For the first games of the minor league season, the top prospects performed like, well, top prospects. Addison Russell has hit over .300 and has a home run, while Kris Bryant has belted two round-trippers for Iowa. Kyle Schwarber has also had a long fly for Tennessee while pitcher Paul Blackburn was dominant for Myrtle Beach. However, the best overall team so far has been South Bend, who was just a few pitches away from being undefeated. Shortstop Gleyber Torres has been everything that has been advertised, while Jeremy Null stood out among several good pitching performances.
So with news of all the prospects, including the CCO’s Top Prospect Watch, here is the first Monday Down on the Farm Report for 2015.
Low Class-A – South Bend Cubs (3-1)
After some opening night jitters, South Bend fans saw some of their much anticipated offense on Friday as the SB Cubs cruised to a 7-4 win over Bowling Green. The scoring started in the third inning after Jesse Hodges (2-for-4 with a double) led off with a single and advanced to second on a balk. A one-out single by Rashad Crawford (1-for-3 with a stolen base) moved Hodges to third, with Crawford later stealing second base. A fielding error allowed Hodges to score and Trey Martin (1-for-5 with three RBI) to reach first. Chesny Young (2-for-4 with an RBI) followed with a base hit that drove in Crawford, and Martin crossed homeplate on a passed ball. With the Hot Rods cutting the deficit to one in the top of the sixth, South Bend responded as Gioskar Amaya (1-for-4) began things with a single and scored on a double from Cael Brockmeyer (1-for-4 with a double and an RBI). Jeffrey Baez (2-for-4) laid down a perfect bunt to put runners at the corners. Brockmeyer came around on a double play. The SB Cubs put the game out of reach in the seventh after Charcer Burks (1-for-3 with a double and a stolen base) started the inning with a walk and a steal of second base. Crawford reached on an error and both he and Burks touched home on a single by Martin.
Towering Jeremy Null took the mound for South Bend and dominated the action. Null allowed only two hits in five scoreless innings while striking out seven batters. Jasvir Rakkar made his way to the mound in the sixth and struggled with his command. Rakkar gave up two runs (one earned) and committed an error in two innings. Lefty Tommy Thorpe went the rest of the way, but also had his difficulties closing the game in the ninth. Thorpe gave Bowling Green some hope as he let in two earned runs on three hits and a walk with three strikeouts in two innings.
South Bend fought back to tie the game Saturday and had chances to win, but could not put Bowling Green away as they lost 7-5 in 12 innings. Erick Leal was the SB Cubs starter and was a victim of some shoddy infield defense as he allowed four runs (two earned) and struck out three in five innings. Indiana native Jordan Minch made his home state debut. Minch walked two but worked out of the jam with no runs in an inning pitched. Ryan McNeil, a pitcher on the comeback trail, had the best effort of the evening as he fanned five and gave up an unearned run in three innings. Francisco Carrillo pitched well for two innings but yielded two earned runs in the 12th inning for the loss.
South Bend took an early lead in the second after Gleyber Torres (3-for-4 with a double) singled with two outs and scored on a triple from Jason Vosler (1-for-5 with a triple and an RBI). A wild pitch brought Vosler home. In the sixth inning, Charcer Burks (2-for-6 with a double and a triple) led off with a triple and scored on a groundout. Burks was the catalyst again in the eighth as he doubled to start the inning, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on a wild pitch. Torres began the ninth with a single and advanced to second on a throwing error. After a wild pitch, Rashad Crawford (1-for-5 with an RBI) drove Torres in form third with a single.
The SB Cubs went on the road for the first time Sunday and were able to pull away from Dayton, winning 8-3. Zach Hedges made his first professional start and fared well, giving up three runs (two earned) on a walk and five hits with two strikeouts in five innings. Jasvir Rakkar was better the second time around. Rakkar struck out three in two scoreless innings. James Norwood saw his first action of the season. Norwood struck out two in a scoreless inning. Tommy Thorpe slammed the door in the ninth with a strikeout and assist on the final play.
It took the South Bend offense a little time to get warmed up. David Bote (1-for-4) led off the third with a walk, but was picked off of first base. Jason Vosler (3-for-5 with a stolen base) followed with a single and stole second base. A base hit by Rashad Crawford (2-for-2 with three RBI) plated Vosler. Trey Martin (1-for-5 with a triple, an RBI, and a stolen base) tripled in Crawford and a single from Gleyber Torres (2-for-4 with two RBI and a stolen base) drove in Martin. The SB Cubs broke a 3-3 tie in the fifth after Crawford drew a one out walk and Martin reached on an error. Crawford scored on a ground out. South Bend put the game away in the seventh after consecutive singles from Bote, Vosler, and Crawford led to two runs (Bote and Vosler scored). Torres had a one out base hit and Jeffrey Baez (1-for-5) loaded the bases with a single. Cael Brockmeyer (0-for-3 with an RBI) walked in Crawford and a walk to Justin Marra (0-for-4 with an RBI) allowed Torres to score.
High Class–A – Myrtle Beach Pelicans (2-2)
It was a case of turnabout for Myrtle Beach on Friday as the 8-3 blowout by Wilmington was not as close as the score indicates. Daury Torrez was in the strike zone all night, but so were Blue Rocks. Torrez was touched for two home runs while allowing six earned runs and striking out five in 4.2 innings. Josh Conway took another step in his comeback by tossing 1.1 innings and yielding two earned runs while striking out a batter. Gerardo Concepcion stopped the bleeding with two strikeouts in two scoreless innings. Tayler Scott also struck out two as he pitched the ninth.
The Pelicans were already down 6-0 in the fifth when Ben Carhart (1-for-3 with a double) led off with a double and Shawon Dunston Jr. (1-for-3 with a stolen base) singled. A sacrifice fly allowed Carhart to score. Myrtle Beach added two consolation runs in the ninth after Carhart was hit by a pitch and pinch-hitter Alberto Mineo (1-for-1) singled. Carhart scored on a sacrifice fly and a double from Jacob Hannemann (2-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a stolen base) plated Mineo.
Saturday showcased an excellent pitcher’s duel that broke open in extra innings as Myrtle Beach persevered for a 4-3 victory over Wilmington in 10 innings. Paul Blackburn was in midseason form as he struck out six and allowed an earned run in five innings of work. Juan Paniagua was electric as he had six strikeouts in three perfect innings. Starling Peralta was also bringing heat as he fanned five while giving up two earned runs in the final two innings.
It was a breakout night for Jeimer Candelario (3-for-5 with a double and two RBI) as he doubled to start the fifth inning and advanced to third on a balk. Victor Caratini (1-for-4 with two RBI) singled in Candelario. Down 3-1 in the 10th inning, Jacob Hannemann (0-for-2), Mark Zagunis (1-for-4), and Billy McKinney (0-for-4) each drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. A one out single by Candelario plated Hannemann and Zagunis. The Blue Rocks were unsuccessful in throwing out McKinney at the plate on a grounder from Caratini, providing the winning run.
The Pelicans’ offense seemed to be stuck in neutral on Sunday as they lost 5-0 to Wilmington. Starting pitcher Tyler Skulina deserved a better fate as he allowed only one earned run while striking out five in five innings. James Pugliese gave up two earned runs in two innings, and Matt Brazis had virtually the same line except for three strikeouts. Myrtle Beach only managed three hits, as rehabbing outfielder Chris Denorfia went 1-for-2 with a double while Mark Zagunis was 1-for-4 and Jeimer Candelario went 1-for-3.
Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (2-2)
Pitching was the undoing of Tennessee on Friday as they lost to Mississippi 8-7. Ivan Pineyro labored through 4.2 innings, needing 73 pitches. Pineyro allowed three earned runs on three hits and three walks while striking out four batters. Andres Santiago was given a rude welcome by the Braves. Santiago gave up another three earned runs while pitching only 0.2 innings. Michael Jensen made his Double-A debut in a tough spot but struck out three in 1.1 scoreless innings. Fernando Cruz could have kept the Smokies in the game, but let in two earned runs with three strikeouts in two innings.
Tennessee jumped out to a big lead in the second inning by taking advantage of Mississippi’s miscues. Dan Vogelbach (1-for-3) led off with a walk and Willson Contreras (3-for-5) singled. Ryan Dent (0-for-3) reached on an error to load the bases, and Vogelbach was forced at home on a grounder by Elliot Soto (0-for-4). Pineyro also hit a ground ball but the Braves missed the force at home, allowing Contreras to score. A single from Pin-Chieh Chen (1-for-4 with two RBI) drove in Dent and Soto, and a walk to Albert Almora (0-for-4 with an RBI) re-loaded the bases. Bijan Rademacher (3-for-5 with a double and three RBI) delivered a two-run single that plated Pineyro and Chen. The Smokies fought to within one run in the eighth after Soto walked and Stephen Bruno (2-for-2) singled. A pair of ground outs scored Soto, and a single by Rademacher brought in Bruno.
It looked as if Tennessee was on their way to their second victory on Saturday before things spun out of control and the Smokies lost to Mississippi 6-2. Tennessee grabbed an early lead after Bijan Rademacher (0-for-3) and Ryan Dent (1-for-2) started the third inning with walks. After Dent was picked off of first, pitcher Felix Pena (1-for-1) singled. A base hit by Pin-Chieh Chen (1-for-4 with an RBI) brought Rademacher home. In the fourth inning, Kyle Schwarber (2-for-4 with a home run) led off with a solo home run.
Felix Pena was in control while he was on the mound, scattering three hits and a walk over six scoreless innings while striking out two batters. Zach Cates relieved in the seventh inning and was simply pummeled, as he committed an error, walked three, and surrendered five runs (two earned) while failing to record an out. P.J. Francescon restored order, somewhat, as he struck out two and was charged with an unearned run in two innings.
Tennessee evened their record at 2-2 on the young season Sunday with a team effort and defeated Mississippi 6-3. Rob Zastryzny made his first Double-A start and looked good. Zastryzny allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks while striking out five in 3.1 innings. Zastryzny had to leave the game after being struck on the foot by a line drive and Steve Perakslis was ushered in. Perakslis made the best of a bad situation by tossing 1.2 scoreless innings. Michael Jensen also held serve for two innings, recording a strikeout. Hunter Cervenka had some trouble closing out the game. Cervenka gave up an earned run in 1.2 innings while striking out two batters. Andres Santiago got the final out for his first save.
Once again, the Smokies offense showed up early after Albert Almora (2-for-4 with a double) had a one out double in the first and Bijan Rademacher (1-for-4) followed with a single. A base hit from Christian Villanueva (2-for-5 with three RBI) drove in Almora, and a Dan Vogelbach (3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI) double scored Rademacher and Villanueva. Willson Contreras (2-for-5) singled and Stephen Bruno (1-for-3) walked to load the bases, and Vogelbach scoring on a ground out. Elliot Soto (2-for-6) began the second inning with a base hit, and Almora walked. After a ground out moved the runners over a base, a single from Villanueva plated Soto and Almora.
Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (2-2)
Another day, another blowout loss for Iowa as the I-Cubs were manhandled by Memphis on Friday, losing 8-1. Carlos Pimentel was beat up by the Redbirds’ hitters, allowing seven runs (five earned) on six hits and four walks with five strikeouts in 3.2 innings. Jeffry Antigua had two strikeouts while giving up an earned run in 2.1 innings. Zac Rosscup was the only pitcher who looked sharp, striking out two in a perfect inning. Blake Parker set down the side in order in the eighth.
Down 7-0 in the third, the offense made their only mark after Mike Baxter (1-for-2) singled and was sacrificed to second. Junior Lake (1-for-3 with a stolen base) had a two out base hit, stealing second. And Baxter scored on a throwing error.
After two somewhat embarrassing performances, Iowa took out their frustration on Saturday night as they buried Memphis 13-0. The blowout would not have occurred without excellent pitching. Eric Jokisch had a fine first start as he gave up three hits and three walks in 4.2 scoreless innings. Blake Cooper made his Iowa debut and struck out four in 2.1 perfect innings for the win. Gonzalez German and Joe Ortiz each chipped in a scoreless inning.
Things started innocently enough, as Adron Chambers (2-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI) led off the game with a double, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on a sacrifice fly. Singles by Kris Bryant (3-for-4 with a double, a home run, and three RBI) and Chris Valaika (3-for-5 with a home run and two RBI) with one out in the third set up Rubi Silva (1-for-5 with two RBI and a stolen base), Silva delivered with an RBI base hit with two outs to score Bryant. The I-Cubs broke the game open in the fifth after Addison Russell (1-for-5) began with a single and Bryant doubled. A fielder’s choice scored Russell and allowed Junior Lake (1-for-5 with two RBI) to reach first. Silva drove in Bryant with a base hit, and stole second. A double by Rafael Lopez (1-for-4 with a double, two RBI, and a stolen base) plated Lake and Silva. Russell walked with one out in the sixth and came around on a home run from Valaika. Walks to Chambers, Bryant, and Valaika loaded the bases in the eight, and Chambers scored on a fielder’s choice. In the ninth, Mike Baxter (2-for-5) singled with one out and pinch-hitter Kevin Brown (1-for-1 with a double) doubled. A double by Chambers drove in Baxter and Brown. And Kris Bryant capped the scoring with a home run with Chambers along for the ride.
The I-Cubs were in control once again on Sunday as they handled Memphis. It took a little while for the offense to settle in, but things now appear to be clicking. Iowa got on the board in the second inning. Jonathan Mota (3-for-4 with a home run and an RBI) and Taylor Davis (1-for-3) had two out singles and a double from Adron Chambers (2-for-3 with a double, an RBI, and a stolen base) brought in Mota. John Andreoli (1-for-3 with a double) led off the third with a single and trotted home on a Addison Russell (3-for-5 with a home run and two RBI) two-run homer, he first home run of the season. Mota then went deep to start the fourth inning to make the score 4-0. With the score 4-2 in the seventh, the top prospects got together as Russell singled with one out and Kris Bryant (1-for-4 with a home run and three RBI) drilled a homer to right center. Iowa added a run in the ninth after pinch-hitter Kevin Brown (1-for-1) singled, Andreoli walked, and Russell had a base hit to load the sacks. Brown scored on a sacrifice fly from Bryant.
For the first time since 2013, Barret Loux was pitching baseball as he is making a comeback from Tommy John surgery. Loux had a good effort. Loux allowed two earned runs on four hits and three walks as he struck out three in 3.2 innings. Drake Britton had the first call from the pen and was effective. Britton gave up only a walk in 2.1 scoreless innings. Zac Rosscup remains impressive as he struck out the side in the seventh inning. Armando Rivero and Blake Parker each tossed a scoreless frame.
News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs recalled RHP Brian Schlitter from the Iowa Cubs; sent OF Chris Denorfia to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans on a rehab assignment; assigned OF Kevin Brown to the Iowa Cubs from the South Bend Cubs; assigned LHP Jeffry Antigua to the Iowa Cubs from the AZL Cubs; assigned OF Jae-Hoon Ha to the AZL Cubs from the Iowa Cubs.
The Iowa Cubs placed INF Javier Baez on the bereavement list; activated LHP Joe Ortiz. The Tennessee Smokies placed C Erick Castillo on the disabled list. The Myrtle Beach Pelicans placed LHP Michael Heesch and INF Andrew Ely on the disabled list. The South Bend Cubs placed Of Yasiel Balaguert and LHP Tyler Ihrig on the disabled list.
Top Prospect Watch
- Albert Almora (OF) – .235/.350/.297/.644, RBI (Tennessee Smokies)
- Trevor Clifton (RHP) – Has not pitched yet (South Bend Cubs)
- C.J. Edwards (RHP) – 0-0, 2.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 2 K, 1.714 WHIP (Tennessee Smokies)
- Billy McKinney (OF) – .182/.308/.182/.490, RBI (Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
- Kyle Schwarber (C) – .375/.500/1.000/1.500, a triple, a home run, two RBI (Tennessee Smokies)
- Jake Stinnett (RHP) – 0-0, 5 IP, 1.80 ERA, 1 ER, 4 K, 1.000 WHIP (South Bend Cubs)
- Gleyber Torres (IF) – .313/.389/.375/.764, double, two RBI, stolen base (South Bend Cubs)
- Jen-Ho Tseng (RHP) – Has not pitched yet (Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
- Duane Underwood (RHP) – 1-0, 5 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 ER, 5 K, 1.200 WHIP (Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
- Dan Vogelbach (1B) – .400/.500/.533/1.033, two doubles, three RBI (Tennessee Smokies)