Cubs Minors Recap: Pierce Johnson and Albert Almora are pretty good; Yeiper Castillo makes AA debut

Cubs Minors Recap: Pierce Johnson and Albert Almora are pretty good; Yeiper Castillo makes AA debut
Yeiper Castillo

While the Cubs have prospects at all levels, it's becoming apparent that the star potential is down at the A ball level: Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Alberto Almora and Pierce Johnson -- arguably the Cubs top 4 prospects right now all played well.

Meanwhile the Cubs may have a find in minor league free agent pickup Yeiper Castillo, who was promoted to AA today.

And is Josh Vitters learning to walk?

Iowa Oklahoma City

  • Nick Struck was wild today, giving up 5 free passes in 5.1 innings while striking out 4. He did limit the damage to 3 runs.
  • Zach Putnam pitched 2 scoreless innings to get his 3rd save.  He walked one and struck out 2 and has a 3.44 ERA on the year.
  • Dave Sappelt singled, walked and scored a run to raise his average to .309 since his return to Iowa.
  • Josh Vitters hit his 3rd HR and also walked twice.  It's really, really early for Vitters but he has walked in 10% of his ABs so far this season.  Has the light bulb finally gone on?  He's hitting .271/.343/.444 on the year. They're not numbers that are going to blow you away, but I'd almost take that from Vitters if he can keep it up.

Huntsville 6 - Tennessee 2

  • Yeiper Castillo got the promotion from A ball after posting a 2.33 ERA and 4 walks and 27Ks  in 27 IP.  He didn't miss a beat in AA.  He worked 6 innings, allowing just 3 hits and 1 run.  He did not walk a batter and struck out 7.  Castillo was once a Boston farmhand.  His fastball is in the 90-92 range and peaks at 94. He also features a mid 70s curve, but his best pitch may be his change up which he throws with good arm speed.
  • It's been a struggle for Trey McNutt this year and today he allowed just one walk and one hit, but the hit was a 2 run HR that gave Huntsville the lead for good in the 7th inning.
  • Rubi Silva was the main offensive star, hitting his 8th HR of the year.  His previous career high was 5.  He's also slugging .528, over 100 points over his previous career high of .412.

Lakeland 7 - Daytona 3

  • Ben Wells was cruising along before things started to unravel in the 6th.  In Wells' defense, his defense let him down and he's really become more of a contact pitcher since returning from his injury.  Wells allowed 3 runs (1 earned) in 5+ innings of work.  Wells has 19 walks and 29 Ks in 53 IP this season.
  • LHP Frank Del Valle has been effective this year despite being a bit wild.  Today he walked one but hit 2 batters in 2.1 innings of work.  He also allowed 3 hits.  When all was said and done the damage was 4 runs and a loss.
  • RHP Austin Reed continues to be one of the team's hottest relievers.  He has allowed just on run in his last 14 innings (0.64 ERA) to lower his overall ERA to 5.32.
  • John Andreoli had 3 more hits, including a double, to raise his line to .314/.394/.413 on the year.
  • Javier Baez seems to figuring things out at least on offense.  He didn't walk but did work counts better and singled twice.  His OPS is up to .793.  He has an 11 game hitting streak and has raised his average to .271.  On the flip side, he committed two more errors to give him 22 on the season.
  • The consistent Jorge Soler had a single and a walk in 4 PAs, scoring a run.
  • Guess what Dustin Geiger did?  He drove in runs.  Two of them on two singles to give him 42 on the year. He's hitting .329/.389/.503 on the year.

Kane County 8 - Peoria 1

  • Pierce Johnson is breezing through the MWL and one has to wonder how much longer he's going to stick around.   Johnson gave up just one run in 6.2 innings, walking 2 and striking out 8.  He has an ERA of 3.04 with 14 walks and 53 strikeouts in 47.1 innings.
  • Steve Perakslis is rebounding nicely after a couple of bad outing in the season, the hard-throwing RHP pitched 2.1 perfect innings, striking out 2.   He's had a 1.53 ERA in his last 11 appearances, covering 17.2 innings, lowering his overall ERA to 4.30.
  • Albert Almora showed he has a little patience too, walking twice and hitting a single in 5 PAs.  1n 16 PAs this season, Almora has gotten on base 10 times.
  • Dan Vogelbach singled, walked and scored two runs.
  • The Cubs got a lot of production from a couple of reserves today.  Yaniel Cabezas, who I presume was starting because Willson Contreras bumped the ump yesterday, had a triple, 2 walks and 3 RBI.  David Bote, who started at 2B, had a single and 2 RBI.
  • The Cougars took 7 walks today.  Between Daytona and Kane County, we'll soon see more patient hitters in Chicago.

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  • Baez had 213 ABs @ low A last season before being sent to Daytona. Something tells me Almora won't have that many before he goes south. What I'm wondering is how many prospects will be sent to Tennessee this summer... I'm thinking Soler, Geiger, Bruno, and maybe Baez are all candidates and there really isn't room for them at the next level.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    I think Soler for sure and possibly Geiger. Bruno already skipped MWL, not sure they'll send him to AA with just a 1/2 season or so of ball beyond Boise. Baez is a wild card.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    How nice would it be for Baez to maintain his level of play over the past several weeks and for Almora to dominate the MWL? Having the big three prospects succeed would sure be a boost for the system. On somewhat unrelated notes I think Bruno needs to get pushed up another level if he continues to hit .360... in fact, all these college guys should hit AA asap if they have the tools. I just think the age of a prospect is huge and having older guys languish at lower levels is wasting roster space for younger players with an opportunity to make the show. And I'm interested to see what Brian Smith continues to do @ KC today- he doesn't get any attention but seems to be performing well whenever he pitches. Outside of an outing against Peoria he's been rock solid all year.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    That would be sweet. It's been awhile since the Cubs have had 3 top 50 type prospects and I think there's a chance a few more make the top 100 this year.

    Smith is an interesting guy in that he has above average velo for a LHP, was 90-93 when I saw him last. He has a big curveball that he needs to tighten a little and a change which he uses on RH batters. Some scouts tabbed him as a bit of a sleeper when he was at Boise.

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    Would someone remind me what the story is behind Yeiper Castillo, and why Boston let him walk? Just off hand, his popular stats as a Red Sox's farmhand weren't terrible, and they suggest he had the potential to at least be a reliever, if not a back of the rotation starter.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Yeiper sat out all of 2011 following shoulder surgery and was Rule 5 eligible after 2012. The Red Sox understandably chose not to add him to the 40-man. His numbers were decent as a 23 year old in High-A but with the previous shoulder injury (something much more troublesome than an elbow), the Red Sox didn't protect him and he became a minor league free agent. He apparently signed with the A's sometime around December 14th of last year. But a week later, the Cubs signed him.

    There doesn't seem to be any nefarious activity that would have turned off the Red Sox. Just that he was a young international signing who's clock had run out and was one year removed from shoulder surgery.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Thanks, I knew there was more to the story than I remembered.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    And I'd say middle relief/back end starter is about right when talking about his potential. Key is he's throwing strikes this year. Stuff is solid.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Nice summary Q. Thanks for fielding that one.

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    Last 10 games for Vitters: .323 avg .417/.484/.901ops with 5BB and just 7SO. This is the Josh Vitters I expected to see after a really good year in AAA last year that people forgot about because of the short big league stint.

    If he keeps this up i'll be able to defend him vigorously again lol

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    He's the one guy I look forward to getting to see in the second half. Ransom is the definition of replacement level.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    We all have our favorites ;) Other than the obvious big names, mine this year are Contreras, Alcantara, and Candelario.

  • I was in Smokies park. Castillo was battling, but Huntsville was getting good wood as the Smokies made several good plays behind him.

    Alcantara and Silva look like hitters with quick strong swings, but Alcantara chased a couple of third strikes in the dirt. Villanueva played what looked like a bunt single into an easy out at 1st, but I wish he had a quicker bat.(0for4). Szczur hit the ball hard a couple times and walked once. His approach though looks as if he is protecting an 0-2 count. In general, the Smokies flashed a lot of glove

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Interesting, so you say he had a little BABIP luck. Let's see if he can keep this up then.

    Good stuff 44, thanks for the first hand look.

  • Seems like it's time to move Pierce Johnson along. Many speculated he'd start in high A anyway. Not much left for him to prove at Kane County.

  • has an interesting poll on their home page that asks which team has the best trio of prospects- choices were Astros (Singleton, Correa, Springer), Mariners (Walker, Zunino, Hultzen), Marlins (Yelich, Marisnick, Ozuna), Mets (d'Arnaud, Wheeler, Syndergaard), Red Sox (Bogaerts, Barnes, Bradley), Twins (Sano, Buxton, Gibson). It's a joke that the Cubs main guys weren't listed, and I'd have to put Soler, Baez, & Almora 4th or 5th on this list. Cards would have been up there w/o the graduation of Miller too

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