Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Bryant completes rehab as Smyly kicks his off by striking out the side; Abbott fires five shutout innings; Remy Ks 8; Initial AFL rosters announced

Drew Smyly (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Drew Smyly (photo by Rikk Carlson)

I did not have time this afternoon to write up a full article regarding the Arizona Fall League roster announcements, but did a quick overview on Twitter:

I am still working my way through a final year-end prospect rankings, but I currently have Nico Hoerner as the Cubs top position player prospect. Trent Giambrone comes in at 17th, D.J. Wilson at 34th and Higgins just outside the Top 50.

Once the Cubs pitchers are announced I will try to do a full write-up, but I will also be on vacation beginning this weekend so the timing may not work out.


Oklahoma City 4, Iowa 2

Game Recap

Iowa held an early 1-0 lead but a three-run 4th off starter Jen-Ho Tseng doomed the Cubs. Old friends Daniel Corcino and Brian Schlitter earned the win and save respectively for the Dodgers.

Top Performers

  • Jen-Ho Tseng: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 0 BB, K (L, 2-15, 6.27)
  • Casey Coleman: 2 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 K (6.91)
  • Jacob Hannemann: 1-4, 3B, 2 RBI (.235)
  • Jason Vosler: 1-4, 2B, R (.259)
  • Mark Zagunis: 1-2, BB (.270)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Kris Bryant played the first three innings in LF, and led off (striking out in both plate appearances) in what is expected to be his final rehab appearance.

Jen-Ho Tseng

Jen-Ho Tseng

Of all the players in the Cubs system, few have had rough season combined with poor luck like Jen-Ho Tseng (136.1 IP, 159 H, 95 ER, 44 BB, 115 K). He turned in a quality start yet was still hung with his 15th L of the season. He posted far better numbers in the 2nd half (4.80 ERA, 50.2 IP, 51 H, 27 ER, 10 BB, 36 K, .264 AVG against, 1.20 WHIP) but finished without a win (0-5). He will be in a tough spot to retain his 40-man roster spot this September despite two Minor League Pitcher of the Year awards since signing with Chicago as an IFA in 2013. Still just 23 years old, he could really use a fresh start, be it in a new organization or with the Cubs next spring. He will face stiff competition for a rotation spot in Iowa next season.


Pensacola 5, Tennessee 1

Game Recap

Matt Swarmer L, 4-6, 3.84) held Pensacola in check for the first five innings but they finally broke through against him with two runs in the 6th and then three more in the 7th as he surrendered a home run in each inning.

Top Performers

  • Preston Morrison: IP, 2 K (4.66)
  • Jake Stinnett: 2 IP, H, 3 K (4.97)
  • Zack Short: 1-3, 2B, BB (.230)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Matt Swarmer (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Matt Swarmer (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Despite my concerns regarding left-handed hitters and his ability to effectively work through a Major League batting order multiple times, one thing I do not concern myself with Matt Swarmer's ability to throw strikes and miss bats. His 5 Ks and 1 BB actually worsened his K-to-BB ratio, to 6.43 over 128.2 IP between Myrtle Beach and Tennessee. Swarmer (3.22 ERA, 128.2 IP, 113 H, 21 BB, 135 K, .231 AVG, 1.04 WHIP overall) was especially death to right-handed batters this season (.171 AVG against with MB and .198 with TN). Those two abilities, controlling the strike zone and right-handed hitters, will definitely help Swarmer carve out a role in Major League bullpen using his fastball and slider combo. If he can improve his changeup as a weapon against lefties, he could still factor in as a starter as well.

Trent Giambrone (photo: Stephanie Lynn)

Trent Giambrone (photo: Stephanie Lynn)

Trent Giambrone (.254/.335/.450) counter: 15 walks in 15 August games. He also celebrated his AFL assignment by swiping his 26th bag of the year. Given he has a 3-homer, 12-RBI game this season, I won't rule out him completing a 20-20 season, but he is currently 3 homers short with 4 games remaining.

Advanced A

Buies Creek 2, Myrtle Beach 1

Game Recap

Cory Abbott (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Cory Abbott (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Swarmer's main competition for Minor League Pitcher of the Year may well be Cory Abbott (Duncan Robinson, Keegan Thompson and Tyson Miller all have strong cases as well). And if their final showings end up being the tie breaker, the edge goes to Abbott. The 2017 2nd round pick fired five shutout innings as he worked through a few jams due to a some hiccups with his control.

Jared Young (a contender for Minor League Player of the Year along with Jason Vosler) tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the 7th to tie the game at 1-1 but the Astros plated a run off Yapson Gomez (L, 1-1, 0.52) in the following frame. It was the first earned run off Gomez in his 17.1 innings since joining Myrtle Beach from South Bend.

Top Performers

  • Cory Abbott: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 K (2.53)
  • Bailey Clark: 2 IP, 3 H, R, 0 BB, 2 K (2.67)
  • Jared Young: 1-4, 3B, R (.288)
  • Luis Ayala: 1-2, BB (.185)
  • Jhonny Pereda: 1-3, BB (.275)


Bowling Green 4, South Bend 2

Game Recap

Ignore the final score, because there was great news for the big club to come out of this game. Left hander Drew Smyly, who the club signed last offseason to a 2-year, $10M dollar deal while he recovered from TJS, made his first rehab appearance. And he made quite the first impression:

Top Performers

  • Drew Smyly: IP, 3 K (0.00)
  • Javier Assad: 5 IP, 3, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (L, 5-7, 4.40)
  • Chris Singleton: 1-3, 3B, R (.219)
  • Rafael Narea: 2-3 (.243)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Rafael Narea (.243/.300/.318) is batting .316 with 11 RBI over his last 10 games.

Delvin Zinn (.298/.345/.337) extended his hitting streak to 11 games and Chris Singleton (.219/.269/.330) extended his to 6.


Salem-Keizer 15, Eugene 5

Game Recap

The Volcanoes jumped all over Eury Ramos in the 2nd inning, piling on six runs before chasing him from the game. The next two relievers fared only a little better, combining to allow three runs over the next three innings, before the Volcanoes put up another six runs off Mitch Stophel.

Top Performers

  • Brennon Kaleiwahea: 1-4, HR (1), R, 4 RBI (.184)
  • Jonathan Sierra: 1-3, 2B, R, RBI, BB (.250)
  • Grant Fennell: 2-3, BB (.285)
  • Nelson Velazquez: 1-3, 2B, R, BB (.245)
  • Stephen Ridings: 1.2 IP, 2 K (3.48)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

The lone highlight from this game was the first professional home run by undrafted catcher Brennon Kaleiwahea, a grand slam in the top of the 6th that temporarily put the Emeralds back in the game 9-5. Unfortunately, the game had no video broadcast so I can't include any footage. Congratulations, anyway.

AZL Championship Series

Dodgers 7, Cubs1 3 (Dodgers lead series 1-0)

Top Performers

  • Yonathan Perlaza: 2-3, 2 R, RBI, BB, 2 SB
  • Orian Nunez: 1-3, R, HBP
  • Josue Huma: 2-4
  • Peyton Remy: 5 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 8 K
  • Brady Miller: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K
  • Alonso Garcia: IP, BB, 3 K

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Peyton Remy (6-1, 2.58) finished off a great season (52.1 IP, 40 H, 13 BB, 59 K) with a great performance in a big game. I'm afraid I still don't have a scouting report on the Cubs 17th rounder out of Central Arizona JC.

The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the 2nd when Yonathan Perlaza pulled off a straight steal of home plate. After each team plated a run in the 5th, the Dodgers broke it open in the 6th by scoring 6 runs, all with two outs.


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  • fb_avatar

    What is the reasoning do you think around DJ Wilson to AFL? Kind of a reboot? He hasn't had a good year clearly, maybe a higher level of competition will jump start him.

    Cubs must think PJ Higgins has a future as a ML backup, right? IIRC, he's a good defensive catcher and Rule 5 eligible, so maybe they are evaluating whether he can hold his own with bat enough to be a backup. Cubs probably need a 3rd catcher on 40-man anyway

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I too am surprised at the inclusion of Wilson and Higgins to the AFL roster, but thrilled that Nico is deemed healthy enough to play. Looks like the Cubs are going to fast track him.

    Mike - does Abbott start at Tennessee next year or is there too much depth right now at Iowa and Tennessee for that to happen?

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Abbott should begin next year in Tennessee but it may depend on how many players the Cubs lose from the back end of the 40-man roster this offseason and how healthy they come out of spring training. So, for instance, if Tseng remains with the org it could push a guy from Iowa to Tenn and then a guy from Tenn to MB.

    As of right now, my projection is:
    Iowa: Alzolay, Clifton, Robinson, with Mills, K. Thompson, Rucker, Hatch, Swarmer, Tseng competing for final 2-3 spots. I expect Underwood moves to the pen full-time, but won't rule out him remaining a starter. I would like to see Mills moved to swing man role in Chicago and/or Iowa as well. That is potentially 9 or 10 guys competing for 5-6 rotation slots and maybe 1-2 bullpen slots in Iowa. At least 1 or 2 of that group likely is pushed to Tenn to start 2019 though.

    Tenn: 1-2 Iowa spill over, Steele, Lange, Miller, Abbott. Potentially De La Cruz once he returns from suspension, but I think he and Clark will get pushed to multi-inning relief in order to groom them for future MLB bullpen gigs, but they could certainly still see some time in rotation. As could Leal if he re-signs. I do think TN converts to 6 man or at least 6-man-skip rotation next year to accommodate all the arms.

    MB: Uelmen, Little, Hudson, Richan, Moreno, Assad (but maybe a spillover from TN pushes Assad back to SB). Marquez could push his way into picture as well.

    SB: Marquez, Albertos, Y. Cruz, R. Thompson, Carrera, Mort, Casey, Ramos, Camargo, Passantino in some combo. 1-2 probably start in BP or EXST if everyone is healthy.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Wilson has missed time in each of his pro years due to injury so this can be viewed as a bit of catch up for him.

    He did make some mechanical changes at the plate this year that I believe will help him in the long run. He also continues to make impressive strides in terms of his pitch recognition and strike zone judgement. His walk rate was well above average this year and he chased far fewer high fastballs which was an issue in years past. As John would say, process before results.

    His defense has also gained more consistency and now makes the routine play along with the numerous highlight reel plays he has always been capable of achieving.

    Remember that Wilson was a two-sport guy that was recruited to play WR at major Big Ten schools like Ohio State. He does not have as much baseball experience as most at his age, and the nagging injuries he has suffered every year have not helped him gain a comfort level as quickly as others.

    He has made positive adjustments every season and the arrow is still pointing in the right direction for him. At worst he can function like a Jacob Hannemann defense/speed AAA depth player. If he can lock in some of his offensive changes and put them into practice with consistency there is still 4th OF and maybe even starting caliber CF potential with him.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Higgins is 25 and Rule 5 eligible for the first time. He is a converted IF that got a late start at catching but has taken to it well. While he doesn't have the arm of Amaya or Pereda he moves as well as any of the Cubs catching prospects and does have solid framing skills as well. At the plate he takes walks and is capable of hitting line drives. Prior to this year he lacked enough strength to do much at the plate, but bulked up a little last offseason and it made a noticeable difference, helping him punch more hits through the infield and into the outfield gaps.

    He likely tops out as versatile 3rd catcher that can function as a 26th man and shuttle guy between Chicago and Iowa but there is still #2 ceiling if he reaches his full potential.

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    Thanks for the update and perspective as always Michael... Hope you have a very relaxing vacation!

  • In reply to Tyson Wirth:

    +1 have a great vacation and thank you.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Thank you.

    Lot of travelling coming up for me this weekend so the recaps of the final few days might be hit or miss.

  • Excellent update, and I'm glad to see Smyly's return to action.

    Do you have any recent news on Morrow?

  • In reply to wthomson:

    I think they are still targeting a mid-September return for Morrow, so we probably won't see any rehab outings since season will be over.

  • P.S. Have a great vacation--you deserve it!

  • Danny Hultzen has been promoted to AAA. I guess you can throw his hat in the ring for a potential September roster spots as well.

    Heard good things about his slider and change. Fastball topping out around 90, but with decent movement.

    The former 2nd overall pick of the Mariners battled years of shoulder injuries after making it to AAA. Has never appeared in a big league game. Pitched just 10 combined inning in 2015-16 and was out of baseball in 2017 before deciding to make a final comeback attempt this season.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Would you happen to know if either he or Webster have any options left?

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    Thanks for all of this Michael. I'm looking forward to seeing Nico playing again. Swarmer and Peyton Remy are 2 pitchers I'm high on, mostly because of your insights, especially with Remy.
    Thanks again.

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