Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Jeffrey Baez homers again to lead Smokies to win; Iowa shut out again

Jeffrey Baez

Jeffrey Baez

AAA

Memphis 3, Iowa 0

Game Recap

Fans that like offense probably thought they were in for a treat during the first inning. Memphis put up a three spot against Alec Mills in the top half and then the Cubs loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half. But from there the pitchers woke up. And boy did they take over. RedBirds starter Austin Gomber struck out Mark Zagunis then induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Taylor Davis.

Alec Mills

Alec Mills

Gomber would go on to set a Memphis franchise record with 16 strikeouts over 8 innings. Just for good measure, closer Mike Mayers punched out another in the 9th. The Cubs managed just six hits and did not draw a single walk. Offense has been a season-long issue for Iowa but this was a new low point. They have now been blanked 4 times already and the club record has fallen to 4-12. It is actually even worse than that. They have actually failed to score during the first 9 innings on two other occasions, needing the jump start of the runner beginning on 2nd base during extras in order to score.

It wasn't all about the work done by the Memphis staff. After the rocky first, Alec Mills dominated the rest of his outing, tossing six shutout innings before handing control over to Alberto Baldanado for the final two. Baldanado continued the trend with a pair of shutout innings of his own.

Top Performers

  • Alec Mills: 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 3 K (L, 0-3, 5.17)
  • Alberto Baldanado: 2 IP, BB, K
  • Stephen Bruno: 2-4

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

There really aren't many good trends occurring in Des Moines at the moment. Mark Zagunis saw his 7-gam hit streak snapped. Stephen Bruno did collect his third straight multi-hit game.

AA

Tennessee 2, Jacksonville 1

Game Recap

Thomas Hatch (by Stephanie Lynn)

Thomas Hatch (by Stephanie Lynn)

The only other action in the Cubs system yesterday featured another pitcher's duel. It also featured a Jeffrey Baez home run for the second consecutive day and third time in four games. On the mound, Thomas Hatch and three relievers struck out eleven Jumbo Shrimp. Hatch had good stuff but his control was an issue, as he walked five and hit a batter. He worked around it though and thanks to Baez continuing to carry the offense the Smokies climbed back above .500 to 9-8.

Top Performers

  • Thomas Hatch: 5 IP, 3 H, R, 5 BB, 5 K (W, 2-0, 2.70)
  • Craig Brooks: 2 IP, 2 BB, 4 K
  • Jake Stinnett: IP, H
  • Dakota Mekkes: IP, 2 K (S, 3, 0.00)
  • Jeffrey Baez: 1-3, HR (3), R, 2 RBI
  • Trent Giambrone: 2-3

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Jeffrey Baez is doing his best impression of the more well-known Baez in the organization. Eight of his twelve hits this season have gone for extra bases. His .813 slugging percentage would lead the Southern League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. His 1.241 OPS would rank 4th. He has eight hits and nine RBI in his last five games.

A

South Bend PPD

Comments

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  • How has Stinnett looked this year? Do you see a MLB bullpen arm?

  • In reply to couch:

    He's looked okay. He's borderline to me. Not much difference between him and say Cory Mazzoni and Shae Simmons.

  • Could Mekkes been in line for a promotion soon to Iowa? He’s been so solid in the bullpen,

  • In reply to October:

    He could absolutely pitch in Iowa right now. Not sure we'll see it happen so soon though. Iowa doesn't really need him and they have a few guys like Maples and others on the 40 man that they will want working in high leverage spots. I think I'd rather have Mekkes stay in Tennessee and close for while. Mekkes, Brooks, Stinnett, Norwood, Torrez are all candidates for Iowa at some point this year. Obviously not all of them will fit on the roster, but I think they'll squeeze in the top three by year's end.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I’m curious to know your opinion on Mekkes, and how he may fare at the big league level someday. How well will his deception play with the pitches and speeds he throws?

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I'm high on him. Probably higher than anyone else I have seen. Not sure he is a closer or even a stopper like Edwards, but it wouldn't shock me. His velocity readings and bite on his slider/change are nothing special but his deceptive arm slot and his length/extension make it very difficult for hitters to pick him up. I firmly believe the perceived velocity on his fastball is in the 95-100 MPH range and likely near the higher end. His only issue right now is his control. If he can cut down on the walks than i do think he will become a late inning reliever in the majors.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thanks Michael. Just always being able to see his stat lines over the last couple years, and reading an occasional scouting report, he is the guy who's intrigued me the most as far as Cubs bullpen prospects go. I feel like it's just so much harder for a guy without power to break into the majors, with Hendricks being one of those exceptions. I think people sometimes forget that Maddux came into the league throwing up to 95 mph, so even he had some leeway in growing into who he become after a couple years with the Cubs. Hopefully Mekkes continues to develop and adjust whenever he makes it to Iowa, and beyond. And besides, with a name like his, he's already got half of what it takes to be an MLB player.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    ... and sorry for pestering you so much yesterday on the AAjr matter.

  • I very much hope that the FO takes a bit more of a balanced approach to the draft this year by getting some offensive players high up in the draft. It seems like they really went hard after pitching (which was needed), but that the position players are getting pretty thin.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    I think you will see a much more balanced approach this year, perhaps even leaning heavily to offense. I very much doubt we see the slant we saw in 2016, where nearly every player they picked in the top 15 rounds were pitchers or even 2017, where it was still very pitcher heavy. They are already having issues finding roster spots at South Bend for the pitchers they have. I suspect they may gamble on a few high upside HS arms though.

  • As far as the relievers at Iowa and Tennessee, the four with the most upside are:
    Maples
    Mekkes
    Black (assuming he gets healthy)
    Hancock
    Brooks
    in that order.

    I think it is doubtful Simmons regains his pre-injury form at this point, although he could still prove useful in some manner. He, along with Stinnett, Norwood, Mazzoni, Effross, Bass, Markey, Torrez, Garner all have some ability and could contribute in the right scenario or if a couple take a step forward with command.

    But it is doubtful that they will get much of a chance given that the rotation guys like Alzolay, Underwood, Clifton, Rucker, Mills, Tseng, Farrell, De La Cruz, Hatch, etc would likely be ahead of them in the pecking order for bullpen spots in Chicago. Simmons and Mazzoni might get looks given their 40-man slots for some fill in work, but I think the higher upside guys will gain priority in the second half if any opportunities present.

  • Smyly might also work himself into the picture by late summer.

  • In reply to October:

    I was focusing on the righties, but yes, they are targeting August return for him. Depending on the health of their other lefties, he may need to wait until rosters expand Sept 1st.

  • In reply to October:

    I keep forgetting about Smyly.
    I guess Rob Z is pretty much a bullpen arm at this point. Baldonado and Rosario looked good in the limited action I saw during ST. Any thoughts on that pecking order?

  • In reply to couch:

    Z is now a full time reliever. He would be first in pecking order right now, at least until Smyly is back. Rosario has had his changeup working so far and throwing strikes for most part. Only 23, might be more of an option for next year. Same with Baldanado. Looked good so far. But with 3 lefties in pen in Chicago and Smyly/Zastryzny (as well as veterans Kyle Ryan/Michael Roth) there is no need to rush Rosario or Baldanado, especially since there are no lefties coming up behind them in Tennessee and really no one of note in MB either.

  • Bright side about Hatch & the 5 walks & a HBP was that he worked thru it, didn’t implode. Something he can draw on later if he gets the yips again, knowing he can grind thru it. Down side of course is 6 free-bees could have cost big time & extends innings/pitch count. But better to learn that in AA.

    Keep that pitching train rollin’...

  • Thanks again for the summary Michael.

    I assume that J. Baez is strictly a corner OF at this point - how is he defensively as obviously the offense is progressing nicely.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    He can play CF in a pinch. He is solid in the corners. His arm is his calling card. He has thrown out 85 runners in his career. That is a pretty remarkable number for a 24-year old. For some reason teams keep challenging him. It isn't the strongest arm in the world, but he can bring it and is generally very accurate as well.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    The front office needs to draft more players named Baez.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Good to hear he can be an at least passable CF. Yeah - I knew he was solid at throwing guys out, but didn't know if he still was thought of as having the range to cover CF.

  • As it relates to Smyly, could the cubs just be using excess cash to create an opportunity to load up on other assets? Seems to me this is an ideal market inefficiency to exploit.

    Sign Smyly for two years, pay him 3m this year and trade him once he’s healthy for prospects. Why wouldn’t the Cubs spend $3m every year to get these types of prospects? Seems a much better investment than IFA. (Not that I’m suggesting they don’t do IFA, just why not do both).

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    In reply to Gunga:

    It is possible but I don't know that teams would be interested in giving up significant prospects for Smyly if it isn't clear he will come back strong. Yes, rehab from arm surgeries is getting better but it is not a sure thing. The Cubs took advantage of that and got him to sign a relatively inexpensive contract. But that is about his value right now. So there is no excess value at this point. So if we trade the contract we will probably not get more than peanuts for him UNLESS he comes back strong when he comes back. But, at that point, he is a cheap option for this year and next year out of the 'pen and a lefty to boot. Might be more valuable to the Cubs than to another team.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I don’t think there’s really any way he gets traded this year, but i really like the depth Smyly creates for 2018. And that would likely make a starter available at the 2018 deadline if everybody is healthy. I’d think Smyly pitches out of the bullpen in September, maybe even August to come out of his rehab slowly and safely build up his stamina again.

  • Right, I’d see Smyly traded in the off-season. He pitches a bit in relief this fall, shows he’s back/ will be back (hopefully), and then is available as a 1yr/7m contract.

    I’m not saying that brings top talent back, but as the cubs look to restock their system it seems to be an effective way.

  • How is trading for low level talent an effective way to restock their farm system? Smyly just won't have that much value.

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