So Junior Lake gets hurt and Arismendy Alcantara continues to mash. Could there be a connection here? Alcantara surpassed the 300 PA mark today but the Cubs like their players to get 500 PAs at Iowa, so we may have to wait and see. Another Iowa player, Kyle Hendricks made his 21st start at the AAA level and he is looking ready to contribute as well. The waves are coming.
We also have some video, pics, and thoughts (in italics) from "The Sinister Urge" today who is in Colorado Springs and attended the Iowa games yesterday.
On with the recap, lots of games to cover!
All statistics combined for the 2 games
- Kyle Hendricks went 6 innings and allowed a pair of runs, both coming on a rare HR allowed by Hendricks. It was just the 4th long ball he has given up this year. Hendricks also walked 2 and struck out 4. All in all not a bad outing in a very difficult pitching environment. Hendricks moved to 9-5 with a 3.52 ERA (3.11 FIP). Perhaps most importantly, he isn't doing this with smoke and mirrors. We mentioned the low HR total, it's part of Hendricks' effort to keep the ball on the ground and in the park. He has an excellent 1.8 GO/AO ratio. He has struck out 8.3 batters per 9 IP (23.1%) while walking just 2.2 per p IP (5.9%). Perhaps the most amazing thing about Hendricks is that he has been better in some ways this year than in his brilliant 2013 AA season. He continues to adapt and improve as the level of competition rises.
- Carlos Pimentel didn't fare as well in the other game, lasting just 2 innings after allowing 5 hits and 3 walks, leading to 4 early runs and an early exit. Pimentel is 1-4 with a 4.56 ERA.
- Arodys Vizcaino pitched a scoreless inning as he continues to rebuild stamina. As I've said, I don't expect to see him until September when the Cubs can better control his innings as rosters expand.
- Arismendy Alcantara is absolutely raking since a solid but unspectacular start to the season. He went 3 for 7 with 2 doubles and his 9th HR of the season. Like Hendricks, he has actually gotten better as he has moved up each level. That is the sign of a good ballplayer and it won't be long before we see Alcantara in a Cubs uniform. He is now hitting .293/.337/.534 with 21 doubles, 10 triples, 9 HRs, and 18 SBs. If that is not enough, he also made a great defensive play on a diving stop. Video of his HR below, courtesy of The Sinister Urge...
- Ryan Kalish is starting to find a rhythm with regular playing time, he went 4 for 7 with 2 doubles, 2 runs scored, 2 RBI, and 2 SBs. Deuces wild for the lefty hitting outfielder.
- Javier Baez is starting to pick up steam again. After a hot streak that saw him raise his batting average nearly 100 points earlier this year, he fell back into a slump -- but it looks like he may be putting it together again. Hopefully for good this time. He went 4 for 8 over the 2 games with 2 doubles and 2 runs scored. He also drove in a run. Baez has hit .342/.390/.500 in his last 10 games and is hitting .237/.291/.435 overall with 11 HRs and 14 SBs. Baez seemed anxious a bit early, but ended up with four hits between the two games, including two doubles. There was a bit of a scary moment early in the second game, as the trainer had to go out to second to check on him. My guess, having experienced it a bit before, was that he had some altitude issues, or perhaps dehydration. He stayed in the rest of the game, though, so we won't worry too much, I think. Javy also saved the cubs a run on defense in the first game with an excellent reaction play. With one out and a runner on third, the infield was in. Hendricks gave up a solid line drive, which Javy had to move quickly to his left to make the grab. Saved a run, and Hendricks got out of the inning with no further damage.
- Chris Valaika went 2 for 4 with a double, run scored and an RBI.
- Kris Bryant got his first non-HR hits at AAA Iowa, going 2 for 6 with a double, single, and 2 walks. Bryant is hitting .259/.375/.852 with 5 HRs in his first 8 games, but Sinister Urge notes that he still has work to do before he is ready for the bigs as the numbers don't tell the whole story, "He showed a patient approach, and got his first non-homer hits of the season, but also struggled as the Sky Sox pitchers changed speeds and eye levels. On defense, he looked pretty good, starting a double-play in the second game, but was also bailed out by Logan Watkins on a throw in the dirt to first. He also missed a throw from the outfield that, while it bounced, looked catchable, and went into the dugout for another run."
- Rafael Lopez went 1 for 2 with a run scored, RBI, and a walk. He has now had just over 50 PAs at Iowa and he has held his own so far, hitting .283/.365/.348 with 1 HR. We haven't seen a lot of extra base power so far, but Lopez should at least hit for doubles power.
- Manny Ramirez made his debut in LF and went 0 for 4.
- Corey Black started a combined shutout with 5 scoreless frames in which he walked 2 and struck out 3. Black moved to 3-5 with a 3.03 ERA (FIP 4.14). Black has continued to show swing and miss stuff with just over a strikeout per inning, but he has also trimmed his walks down a bit, getting it under the 5 per 9 IP mark after today's start.
- LHP Hunter Cervenka continued his excellent season with two scoreless innings in which he did not walk a batter and struck out one. His biggest improvement has been with his walk rate, which he has at 3.45 per 9 IP. Still a big high but he may be getting to the point where he can be a situational reliever in the majors. Lefties have hit just .135 vs. Cervenka and he has posted a 0.88 FIP. Cervenka has a 2.87 ERA overall with a 2.38 FIP while striking out 11.2 hitters per 9 IP.
- PJ Francescon capped the shutout with 1.2 scoreless innings to lower his ERA on the season to 3.12.
- Stephen Bruno got his average back up to .300 with a 2 for 5 day. The OBP/Slugging/OPS line is at a healthy .377/.455/.832 in 200 AA ABs. He'll be a guy to watch next year at AAA as I expect him to finish this season at AA.
- Christian Villanueva went 2 for 5 and continues to take his demotion in stride, hitting .364 since being sent down. He also scored a run and drove in another.
- Justin Amlung didn't pitch badly, going 5 innings and allowing 2 walks and striking out 4. He kept the team in the game as they wre down 3-2 when he left the game, then actually rallied to take the lead only to lose it later. Amlung got a no-decision and his ERA is an even 6.00 since his promotion to Daytona.
- Yao-Lin Wang returned to Daytona and immediately contributed 3 scoreless innings as the D-Cubs tied the game.
- Michael Jensen got the tough luck loss as a throwing error by Marco Hernandez led to 2 unearned runs. Jensen did not walk a batter and struck out 2 in his one inning, lowering his ERA to 2.60 (3.61 FIP). He has missed bats this year (8.56 Ks per 9 IP) with his solid fastball and excellent curve, but the control isn't yet where he wants it to be (4.15 BB per 9 IP).
- Albert Almora extended his hitting streak to 8 games with a 1 for 3 day. He also walked, drove in a run, and scored. Almora is hitting .254 on the year and is hitting .333 during the streak.
- Bijan Rademacher went 1 for 3 with a walk.
- Dan Vogelbach went 1 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
- Marco Hernandez had a mixed bag of a day, getting 2 hits, including a double, and scoring on a run. Unfortunately, he made a key error late in the game that allowed the winning runs to score. It has still been a good season overall for Hernandez, particularly with the bat as he raised his average to .276. He still has a lot of work to do but at least seems to be headed in the right direction this year.
- Daury Torrez isn't going to wow you with his velo or his breaking stuff but he has good run on a low 90s fastball and when he commands it, as he did in this game, that can be an above average or plus pitch for him. Torrez did not walk a batter and struck out 7 while also inducing 12 ground ball outs in 8 brilliant shutout innings. He has quietly had a great season at Kane County, going 8-3 with a 3.14 ERA (3.83 FIP). He throws strikes and he keeps the ball down, which is an effective formula. He still doesn't miss a lot of bats but there is still time for him to develop a better swing and miss offering.
- James Pugliese completed the shutout with a scoreless inning to lower his ERA to 1.24.
- Kyle Schwarber just keeps mashing the baseball. He went 2 for 3 with a double. He also walked to raise his line to .455/.538/.864 with 2 HRs in 7 games. He also scored twice and drove in a run. Starting to wonder if the AZ Fall League might be a nice challenge for him this offseason.
- Ben Carhart and Jacob Rogers both nearly matched Schwarbers solid day with Carhart scoring one less run and Rogers getting 2 singles rather than a single and a double.
- Trey Martin continues to give hints that maybe he is figuring it out at the plate but has not yet done it consistently. He doubled today and drove in 2 runs.
- It's been a real tough start to the season for Erick Leal who had his second straight poor outing, though he didn't get a lot of help from his defense. Leal gave up 7 runs in 2.2 innings, though only 4 were earned.
- Relievers Greyfer Eguera and David Garner were able to close the flood gates but by that time this game was well under water. Eguera pitched 3 innings of one hit, scoreless baseball while walking none and striking out 4. Garner pitched a scoreless innings, walking one and striking out 2,
- Rashad Crawford doubled and tripled in 4 ABs to raise his average to .243.
- Justin Marra is one of the more reliable hitters on this team and he showed that with a 2 for 3 day, including a double, to raise his average to .325 to start the year.
- Adbert Alzolay had a mixed start, going 4 innings without a walk and striking =out 4. He did give up 4 runs but only 2 were earned.
- Gerardo Concepcion is back on the comeback trail and pitched in a scoreless inning.
- LHP Sam Wilson threw a scoreless inning and Andin Diaz went 3 innings without allowing a run to earn a much deserved victory as the Cubs rallied to win the game. Good performance overall by the bullpen.
- Jorge Soler is back after a couple of days off and promptly hit a 2 run HR. He also walked twice. If only he could stay healthy because whenever he plays, he hits.
- 3rd round pick Mark Zagunis made is pro debut and started his pro career with a good all-around day, going 1 for 3 with a double, walk, RBI, and run scored, Nice way to break in and contribute right off the bat.
- Charcer Burks saved his best for last today, hitting the go-ahead HR to cap the AZL Cubs big rally. It was his first HR of the season and he is hitting .524 in his first 5 games.
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