Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Abbott, Thompson and Robinson deliver brilliant starts

Cory Abbott (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Cory Abbott (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

AAA

Nashville 3, Iowa 2

Game Recap

The Iowa offense continues to sputter. Near the bottom in all major offensive categories, they managed just seven hits in this one, while striking out 14 times. Alec Mills (4.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) took the loss. The usually reliable righty has struggled with control over his first two starts. He has now walked 7 batters in 8.2 innings to begin the year.

Top Performers

  • Michael Roth: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K
  • Mark Zagunis: 2-3, 2B, RBI, BB
  • Wynton Bernard: 2-4, SB (2), CS

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

The team was cautious with him during spring training and then an ankle sprain set him back a bit further, but after a 75-pitch outing in Mesa on Saturday Adbert Alzolay joined his teammates in Des Moines today. He will take the place of Michael Roth in the Iowa rotation and likely make his debut the end of this week, weather depending.

Michael Roth's demotion from the rotation was certainly not performance based. He did not allow a run in either of his two starts and tossed 4.2 scoreless innings in relief Tuesday. Overall, he has allowed 8 hits and 6 walks across 14 innings.

AA

Tennessee 6, Montgomery 1 (10 Innings)

Game Recap

Duncan Robinson (by Stephanie Lynn)

Duncan Robinson (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

It took extras but the Smokies offense finally broke through with a crooked number in the 10th inning to put an end to what proved to be a fun pitcher's duel between Zach Lee and Duncan Robinson (0-0, 1.93). Each gave up just one run. Lee went seven while Robinson struck out four over his six innings of work.

The Smokies continued the example set by Robinson. James Norwood and Daury Torrez each contributed a pair of shutout innings while allowing just one base runner apiece. Torrez would earn the victory as the Smokies bats came alive just as the Montgomery arms lost control in the 10th. Combined, it led to five runs. Trent Giambrone doubled home the winning run while Yasiel Balaguert, who knocked in the lone Smokies run during the first nine, added a capped the scoring with two insurance runs on a two-out single.

The defensive play of the night was turned in by Zack Short:


Top Performers

  • Duncan Robinson: 6 IP, 6 H, R, 4 K, 8-3 GO-AO (82 P, 54 S)
  • James Norwood: 2 IP, BB, 2 K
  • Daury Torrez: 2 IP, H (W, 1-0, 0.00)
  • Yasiel Balaguert: 2-5, 2B, 3 RBI
  • Trent Giambrone: 2-4, 2B, R, RBI, SB (4)
  • Trey Martin: 2-3, R, BB, SB (4)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Robinson's first start of the season was a rain-shortened two inning stint.

The Smokies have been very aggressive (and successful) on the base paths so far. They lead the Southern League with 17 swiped bags against just 2 caught stealing. Trent Giambrone and Trey Martin both stole their 4th on the season Tuesday to tie Eddy Martinez for the team lead. The trio sits in a tie for 4th overall in the League.

Advanced A

Buies Creek 6, Myrtle Beach 2

Game Recap

Keegan Thompson (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Keegan Thompson (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

His first two starts were a bit of a struggle but Keegan Thompson encounters no such issues in his third start. Unfortunately, it would not result in his first win of the season. Despite five shutout innings, the Pelicans bullpen could not hold a one run lead after his departure. In fact, they couldn't even keep the team in the game, surrendering six runs over the final three innings.

It certainly didn't help that the offense managed just two run on three hits. This a day after being one-hit. I guess those two consecutive 14 run outbursts this weekend are not something we should expect with regularity.

Top Performers

  • Keegan Thompson: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 K
  • Kevonte Mitchell: 1-2, 2B, R, RBI, BB
  • P.J. Higgins: 1-3, 2B, BB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Kevonte Mitchell

Kevonte Mitchell

D.J. Wilson may not be hitting much to this point (.136), but he has drawn one walk in each of the seven games he has played this season. His OBP sits at a respectable .349.

A day after breaking up a no-hitter in the 8th, Kevonte Mitchell collected the Pelicans only RBI of the game, and also racked up his first extra base hit of the season. He has stolen four bases in four attempts and now has seven hits during his current four-game hitting streak to raise his line to .286/.342/.314 on the season.

A

Dayton 3, South Bend 2

Game Recap

Jared Young (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Jared Young (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Not to be outdone by Robinson or Thompson, Cory Abbott matched them pitch for pitch. And for a while it appeared the Cubs would hang on to win this one. It would have been justice for Abbott who was brilliant over five one-hit innings. The only run he allowed was unearned after a fielding error at third base by Austin Filiere. A Jared Young (.406/.472/.844) homer would tie it at 1-1 and then Filiere would make amends in the 5th when he singled home Young to give the Cubs a one run lead and put Abbott in line for the win.

Abbott was ruthlessly efficient with his pitch count, as he mixed his 90-91 mph fastball with his plus slider and improving curve, but he reached his five inning limit and was lifted in favor of Brendon Little. He promptly walked the bases loaded and very nearly reached the 30-pitch limit in his first inning of work, but he wriggled out of it unscathed. In the next inning he did likewise despite back-to-back one out singles. Fastball command continues to be a major issue for Little. He missed the zone with regularity in his first inning then frequently caught too much of the plate in the next inning.

Brendon Little (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Brendon Little (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Another lefty, Yapson Gomez, came on in the bottom of the 8th looking to preserve the lead but a lead off double, a pair of wild pitches, and a sacrifice fly later resulted in the Cubs losing the lead and Abbott's work going for naught. The loss also snapped the Cubs five-game winning streak.

Top Performers

  • Cory Abbott: 5 IP, H, R, 0 ER, BB, 5 K (58 P, 42 S)
  • Brendon Little: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, K
  • Jared Young: 2-4, 2B, HR (2), 2 R, RBI
  • Austin Filiere: 1-3, RBI, BB
  • Yeiler Peguero: 2-3, 2B, BB
  • Miguel Amaya: 1-3, BB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Utility man Jared Young has a 1.316 OPS over his first 8 games, good for 3rd in the MWL.

The Cubs have released former South Bend Cubs 1B/OF Joe Martarano. The burly former Boise State football player had a strong year in Eugene at the plate, but struggled after a promotion to South Bend and was then unable to earn a job with the club out of spring training.

Comments

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  • Is Roth truly demoted? or is he in full Piggyback mode. It seems so far that they seem to be rotating among the starting 5 to keep everyone stretched out.

  • What is the deal with Little? Pardon my ignorance, but was he injured this spring and that is why he had a 30 pitch limit?

    Would have hoped that Lange and Little might be a bit further along right now.

    You have touted Abbot before Micheal and looks like he is fast becoming someone to watch. Really looking forward to Alzolay’s start on Thursday.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Sorry, I don't really have a name or a good way to describe that situation. The 30-pitch limit for a single inning applies to all Cubs pitchers. They don't want a guy getting overworked in a single inning. It is simply an organizational decision to safeguard all of their arms.

    Little hit that mark in after 2/3 of an inning in his first start and was lifted. He required 27 pitches to get out of his first inning of work last night. The Cubs had a pitcher warming up in the pen at the time. If Little had not gotten the final out of the inning against the batter he faced, he would have been pulled, but he did and then the Cubs allowed him to work the next inning.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Little is raw. The Cubs knew that going in. he threw just 4 innings as a freshman at North Carolina, then after an impressive summer in the Cape Cod league that saw him touching 95-97 he transferred to a JUCO in Florida and pitched against low level competition there. He is a year younger than typical college draftees.

    The Cubs are banking on his upside and that they can eventually get him to throw strikes consistently. He's been working in the 91-93 range in his two outings with good life on his fastball. His big curveball is a legit out pitch and his changeup, while inconsistent flashes above average as well. So, if it all comes together the Cubs could end up with a lefty starter with 3 above-avg-to-plus pitches. That is rare. And they deemed him worth the risk.

    Lange on the other hand is very experienced. He was the Friday night starter for LSU since he was a freshman. LSU is one of the top programs in the country and Lange regularly faced stiff competition against tough SEC lineups.

    His curve ball is a legit hammer that would elicit whiffs at the MLB level right now. The question is with the rest of his game. His fastball is average. He rarely needed to use his change in college due to the dominance of his curve, but he has shown decent feel for it this year. I'm not ready to declare it an out pitch, but it looks like he can develop it into a usable pitch without issue.

    His delivery has some effort and while his control is good, his command is not very precise. Some believe this could force him to the pen eventually, and I admit he could move quickly and be good in that role by heavily featuring his curve, but the Cubs are making the right call continuing to develop him as a starter. It will force him to use his changeup. The extra innings might help him fine tune his command as well. I think his ceiling is likely a #3-4 starter, but he still has late inning reliever as a fallback option.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Abbott just looks the part. I can't necessarily put my finger on it, but he just looks comfortable on the mound and seems to understand how to pitch. He mixes four pitches with solid command for the most part and his slider is a legit out pitch.

    That doesn't mean he is without risk. Abbott is a fly ball pitcher that works up in the zone a lot, despite not possessing an overpowering fastball. He works at 90-93 and appears to have a bit of natural late cutting action to his ball that prevents guys from squaring him up right now, but that may change against more advanced hitters. His curve and change are usable but nothing special. He has done a better job of keeping his curve down in the zone this year. With Eugene at the end of last year he was finishing too many of them in he zone for my taste.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thanks for the detailed feedback. Really good stuff.

  • Keep that pitching train chugging.

    I’m liking Jared Young. Hope he keeps progressing along. They could use a position prospect rising star or 2.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Me, too. The South Bend team in general looks like an exciting team to watch. I can see some of these guys in the MLB in a few years.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Me too. I was so focused on getting a read on all the new pitchers from the 2017 draft class that I didn't pay much attention to Young, Upshaw, Hughes, Filiere, Carrier or Singleton last fall.

    I've had some more time since then to watch them and Young is without a doubt my favorite from the group. I like his swing, he is willing to use the whole field and has enough pop to do some damage. I'm not sure he has a natural position, but he is a good enough athlete that I think he can settle in somewhere or at least handle multiple spots on a part time basis as a utility man.

    Upshaw should be a solid contact hitter, but even more so than Young, I worry where he profiles defensively. His swing is very much geared toward line drives right now. He has some strength, but unless he alters his swing it won't translate to over the fence power. But that option remains open to him. If he ends up as a CIF only then I don't think the bat will play very well unless he does alter his approach, but if he retains the versatility to play some 2B and maybe COF he becomes more viable.

    Filiere has legit power. He has legit plate discipline. But he is also stiff and susceptible to offspeed pitches away. A lot of swing-and-miss to his game right now. Another concern I have is his defense. He has really struggled at 3B. His hands are not great and that stiffness he shows at the plate also comes into play in the field. His throwing arm is strong but not always accurate. If he is forced over to 1B it puts that much more pressure on his bat.

    Hughes is a nice athlete, and a good base runner from what I've seen so far. Isn't perfect in the OF, but should be able to handle all three spots. Has good size, but needs to get stronger and to translate some of that into his swing. The ball does not jump off his bat the way you would expect from a 6'2" 215 pounder. There is talent to work with but isn't refined offensively or defensively.

    Carrier and Singleton are both great stories. Carrier suffers from a rare disease and underwent emergency surgery to relieve a blood clot in his arm that could have killed him in 2015. Just getting back on the field and drafted is an accomplishment. He is a good athlete for a COF/1B with some speed and power, but he has massive contact issues right now, striking out nearly 50% of the time since turning pro.

    Singleton's mother was killed in a church shooting when he was in high school. He has overcome that loss and hardship and comes across as a genuinely positive human being and the type of player you want to see succeed. He is a great athlete with good speed that can handle CF without issue. Still a work in progress at the plate however. Has some strength and flashes decent plate discipline, but there are contact issues he needs to address.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Nice info. Thanks.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Michael, while in AZ at the backfields, I got a chance to talk awhile and take a pic with Singleton. Your absolutely right, a nice kid and easy to root for.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Singleton's mother was one of the people killed in that church shooting in South Carolina by that idiot back in 2016 (I'm not going to say the shooter's name -- it doesn't deserve to be mentioned). You really hope for good things for him -- he's already had more than enough bad stuff happen that he really didn't deserve.

  • Iowa game today is postponed, but it sounds like Alzolay will make his debut on Thursday, weather permitting of course

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Crazy “spring”... We’ve had some weird ones before but I don’t remember anything this prolonged where it’s postponed so many games.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I'm in Iowa and about an hour ago we were experience thunder sleet. I'm a couple of hours away from Des Moines but they are receiving the same weather system.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Someone tell Mother Nature that it’s April 18th, not April 1st...

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Sleeting/pouring here now. NW subs.

  • Wow Abbot pitches 5 innings of shut out ball and only throws 58 pitches. Can he talk to the Cubs starting rotation and give them a few pointers?

  • In reply to John57:

    Sorry it was not a shut out, he did give up an unearned run. I still think I am going to like this guy.

  • In reply to John57:

    Same here.

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    The cardinals just called up another beast in Tyler O'Neill. Geesh just saw a pic of that guy and he makes Carlos Stanton look small. It absolutely disqusts me what Theo and co has done to our farm system. He gave away our only true everyday prospect for a damn 4th or 5th starter and his scouting dept couldn't spot a great pitching arm if he was throwing 120mph fastballs at their car as they drove away to sign a broken down college pitcher who cant't hit 85 mph on a fast gun. This is sad. The cubs should had been sellers last year at the trade deadline and kept their prospects and hopefully pick up a few good ones in some trades because they weren't going to go far in the playoffs because the Dodgers were a far superior team and if they had pulled off a miracle and beat the dodgers they were going to get swept by the Stro's anyway. Theo destroyed the Cubs chances of being a dynasty,,,absolutely destroyed their chances. Now the cards with all their great young arms are now positioned to dominate the NL central for years to come. Sad..really sad. I look for Theo to jump ship soon.

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    In reply to Greg Simmons:

    HAHAH. A guy listed at 5'11 makes Giancarlo Stanton look small? Do you say these things just to one up yourself in stupidity every day?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    it was just posted on mlb.com that O'Neill is the strongest man in baseball. Check it out if you don't believe me

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Greg Simmons:

    My point was anyone whose under 6 ft tall is never going to remind anyone of Stanton let alone make him look small. FYI, just in case you were just born in this world, its a lot easier to be short and stout. When your 6'4 6'5 6'6 and jacked, then your a physical specimen.

    So now if your the strongest man, your going to be all of sudden be dangerous in a skill sport where the experts say getting too muscular hurts your game. So your telling me Arnold Swartznegger aka the governor would have been a great ball player in his prime?

    When we don't think you can top yourself, you find a way to.

    I hope for your sake they make O'Neill fat heads or posters so you can hang it up in your locker when you go to class tomorrow.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    He is strong but he still struck out against Jon Lester. Lester had a pretty good day, 6 IP with 0 ER.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    You are writing like a troll. This isn't the kind of blog for that and comments like yours aren't the style that the commenters post here. Cubs.com would be a better place for you if you don't want to change your style.

    There's a way to make most of the points you are trying to make without taking this kind of tone. As far as I'm concerned, you're welcome to join in if you want to modify your style. Otherwise you'll just get tuned out.

  • Agree. Cards had a pitcher come in for 7th throwing 101. Cubs keep signing low velocity pitchers. Even tho I like Hendricks he gets hit hard at times because he's throwing 86. As to position players, they want utility guys. Baseball is full of utility guys. Go draft some plus 6 ft shortstops with strong arms and let them play the position. Throw in some situational hitting and they might break .500.

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