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Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Brooks cruises; Zagunis homers; Kelli swipes 5 more bags during doubleheader

Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Brooks cruises; Zagunis homers; Kelli swipes 5 more bags during doubleheader
Mark Zagunis

AAA

Iowa 7, Sacramento 3

Game Recap

Aaron Brooks faced off against recent friend Casey Kelly and both put their best foot forward. Brooks pounded the edges of the zone and if it wasn't for the one constant enemy he has faced all year, an unsustainable HR/FB ratio, his day could have been even more solid. He even chipped in an RBI single, his first run batted in of the year. Kelly mixed his pitch types and speeds and kept Sacramento within striking distance. The game came down to the bullpens late and David Garner proved the most effective on the afternoon, finishing the game off with 1.2 perfect innings. Meanwhile Mark Zagunis blasted a two run homer in the seventh, his team-leading 13th on the season, to put the Cubs in the lead for good.

Top Performers

  • Aaron Brooks: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, BB, 6 K (W, 7-9, 5.97)
  • David Garner: 1.2 IP, K, (S, 1, 0.00)
  • Mark Zagunis: 2-4, HR (13), R, 3 RBI, BB
  • Victor Caratini: 2-3, 2 2B, R, RBI, BB
  • Mike Freeman: 2-5, 2 R

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is big (6'4" 235) with a live arm and solid breaking ball. It is easy to see what the front office liked when they acquired him two years ago in exchange for Chris Coghlan. His 2016 was ruined by injury, but he has been nothing short of a workhorse for Iowa this season. Brooks is currently 2nd in the PCL in innings pitched (132.2) and 4th in strikeouts (103). His unsightly 5.97 ERA is clouded by a fluky HR/FB that has led to him being the league leader in home runs allowed, but it also means his xFIP is nearly two runs lower than his ERA on the year. Brooks is out of options after this year, so his long term future with the club is in doubt. If they need a 40 man roster space before the year is out Brooks makes sense as a player to be a designated for assignment. I don't think the 27 year old will pass through waivers unclaimed, so his Cubs career may come to a close without him ever donning a uniform in Chicago, but I can certainly see him carving out a swing man role for a less competitive team over the next few years.

David Garner

David Garner

Another live arm that hasn't received as much coverage from me that he has probably been due is David Garner. He missed most of April, then returned to Tennessee where he had spent an up-and-down 2016 season. The slightly built Garner doesn't strike an imposing figure on the mound, but he can run the ball up there as high as 95, and compliment it with a pretty good breaking ball best described as a slurve. Like most of the Cubs relief prospects in the upper levels control is the stumbling block for Garner. When he limits free passes he is effective and looks like a future middle relief option. Still just 24 years old, the former 7th rounder out of Michigan State has one more year to prove himself worthy of 40 man roster consideration before he will become a free agent post-2018.

For those concerned about the injury to Willson Contreras yesterday, just know that this is why they picked up a proven vet like Alex Avila, and Victor Caratini is continuing to do all he can offensively to provide additional depth should he be called upon. In 7 games since returning to Iowa Caratini is hitting .357/.419/.714 with 6 extra base hits.

Advanced A

Potomac 3, Myrtle Beach 2

Game Recap

Trent Giambrone (photo: Stephanie Lynn)

Trent Giambrone / Photo by Stephanie Lynn

One bad inning is sometimes all it takes. A wild pitch by Thomas Hatch in the bottom of the fourth allowed one run to score, then a triple later in the inning brought in two more, turning a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit. The Pelicans called on the big guns to keep the Nationals at bay after Hatch's exit and Dakota Mekkes and Pedro Araujo responded with three shutout innings. Trent Giambrone homered in the sixth to halve the Potomac lead but the Myrtle Beach comeback attempt ended there.

Top Performers

  • Trent Giambrone: 2-4, HR (12), 2 R, RBI
  • Tyler Alamo: 2-4
  • Thomas Hatch: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 6 K (L, 4-10, 4.20)
  • Dakota Mekkes: 2 IP, H, K (0.90)
  • Pedro Araujo: IP, H, K (1.80)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Thomas Hatch

Thomas Hatch / Photo by Stephanie Lynn

Consistency is the main issue holding back Thomas Hatch at this point. Don't let his 4-10 record and 4.20 ERA fool you, Hatch is having a very strong season, but the big inning has been an issue at times for the first year hurler. His 13.1 SwStr% and 47.3 GB% both place him Top 10 in the Carolina League among qualified starters. The defense behind Hatch has been spotty, and for a pitcher that generates a lot of ground balls that is a big problem, leading to a .354 BABIP (3rd highest in the CL). One thing that has gone Hatch's way is his HR/FB ratio of 2.3% is insanely low, the best in the CL, and despite having the type of stuff that should limit home runs better than most pitchers, that seems like a number due for regression in the opposite direction.

A-

Boise 10, Eugene 2

Game Recap

Alex Lange / Photo by Darin Spangler

Alex Lange / Photo by Darin Spangler

The game began well enough. Chris Singleton and Jared Young walked to leadoff the game and Jhonny Bethencourt followed with an RBI single to stake the Emeralds and starting pitcher Alex Lange to an early lead. Making his second pro start, Lange breezed through the first, but according to Emeralds announcer Pat Zajac he lost his fastball command in the second and it lead to four runs on four hits and a pair of walks. Lange (1.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K) was lifted after recording just two outs. Eugene looked like to have a chance to get back in it. Jesus Camargo was strong closing out the second in place of Lange, and then again in the following two innings, but the wheels came off for him in the fifth. Another crooked number posted by Boise put the game out of reach.

Top Performers

  • Luis Aquino: IP, 3 K (0.81 ERA)
  • Jared Young: 1-4, BB, SB (6)
  • Zach Davis: 2-3, BB
  • Gustavo Polanco: 2-4, 2B

AZL

Athletics 7, Cubs 2

Top Performers

  • Cam Balego: 1-3, 2B, R, BB
  • Jeffrey Passantino: 2 IP, 2 H, K

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Jeffrey Baez

Jeffrey Baez

Jeffrey Baez started in RF and leadoff. It was his first game action in nearly two months.

We don't get a lot of video out of the AZL so it is always nice when it happens. Bobby DeMuro (@BobbyDeMuro) from Baseball Census posted video and scouting reports of raw Cubs slugger prospect Jonathan Sierra and sleeper relief prospect Mitch Stophel. Be sure to check them out. Lots of great info on both. We've discussed Sierra quite a bit around here. He is an impressive and powerful athlete, but has a long way to go. There are several issues with the load and upper body mechanics of his swing in the video provided. He is still just 18 with plenty of time to correct those flaws. Stophel is the Cubs 25th round pick out of King University, a small enough school that I have never heard of it. The intriguing thing about Stophel, beyond his impressive size and strength, is that he did not begin pitching until he was a senior in high school. The power slider (85-87) we see in the video is a strong building block for him in the future.

DSL

Cubs1  5, Pirates  4

Pirates  3, Cubs1  1

Reds 2, Cubs2  1 (8 Innings)

Cubs2  6, Reds  4

Fernando Kelli just can't be stopped on the base paths right now. Five more steals in the double header gives him 54 SB in 54 games on the year, including an incredible 22 in his past 12 contests.

Comments

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  • Kelli (54) has more than twice as many steals as second place in the DSL (26).

  • Can't wait to see what Kelli does when he make it stateside next year. Regardless of the league..he is putting up video game numbers right now.

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    If Kelli does make it to full season ball. Anyone think he could swipe 100 bags in full season?

    He seems to get on base enough and he obviously has the speed. Any chance he's at South Bend next year?

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I don't think any of us can answer that unfortunately. I missed ST this year and have never seen Kelli play in person or even on video. Very little information from the DSL makes its way north. All we have are stats.

    There have been guys who put up similar SB numbers in the DSL that haven't had huge success in that department at higher levels.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Well he's at an 83% success rate, which is fine, but I'd assume that will fall when he's in leagues with more seasoned catchers.

    Maybe that makes him more selective, in which case he probably couldn't even attempt enough to get to 10.

  • In reply to Cubkatz06:

    Ten? That seems oddly pessimistic and arbitrary. If Kelli isn't a true speedster than his success rate could certainly fall as he moves up, but if he is then it could just as easily remain that high or even improve. Catcher arm strength isn't the only thing that improves. Reads and jumps by baserunners can improve as well. For reference, Billy Hamilton had nearly the same success rate in 09/10 in rookie ball. And it doesn't get much faster than Billy Hamilton. 83% is more than fine, it is very good.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Five guys have stolen 50+ bases in the DSL in the past 10 years. One was a vet that never played again. The other four all have at least one 30+ SB season at higher levels, three have a 40+ steal season and one has both a 50+ and a 60+ steal season.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Sorry, meant 100 haha

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    And those are good points.
    I assume that the catchers in the DSL are all raw while in A it's a mix between raw and college guys. But your point is definitely true, doesn't necessarily mater since he could develop the skills to better read situations too.
    Should be a fun to track in rookie ball next year.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Ten does seem a little low. How about 12.5? While, admittedly more aribrary it is also, at least marginally, less pessimistic. LOL.

    Seriously, though, Michael, since "the studs" have graduated/been traded it seems that Kelli is getting WAY more attention. I remember the other day you mentioned he was 19 (I believe) and older than the other DSL kids. Why don't the Cubs put him in Eugene (or done so several weeks ago)? I am sure you have been asked this multiple times but any insight would be appreciated.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    He isn't old for the DSL. The DSL ages range from 17-22. It is just that the cream of the crop usually only play there as 17-18 year olds before moving up. Sometimes you get late risers, or guys that missed time due to injury stay longer.

    There is no hurry with Kelli though. Even if he only plays in the AZL or even NWL as a 20 year old next year that is fine. Keep in mind the players the Cubs just drafted are 21-22 and only a couple of them have even debuted in the MWL.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I am new to the DSL so believed that it was almost exclusively for those signed but still really young for the NWL. Thanks for broadening my knowledge. Beyond his gaudy SB totals his offense seems to be very good. Obviously it is possible he needs work on defense, or maybe refining his game. But a cursory look indicates that he isn't particularly challenged by the level of play so why not challenge him, even if only for a month or so.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    John mentioned a couple of times in the spring that he liked Kelli's defense and speed already, but felt he needed to get stronger in order to become more of a threat at the plate. It seems Kelli may have done that this year or perhaps altered his approach.

    The other thing to keep in mind as far as moving him up to Arizona is they need to have a place to play him. The AZL Cubs OF is pretty full right now. Gutierrez is playing well in CF and Sierra and Velazquez are two raw but promising prospects playing the corners. They also have Jeffrey Baez rehabbing there at the moment. I'm as excited as anyone to see what he can do, but there really is no rush.

  • Might Zagunis get an opportunity in September to provide Pinch Hitting depth?

    Long term, do they get Zagunis more reps in CF & some at 1B to give him the flexibility that Maddon likes for his bench? Or with Almora and Happ, CF is less of a priority?

  • In reply to Gator:

    Absolutely. He'll be up.

    1B, maybe, but frankly Contreras needs that backup 1B role as a way to help keep his bat in lineup as often as possible. Caratini will also get reps there.

    Zagunis is not a CF though. They tried it a few times, but he just isn't a good enough OF. Happ lessens the need for it, especially with Jay still around. And while they really haven't needed to do it, Javy would be a much better CF option than anyone they have save Almora.

  • Poor Sierra. Those were about the worst at bats anyone could ever want on a scouting video. The Rangers had his number that day.

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