It hasn't been a banner week for the Cubs' minor league affiliates, who have gone a combined 11-18 to start the season. However, as a warning against caring too much about either this week's record or any affiliate's record at any point this season, I'd like to point out a few things:
- Minor league win totals don't mean a ton. While everyone plays to win the game, teams care much more about the development of their prospects than they do win totals. As a result, players are often focusing on specific aspects of their game (working exclusively fastball-changeup, for example), and this doesn't always lead to the best possible baseball.
- The Cubs' top prospects are quite young for their level. Javier Baez is the youngest player in AAA. The average age in AA is over 23 years old, and both Kris Bryant and CJ Edwards are well below that age. This is good for the future of these prospects, but not as great for win-loss records.
- Even in a great system, there are scrubs and hangers-on who have no major-league future. These players also get the at-bats and innings they're due, and as a result have very real (negative) impact on games.
With this in mind, don't sweat the minor league losses, they don't mean anything about the state of the Cubs' system.
Three Stars of the Week
Number Three Star - Jeimer Candelario, High-A Daytona
Candelario is off to a hot start, hitting .261/.370/.478 with a homer and a 4/4 K/BB through his first 27 High-A plate appearances. Candelario is one of my favorite prospects in the system due to his eye at the plate, a body and swing that I think will produce at least average power in the future, and the soft hands to stick at third in the long run. He struggled in the beginning of the season last year in Kane County, so it's good to see him get off to a strong start in the warmer Florida weather.
Number Two Star - Carlos Pimentel, AAA Iowa
Carlos Pimentel put together the two of the best starts in the Cubs system over the last week, striking out 16, walking just 1, and giving up five earned over 11 innings. Pimentel, who is just 24 years old, is a new addition to the Cubs system and looks the part of a back-end major league starter. While that's nothing to get super excited about on its own, legitimate rotation depth is always desirable.
Number One Star- Josh Vitters, AAA Iowa
Josh Vitters has gotten lost in the system amongst myriad injuries and poor performances. Some of his most stringent believers (a group that I consider myself to be a part of) believe that he's probably a good platoon outfielder in the best case scenario, a scenario that's become less believable over the years.
Vitters has always struggled upon promotion to a new level before eventually breaking out in the next season. If this week is any indication, 2014 might be the AAA breakout of Vitters - he smacked the ball around to the tune of a .364/.440/.727 line and 2 home runs over the past week, and he only struck out 5 times in 25 PAs. If he can keep this up, he'll probably be playing in Chicago's outfield by the end of the season.
Relief Pitcher Relief Report
Boy, howdy, was the bullpen ugly yesterday. Brian Schlitter looks pretty rough so far, and the rest of the 'pen looks no better - the unit as a whole has combined for a 4.45 ERA, 5.66 FIP, and -0.8 fWAR already. Worst of all, the group's average fastball velocity is way down*, and at 90.4 mph comes in at 29th in the league.
The fanbase is already pining for a new set of relief pitchers, so let's check in on some of the options waiting in Iowa and Tennessee
- Zac Rosscup has 7 strikeouts in just 3 2/3 innings, and looks to be the next LOOGY in line if Russell or Wright can no longer LOOG hard enough
- Alberto Cabrera has a 2.70 ERA and 3/0 K/BB through 3 1/3 innings
- Yoanner Negrin (a personal favorite for no discernible reason) has struck out 4 through 3 1/3
- Blake Parker has 5 Ks and no BBs over 3 innings
- Armando Rivero has 7 Ks and no BBs over 3 1/3 innings
News and Notes
I got to see both of CJ Edwards' starts this week, and while I cannot give a full opinion because I only saw him through MiLB.tv, I have a few thoughts on him:
- I'm not in love with his delivery. He's got a high leg kick and a bit of drop-and-drive, and both moves decrease balance and stability in a delivery. I can see where the spotty fastball command comes from.
- That said, the delivery also has a bit of deception to it. The high leg kick and sweeping glove hand both help hide the ball a bit, and may explain why he's had so much success preventing homers in the minors. He generated a lot of swinging strikes on his fastball, and I believe this is at least part of the reason why.
- His fastball command needs a lot of work. I know it seems crazy to say that about a pitcher who has put up such stellar numbers in his career, but it's the truth. In the first game, he was yanking it glove-side or leaving it high and arm-side quite often, meaning his release point was out of whack. In his second start, he was leaving a lot of pitches out over the heart of the plate. He's lucky he wasn't facing better hitters because he would've given up three or four homers.
- His curveball, if he can command it, is a freakin' weapon. It's an almost cartoonishly-large break, and hitters have very little chance of making contact when he keeps it low. Poor AA hitters had no chance on it.
I also got to see Daury Torrez' first start in Quad Cities last Sunday (also MiLB.tv). Torrez was a favorite of many Cubs fans on Twitter last season, and I got a glimpse of why.
Torrez is a big kid with a thick lower half from which generates a lot of power. He has a simple, well-balanced delivery from the windup, and gets good momentum going toward the plate. This is not the case from the stretch, where he rushes his delivery and loses his balance on every pitch, but I'm sure he's working on that.
Torrez throws a sinking fastball with good life, as well as a curveball/slider thing that I saw him bury under the left foot of a left-handed hitter for a swinging strikeout. Both have the potential to be above-average to plus pitches, in my opinion.
Check back Monday for the next preview of the week ahead for the Cubs MiLB affiliates.
*early season velocity is not always a great indicator of future velocity, as pitching in the colder, northern cities is tougher
Thanks for reading; if you enjoyed it, please share with others. And if you'd like to be updated on my future posts, and those from the rest of the Cubs Insider team, you can subscribe below.
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
Filed under: Minor League News