Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Rucker continues steady campaign; Adams sparks Iowa in debut; Big comeback win for Pelicans

Michael Rucker (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Michael Rucker (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

I apologize for the lack of a Recap yesterday. Chicago Now was experiencing some technical difficulties that were not resolved until well after I departed for work.

UPDATE: In a bit of transaction news that cannot be considered a surprise, the Cubs have sent top prospect Jose Albertos back down to EXST to try and sort out his control issues. Albertos has walked an incredible 32 batters in in just 13 innings this season, a 36.8% walk rate.

AAA

Iowa 6, Round Rock 5

Game Recap

Lane Adams proved instrumental to victory in his Iowa Cubs debut. He would score the team's first run of the game in the 3rd inning after a leadoff single. Then, with Iowa down 2-1 in the 5th, Adams gave Iowa the lead when he roped a two-run double. Mike Freeman and Efren Navarro followed with RBI singles later in the inning to extend Iowa's advantage to 5-2.

Alec Mills departed after running up his pitch count over five innings, but he allowed just two runs. The bullpen did not have their best day trying to preserve the lead. Thankfully, the offense managed to push across an insurance run off Tim Lincecum in the top of the 9th, because the pen would need it. Brad Markey and Alberto Baldanado had already surrendered a run each to allow the Express within one run. Then in the 9th, Dillon Maples went full-Dillon Maples, walking two batters, throwing two wild pitches and allowing a run to score. He would eventually battle his way through and preserve the win but it was an adventure despite him reaching triple digits on the radar gun.

Top Performers

  • Lane Adams: 2-5, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB (1)
  • Chesny Young: 2-4, R, SB (2)
  • Alec Mills: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 2 HBP, 2 K (W, 2-4, 4.26)
  • Dillon Maples: IP, 2 H, R, 2 BB, K (S, 3, 5.93)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Alec Mills

Alec Mills

Mike Freeman extended his season-best hitting streak to eight games (12-for-34). He has 10 RBI during this run.

Alec Mills has not allowed more than 2 runs in any of his past three starts and has not allowed more than 4 in any starts this season.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lane Adams, he is a right-handed, athletic 28-year old outfielder capable of playing all three positions. He has 106 games of MLB experience with a career slash line of .264/.338/.450 which is extremely similar to his career line in the Minors. He is also 10-for-10 at stealing bases in his MLB career, with another 224 coming in the Minors at an 84.8% success rate.

After being DFA by his orginal team, the Royals in early 2016, he was picked up then released by the Yankees that season. He signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs in the middle of the 2016 and spent the rest of the campaign in AA and AAA for the club but never made it on to the 40-man roster. The Braves signed him to a Minor League deal last season and by mid-year he was up with the big club and turned in a fine season as a 4th outfielder in Atlanta. He began 2018 with the same role, but despite a decent start was DFA as the Braves continued to turn to their youth in their rebuild. Adams elected free agency rather than accepting the assignment and has now found his way back to the Cubs organization.

AA

Tennessee 3, Mississippi 2

Game Recap

Two solo home runs was all the damage the Braves managed to inflict on Michael Rucker over six innings. Rucker struck out eight and allowed just six base runners. All of the Smokies offense came in the first two innings. Yasiel Balaguert knocked in two with a 1st inning double, then Rucker helped himself in the 2nd with a sacrifice fly to score Trent Giambrone for the game-winning run. Three Smokies relievers combined to allow just one hit and no walks over the final three innings.

Top Performers

  • Michael Rucker: 6 Ip, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 K (W, 4-2, 4.10)
  • Craig Brooks: IP, H, 0 R (S, 3, 2.79)
  • Yasiel Balaguert: 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI
  • Trent Giambrone: 1-3, R, SB (9)
  • Jason Vosler: 1-3, R, BB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Jason Vosler (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Jason Vosler (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Jason Vosler (.200/.316/.415) continues to break out of his season-long slump. A day after homering twice (the highlight of yesterday's missed recap), he reached base twice more on Monday. He has four hits and two walks over the past three games, which has pushed his average to the .200 mark for the first time since April 16th. His peripheral numbers are not dissimilar to last year, except suffering mightily at the hands of the BABIP dragon.

He has had perhaps the quietest of the Cubs top prospects in the upper levels, but that is because Michael Rucker has proven incredibly steady. Take out one bad inning in his 3rd start of the year when he gave up six runs (after tossing four shutout innings prior to it), and Rucker has compiled a 2.85 ERA over his other 41 innings this season. His control is solid, batters only hit .204 against him, and he punches out more than a batter per inning. Sometimes I feel like the only one hyping the guy, but if he keeps this up, more will take notice. There is definite BOR potential as well as a skill set (lively FB that tops out in mid-90s, solid SL, CV, CU) that transitions well to the bullpen. He is a good bet to become a Major League contributor in some capacity.

Advanced A

Myrtle Beach 8, Lynchburg 5

Game Recap

It was a very rocky beginning for Tyson Miller, as Lynchburg greeted him with five runs on six hits in the frame. Miller contributed to his own struggles with a walk and two wild pitches. Frankly, it was a miracle he survived the inning. Had the team not played a DH the day before he might not have. But Miller recovered and allowed just two hits and no runs over the four innings to keep his team in the game. Bailey Clark continued the trend with six strikeouts over 3.1 shutout innings of his own.

Bailey Clark (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Bailey Clark (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

This set the stage for an impressive come-from-behind victory. The Pelicans chipped away at the five-run deficit in the early innings with two runs in the 1st and another run in the 3rd thanks to home runs by Jhonny Pereda and Tyler Alamo. The offense dried up in the middle innings, and they found themselves still down two runs heading into the 8th. With one out, the Pelicans would load the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. Aramis Ademan followed with a walk of his own to force in a run. Connor Myers pushed a ground ball through the left side to score two more and give the Pelicans the lead. P.J. Higgins capped the inning with a two-run double.

Top Performers

  • Bailey Clark: 3.1 IP, H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K (W, 1-1, 2.89)
  • Wyatt Short: 0.2 IP, H, 2 K (S, 2, 1.56)
  • Connor Myers: 2-5, R, 2 RBI, 2 SB (8, 9)
  • Jhonny Pereda: 1-3, HR (4), R, RBI, 2 BB
  • P.J. Higgins: 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, SAC
  • Kevonte Mitchell: 2-4, 3B, 2 R
  • Tyler Alamo: 1-4, HR (7), R, RBI
  • Daniel Spingola: 2-4, R, RBI, SB (1)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Tyler Alamo (.264/.311/.488) continues his May breakout. He has hit his 4th home run since the calendar turned and shown improved patience at the plate which has driven a .320/.382/.620 month.

Connor Myers (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Connor Myers (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Perhaps the most surprising offensive contributor in the Cubs system this season has been Connor Myers (.272/.344/.382). An elite glove man in CF, Myers had employed an aggressive and slappy approach at the plate, most likely in an effort to make contact and use his speed. It did not lead to pro success though, as Myers batted just .191/.243/.248 last year and was not much better at lower levels the year before. This season, he is being more patient, and not just taking walks but looking for a pitch to drive. His swing is now much more smooth and forceful as well. I still would not consider him a MLB prospect at this point, but Myers has at least opened up the option of being a long-term Minor League org player. His spectacular defense in CF in combo with an ability to not embarrass himself at the plate ensures that.

You want consistency? Jhonny Pereda (.304/.379/.440) is hitting .304 in May, after hitting .304 in April.

A

Lansing 2, South Bend 1

Game Recap

Tyler Thomas (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Tyler Thomas (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Another tough-luck loss for lefty Tyler Thomas. It has been a season of them for the South Bend opening day starter. He fell to 2-4 on the season despite a 2.88 ERA as his offense supported him with just a single run on five hits. His defense didn't help him either. In what has been a disturbing trend all season, another unearned run cost the Cubs dearly. This time it was an overthrow by catcher Miguel Amaya which allowed the winning run to score. The 46 unearned runs allowed by South Bend are the most in the MWL.

Top Performers

  • Tyler Thomas: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (L, 2-4, 2.88)
  • Jesus Camargo: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 K (3.12 ERA)
  • Christian Donahue: 1-3, 2B, R, BB
  • Rafael Narea: 1-3, BB
  • Zach Davis: 1-3, RBI

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Thomas's effort was the 13th time in the past two weeks that a South Bend starting pitcher has allowed two runs or fewer.

Comments

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  • I was happy to see us sign Adams, and glad he chose to sign here. He is a valuable and competent depth outfielder. That could prove even more valuable with Coghlan battling a shoulder issue in EXST.

    I noticed the lack of a recap yesterday, but will stop short of demanding your resignation. :) Thanks again, Michael, for your time, talent, and dedication. We understand the effort that goes into producing these recaps every day, and it is much appreciated.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thanks Barley. Adams was definitely a good signing. Maddon obviously prefers to have a good runner and good defensive outfielder available in September and Adams can fill that role. He may not be an amazing fielder, but he is good enough, while being a really proficient base stealer.

    The team brought back Hannemann and signed Bernard to compete with him as potential options to fill that role, but neither of them have managed to hit enough in AAA to warrant consideration for that job, even though Hannemann is one of the best defensive outfielders in all Minor League ball and a solid base runner as well.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Just in case you thought I was slacking, I did in fact write another article that I'll publish later today ;)

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Amen, BP.

  • Steve Stone on Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease:
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/whitesox/ct-spt-white-sox-steve-stone-prospects-20180520-story.html

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    Missed yesterday's recap, because I was going to comment on Albertos.....another day, another disastrous outing. Cubs have to be very concerned about him.

    It doesn't feel like a great year so far for the farm system. Some guys are doing well, but our top prospects are not, outside of Alzolay, who has merely been OK

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I have only mild concern regarding Albertos. They just need to keep this from getting in his head and having him develop a full blown case of the yips. Short of that, he is 19, and years away from the Majors anyway. Early struggles in full season ball at that age are not an issue.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I'm actually slightly encouraged by the early results from the top prospects.

    Albertos is the only disappointment to me.

    Alzolay was delayed out of ST by an ankle injury but I have seen more solid changeups from him over his first handful of starts than he showed me throughout 2017.

    De La Cruz looks healthy and is throwing strikes in AA. Occasional bad outings getting mixed in, but not unexpected for a guy who has missed so much time and really didn't get much game experience in A/A+ because of it.

    Ademan and Amaya are holding their own at 19 in tough environments. Ademan has improved his plate discipline. Amaya has done the same and is now tapping into his power on occasion as well.

    The Cubs are no longer handling Hatch with kid gloves and are letting him extend beyond five innings and Hatch has managed to go 6+ in each of his past three outings.

    Lange skipped a level and is holding his own. Like Alzolay, he has shown a solid changeup at times, which greatly improves his odds to remain a starter.

    Little had early control issues, but has shown improvement in one form or another with every outing this year.

    Velazquez showed enough in the spring that the Cubs feel he is ready for the MWL at 19.

    Bote and Zagunis have both improved at AAA and already provided a boost to the Major League club.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yeah, I see what you’re saying. But it’s still early. I think there will also be some shifting around of these guys. Underwood, former top prospect, is having a good season. Abbott & Assad could/should also move up the charts. Even Bote could move up from where he’s currently spotted. As guys get out of slumps & work on things, developing (Ademan, ODLC, Albertos), etc... the OA farm will/could look better.

  • I am a big Rucker guy. We had many posts about him last year. I am with ya, Michael.

    I like when a pitcher moves up and keeps striking out more than a guy per inning and having less than a hit per inning. Those are good signs that the pitcher’s stuff plays up. Tucker checks those boxes for me. He could very well be the #2 SP candidate in our system behind Alzolay.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    ODLC still has a bigger upside, and throws even more strikes, but his durability is an obvious question. Hatch deserves consideration too. His control is not quite as good as the other two, but both of his offspeed offerings are above average and his 4 and 2 seamers are both solid as well.

    I think Alzolay, Hatch and/or De La Cruz are likely to receive the first chances at any openings that crop up in the Chicago rotation. Rucker and Underwood are more likely to have to settle for competing in the pen. Both are well suited to it though.

    Rucker's fastball, while only in the 91-95 mph range has good late life. We don't get spin rate data in the Minors, but I'm sure his has a lot. His slider is a solid chase pitch and his curve and change are usuable as well.

    Underwood is similar to Justin Grimm. His fastball as a starter is 91-94 and can get a bit flat at times, but that is less of an issue if he can sit 94-97 as a reliever. He lacks a plus secondary like Grimm's curve, but his slutter, change and slow curve are all solid and flash above average at times. As long as he continues to show the same control and command that he has come out of the gate with this season he has a good chance.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Just looking at the guys in AA/AAA. A realistic outlook for the next 2 years allows for:

    One of Alzolay/Hatch provide an internal rotation replacement.

    A couple of ODLC/Mekkes/Maples/Rucker/Underwood/Clifton/Brooks provide internal replacements for the handful of pen arms who have their contract up after 2018 and 2019.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I would disagree a little on Hatch. I think he is only mentioned above because of draft pedigree. While at the same levels, Rucker has more K/inning, less BB/inning, and less H/inning. He has clearly outpeformed Hatch. I don't see how Hatch would be ahead of Rucker at all.

    ODLC cannot be trusted at this point to be a contributor. Until he pitches a full season, he really isn't in the discussion, IMO. He has 19 BB and 8 HB in only 43 innings. Underwood has all kinds of blemishes. Other than a Plus fastball, he hasn't been able to put it together. He just doesn't miss enough bats for my liking. Maybe a power middle relief role?

    I personally think Chatwood is traded this off season and Alzolay takes the #5 slot saving us money to put towards this epic FA class. Chatwood on his deal is a value and may help a team take on Heyward too? Who knows. I am glad Alzolay and Rucker are solid with Hatch in the wings. A #5 SP at league minimum is valuable to round out the 25 man roster. Good to have some options.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    The Hatch and Rucker comparison is interesting. I think with Hatch being a half year younger and a year shorter playing Pro ball, he may offer more upside as a starter than Rucker as he pitches at slightly younger age/less experience at the same level. Maybe it’s just because he’s more of a ground ball pitcher and less likey to give up as much HRs, especially at the big league level. While you point out all the peripherals that Rucker has exceeded Hatch, it’s Hatch that has been able to pitch deeper in his games and has a much lower ERA (3.06 v 4.10). Of course Rucker has an edge in FIP (4.32 v 4.68). The difference probably having to do with the k/bb ratio.

    Some other things about Hatch that look more promising in addition to his better ground ball to fly ball ratio are Hatch’s IFFB rate of 27.5% compared to Rucker’s 12.8. Further, with Rucker’s higher FB%, he also ha a higher HR/FB ratio. Rucker’s BABIP is .236 and likely to regress having him giving up some more hits, while Hatch’s BABIP is probably steady at .290. I also noticed that Hatch’s LOB% is 83.1% compared to Rucker’s 65.7%. Of course that’s partly attributed to him letting more runners on base, but it also shows his ability to get out of jams. That would definitely have something to do with his better ground ball and much better infield pop up rates. That to me is just as good, and sometimes better than having to strike guys out to get out of jams.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Hatch really doesn't have draft pedigree. He was a 3rd round pick and not a big bonus guy either, just a normal 3rd round pick.

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    Maples seems to be backsliding a bit with his walks and general lack of control. In 13 innings he has 17 BB. We've seen pitchers throw 100 and still get hit, it's more movement and another pitch that separates the great ones. I still think he can be helpful, but maybe if he doesn't throw so hard he can locate it better.
    I am also encouraged by Bailey Clark. I could see him here later this summer or Sept.
    Thanks for all the work Michael. It can't be easy.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I'm not sure we can really consider it backsliding with Maples. He has never been able to control his fastball. Ever.

    Clark is still a year or two away. he might get a taste of AA in the 2nd half if he cleans up the walks a bit in Myrtle. Next year I could see him begin the year in AA or AAA depending on how his control is in ST.

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    btw, I was just looking at Clark's stats. It is A ball but in 14.1 innings he's SO 19 and walked 3 at South Bend. In Myrtle Beach he threw 18 innings and walked 11 while SO 22. Pretty good so far.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Just read an article where the Cubs are slowly stretching Clark’s pitch count/innings out & working him just every 4th/5th day. He finished at 54 pitches last time & was still supposedly hitting 97 mph at the end of the stint. Could be a starter again.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    He's been piggybacking all year. Almost all of his appearances go around 3 innings give or take an inning. If he can continue to throw more strikes I would love to take another look at him as a full time starter, but unless he shows more consistency moving forward it is difficult to project him to that role in the Majors.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    True, but not every SP is an ace. Look at Chatwood & his walks... And it’s only Clarks 2nd full season in the minors. His draft year, he didn’t walk anyone in his sss. His OA 2-1 K to W ratio & K/9 ratios still looks like he’s got some good “potential” to miss bats.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Clark definitely has things you look for in a starting pitcher. Has the size. Gets very good plane on his sinking fastball down in the zone at 91-94 to generate lots of ground balls. Can also run it up in the zone at 95-97 to generate whiffs. His slider has sweep and depth which gives him the ability to throw it in the zone or as a chase pitch. Changeup flashes, but he would need to further refine it as a starter.

    Consistency is the big issue. We haven't seen it yet, even going back to his college days. You can't go out as a MLB starter and just not have it once a month and get bounced in the 1st inning. You have to be able to fight through and at least give 3-4 innings when your stuff or command is off. I still worry that Clark will have wild outings where the strike zone eludes him and if that is the case a bullpen role is better suited for his talents. That said has definite potential as a high leverage reliever.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Does he have secondary pitches that are plus?

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Slider is inconsistent but certainly flashes plus. That will be a big key for him. Change probably tops out as avg.

  • Can they make Chatwood go back to EXST too?

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