Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Zagunis and the other Baez stay scorching hot; Pelicans win third straight

Jeffrey Baez

Jeffrey Baez

AAA

Memphis 8, Iowa 6 (12 Innings)

Game Recap

Bijan Rademacher returned from the disabled list and launched a solo home run in the bottom of the 9th to send the game to extras. Anthony Bass, Justin Hancock and Dillon Maples combined to strike out seven over four innings of one-hit relief for starter Jen-Ho Tseng (5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 3 K) who was tagged for four runs over his final two innings.

The two teams continued to battle to a draw through the next two innings of Arena League Baseball, with both teams driving home the runner from second in each frame. Eventually the RedBirds plated two in the top of the 12th off Michael Roth (3 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, L, 0-1, 0.52) and the I-Cubs failed to score in the bottom of the inning. The four runs he allowed in extras were the first Roth had given up this season, covering two starts and one long relief appearance.

Top Performers

  • Mark Zagunis: 1-1, 2 RBI, SF, HBP
  • Stephen Bruno: 3-5, 2B, R, RBI, HBP
  • Bijan Rademacher: 1-4, HR (1), R, RBI
  • Mike Freeman: 2-6, 2 R
  • Wynton Bernard: 2-5, 3B, RBI
  • Anthony Bass: 2 IP, H, BB, 3 K

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Mark Zagunis (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Mark Zagunis (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

There is nobody hotter than Mark Zagunis (.341/.474/.455) right now. His current 7-game hitting streak has driven his average up over .200 points from .130 to .341. He has also walked 6 times and struck out just 3 times during this run.

Jen-Ho Tseng was knocked around for the 4th straight time to open the season. Opponents are .344 against him as he has surrendered more hits than innings pitched in each outing. He has also given up 5 long balls in just 20.1 innings pitched. This is a far cry from his 9 starts with Iowa in 2017 when the opposition hit just .235 and managed only 5 home runs in 55.0 total innings.

AA

Jacksonville 11, Tennessee 5

Game Recap

A five-run first and two-run second off starter Duncan Robinson (4 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 K, L, 0-1, 5.00) put the Smokies in to too deep of a hole, even with the red-hot bats of Trey Martin and Jeffrey Baez combining for six hits, four for extra bases, and five runs batted in.

Top Performers

  • Jeffrey Baez: 3-4, 2 2B, HR (2), R, 5 RBI, SB (4)
  • Trey Martin: 3-3, 2B, 2 R, BB, SB (6)
  • Jesse Hodges: 2-4, 2 R
  • Daury Torrez: 3 IP, 3 H, 3 K

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Trey Martin

Trey Martin

Jeffrey Baez (.379/.438/.759) has 7 hits and 7 RBI over his past 3 starts. On the season Baez has 7 extra base hits and 4 stolen bases in just 13 games.

Baez isn't the only returning Smokies outfielder off to a fast start. Center fielder Trey Martin has been in Tennessee since mid-2016 but after hitting just .186 in 2016 and .265 last season, he is off to a .341/.455/.455 pace to begin the year. His 10 walks so far nearly match his season total from last year (12) when his OBP was just .304.

Advanced A

Myrtle Beach 8, Down East 3

Game Recap

Matt Swarmer

Matt Swarmer

Dare I say that the season may be turning around for the Pelicans? A third straight win (6-12) was kicked off by an early offensive explosion. It has usually been the Pelicans falling behind early, but on Sunday the first five collected hits on the way to a four-run 1st. They followed it up with a three-run 2nd and then Aramis Ademan singled in a run in the 3rd to make it 8-0. Matt Swarmer required nothing near that much offensive support. He shut down the Wood Ducks for six innings, punching out seven while allowing only four base runners.

Top Performers

  • Matt Swarmer: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K (W, 1-2, 1.72)
  • Jordan Minch: 2 IP, H, R, 0 ER, 5 K
  • Jhonny Pereda: 2-4, R, 3 RBI
  • D.J. Wilson: 2-4, 2B, 2 R, BB
  • P.J. Higgins: 2-4, 2 R, RBI
  • Aramis Ademan: 2-4, R, RBI
  • Wladimir Galindo: 2-4, R

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

His batting average is nothing to write home about so far (.237) but lead off man D.J. Wilson is still getting the job done. He has drawn a walk in 10 of his 11 starts giving him a .396 OBP on the season.

A

Lansing 4, South Bend 2

Game Recap

Rafael Narea

Rafael Narea

The Cubs took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 2nd on RBI by Rafael Narea and Yeiler Peguero. Still seeking his first professional win, Brendon Little (4.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 4 K) pitched well for three innings, but ran into trouble in the 4th. The walks and wild pitches reared their head again at that point and Christian Williams tagged him for a second home run in as many at bats.

Rollie Lacy pitched another gem in relief to keep Lansing within striking distance but the Cubs offense could not gain any more traction as South Bend fell to 7-7 on the year.

Top Performers

  • Rafael Narea: 2-4, 2B, RBI
  • Yeiler Peguero: 2-4, RBI
  • Miguel Amaya: 2-4, R
  • Rollie Lacy: 3.1 IP, H, 2 BB, 2 K

Comments

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    Do Lacy and Swarmer have the kind of stuff that might play at higher levels? Or are they really just "pitchability" guys dominating lower level competition?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Swarmer has more velo, he can touch 94 or so but his slider and change are not as refined. I wouldn't rule him out as a reliever, but I don't see him as a starter long term.

    Lacy is a pitchability guy, only throws in upper 80s, but he his stuff does have good movement. I tend to lean more towards Preston Morrison than Kyle Hendricks, but AA will likely tell the tale. I like his offspeed better than Morrison.

    Both should be in Myrtle Beach right now. Lacy has been super valuable for South Bend given the number of short outings from starters, but as soon as the weather warms up I hope they move him up.

  • DJ Wilson is someone to keep an eye on. Great defense in CF and a .398 OBP. That will work for me.

  • In reply to John57:

    Still strikes out a ton and gets a little pull happy at times. Susceptible to high fastballs. Made improvements with his patience at the plate in each of the past two years, which is a good sign. If he can start laying off the high ones it would go a long way.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Where is Hatch?

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I'm assuming you meant Happ. I'd put him below Wilson. Happ is as athletic as Martin/Myers and better athlete than Almora, but nowhere near as polished as any of them. He would be a tick below Hannemann/Wilson athletically. Hannemann is pretty polished defensively at this point, and Wilson is getting there.

    I think Happ, if he stuck to CF exclusively, could end up as above average out there and at least close to Almora, but he has a long way to go in terms of first step/routes. All of the other guys are way more experienced than him out there. Probably takes a couple of years, but I think he'll make himself into a good one.

    Almora is great at routine and tough plays, but I think the extreme long range plays into the gaps where speed comes into play as much as read/route he falls short of some of the elite speedsters.

    If I had a particular nitpick for Almora it is his ability to gauge his distance to the wall. Some people call it reckless abandon. I call it lack of spatial awareness or fake hustle/grit. That play in Denver yesterday was a perfect example. There was zero reason he needed to slam into the wall at full speed there. He had time to slow himself or at least turn and glance off the wall, and instead he hit it square. He acted like he didn't know it was there. Now, he is still new to the Majors and may not know every park, but he took multiple steps on the warning track, and he should know enough to brace himself, especially after he had secured the catch.

    I would be less critical but he did this same thing in the Minors regularly and it led to injuries/DL time. I was very concerned how he would handle Wrigley and whether he would hurt himself on the brick. He has yet to have an incident that I can recall at Wrigley, so either the basket helps him gauge the distance, he is simply more comfortable/experienced with the dimensions, or just plays with more awareness/caution knowing it is brick. I tend to think it is the basket. But whatever it is, he needs to find away to apply the same ability to all environments or durability becomes a concern with him.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I'm sorry, but you are coming across as if you are very biased against Almora. Your recollection of his play running into the wall is not close to the reality of the play. I noticed this while watching live and just even rechecked the replay to confirm my observations of how perfectly he played that ball. He actually adjusted (slowed down his speed) with his last 5 or 6 steps while still on the grass. He already realized he is in range and slowed himself to time the catch properly. I noticed all that immediately thought of the following comparison: I have seen both Billy Hamilton and Ian Happ misplay balls that they beat to the spot because they didn't have the where-with-all to adjust their speed to the catch point to better time their arrival. Furthermore, he caught the ball and his right foot immediately hit the ground, and he ran into the wall before his left foot got down. How does one slam on the brakes that fast? It's just impossible. But he DID slow himself down already from full speed for his last 10 steps or so, and that's why he didn't get hurt running into the wall. In my example of Hamilton or Happ, they may have been more likely to actually hurt themselves going full speed into the wall on that play, and maybe not even make the catch.

    I think you need to go back and look at the play again, and view it with unbiased eyes...

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I'm sorry, i don't agree. Just watch it again, multiple times. He does slow down as you said, then speeds back up before making the catch. Once he has the ball he does not slow down or even feel for the wall with his non-glove hand, he instead turns his head to look for the wall and collides with it without slowing, turning, bracing himself or anything. He runs right into it.

    Like I said, this is a nitpick. It doesn't prevent him from making plays, but it is dangerous, and it is an issue that reaches back through his entire pro career. I want him to fix it. I don't have a bias against him. And even if I did, why would I pick something so obscure to latch on to?

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    He's mid stride when he sees the wall, his left foot comes down as he hits the wall. He had no time to do anything at that point, just secure the ball. The only time I've ever been in a car accident, was when a driver turned in a "no left turn" construction situation and appeared in front of my car coming out of huge blind spot created by a bus. I smashed right into the other cars front side passenger quarter panel. I didn't even have time to hit the breaks, and I see AA being in that same position from the time he caught the ball to hitting the wall. There was nothing he could do. He made sure he caught the ball. That is what the best defenders will do, even if they are putting body in harms way, which I agree may not lead to the best health of the player.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Enjoying the debate, but you mentioned something that compelled me to chime in. You mentioned the extra credit for a diving catch vs. just being there in the first place, citing Jim Edmonds and Andrew Jones. I watched a lot of Braves' baseball in those days. Jones, in his early days, is without question the best CF'er I've ever seen (Mays was before my time). So effortless. Bobby Cox once benched him after a "lazy" catch before later apologizing when he realized that was how effortlessly Andrew played.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I know how to spell "Andruw". My phone doesn't.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I saw the same thing you saw Michael. I wanted to post something but figured better not to say anything because some would take it the wrong way. It almost ....almost looked like he wanted to hit the wall. I know thats not the case, but he def didn't need to slam into it that hard .....thats for sure.

    I know its easy for us to say from the couch but I have played some baseball and watched A LOT of baseball.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I know I have upset Cubs fans in the past when I said that I do not consider Almora a GG caliber defender. This isn't because I believe Almora is a bad. I in fact believe quite the opposite. He is a very good defender.

    But there are a crazy number of elite CFs right now. Guys just as polished as Almora but with better speed. Byron Buxton for instance is perhaps a generational defensive talent that will go down with the likes of Mays, Andruw Jones, etc. Kiermaier, Enciarte, Cain, Bradley, Herrara, Broxton, Taylor. It is unbelievable how good the CFs are right now.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I guess we agree to disagree... And I wasn't 100% sure it was your article I read around the holidays about Happ possibly being better than Almora, but I was kinda sure it was you. You didn't upset me at all. Quite the opposite actually, I was quite intrigued and open to the evidence you used. I even went into this season with high hopes that Happ would take a defensive step forward. I still find the eye test for defense to be much more reliable than defensive metrics that are twisted and theorized through equations that don't account every measurement and comparison as to assign a number when every defensive situation is never quite the same. Just too many immeasurable details to ever make it work out to a quantifiable number that allows us to statistically make a comparison.

    Now had Happ been hitting better and if he were the one manning CF this weekend, do you think he makes all 4 of the catches that Albert made on Saturday and Sunday? Because if Albert didn't at least make all 3 that he made yesterday, saving multiple runs from being scored, we lose that game. There was a runner on 2nd in both his first two catches, so runs would've scored if he didn't make those, and an extra runner would've been on base in the 9th who would have scored. We likely don't win yesterday's game if it wasn't for AA's defensive play.

    Back to Albert's 9th inning catch, I watched again, he does speed back up slightly, but he in no way was back up at full speed like his initial pursuit on the ball. If anything, it just shows how good/athletic he is to do that and make the catch in perfect stride. I don't want to nit-pick, but your initial post you claim he hit the wall at full speed (not true), and said he had time to adjust, but didn't, which is also "not true), since you even admitted he adjusted speed well before. Since you say he was full speed though, can you make a full out sprint over 80 feet or so, and then stop in less than two steps?

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    There is absolutely no doubt that Almora is a superior defender to Happ. Right now. Maybe forever. But Happ is a better athlete and could end up with greater range if he can improve his first step and routes. That is possible with experience. But it will likely take a couple of years. Hannemann was in a similar boat a few years ago, raw but with more speed and agility. And I feel he has surpassed Almora, or at least makes it a close competition. Almora probably has him in the arm strength department. Eventually, Happ and Wilson could reach that level as well. I'd rate Wilson's chances of reaching that ceiling higher because of the experienced he has gathered the past couple of years and Happ is just now taking up the spot with any regularity.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    You are right in that he did not hit at full speed. Upon review I agree. But my main point is that he did not slow down.change direction and instead looked for the wall instead of feeling/knowing where it was.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I guess my argument with Almora is that should he be given extra credit for making a diving play when someone like Buxton or Kiermaier makes that play on their feet?

    It's like Jim Edmunds vs Andruw Jones a while back. Edmunds makes a bunch of flashy catches on plays where Jones is probably camped under the ball and makes it easily. Both are very good defenders and worthy of praise. But one is elite.

  • In reply to John57:

    Don't we already have a pretty good defensive CF?

  • In reply to wthomson:

    Yes, but if I had to rate the CF in the system I would go:
    Hannemann > Almora > Myers > Martin > Wilson
    But Wilson is improving rapidly. I think his range is already as good as Hannemann, but he doesn't have the consistent first step or routes that the others have. It is improving every year though. If he does continue to improve with experience, which I believe he will, Wilson could very well end up the best of all of them as I like his arm better than Hannemann.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Wow, I didn't know we had 4 guys better defensively than Wilson. I thought he was very good.

  • In reply to John57:

    Wilson's defensive ceiling is probably the highest, considering his range/arm. But he is the least experienced of the group and isn't as consistent. He currently makes the splash plays, but can still take poor routes or make poor initial reads more frequently than the other guys.

    It shouldn't be taken as a criticism of Wilson's current D level. The other guys are really good. Hannemann is a MiLB Gold Glover. Almora is a polished, super-smooth MLB CF that would have been up for GG consideration on an annual basis a decade ago. Martin and Myers are both experienced, rangy athletes that cover ground and are capable of making spectacular plays. They are all guys that you would feel comfortable patrolling any CF in the Majors.

  • fb_avatar

    I'm glad that Martin and Baez are doing well and that DJ Wilson is hot right now. I saw the catch Wilson made the day before yesterday and it was Almora-esque.
    Do we have anyone in the system that is a legitimate lead off hitter and that could fit into this lineup? If Wilson, then that means either that Almora would take JHey's place or in LF or both, but that means someone would be traded. If this still is a problem this year, Theo could possibly trade someone. Schwarber is doing everything now but do we trade him? It's also a SSS. Happ is not a value now, Almora is but he is coming around and I love him in CF.
    We need someone and I don't like the constantly changing up.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    At Iowa, Zagunis would make a new-school leadoff guy. He has the best eye in the system and is a legit plus tool. He gets on base. I'm just not crazy about the rest of his game. I don't see a high average or much power and he isn't a particularly good corner outfielder. But could he hit 250/340/400? Yeah, I think so.

    At AA, Zack Short is a legit leadoff hitter. Not a great base stealer, but he could swipe 10 or so. He is developing some power despite his leaner frame. Definite 15 HR power and he possesses the best eye outside of Zagunis in the system. There is still more swing and miss in his game than I would like, and again I don't think he would hit for a high average, but .250 with a solid OBP is possible, and he would move better on the bases and be more versatile defensively than Zagunis.

    Ademan and Wilson are candidates with Myrtle Beach. Ademan is still raw, and the plate discipline only comes in flashes, but he is being pushed very aggressively up the ladder. Against age appropriate competition I suspect his OBP would be far more acceptable and I can see 280/340/430 lines in his future. Wilson is heading in the right direction, as he is developing good plate discipline, but I still worry about his hit tool. Legit concerns about whether he will make enough contact at MLB level. Carlos Sepulveda would be a dark horse candidate if he can get healthy and hit the ball with enough authority. P.J. Higgins is a solid defenisve catcher and athlete. Not going to be a base stealer, but moves decently and has a very good eye. Showing improved strength at the plate this year. Not going to be a starter in bigs though. Kevonte Mitchell is still very raw and hasn't even settled on a consistent batting stance, but if the light turns on for him he has the ability to be either a top of the order hitter or middle of the order hitter with 20/20 potential.

    Jared Young might become another non-traditional leadoff type at South Bend. Outside shot with Yeiler Peguero but like Sepulveda needs to get stronger. Zach Davis is probably the fastest guy in the system (along with Fernando Kelli) and is only a couple of years into learning switch hitting. Flashes a solid eye at the plate and at times does a good job putting the ball in play and letting his legs do the work. It is an extreme long shot, but he is the type of athlete you look for in a traditional leadoff guy.

    Kelli will be in Eugene. He fits the traditional model. Plus speed, slap hitter. Going to steal bases, but is he strong enough and can he make it to 1st base often enough? Like Davis (and Hannemann/Wilson) he is the type of athlete you look for, hold onto, and hope it clicks.

    Short and Ademan are likely the best bets to be able to handle the role full time in the majors. But even they are not perfect fits and they both have the Baez/Russell roadblock to overcome as well.

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