Thanks once again to Neil for covering Down on the Farm this past week. The time off has provided an opportunity to put together some notes from the affiliates.
The promotion of Kyle Schwarber, seemingly for good, has thrown open the race for Minor League Player of the Year. Two weeks ago, Tennessee OF Billy McKinney would have been a second choice to Schwarber, but has since cooled to a .276 average. McKinney still has time to improve on those numbers, but he has allowed the field to catch up with him. Another possibility who has slowed recently is Mark Zagunis. Zagunis has seen his average drop to .284 after the promotions of Jeimer Candelario and Jacob Rogers. Candelario has emerged as a dark horse candidate due to his improved overall play. While it remains to be seen what Candelario does in Double-A, he brings a .270/.318/.415/.733 slash line with him, along with 25 doubles, three triples, five home runs, and 39 RBI while fielding .951 at third base.
That leaves two former teammates in Chesny Young and Gleyber Torres. Young is having the best offensive season of any Cubs minor league player. The 22-year old has a .342/.408/.406/.814 line between Low-A South Bend and High-A Myrtle Beach, with 14 doubles, three triples, a home run, 37 RBI, and 17 stolen bases. Young has also lined up at six positions (1B, 2B, SS, 3B, LF, RF) and played each of them well. Torres has been the Cubs’ most consistent prospect throughout the year. The 18-year old has hit .317/.384/.414/.798 with 19 doubles, four triples, two home runs, 48 RBI, and 16 stolen bases while fielding .948 at the demanding shortstop position. The fact that Torres has done all of this at only the Low-A level may work against him.
Minor League Pitcher of the Year seems to be a little less complicated, with Ryan Williams now set to run away with the title. Early on, it appeared that Duane Underwood Jr. would be the MPOY, but an injury has since sidetracked him. Big name prospects such as Carl Edwards Jr., Corey Black, Paul Blackburn, and Rob Zastryzny have had okay seasons, while Jake Stinnett has struggled for the most of the year. Williams has made the improbable jump from Low-A to Double-A ball and has maintained a level of excellence. The 23-year old is a combined 8-2 with a 1.80 ERA, 0.874 WHIP, and has 72 strikeouts in 95 innings. Last year’s award winners Jen-Ho Tseng and Daury Torrez can provide some competition if they can find a measure of consistency, as can teammate Jonathan Martinez. Watch for Pierce Johnson, 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA in 41.2 innings since coming back from injury, to make a late push.
It’s nice to see the hard work put in by Jeimer Candelario and Jacob Rogers rewarded. Many were willing to write Candelario off after a bad 2014 where he was demoted and hit a combined .223. However, few were willing to recognize that at 20 years old, Candelario was nearly three years younger than the Florida State League average last season. Candelario started off 2015 slowly but was able to bat .279 in May and .303 in June, while not committing an error in his last 33 games. Part of Candelario’s success, at least defensively, can be linked to Rogers, who could be the best defensive first baseman in the entire organization. Rogers has moved from a pleasant underdog story to that of a more serious prospect. The 2012 40th round draft pick has seen his offensive numbers remain somewhat steady through his rise, while a much more hyped prospect Dan Vogelbach’s offense has declined every season, save for a spike earlier this year. Rogers is on a pace to match or set career highs in both home runs and RBI, as he already has 11 homers and 63 RBI in 94 games. The presence Rogers has defensively is immeasurable, as he has been a great security blanket for players such as Danny Lockhart, Chesny Young, Carlos Penalver, and Candelario.
Sometimes, a change is not a good thing. The South Bend Cubs placed the CCO 2014 Short Season Player of the Year Jeffrey Baez in a run producing role to take advantage of his natural power. The result was Baez batting .181 with two home runs for the season. An injury to Charcer Burks led manager Jimmy Gonzalez to insert Baez into the leadoff spot, and everything took off from there. Baez has now raised his season average to .248 by hitting .450 over his last 10 games, to go along with five home runs and 20 stolen bases. For that, Baez was named Midwest League Player of the Week for July 19. Burks has since returned and is now slotted third, giving the SB Cubs a potent combination of Baez, Gleyber Torres, and Burks at the top of their line-up.
Speaking of Gleyber Torres, if it is the Cubs’ intention to keep the 18-year old in South Bend for the rest of the season, then it may be a good idea to bring Frandy Delarosa up soon. With all respect to 2015 first round draft pick Ian Happ, Delarosa has been the best player for the Eugene Emeralds so far this season. The 19-year old switch-hitter has experienced a recent downturn, but is batting .277/.326/.385/.711 with 10 doubles, two triples, 15 RBI, and six stolen bases in 33 games. Delarosa’s .965 fielding average could be better, but it would be important for him to develop a chemistry with Torres, as they probably will end up being pair together sooner or later.