Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Slaughter hits grand slam, drives in 6; Velazquez homers; Updated prospect rankings

Jake Slaughter (photo by Jared Ravich at MiLB.com)

Jake Slaughter (photo by Jared Ravich at MiLB.com)

A rough night in the win and loss columns for the affiliates last night, but we did get a win and a notable first down in Eugene.

I spent a little time yesterday putting together an updated prospect ranking list for the org:

AAA

New Orleans 1, Iowa 0

Game Recap

Luke Farrell and the bullpen certainly did their part, holding the Baby Cakes to one run on five hits, but Sandy Alcantara was just a bit better. The big right hander acquired from St. Louis in the Marcell Ozuna deal allowed just one hit through six innings. The Cubs fared no better against the New Orleans bullpen.

Top Performers

  • Luke Farrell: 5 IP, 4 H, R, 3 BB, 4 K (L, 0-4, 4.05)
  • Dakota Mekkes: IP, H, B, 2 K (1.44)
  • Alberto Baldonado: 1.2 IP, 0 R (4.36)
  • Ryan Court; 1-3, BB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Dillon Maples

Dillon Maples

Dillon Maples (2-2, 8 S, 2.34) accomplished the unusual pitching line of recording 1 out but also 2 strikeouts. The first batter he faced did strike out but the ball got by the catcher and he reached first base. Maples then struck out the next guy. I say it is unusual, but for Maples maybe that shouldn't apply, since he has recorded 4 strikeouts in an inning on two occasions this season. It should also be noted that Maples extended his streak to 22 games without allowing an earned run (and just 1 total run).

Dakota Mekkes (3-0, 11 S, 1.14 between AA/AAA) is riding a scoreless streak of 8.2 innings.

Walks continue to be a bit of an issue for Luke Farrell but he also continues to be difficult to hit. He held MLB batters to a .244 average this season and has been even better against AAA competition, holding them to a .213 average.

AA

Biloxi 5, Tennessee 0

Game Recap

Biloxi jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the 1st of Thomas Hatch. The Smokies righty did bounce back and respond with five shutout innings after that fateful 1st, but with the offense struggling (six hits, one walk) to produce on the night it was enough to doom Tennessee.

Top Performers

  • Thomas Hatch: 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 6 K (L, 6-5, 3.93)
  • Preston Morrison: IP, 2 K (4.74)
  • Wynton Bernard: 2-3, 2B, BB (.333)
  • Connor Myers: 2-4, SB (4) (.260)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Another positive to come out of Thomas Hatch (121.1 IP, 110 H, 53 ER, 54 BB, 89 K) performance beyond the manner in which he regrouped, was that he did not walk a batter. This was just the second time in 22 starts this season he accomplished that.

A

Great Lakes 4, South Bend 3

Game Recap

Javier Assad (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Javier Assad (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Nursing a 3-2 lead after four innings, the rain clouds came through, causing a delay and the exit of South Bend starter Javier Assad. Once play resumed the Loons plated a pair of runs in the top of the 5th on a two-run homer off Brendan King (3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K). Meanwhile, the offense never threatened and managed just one hit the rest of the way.

If you can't tell from the uniform in the picture, it was Harry Potter night in South Bend.

Top Performers

  • Javier Assad: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, BB, 2 K (3.83)
  • Jake Steffens: 2 IP, 2 H, K (5.11)
  • Miguel Amaya: 1-2, 2 HBP (.264)
  • Jimmy Herron: 1-3, RBI, BB (.196)
  • Christian Donahue: 1-3, RBI (.284)
  • Brandon Hughes: 1-3, R, BB (.237)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Jimmy Herron (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Jimmy Herron (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Jimmy Herron (.240/.362/.360 in 22 games between R/A) is starting to pick up the pace a bit at the plate. Over his last 5 games he is still batting a modest .250 but most of his hits have been of the clutch variety, as he has driven in 7 runs over that span.

The Cubs could also use a boost from Miguel Amaya who reached base three times and is hitting .363 over his last 3 games. Amaya got off to a great start this season (.288/.365/.500 before the All-Star game) but is batting just .230/.320/.324 since the break.

A-

Eugene 10, Everett 6

Game Recap

Nelson Velazquez (photo by Jared Ravich at MiLB.com)

Nelson Velazquez (photo by Jared Ravich at MiLB.com)

Nelson Velazquez kicked off the scoring with a solo home run in the 2nd, but then after the Emeralds fell behind 5-1, he came through again with two more RBI as part of a five-run 5th inning that gave Eugene the lead back at 6-5. Jake Slaughter also drove in a pair of runs in that 5th inning, then drove in twice that number two innings later. His 7th inning grand slam, the first home run of his professional career, gave him six RBI on the night and the Emeralds all the insurance runs they would require.

Top Performers

  • Jake Slaughter: 3-5, 2B, HR (1), R, 6 RBI (.233)
  • Nelson Velazquez: 2-4, HR (7), 3 R, 3 RBI, BB (.243)
  • Andy Weber: 1-3, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB (.462)
  • Levi Jordan: 1-4, 2 R, BB (.262)
  • Luis Vazquez: 1-4, R, SB (9) (.201)
  • Stephen Ridings: 2 IP, H, BB, (W, 2-1, 4.50)
  • Casey Ryan: 2 IP, 2 K (4.74)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Jake Slaughter (photo by Jared Ravich at MiLB.com)

Jake Slaughter (photo by Jared Ravich at MiLB.com)

Few players get to claim their first professional home run is a grand slam, but Jake Slaughter (.233/.291/.384) will forever have that ability. And it is his untapped power potential that intrigues the Cubs organization. A highly regarded recruit out of high school, the Cubs originally drafted him two years ago, but Slaughter chose to attend LSU instead. It never really came together for him at the plate in his two seasons there, and so as a draft eligible sophomore, the Cubs chose him again, and this time convinced him that the pro environment might help him unlock some of his potential. He got off to a bit of a slow start in Mesa and Eugene but has 3 multi-hit games over his last 4 contests and is batting .333 over his last 10 games. A bigger infielder at 6'3" 200 pounds, he has played mostly at 3B and 1B with the Emeralds but has also appeared in 1 game at 2B and has experience playing shortstop in college. His size will likely limit him to the corners though as he moves up the ladder, especially if he adds additional muscle.

AZL

Dodgers 2, Cubs2 1

Top Performers

  • Fidel Mejia: 2-3, BB (.343)
  • D.J. Artis: 2-4, SB (3) (.286)
  • Brennen Davis: 2-4, R (.275)
  • Drew Wharton: 1-2, BB (.291)
  • Kohl Franklin: 2.1 IP, H, R, 0 ER, BB (7.94)
  • Luis Silva: 2 IP, H, BB, K (5.34)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

D.J. Artis (.286/.500/.286) has reached safely in all 6 of his pro games and already has 3 stolen bases as well. He missed time after being hit by a pitch but if he is now healthy, Eugene or potentially even South Bend, could use his skills in the near future.

Reivaj Garcia (.294/.348/.350) extended his hitting streak to 9 games. He won't turn 17-years old until next week.

Brennen Davis (.275/.422/.314) has not shown much power or had a really big game as of yet, but he has quietly reached base at high rate (9 BB, 4 HBP in 64 PA) and put the ball in play with regularity (12 K). Once on the bases, he has used his speed to swipe 5 bags in 6 attempts. He is built long and lean, so we probably have to wait for him to grow into his body before a power spike will occur.

DSL

Pirates1 7, Cubs1 5

CardinalsR 12, Cubs2 6

CardinalsR 6, Cubs2 3

Comments

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  • Great stuff, Michael, as always. I'm curious why Hatch is now outside of your top 20 prospects, and Hudson in the 40's territory. Is it just command issues they need to work on, or is their "stuff" just not playing well at the upper levels.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Thanks.

    Regarding Hatch, I had hoped to see some improvement on the command/control front this season, but so far it hasn't come about. He has also seen his GB and K rates plummet. That isn't unusual in the leap to AA but in combination with his inconsistent control it concerns me. On the positive side, Hatch has shown the stamina necessary to hold up as a starter, which is something the org held him back from doing last year.

    I will also note that it is difficult for me to get a read on the guys that spend the entire year in TN because of the limited access to video, so some of my concerns may be overblown or he may be exhibiting some positives that I have missed. I try not to move those TN players around in my rankings too much because of that, but some of the lingering concerns I had regarding Hatch entering the year have not abated. Not just with his control, but also his stuff which is avg-to-above-avg, so I grow increasingly concerned that he won't have a true plus pitch to rely on multiple times through a big league lineup, which might force him to the pen.

    As for Hudson, there are similar concerns. He continues to keep his head above water against older players, but his control and lack of a strikeout pitch are lingering issues.

    There is also not much separating players from about the 20-40 range, so a lot of those rankings are interchangeable and I wouldn't place too much weight on the actual number for those guys. That is one of the reasons I prefer tiers to numerical rankings, but readers enjoy numbers, so...

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I'd also like to note that I like the upside of pitchers from the 2017 draft class, and then also one hitter (Young), which has pushed Hatch and Hudson down the list a bit. Beyond Lange and Little, Thompson really impresses me with his ability to change speeds and mix pitches. Similar to Hatch in that I'm not sure he a plus offering, but he can throw five different pitches for strikes in any count which gives him an edge in my eye. Uelmen has greater upside with some deception and a power sinker, combined with a slider and change that flash as above average as well.

    Same with the hitters from the 2018 class. Hoerner is going to be good, Weber and Herron really intrigue me, and though I haven't seen Roederer or Davis, I am giving the Cubs benefit of the doubt by placing them in top 25. Richan has also made a positive first impression on the mound and Thompson has flashed impressive stuff as well.

    Then also from Hatch's own draft class, I have been really impressed with the strides Tyson Miller has made. He has gotten stronger and become a real workhorse with a classic starters build. His velo is up and I think there might still be more to come. Slider and change have shown improvement as well, but they will be determining factor of whether Miller stays in rotation or is forced to the pen. One of those two pitches needs to tighten up and become a consistent out pitch.

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    Thanks for the recaps and especially the prospect ratings. Nico has climbed so far and so fast--it seems like he has the "it" factor that so many other 1st round positions players this FO drafts. We also have done very well with this draft and that is very promising. Could Hoerner be up in a year or so? If he can, that opens up all kinds of possiblities with Addy and the positioning of all our infielders. Cole Roederer and Brennan Davis, AJ Artis, and others look very promising too.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I wouldn't rule out Hoerner making a similarly quick rise through the system that Schwarber and Happ made.

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    Thanks for this updated list and putting together these recaps daily.

    So has Eddy Martinez fallen that far off thats he doesn't even have an outside shot of getting to the show?

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I was never much of a believer. Has good strength and straight line speed, but I think he is stiff, which makes it difficult for him to adjust to offspeed stuff or be a dynamic defender.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    You have to be good to make it as a RH COF. It is basically MLB starter or AAA depth and I just can't see Martinez making it as a starter.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Zagunis is better at basically every facet and he has barely gotten a cup of coffee. Steep hill to climb for Martinez. His odds would have been much higher 15 years ago, before the 5th OF spot on the MLB bench gave way to a 12th pitcher.

  • Questions. Have you seen enough of Nico Hoerner to rate him so high or is it a comment about the paucity of true prospects?

    Is Mekkes that interesting or has Maples dropped because of somewhat disappointing short stints in Chicago?

    Are Bote and Bass no longer in the prospect category?

    Wild card. Is Dylan Cease as good as the Sox believe?

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    In reply to Swarf:

    I don't think it's ever been a question of whether or not Dylan Cease is that good. The question, for everyone, has been can be stay healthy enough to be that good. He's over 100 innings this year for the first time, there are still plenty of questions about his durability. He's going to be really good, i'm still not sold he will make it as a starter for very long because of his durability. Even if he can't be a starter, he's going to be a solid closer. He's electric, and has the stuff to be great.

  • In reply to Swarf:

    I do feel comfortable with my Hoerner ranking based off his Stanford and MiLB video. I just missed seeing him in person because he got hurt like the day before I went to see them. He has the bat speed and bat control to either remain a high contact table setter or morph into a power hitter if he so chooses. My preference would be to leave him as is, only free him up to look at turning on and driving pitches when the situations and/or count dictates it. I actually considered putting him 1st. I think he will move quickly. He is an explosive athlete with plus speed, and while he isn't as fluid as top defenders at short are, his hands are soft and he has enough range/arm.

    I'm a little out on front with Mekkes than anyone else I have seen. His raw stuff is avg-to-above-avg but I feel his deception and extension allows all of it play up because hitters don't pick the ball up and his perceived velocity is high. I think he can have the type of career Cishek has enjoyed, bouncing between whatever role a team needs in a given season, from the 6th to the 9th inning.

    Maples has the superior stuff, as good as anyone, and while he has made strides with his control it is still scary. I think he ends up in a C.J. Edwards type role where he can be a dominant fireman but his penchant for walks may leave you leery of making him the guy you count on in the 9th. You'll want to have the ability to have backup ready in case he enters and doesn't have it.

    Bote lost his rookie eligibility this past week. He would have been in the top 4. Bass is 30 and a MLB veteran.

    I will be honest, I worried about Cease developing the command necessary to be a dominant starter and considered it far more likely he ended up as a dominant closer. I'm beginning to change my view. He is a good athlete and the command is coming around. Think he ends up having a Chris Archer type career if he stays healthy.

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    Michael, do you have confidence in our FO to scout pitchers? We have had no regular draft choice (trades, yes) come in and be productive. It's not just not having 1st round choices, there are 30 more rounds at least and in 5 or 6 years I can't think of 1 starter from the draft. That's the one fault I find with Theo and Co.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    The cubs traded Zach Godley ,,, 10th round pick to Dbacks in the Monteroy deal

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Godley and Blackburn are their best MLB success stories so far but both were dealt for immediate help (Miggy and Monty). Cease is certainly on pace to join that group as a success story they traded. They also had some attrition due to injury (Ryan Williams) who I think would have made a fine BOR starter or at least a swingman had his shoulder woes not cropped up. Those returns aren't bad considering the team hasn't sunk much in terms of draft (or IFA) resources into pitchers. Basically every pitcher that they have invested highly in has at least made the Majors, even if some haven't made much of an impact. What they've lacked is a true home run pick. Maybe that ends up being Cease.

    To be critical, I was not a fan of their early college choices, guys like Pierce Johnson, Rob Zastryzny and Jake Stinnett had starter builds but enough questions that I felt a relief role was always more likely. Z and Stinnett were probably overdrafted a little but I also think they were following a philosophy that they were looking for certain physical skills and then were looking to teach things, like a better breaking ball. I think they have moved on from that approach, for the better. The emphasis of late has been mostly on safer, proven strike throwers in addition to some swings on raw arms with greater upside.

    We also have to remember that a guy like Duane Underwood was a part of the FO's first draft class and he is just now reaching AAA and is not old for the level. It generally takes 5+ years to develop prep pitchers and we are just now seeing early draft choices like Underwood and Clifton as well as IFA investments like Tseng come into play. Justin Steele is going to be coming into play soon as well. One or more of them could carve out a future MLB role. And then the 2016-17 college pitching heavy draft classes will start arriving next year. Guys like Mekkes, Thompson, Rucker, Hatch, Swarmer, Robinson, Miller, Lange, etc should start getting their chances in 2019-20.

    To sum up, has the lack of a breakthrough success been a disappointment, especially in light of all the success with hitters? Of course. But I also think they are being held to a bit too high of a standard. If they don't start getting a contribution by the end of 2019 or 2020 though, I would consider it a major disappointment.

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    Really excited about the draft class this year, especially the Brennen Davis, and Roederer. its particularly cool to see Davis, with that frame being able to have solid plate discipline. As John taught me a long time ago on this site, the power is not much of a concern as it develops rather slowly, but plate vision like that, can't be taught. Obviously, a player can somewhat be taught a little bit of patience at plate, but a true "plus" eye I don't think is learned like that. This front office has really identified and drafted guys who fit that mold, and often times these guys also have good contact rate. Another solid class it seems, it looks like we have some solid depth coming. I personally, am ok with guys that aren't high upside types, if you give me a system full of David Bote's, i'm completely satisfied at this point. However, it would be nice to see one of the young pitching prospects take that much needed jump into top tier status, thanks for the work you put into the minor leagues Michael, always enjoy reading it every day.

  • In reply to KenJordan23:

    Definitely easier to develop power than plate discipline, but the former can be improved. Cubs have several guys in the system that have made leaps at drawing walks.

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    It seems this draft class has more talent and more possible elite talent than the recent ones.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Yeah, they took some swings on more higher upside prep talent (Roederer, Davis, Franklin) than they have in a few years. 2016 and 2017 drafts were focused very much toward safer, college arms. They wanted some guys that would move fast to hopefully supplement the core of young hitters as they start getting more expensive in arbitration the next few years.

    Also remember, they didn't have a 1st or 2nd round pick in 2016 due to Heyward and Lester signings.

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    Thanks for the daily Recaps, Prospect rankings, and Exposition in the comments as well Michael. I also really enjoy reading your work just about every day even though I do tend to skip most of the lower-level stuff until they at least get to Myrtle Beach or so. You are an awesome resource for Cubs fans everywhere!

  • In reply to Tyson Wirth:

    Thanks, Tyson.

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