Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Maples finds groove; Caratini homers; Monasterio with 5th straight multi-hit game

Dillon Maples (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Dillon Maples (photo by Stephanie Lynn)


Iowa 6, El Paso 5 (Game 1)

El Paso 3, Iowa 0 (Game 2)

Game Recap

The opening game sure didn't start out well for the I-Cubs, but they battled back, and put a nice bow on their come from behind win in the final inning. Jen-Ho Tseng got the start, but was pulled after throwing 35 pitches and allowing three runs while only recording two outs. This put a huge burden on the pen. Thankfully, Rob Zastryzny was up to the challenge. His stuff and command was crisp over his 3.1 innings of work.

During this time the offense clawed their way back in it. A two-run homer by Victor Caratini gave the Cubs a short-lived 5-4 lead. After El Paso scratched across a run in the 5th to tie it back up, a Mike Freeman sacrifice fly brought home Lane Adams for the winning run. In the top of the 7th, Dillon Maples slammed the door shut in a most emphatic manner, striking out the side on ten  pitches.

The second game was a bit of a downer. Alec Mills was solid once again, but the offense failed to deliver.

Top Performers

  • Rob Zastryzny: 3.1 IP, 3 H, R, 0 BB, 3 K
  • Dillon Maples: IP, 3 K (S, 4, 3.92)
  • Alec Mills: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, BB, 7 K (L, 3-5, 3.76)
  • Victor Caratini: 2-5, HR (1), R, 3 RBI, 2 BB
  • Jacob Hannemann: 2-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI
  • Wynton Bernard: 2-3, R, 2 SB (9, 10)
  • David Bote: 2-6, 2B, RBI
  • Bijan Rademacher: 2-6

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

He is always nasty, but Dillon Maples is in a nice groove throwing strikes at the moment, which makes him virtually unhittable. His past 6 outings have been insane: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 13 K. His K rate is now at 38.7% for the year. He didn't throw a single fastball in this game, which I see as a positive development. He simply has more consistent control of his slider and curve. I've been adamant for about a year that I hoped Maples would eventually take this approach. The slider is a good enough pitch for him to throw it 65-75% of the time.

Alec Mills has now gone at least 5 innings in 10 straight starts. It was particularly big today, given that Tseng had failed to make it out of the 1st inning during the opening game of the double header.

Rob Zastryzny has quietly put together a fine season and has been particularly good of late. He hadn't allowed a run in his previous four outings (8.2 IP) and then gave up just one today as he bailed out Tseng and set the Cubs up for victory.

In 13 games since returning to Iowa, Victor Caratini has hit .304/.400/.435, with 5 multi-hit games over his past 10 games.

I failed to mention it earlier, but Efren Navarro has chosen to pursue an opportunity in Japan and is no longer with Iowa. I was surprised when he did not pursue free agency after the Cubs designated him for assignment a few weeks back. Given the roster situation, there was unlikely to be much playing time available at 1B for him in the 2nd half of the season.


Tennessee 5, Birmingham 3

Game Recap

Thomas Hatch gave up an early three-run homer but still managed to scrape together a solid outing and keep the Smokies in the game. Trent Giambrone cut into the Barons lead with a solo homer in 3rd, then delivered a two-run double as part of a four-run 7th to help Tennessee take the lead. James Norwood and Craig Brooks took over from there, throwing two perfect innings to close it out.

Top Performers

  • Trent Giambrone: 2-3, 2B, HR (6), R, 3 RBI
  • Yasiel Balaguert: 2-4, 2B, HR (6), R, RBI
  • Thomas Hatch: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, K (3.42)
  • Scott Effross: 2 IP, H, BB, 2 K (W, 1-4, 5.23)
  • Craig Brooks: IP, 2 K (S, 4, 3.04)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Craig Brooks

Craig Brooks

This was the first time in 7 starts that Thomas Hatch failed to work into the 6th inning or later.

Craig Brooks has had two bad outings, allowing a combined 7 runs in 2.2 IP, but has been stellar in his other 18 appearances. Take out those two bad games and he has allowed just 2 runs on 8 hits and 6 walks over 24 innings (0.75 ERA, 0.58 WHIP, 11.6 K/9). Brooks has vastly improved his control and consistency this season. In his two previous full seasons he posted BB rates in the double digits. This season he is sitting a little under 8% while maintaining a K% above 30.

Brooks gets the most out of his undersized frame (5'10" 180), throwing his fastball in the 92-94 range and backing it up with a plus slider at 82-85. Brooks was a 7th round draft pick back in 2015 that signed for well under slot at just $5,000. I couldn't help but think of Brooks when I watched video of Cubs recent 4th round pick Ethan Roberts out of Tennessee Tech. Roberts has a very similar frame and fastball. He also backs it up with a plus secondary, though in Roberts's case it is a cutter not a slider.

It will be interesting to watch how the Cubs handle Roberts because to me he is someone that could very well begin next season in Myrtle Beach and then move very quickly as a multi-inning reliever. Not only does he have a solid fastball and plus cutter, but he also mixes in a solid curve as well. He was extremely impressive in the NCAA Regionals this past week or so and if it wasn't for his size, I suspect he would have had far more pre-draft hype. Baseball America in fact did not even rate him among its top 500 players which seems like a gigantic oversight given what I have seen of the him.

Advanced A

Winston-Salem 10, Myrtle Beach 7

Game Recap

Winston-Salem broke open what had been a back-and-forth tie ballgame with a five-run 6th inning off reliever Ryan Kellogg (2.2 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 3 K). Jhonny Pereda and Andruw Monasterio each drove in three runs, while Zach Davis reached safely in all four of his plate appearances.

Top Performers

  • Andruw Monasterio: 3-5, 2 R, 3 RBI
  • Jhonny Pereda: 2-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI
  • Zach Davis: 2-2, R, 2 HBP, CS (1)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

A slump had dropped Andruw Monasterio's average down to .242 just 5 games ago, but with 5 straight multi-hit games since that point (11-for-25) he has raised his line back up to .269/.351/.341 out of the Myrtle Beach leadoff spot.


South Bend 6, West Michigan 3

Game Recap

It didn't look serious, but Brendon Little did exit after calling the trainers out in the 5th inning of this one. He had been pitching a gem up until that point, tossing 4.2 shutout innings. Ben Hecht would give up the lead after he departed but the South Bend offense kicked into high gear late, plating five runs over the final three. The final five hitters in the batting order finished with one RBI a piece.

Top Performers

  • Brendon Little: 4.2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 4 K (4.47)
  • Garrett Kelly: 2 IP, 3 K (S, 1, 5.40)
  • Jhonny Bethencourt: 2-4, 2B, R, RBI, BB, SB (7)
  • Austin Filiere: 2-3, R, RBI, BB
  • Chris Singleton: 1-3, HR (2), R, RBI, HBP
  • Roberto Caro: 2-5, R, SB (14)
  • Michael Cruz: 1-3, R, RBI, BB
  • Brandon Hughes: 2-4, RBI, CS (6)
  • Jared Young: 2-5

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Brendon Little by month:

April (4 G): 6.00 ERA, 6.8 BB/9

May (5 G): 5.16 ERA, 3.0 B/9

June (2 G): 0.84 ERA, 2.5 BB/9

Jhonny Bethencourt

Jhonny Bethencourt

Since May 26th (16 G), Jhonny Bethencourt is hitting .349 (22-for-63) with 17 runs scored and 11 runs batted in. This has raised his batting line from .252/.288/.352 to .279/.321/.396 on the year.

Since May 31st (12 G), Jared Young is hitting .386 (17-for-44) with 9 runs, 16 runs batted in and just 4 strikeouts.


Cubs1 14, Indians/Brewers 2

Phillies White 3, Cubs2 2


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  • fb_avatar

    Great update as always! Tell us a little about Jhonny Pereda. IIRC, he's always been a good defensive catcher, but limited with the bat....this year it looks like he may be showing enough offense that an ML-backup profile isn't a stretch?

  • In reply to Zonk:


    I like Pereda. He has always had a strong arm and been sound defensively, as you said, but he has also always had good bat control. Prior to this year, almost all of his hard contact was on the ground, and the opposite way, which meant he hit for virtually no power. This year he has physically matured a bit and is showing more strength. He is also hitting more line drives and many of the hard grounders he hit at the second baseman last year are ending up in the RCF gap, while also learning to turn on mistakes and drive pitches into left field. Last year about the only time he pulled a ball was when he got fooled and rolled over on a breaking ball.

    In short, he is stronger and is expanding his offensive game. He is a legitimate MLB catcher prospect.

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    Is it unusual for a pitcher to have better command of breaking pitches than a fastball, like Maples? How long a stretch of strike-throwing do we have to see before he is called-up to the majors?

    Cubs have called up most of the Iowa bullpen except Maples, and I'm sure he's noticed this.....and I'm sure it's 100% because of the walks

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Unusual, but not unprecedented. Marmol would be one.

    Bypassing Maples was absolutely about his lack of control. He was walking more than a batter per inning until his recent stretch.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Micheal have you seen what caleb smith is doing lately with the marlins. I know Theo tried to hold on to him but couldnt. In a couple of years these are the kind of priced guys we will need to fill out the 4 and 5 spots.

    I believe in 3 years quintana hendricks lester and chatwood will all begone or eligible to be gone.

    So Darvish as a 3, hendricks as a 2. They will need to sign an ace. 4 and 5 will come from within the org or guys like smith and or butler. What do you think.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I know he has been doing well, but haven't really watched him much. Doesn't surprise me. I liked him quite a bit when the Cubs had him, but he was still a year away from being ready and the Cubs simply couldn't carry a guy like that in a year they hoped to win a WS. Had they still be in a rebuilding year, or heck even 2015, they may have been able to justify it. I had hoped the club could work out a deal with the Yankees and then stash him at AAA, but my guess is the Yankees wanted him back for the same reason.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I know i am getting way ahead of myself but what pitchers will be free agents after the 2020 season?

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    WOW that first hook in the GIF you linked was unhittable for a AAA guy and the vast majority of MLB guys too. If he can throw that for a called strike he can be a devastating reliever. Especially if he gets up in the count and can buzz a fastball out of the zone for a swing-and-miss.

  • The Cubs are very deep at relief pitching. The guys they’ve called up have been really good & seems as though they can also go multiple innings. Rosario has been ridiculously outstanding. What a find. Made moving Monty to the rotation seem less. That none of the callups has faltered, is probably more the reason Maples is still in Iowa, than the fact he’s been really good himself.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Maples was really rough in late April/early May. Couldn't throw a strike. They really couldn't consider him at that point.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Yeah, I was talking more recently, though. And when guys like Farrell, Mazzoni, Rosario, Hancock, etc... were/are getting the call, they were/are performing well. Now even Bass had a good outing last night.

  • My response is caught in the filter, but I know what you’re saying.

  • fb_avatar

    Michael, what can we expect from Leal and Smyly? Are they going to be completely healthy by the end of the summer? We seem to have good pitching now and that's even with Butler out for an extended time.
    Thanks again for the update.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Leal looks healthy. He is longer removed from surgery. He was never a great prospect, more of a command guy, so I wouldn't expect a ton from him other than being an effective minot leaguer.

    Really can't say with Smyly at this point. He is just recently started throwing off a mound. I expect he starts his rehab outings in July with a potential August return to Chicago of everything looks right with him.

    I think we'll get an idea of what they expect by when they officially start his rehab clock. If he doesn't start throwing in games until August, which would allow them to not have to make a 25 man roster decision until after the restrictions are lifted in September then I will not expect much from him this year. If, however the early returns in his throwing sessions is good enough that they send him out for games in early July it would signal that they have confidence he can be a 25 man contributor this year. Don't freak out if that doesn't happen. I think his signing was always with an eye toward 2019 and anything they got this year was gravy

  • Not Michael, but I've been following the Smyly situation. He threw from the mound at Wrigley a few days ago (with Russell in the box testing his finger) with all the Cubs brass watching closely. The plan for now is a couple more BP sessions before a trip to AZ to throw a couple simulated games. If all goes well, he's expected to begin a minor-leaguer rehab assignment in early July, and could be an option to get called up by mid-August or certainly September. His progress is encouraging.

    Michael has much more knowledge of Leal than I do. I'll defer to his expertise.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Just to add to the Smyly info, I've read a few interviews. He sounds really confident and eager to return to competition. He said he is throwing his fastball and secondaries without hesitation and is completely pain-free. The only thing he hasn't done, as he puts it, is to fully "snap" his curve. I'm assuming that's the last box to be checked off before he's back in game action. All signs are good.

  • What is the ceiling for Smyly? Is he “ace” potential, 2, or 3? And what are the Cub expectation “if” he were to make it back in August before the Sep 1 roster expansion? The bullpen is really solid, Darvish is supposed to be healthy & Chatwood is still here... So basically what I’m getting at is where does Smyly fit for the 25 man portion for this year other than insurance for injury or under performance of the main 25?

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    When he was coming up, he was a potential MOR guy, but had kind of settled into a BOR role in Majors. When he was dealt to TB and began working with Hickey they changed his approach and pitch sequencing and he was starting to show MOR stuff/production before getting hurt. Hard to know exactly what to expect post-TJS though.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Smyly was groomed and mostly used as a SP, though he made 70+ appearances out of the Tigers pen early in his MLB career. His acquisition was always about potential and depth for 2019, with MOR potential as Michael stated.

    I think if all goes well his contributions in 2018 would be as additional LH depth out of the pen, possibly before rosters expand. He's never been dominant, but controls the zone well with less than 3 BB/9 historically, and manages contact well.

    I expect to see him this year, just to lessen the load on the rest of the pen down the stretch and to see what he's got going into next season. If he pitches well, he'll be in the mix for postseason consideration. The real question will be his fit next season. I can see a scenario where we sell high on Monty's SP potential, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yeah I understand why they got him, rotation next year & depth if he’s healthy by year end. That I already knew.

    And Michael answered my lead in question of his ceiling, which I kind of knew as well, to the point being missed, which was my 2 part 2nd(3rd) question that was more rhetorical than needing an absolute answer now... Who goes from the current 25 man to make room for Smyly “if” he’s called up before Sep 1? Assuming Edwards & Darvish replace Bass & Farrel when both are healthy... Rosario has been outstanding & Maddon really likes the guy. Chatwood & Monty aren’t getting cut... I just don’t see it happening.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    And based on the fact he’s a bottom of rotation hopeful for next year... it’s not like he’s a guy who could come in and be an impact closer/setup type while he gets ready for the top 2 parts of the rotation for the next season... I just don’t see the reasoning behind a August return date for him at big league level & not sure the Cubs are looking for that either short of a couple more guys going down... next year readiness or not.

  • Not gonna lie, I was following Little's start yesterday and was incredibly encouraged with not only how dominating he was last night but how he's really been on an upwards trajectory recently after battling inconsistency and command issues for a while. So for me the news of his injury really dampened the high I got after a nice win against the brewers I really felt like Little was in the best form we've seen him in a cub uniform. Good to hear that the injury didn't look too serious hopefully it's just a minor groin injury and not a hammy as I'd like to see him return to the mound soon you hate to see a guy get injured just as he's locking in with his mechanics so hopefully he can bounce back quickly from this.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I saw some speculation for a groin or hip flexor

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    That's what I heard too Michael and I'd consider that to be a success. I know the numbers don't look great yet but I still look at Little as one of our higher upside pitchers and he was really starting to show some of the stuff that led to him going in the 1st round recently stringing some of his most dominating performances together so just bad timing for the kid. Hopefully he can get back soon because he definitely seems like he's in sharp form right now in general and as a young pitcher you want to be able to build up his innings now so that you don't have to proceed so cautiously in future development seasons. I'm optimistic at the news I've heard about so far though good to see it's not a throwing arm injury as well.

  • Good to see the pitching trending up. Good to hear about Smyly, Little and Maples.

  • How much time do you think caratini will get at 1b?

    Also, I was wondering if you could explain the thinking behind drafting someone (Brooks) in the 7th round that would presumably be available later on in the draft. I know that teams will draft players earlier than the player should be drafted in order to save money, but would this player have been available in the 8th or 9th round?

    With so many rounds of the draft, 7th seems early to just take a guy.

  • In reply to 2Toes:

    Caratini will play 1B basically whenever they want to give him on his catching off days against NL team affiliates when the DH is not available.

    The way the bonus pool for the MLB draft works there is a slot value assigned for each of the first ten rounds. That total amount is what a team can spend. For Rounds 11-40, if you sign a player above a certain amount, that amount above is subtracted from your bonus pool that you can use in rounds 1-10. So a lot of times what you see is a team will use about 6-7 of their top 10 picks on legitimate top ten round picks, then they will also use the remaining picks on college seniors or other lower talent level guys that will sign for dirt cheap, which allows them to reallocate that pool money to sign overslot deals from the other rounds.

  • Great thanks! Can describe be traded like international caps are, or can teams not trade it like draft positions?

  • Can draft money be traded like international cap space?

  • In reply to 2Toes:

    The only draft picks (and the associated pool money) that can be dealt currently are the competitive balance picks that are given to the smaller market teams. The deals must be made before the draft as once you use the pick on a player.

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