Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Underwood records best start of career; Miller does likewise; Little with four shutout

AAA

Omaha 6, Iowa 5

Game Recap

Seth Frankoff (4 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 3 K) turned in perhaps his worst performance of the season, completely losing control in the second inning. He walked a man and threw two wild pitches and also left hittable pitches in the zone. Omaha scored four times in the frame. Frankoff also walked the bases loaded in the third, but escaped without further damage. Iowa ended up fighting back to make a game of it, in fact it ended up as the PCL-leading 41st one-run game played by the I-Cubs. Chesny Young poked his first AAA home run as part of the comeback effort.

Top Performers

  • John Andreoli: 3-4, 2 R, BB, SB (19)
  • Chesny Young: 1-3, HR (1), R, RBI, BB
  • Stephen Bruno: 3-4, R, RBI
  • Taylor Davis: 2-5, RBI
  • Mark Zagunis: 1-2, 3 BB
  • Brad Markey: 3 IP, 3 H, R, 3 K

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Brad Markey

Brad Markey

Brad Markey spent the past year and a two thirds in Tennessee, 2016 as a starter, and this season as a reliever. He proved a reliable innings eater last year, but Markey possesses just one above average pitch (breaking ball) and while he commands his fastball well, as a starter the velocity tended to be in the high-80s. In shorter stints his fastball sits higher and allows him to work with two average or better pitch, along with a usable changeup. As expected, his K rate jumped way up, nearly doubling in fact. Markey is still not an overpowering option out of the pen, but is capable of working multiple innings and does not show significant platoon splits.

Three more walks by Mark Zagunis (70) extended his league lead over Dan Vogelbach (66).

AA

Tennessee 6, Biloxi 0

Game Recap

The Smokies bats got things off on the right foot. Jason Vosler and Yasiel Balaguert homered in the top of the first as part of a four-run inning. It would prove more than enough for Duane Underwood, Jr. The big righty was overpowering, allowing just one hit and no walks (one hit batter) over seven innings, while he punched out six and kept the ball on the ground when they did make contact (8-4 AO-GO). He was tossing a no-hitter until a soft liner into center in the sixth inning. It was reminiscent of his breakout season in Kane County back in 2014. Preston Morrison finished the game off with two shutout innings.

Top Performers

  • Duane Underwood, Jr.: 7 IP, H, HBP, 6 K (W, 12-5, 4.15)
  • Preston Morrison: 2 IP, H, HBP, 2 K (5.43 ERA)
  • Yasiel Balaguert: 1-3, HR (13), 2 R, RBI, BB
  • Jason Vosler: 1-4, HR (16), R, 2 RBI
  • Charcer Burks: 1-5, HR (8), R, RBI
  • Andrew Ely: 1-3, 2 RBI, SF
  • Ozzie Martinez: 2-4, 2 2B, R
  • Erick Castillo: 2-4, 2B

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Yasiel Balaguert

Yasiel Balaguert

Inconsistency has been an issue, but Duane Underwood, Jr. has quietly put together one of the better seasons in the Cubs system. Most important, he has stayed healthy, after nagging injuries have plagued him the past two seasons. He is one start away from tying his career high set in 2014 and has already blown past his career high in innings pitched (115.0). I stated many times that the biggest thing I wanted to see from Underwood this season was to stay on the mound and just reestablish a rhythm of pitching every five days. His natural ability would take over from there. He has been especially good of late. Some questioned my mid-season ranking of Underwood, and many had given up on him as a starting pitcher option, but Underwood has never lost stuff in spite of his struggles at times. Health has really been his biggest hurdle. Since a disastrous start on June 3rd that saw him give up 9 runs on 12 hits in 3.2 IP, Underwood has responded with an 8-1 record with a 3.07 ERA, allowing just 51 hits in 64.2 IP. A big change from earlier in the season is that he has gotten back to generating ground balls. He was recording more air outs than ground outs in April and May, but since the beginning of June he has seen his ground ball rate steadily climb and is now reaching near his previous career norms.

It has been quite a second half rebound for slugger Yasiel Balaguert as well. Prior to the break he posted a paltry .225/.275/.342 line with 35 RBI in 65 games and it appeared his aggressive approach may not be conducive to success at this level, but he has figured it out since then. In 44 games since the break he has knocked in 29 runs, putting him in striking distance of Jason Vosler for the team lead, and is hitting .292/.353/.500.

Advanced A

Carolina 4, Myrtle Beach 1

Game Recap

Michael Rucker posted a quality start but a first inning solo shot by P.J. Higgins is the only offense the Pelicans could muster in support.

Top Performers

  • P.J. Higgins: 2-3, HR (4), R, RBI, BB
  • Michael Rucker: 6 IP, 7 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, BB 4 K (L, 4-3, 2.21)
  • Scott Effross: 2 IP, H, BB, 2 K

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

The homer elevated P.J. Higgins' SLG above .300 for the year. A rough first half (.225/.317/.275) is behind him and the numbers he is putting up since the break are more in line with what to expect from the athletic catcher (.250/.343/.347).

A

South Bend 5, Dayton 2

Game Recap

Tyson Miller

Tyson Miller

It was a night for Cubs prospects turning in their best professional starts. In South Bend Tyson Miller hurled six innings, allowing only two unearned runs on three hits. He struck out six and walked only one. The two runs did put the Cubs in an early hole. Austin Upshaw tied the game in the sixth with a two-run single and then Yeiler Peguero put the Cubs ahead for good in the seventh, knocking in Alberto Mineo with a bases loaded hit. Chad Hockin and Wyatt Short shut down the Dragons over the final three innings.

Top Performers

  • Tyson Miller: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, BB, 6 K (4.63 ERA)
  • Chad Hockin: 2 IP, H, K (W, 2-3, 4.37)
  • Wyatt Short: IP, BB, K (S, 12, 3.42)
  • Andruw Monasterio: 1-2, 2 R, BB, HBP
  • Alberto Mineo: 2-4, R
  • Yelier Peguero: 2-4, R, RBI
  • Austin Upshaw: 1-4, 2 RBI

A-

Eugene 3, Spokane 2

Game Recap

Brendon Little / Photo by Darin Spangler

Brendon Little / Photo by Darin Spangler

This one is cheating because it was only his third career start, and his first two were pretty lackluster, but Brendon Little had the best game of his pro career as well. It was my first time getting a look at the 6'1" lefty and he made a nice first impression. He worked with his fastball in the upper 80s according to the stadium gun, but the announcers mentioned it tends to run 1-2 MPH below that of scouts. He also featured his huge, slow curve prominently. I don't know why I was expecting him to throw a hard curve in the low 80s, but for some reason that was the impression I got from reading scouting reports, when in fact the pitch is much more similar to the big breakers that Sean Marshall used to throw in the low 70s. Little also mixed in a solid changeup over four shutout innings.

Eugene would squander a 2-0 lead in the middle innings. The game extended into extras. In the bottom of the tenth, recent call up Ramsey Romano knocked in another recent addition, Chris Singleton with a walk-off single.

Top Performers

  • Brendon Little: 4 IP, 3 H, BB, 3 K (9.35 ERA)
  • Brian Glowicki: 3 IP, 2 H, BB 3 K (W, 1-2, 3.52)
  • Austin Filiere: 2-4, RBI, BB
  • Brandon Hughes: 1-3, 2 BB, SB (5)



AZL

Cubs 7, D'Backs 3

Top Performers

  • Alfredo Colorado: 5 IP, 4 H, R, 3 BB, 5 K (W, 1-4, 4.79)
  • Brendon King: 3 IP, 3 H, R, 4 K
  • Jose Gutierrez: 2-4, 3B, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB (4)
  • Jeffrey Baez: 1-2, R, RBI, BB, SB (2)
  • Nelson Velazquez: 1-4, 2B, RBI
  • Fidel Mejia: 2-4, 2B, R
  • Cam Balego: 1-3, 2B, 2 R, BB

DSL

Rangers1  3, Cubs1  1

Rangers2  6, Cubs2  2

Comments

Leave a comment
  • So encouraged by Underwood's recent performance. His stats over the last 5 appearances is really good and gives hope he can be an option late next season into 2019. As John always said, development isn't linear. Let's hope DU's development takes off from here.

    Mike - Is it reasonable to think that Little and Lange would start next year at MB?

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I think Lange will, just as Hatch did this year.

    Not sure about Little. He didn't pitch as much in recent years. They may want to control his innings early in the year. I wouldn't be shocked to see him begin the year in EXST. But he will be in full season ball, either in SB or MB.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Very encouraging from Underwood.

    I think I'm the only one who has stuck with him through thick and thin. Been seeing him tumble down prospect rankings on other sites all year. I never dropped him. His stuff never suffered. Just couldn't stay on the mound the last two years, but never had a major injury that affected his long term outlook. His first couple of months were puzzling, sometimes he was striking guys out, sometimes he was a ground ball pitcher, sometimes a fly ball guy. He seems to have rediscovered his game though in the second half. Heavy fastball and mix in the two breaking balls and changeup. He has four average or better pitches. Doesn't always have all four working in each start, but if he can ever dial in all of them, the ceiling is 4 above average-to-plus offerings.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    With his size, I always thought that he would be a high strikeout guy. Does he project to be more of a ground ball/low pitch count guy or does he have the stuff to be a 9+K/9 innings type of pitcher.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    It's... possible.

    If he reaches his ceiling Underwood could be both a ground ball and strike out pitcher. But that is a high bar and there are very few guys like that in the majors. It would make him a TOR guy. Realistically he will settle in below that. His command is not sharp enough to be a traditional low pitch count guy at this point, but he throws with good plane, making his ball "heavy" so even when he gives up hard contact more often it is on the ground or on a line than as a potential homer.

    One concern I do have is that Underwood doesn't get the same kind of awkward swings that you would expect from a guy with his stuff. If you are familiar with the concept of pitch tunneling it is possible that Underwood may suffer from inconsistent release points or his pitches moving too "early" which allows hitters to distinguish the pitch type and speed earlier in flight than other pitchers. There are enough similarities between Underwood and Eddie Butler in my mind that Underwood could suffer the same issues of his stuff not playing up to the level that it looks like it should. Command has something to do with it, but also that lack of deception, and a hitter feeling comfortable in recognizing pitches.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I was one who was convinced Underwood's days as a possible major league starter were done. Sooo happy to be wrong and have him extend that possibility into next season.

  • Yeah I think that's reasonable. Hatch started there this year

  • Good to see Milt Markey back in the recaps. Dig the retro burns....

  • fb_avatar

    I am surprised that Little only registered in the upper 80's for his FB. Even allowing for a slow gun, I had read earlier scouting reports that he had a mid-90's FB. Maybe it's lower now because he hasn't pitched very much lately or is taking it easy, but that's very slow in my mind.
    I am encouraged that Underwood had such an impressive start. Like many here I feel that if he can stay healthy he can be a productive part of the major league staff.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Yep, it may have to do with the layoff between his college season and his pro debut. I don't know college pitchers off season throwing schedule, but he may have never finished a season and then started up again a couple months later.

    He could be working on a tweak in mechanics or some different pitches. Dead arm period. Or maybe he just lost the velo and it will never come back for some reason. It could be a lot of things.

    I do know from watching Emeralds game that the stadium gun is known to be a couple ticks slow, so maybe the difference isn't that big.

Leave a comment