Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Riley Thompson impresses and Nelson Velazquez homer for Eugene; Zinn continues swinging a hot bat; Remy with another solid performance in AZL

Delvin Zinn (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Delvin Zinn (photo by Rikk Carlson)

A rough day and night throughout the system, as a number of the affiliates dropped close games, one was blown out by a large margin, and none of the upper level teams came out victorious.

AAA

Omaha 3, Iowa 2

Game Recap

It started off well enough, with Stephen Bruno driving in Terrance Gore in the 3rd to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead, and Jen-Ho Tseng holding Omaha off the board for the first five innings. Omaha would finally breakthrough in the 6th with an RBI double followed by a two-run homer off Tseng to make the score 3-1. Iowa trimmed the lead to one in the top of the 7th, and Tseng rebounded to throw another scoreless inning in order to give the offense more time for a comeback but Omaha closer Richard Lovelady came on and completed a 2.1 inning save.

Top Performers

  • Jen-Ho Tseng: 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 4 K (L, 2-14, 6.35)
  • Stephen Bruno: 1-2, RBI, BB (.240)
  • Trey Martin: 1-3, RBI, SB (5) (.216)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Jen-Ho Tseng

Jen-Ho Tseng

I warned throughout last season that Jen-Ho Tseng was not going to continue having the same success he posted as the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year (the second time he won the award), but I will also continue to preach patience on his behalf this season as he will continue to be this unsuccessful. There is a middle ground that Tseng will likely settle into, probably as a league average AAA starter, with the ability to function as MLB depth as an injury filler. His second half numbers (44.2 IP, 43 H, 24 ER, 10 BB, 35 K, .256 AVG, 1.19 WHIP) are more indicative of his talent level. The Cubs are nearing the 40-man roster crunch time of year, and Tseng may end up being a victim of a team in contention, but even if he does end up moving on to another organization don't be surprised if he pops up in the Majors again at some point down the road.

AA

Montgomery 6, Tennessee 5

Game Recap

Justin Steele (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Justin Steele (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

The main story in this game was the AA debut of lefty Justin Steele (4.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K). It did not end up being the smashing success his first game back with Myrtle Beach last month, as he immediately got off on the wrong foot, surrendering a hit, sacrifice bunt and a two-run homer to the first three batters of the game. He'd recover to retire the next five batters he faced. He'd load the bases with no out in the 3rd but come away unscathed. He'd give up one more run in the 4th before loading the bases with one out and then once again pitching his way out of it.

Meanwhile, his counterpart, Chicago native Brock Burke absolutely dominated the Smokies lineup over eight innings, allowing just one run while punching out 11. Tennessee did make it interesting after he exited, however. In the 9th, Wynton Bernard cracked a two-run homer to draw the Smokies within three, and then with the bases loaded and two outs, Charcer Burks drove in two more with a single. With the tying and winning runs on base Jeffrey Baez popped out to end it.

Top Performers

  • Wynton Bernard: 2-4, HR (2), R, 2 RBI (.313)
  • P.J. Higgins: 2-4, R (.222)
  • Trent Giambrone: 1-2, R, RBI, BB, SF (.255)
  • Jesse Hodges: 1-3, BB (.204)
  • Zack Short: 1-4, R, BB (.231)
  • Brad Markey: 1.1 IP, 3 BB, 3 K (0.00)
  • Scott Effross: 1.1 IP, K (5.88)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

While it is no doubt not how the two of them envisioned their season's playing out, the Smokies have received a nice late season boost from a pair of AAA veterans that began the year in Iowa. Reliver Brad Markey has now fired 7.2 scoreless innings since re-joining Tennessee, and Wynton Bernard has been a consistent threat at the plate (.313./367/.410) and on the bases (10/12 SB) in 30 games.

Tyler Alamo (.212/.261/.347 with 8 HR in 71 G at Myrtle Beach) singled and scored in his AA debut. Alamo has not had the breakout season hoped for, as injury and a sometimes overaggressive approach at the plate made for a rocky return season to Myrtle Beach, but he has the opportunity to finish on a high note as an injury to Yasiel Balaguert opened the door for a late-season promotion. Alamo was coming off a .281/.322/.422 season with 12 HR for the Pelicans in 2017.

Trent Giambrone (photo: Stephanie Lynn)

Trent Giambrone (photo: Stephanie Lynn)

Another walk for Trent Giambrone (.255/.332/.450) now gives him 11 over his last 9 games. A sometimes over-aggressive approach has held him back at times, so if he can take his plate discipline up a notch it could unlock even more potential in his game. The 24-year old has settled in nicely as a good defensive second baseman that has more consistently tapped into his natural above-average power and speed this season. We had seen flashes of both in 2017, but he was a fairly streaky hitter throughout the year, and it wasn't until 2018 that his performance has stabilized. It has turned Giambrone into a legit prospect that figures to be one of the main call up options from AAA next season should injuries arise in Chicago. He is capable of filling in on the left side of the infield and both corner outfield positions in addition to his natural ability at 2B.

Advanced A

Down East 16, Myrtle Beach 0

Game Recap

Nope. Not spending time on this one.

Top Performers

  • Roberto Caro: 1-2, BB (.290); 0.1 IP, BB (0.00)
  • Jared Young: 1-4, SB (4) (.285)
  • Jose Paulino: 2.2 IP, 2 H, BB, 3 K (6.13)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Tyler Pearson and Roberto Caro both made their second appearance on the mound this season for Myrtle Beach. Pearson had actually made 3 scoreless appearances for the club over the past 3 seasons before giving up 4 runs in this one. Although, since all 4 runs were unearned, he still sports a 0.00 ERA, as does Caro in 1.1 total innings.

A

Fort Wayne 3, South Bend 2 (Game 1)

Fort Wayne 3, South Bend 2 (Game 2)

Game Recap

Enrique De Los Rios (photo by Rebecca Snyder)

Enrique De Los Rios (photo by Rebecca Snyder)

Game one of the doubleheader was the most difficult of the one-run losses on the day. Enrique De Los Rios controlled the TinCaps over 5.2 innings and Jimmy Herron hit a solo home run in the 4th to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead that lasted until the final inning. Manuel Rodriguez, who had been pitching well of late after a disastrous first half, couldn't nail it down and Fort Wayne plated two runs to win it.

South Bend was getting blanked 3-0 in game two until the final inning. Leadoff man Clayton Daniel reached on a dropped third strike to get the comeback attempt started. One out and two singles later, the Cubs were down two with two men on. Jose Gutierrez brought home one on a ground out, but Rafael Narea struck out with the tying run in scoring position to record the final out.

Top Performers

  • Enrique De Los Rios: 5.2 IP, 4 H, R, 0 BB, 6 K (2.56)
  • Jake Steffens: 3.1 IP, H, BB, 2 K (3.80)
  • Delvin Zinn: 3-4, 2 BB, HBP, CS (4) (.289)
  • Chris Singleton: 3-6, 2B, RBI (.211)
  • Jimmy Herron: 1-4, HR (3), R, RBI (.242)
  • Cam Balego: 1-3, R (.248)
  • Eric Gonzalez: 1-3, R (.333)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Delvin Zinn (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Delvin Zinn (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Delvin Zinn (.289/.332/.332) is an above average athlete with all the makings of a strong defender at all three infield positions. He also possesses pretty solid bat-to-ball skills that he is just beginning to tap into thanks to a more patient approach at the plate over the past month or so. The 21-year old is batting .455 over his last 10 games, .324/.405/.408 overall in August, and .316/.380/.389 (8.2 BB%, 17.3 K%) over his last 27 games since July 26th.

A-

Eugene Score

Game Recap

In a surprising move, Riley Thompson threw 72 pitches in what is likely to be one of, if not the longest, outing we see from any of their 2018 draftees. I know Thompson spent time in the LSU bullpen this season, so his arm has less wear and tear than other full-time starters they drafted, but the team is usually pretty cautious with their new arms.

That said, Thompson rewarded their faith with a really strong outing, allowing only a single unearned run over 4.2 innings. He left with the game knotted 1-1 thanks to a 1st inning Nelson Velazquez bomb. Cam Sanders (L, 0-2, 5.54), another power arm the Cubs drafted with their subsequent pick, yielded three runs in the 7th to lose it, as he struggled with his control.

Top Performers

  • Riley Thompson: 4.2 IP, 3 H, R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (2.21)
  • Mitch Stophel: 1.1 IP, 2 H, BB, K (6.08)
  • Eugenio Palma: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 K (3.63)
  • Nelson Velazquez: 2-4, HR (8), R, RBI (.239)
  • Andy Weber: 1-3, BB (.288)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

At his best Riley Thompson (20.1 IP, 21 H, 5 ER, 7 BB, 18) generates good downhill plane on his 91-95 mph fastball, and nice drop on a 12-to-6 curveball when he stays on top of it, and will flash a solid changeup as well. I imagine the Cubs will tinker a bit with his mechanics to try to unlock a bit more consistency from him. There are a lot of interesting ingredients to work with and it is easy to see why the Cubs invested an 11th round pick and overslot $200K bonus for the opportunity to work with Thompson. Walks have not been a big issue as yet, but there is still much work to be done in refining command and getting ahead of hitters with greater frequency. If he is able to do that, Thompson has the size and stuff to be a starter, but has a nice fallback as a power reliever if it doesn't work out. It is a similar situation to that of Bailey Clark coming out of the 2016 draft.

He isn't much more than a mistake hitter right now, but Nelson Velazquez certainly shows off his raw strength and bat speed in those situations. This is a perfect example of the type belt high pitch he thrives on right now. Moving forward he will need to make strides handling pitches, especially offspeed, lower in the zone as well laying off heaters up in the zone.

AZL

Cubs1 4, Athletics 2

Top Performers

  • Peyton Remy: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, ER, 0 BB, 5 K (2.58)
  • Alonso Garcia: 2.1 IP, 0 R (3.43)
  • Dalton Geekie: IP, H, K (S, 1, 0.00)
  • Chesny Young: 2-3, R, 2 BB (.44)
  • Alexander Guerra: 1-4, 2B, 3 RBI (.250)
  • Edmond Americaan: 1-4, RBI, BB, SB (9) (.276)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

I don't have a scouting report on Peyton Remy (6-1, 2.58), but the 22-year old JUCO the Cubs chose in the 17th round last year has put up impressive numbers (52.1 IP, 40 H, 15 ER, 13 BB, 59 K) in the AZL this season. I had been hoping the Cubs would give him a late promotion to Eugene so that I could get a look at him, but given the AZL Cubs1 will be competing in the playoffs and the Emeralds will not, it makes sense to leave Remy where he is at and get him the extra work.

DSL

Cubs1 2, Pirates1 1

CardinalsR 4, Cubs2 3

Comments

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  • I posted this in a game thread, but I hope that you, Michael, might be able to give some insight.

    When should a switch hitter give up the switch hitting and just focus on hitting from a consistent batters box?

    Happ seems to have such a smooth swing vs right handed pitching, which I know is aided by the fact that pitches would mostly curve towards him swinging as a lefty. However, his swing as a righty seems very awkward.

    His splits seem to be favoring batting lefty:
    As a lefty vs RHP -
    https://www.fangraphs.com/statsplits.aspx?playerid=17919&position=OF&season=0&split=0.2

    As a righty vs LHP:
    https://www.fangraphs.com/statsplits.aspx?playerid=17919&position=OF&season=0&split=0.3

    At what point do you tell a guy to just hit lefty?

  • In reply to 2Toes:

    That is a difficult question, with no silver bullet for the answer.

    I would actually discourage switch hitting at a younger age. Now that doesn't mean I would discourage experimentation and naturally right handed people from swinging from the left side. But I think as a teenager, if you are a legit prospect... unless you REALLY struggle with breaking pitches... I would just concentrate on your better side. If you are a talented hitter with the skills to recognize and hit MLB pitching, I'm not sure switch hitting helps you that much in the long run. Hitting from one side tends to give you more consistency. Although, if you believe in Joe Maddon's concept that guys swing too much nowadays, the switch hitters probably are less of a concern in that regard.

    I'm not sure making the change at the major league level is a great idea either. Happ would have to make a major adjustment to hitting lefthanded pitchers and at this point is better off just sticking with his current routine. That is why I think it better to decide on it as a teenager and then if you are going to concentrate on one side it gives you many years of experience and development time to get used to breaking balls and how same side pitchers will attack you.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Makes a lot of sense, thanks for the response!

    After he made a successful relief appearance with the cubs, i remember we shared some concerns about Alec Mills' ability to be a starter. I didn't get to see his start, did you? Did he have an effective 3rd pitch? I know the results were there, but it was a Votto-less reds team...

  • In reply to 2Toes:

    I only got to see part of Mills start. But I will say that there is no reason he can't have good games as a starter. He is a borderline 5/6 MLB starter. I just question whether he can consistently do it. I do think he can be an effective middle reliever and spot starter.

  • Michael, really look forward to your write-ups. Once the MiL seasons end will you be providing end of season league standings? As I look at the individual BAs and ERAs there doesn't appear to be much hope for the future on the near horizon. Maybe a couple relief pitchers but that's just about it. When do they start cleaning out the team in Iowa. A lot of the guys seem to have been there for a long time and have reached their potential. Looking forward to some new faces.

  • In reply to veteran:

    Yes, I'll have plenty of season roundup and prospect reports coming up.

    Iowa (at least the pitching staff) is going to be very young starting next year. There may be a couple of veteran C, 1B, OF but there will be several prospects in the everyday lineup as well.

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