For those who might want to write off draftees Kyle Schwarber and Mark Zagunis as catching prospects, not so fast. The Cubs’ minor league developmental staff seems to have done a good job in coaching players at the catching position in the lower levels. Daytona’s Willson Contreras was converted to third base after the previous administration felt he would not develop as a catcher. The present staff worked hard with Contreras, and he is now considered the second best defensive catcher to Kane County’s All-Star Will Remillard. Minor league coaches have also worked with former utility infielder Ben Carhart and developed him into a nice catching prospect. They are also in the process of converting a very talented youngster in Mark Malave from infield to catcher. If either Schwarber or Zagunis show enough ability to remain at catcher, you can expect the minor league staff to develop their abilities to the fullest.
If anyone has any doubts as to the phrase “you can never have enough pitching,” take a look at what has happened to the Tennessee Smokies’ staff. Minor league watchers were abuzz at the beginning of the season of a rotation that had Pierce Johnson, C.J. Edwards, Corey Black, and Ivan Pineyro. Now all are on the disabled list and the Smokies have a staff consisting of two minor league free agents in Joe Gardner and Julio Rodriguez, the elastic Eduardo Figueroa, and perennial prospects Matt Loosen and Dae-Eun Rhee. Making the situation worse is the fact that of all the pitchers at Daytona, only Felix Pena appears to be ready for the next level.
The release of veteran RHP Joel Pineiro was not as much a reflection of his ability, but an endorsement of the system’s new found depth. While Pineiro did not pitch well for a player of his experience, he became expendable due to the successes of lefties Tsuyoshi Wada (2.60 ERA), Eric Jokisch (3.28), and Chris Rusin (3.14). All three of those pitchers are in the Pacific Coast League’s top 15 in both ERA and WHIP. Factor in the aforementioned Joe Gardner, who has blitzed the Southern League with a 0.98 ERA and 0.55 WHIP in three starts. Also hanging around is last season’s minor league Pitcher of the Year Kyle Hendricks, who is 6-4 with a 3.90 ERA; while Carlos Pimentel has a 3.97 ERA in 10 appearances (seven starts) and Dallas Beeler at a 4.67 ERA after starting six games.
While it was obvious that Kris Bryant deserved his All-Star nomination, the next deserving player had to be Daytona OF Bijan Rademacher. The lefty has been one of the most consistent players on a somewhat underachieving team. Without much protection from his teammates, Rademacher is batting .306/.413/.463/.875 with three home runs, 21 RBI, and three stolen bases in 48 games.