2, two walks) aboard. They tied the game in the ninth as Brad Zapenas (1-for-3) scored on DeVoss’ RBI single. Paul Hoilman was also 2-for-4 in the game. With the game tied at 3-3, Kyler Burke, who took over in the seventh inning, gave up a single and a double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and gave Wisconsin the victory. Burke ended up striking out two in 2.2 innings.
High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (2-7)
Daytona continued to struggle on Wednesday night, as pitching and defense was their undoing in a 7-1 loss to Dunedin. Eric Jokisch flirted with disaster for the first three innings; helping himself by starting a double play in the first and having his defense thwart a scoring opportunity in the third. However, Jokisch served up a two-run home run to start the fourth, and two booted grounders by shortstop Arismendy Alcantara led to another run. Jokisch was finished in the sixth inning after allowing his second two-run homer, ending with four earned runs and three strikeouts over six innings. Brett Wallach bounced back from a poor Opening Day outing and shut the Blue Jays down for two innings while striking out two batters. But Larry Suarez gave up another two earned runs in the ninth to put the game out of reach. The only run for the D-Cubs came in the fifth as the hot-hitting Rubi Silva (3-for-4, double) singled and was tripled home by Dustin Harrington (1-for-4).
On Thursday, Daytona squandered a good effort by starter Hayden Simpson, as the bullpen failed to hold the lead in a 5-4 loss to Tampa. Simpson wasn’t overpowering, but came within an out of a quality start as he allowed three earned runs and struck out a batter over 5.2 innings. After the Yankees scored two in the first inning, the D-Cubs got the lead back with a three run third inning, and added a run in the fifth. Daytona used their speed, as Elieser Bonne and Matt Szczur stole bases and eventually scored. Unheralded Chad Noble was 1-for-4 and drove in two runs. John Andreoli (1-for-3) also had an RBI and Richard Jones’ bat came alive, going 2-for-5 with an RBI. However, after Casey Harman slammed the door for Simpson by pitching 1.1 scoreless innings; AJ Morris came on in the eighth and gave up two earned runs, and the victory, to Tampa.
The bottom of the order came through on Friday, as Daytona had its biggest offensive output in defeating Tampa 8-4. Rubi Silva continued to feast on FSL pitching, as he was 2-for-4 with a double and RBI to raise his batting average to .429 for the season. Chad Noble came up big again, going 2-for-4, including a double and two RBI. Arismendy Alcantara provided the thunder by belting a two-run homer, as he was 1-for-4. Greg Rohan and Richard Jones also got into the act by going 2-for-5 and an RBI each. Nelson Perez had his best day of the season, doubling and driving in a run as he went 2-for-4.
Usually a middle reliever, Eduardo Figueroa was given the surprise start and the task of getting the D-Cubs out of their season-opening funk. Figueroa delivered a fine performance, letting in only one earned run in five innings. Recently assigned Joe Zeller then came on and struck out four in two innings, also allowing an earned run. Larry Suarez and Brian Schlitter followed suit, each giving up and earned run in an inning of work.
The woes just continued for Daytona on Saturday as starter Zach Cates had another miserable outing and the D-Cubs managed only three hits as they were shut out by Tampa 8-0. Cates lasted a little longer than the one inning he had in his previous start, but still let in eight runs (five earned) in 3.1 innings. Brett Wallach, who seems to be scheduled to follow Cates, fared better this time, tossing 1.2 shutout innings. Ty’Relle Harris was able to strike out four in two innings of work, while Tony Zych struck out two in setting down the side in the eighth. Ronald Torreyes, Greg Rohan, and Dustin Harrington were the only D-Cubs to record hits.
Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (6-4)
The Smokies wasted another fine pitching performance, as they lost a 2-1 squeaker to Jackson on Wednesday. Trey McNutt got his second start and labored once again, tossing 77 pitches in four innings. However, he held the Generals scoreless, striking out five and walking three over that span. Jeffry Antigua, who appears to be McNutt’s tag-team partner, allowed an earned run and struck out four in 3.1 innings. The usually reliable Kevin Rhoderick gave up the lead on a home run to start the ninth. Tennessee continues to get consistent offensive play from Logan Watkins, Jae-Hoon Ha, Michael Burgess, and Elliot Soto who each collected a hit; Watkins scoring the only run. Rebel Ridling also singled, while Juan Apodaca doubled.
Tennessee was locked in a tense 1-1 contest in the eighth inning on Thursday, until a bullpen meltdown allowed Jackson to come away with a 3-1 victory. Starter Dallas Beeler was able to keep the Generals at bay, allowing an earned run over six innings with two strikeouts. Alberto Cabrera breezed through the seventh inning, but his control was lacking in the eighth. A walk and three singles put Jackson ahead. Then a ball in the dirt that was eventually called a passed ball scored the final run of the game. After a stint on the disabled list, Marcus Hatley cleaned up in the ninth. Elliot Soto had a whale of a game, going 3-for-4 with a stolen base and an RBI. Michael Burgess was 2-for-4 with a double, while Jae-Hoon Ha went 1-for-4 and a stolen base. Michael Brenly scored the only run and was 1-for-3 with a double.
It looks like close games will be the norm in eastern Tennessee this year, as the Smokies waited until the sixth inning before pulling away from Jackson in a 4-1 victory on Friday. It looked as if Jae-Hoon Ha had his first homer of the season to start the fourth inning, as his opposite field blast appeared to leave the park and then ricochet back into the field of play. However, the umpires ruled it a double and Ha ended up 1-for-1 with two walks. Rebel Ridling seems to be improving his fortunes at the plate, as he was 2-for-4 with a stolen base and three RBI. Justin Bour and James Adduci also collected hits.
Starter Dae-Eun Rhee had his off-speed and breaking ball working for him, making several batters look bad has he allowed only one earned run and struck out four over 6.1 innings. Ryan Searle then held the Generals scoreless for 1.2 innings while striking out three batters. Frank Batista picked up his fourth save by striking out the side in the ninth.
In the final game of the series with Jackson on Saturday, Tennessee exploded for five runs in the second inning and rode the arm of Brooks Raley to a 5-2 win. Raley had his stuff working for him, as he allowed two earned runs in seven innings. His only blemish was a familiar bugaboo, a solo home run in the fifth inning. Casey Weathers had his best outing of the season by getting a strikeout in a scoreless inning of work. Kevin Rhoderick had the Generals leave town quietly in the ninth and picked up his second save.
The scoring started for the Smokies when Rebel Ridling (1-for-4) tripled to lead off the second inning. Michael Burgess (3-for-4, home run, two RBI, outfield assist) then launched a two-run bomb to center. James Adduci (1-for-3) doubled after one out and came home on a double by Michael Brenly (1-for-3) for his first RBI of the year. With two outs, Logan Watkins (1-for-4, home run, two RBI) capped the scoring by cracking his first home run of the season. Elliot Soto, enjoying his recent promotion to the lead-off spot, was 2-for-4 for the evening.
Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (6-4)
For the second time in three days, an Iowa pitcher was his own best offense as the I-Cubs defeated Albuquerque 5-1 on Wednesday in a game that wasn’t as close as the score makes it appear. The Isotopes were never in the contest as starter Casey Coleman allowed an earned run and struck out three in five innings; helping himself by going 2-for-3 with an RBI at the plate. Coleman was already ahead by four runs when Albuquerque scratched out a run in the fourth inning. Ryan Rowland-Smith then came on in the sixth and delivered three scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Blake Parker finished things off with his third shutout inning of the season.
It was the Welington Castillo show on offense, as he singled to start off the scoring in the second inning. Josh Vitters (2-for-3, two RBI) singled to put two men on for Coleman, who brought Castillo home with a single. Vitters then came in on a Tony Campana (2-for-5, RBI) two out single. Castillo struck again with one out in the third, popping his first homer of the season. He ended the night 3-for-3 with a double, home run, and an RBI. A Vitters sacrifice fly plated Adrian Cardenas (1-for-3, triple), who tripled ahead of him. An insurance run was added in the seventh as Castillo, who doubled, came around on Vitters’ RBI single.
The I-Cubs finished their homestand on a small roll, as they took the series from Albuquerque with an 8-2 victory on Thursday. Iowa basically put the game away in the second inning, scoring five runs on five hits and two walks. It was Dave Sappelt’s turn to join the party, as he was 2-for-5 with a solo home run and three RBI. Josh Vitters continued to stay hot, adding a double and his sixth RBI while going 2-for-4. Anthony Rizzo recorded his team-leading tenth RBI as he went 2-for-4. Both Ty Wright and Matt Tolbert were 2-for-3, with one of Wright’s hits a double. Luis Valbuena also had a multi-hit game, as he was 2-for-5 with an RBI.
Chris Rusin overcame a rocky first inning by picking a runner off and inducing a double play. Rusin ended up allowing two earned runs and recording a strikeout in seven innings of work. Manny Corpas looked a little steadier than his last appearance, striking out two in a scoreless inning. Scott Maine stayed sharp by blanking the Isotopes for an inning.
Iowa went to the bat rack and brought out the big sticks on Friday, launching four home runs to propel them to a 6-5 win over Round Rock. Anthony Rizzo started the show in the first inning by slugging a two-run shot. Welington Castillo (3-for-4, home run, RBI) added a solo blast as part of a two-run fourth inning. Rizzo then cranked his own solo home run in the sixth, and ended the night at 2-for-4 with two homers and three RBI. Brett Jackson joined the party by hitting his first longball of the year, which proved to be the game winner, in the seventh. Blake Lalli was also 2-for-4 in the winning effort.
In the business, they call it “five on the fly” as Jay Jackson earned his first victory by striking out four and allowing two earned runs in five innings. The reins were turned over to Frankie De La Cruz, who struck out a batter in two shutout innings. Jeff Beliveau recorded two outs in the eighth, and gave way to Esmailin Caridad to finish the inning. However, Caridad walked two to start the ninth and was replaced by Scott Maine. Maine did appear to be ready to come in, as he hit three batters and walked another before recording an out. Blake Parker got the final two outs to record his first save.
A good effort by the offense went for naught, as the bullpen surrendered three runs on Saturday in a 6-5 loss to Round Rock. Iowa now leads the Pacific Coast League with a .318 team average after pounding out 14 hits against the Express. Leading the way is Welington Castillo, who raised his season average to .500 by going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Luis Valbuena, hitting .400, was 2-for-3. Anthony Rizzo (.385) was 1-for-4 with a double, while Josh Vitters (.375) drove in two and was also 1-for-4 with a double. Brett Jackson hit his second home run in as many nights as he was 2-for-5 and an RBI. Tony Campana collected two hits and his fifth stolen base.
It was another pedestrian effort by Travis Wood as he struck out seven, but allowed three earned runs in five innings. After a scoreless sixth inning, Nate Robertson ended up wearing the horns as a three-run seventh was the deciding factor in the ballgame. Manny Corpas bailed Robertson out and shut down Round Rock in the eighth, but the damage had already been done.
News and Notes
The Tennessee Smokies activated RHP Marcus Hatley from the 7-day disabled list; RHP Joe Zeller assigned to Daytona. The Daytona Cubs placed RHP Matt Loosen on the 7-day disabled list. The Peoria Chiefs placed OF Reggie Golden on the 7-day disabled list; OF Oliver Zapata assigned to Peoria.
According to Baseball America, the Cubs released RHP Dustin Fitzgerald and SS Leugim Barroso. RHP Starling Peralta was placed on the 7-day DL.
CCO’s Prospect Watch
- Javier Baez (IF) – Extended Spring Training
- Jeimer Candelario (3B) – Extended Spring Training
- Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .273, two doubles, home run, five RBI (Peoria Chiefs)
- Reggie Golden (OF) – .192, stolen base (Peoria Chiefs)
- Junior Lake (IF) – is currently inactive
- Dillon Maples (RHP) – Extended Spring Training
- Matt Szczur (OF) – .125, RBI, three stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
- Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .188, double (Daytona Cubs)
- Josh Vitters (3B) – .375, two doubles, eight RBI (Iowa Cubs)
- Dan Vogelbach (1B) – Extended Spring Training
Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO