Week of 7/14-7/20
You wouldn't have known it if you listened to any of the Round Rock-Iowa Cubs broadcast this weekend, but Javier Baez has quietly turned his season around after a horrendous first few months. After posting a .617 OPS through the month of April and striking out in nearly 40% of his plate appearances, Baez has markedly improved with each passing month in the minors.
Yes, only a few months after many wanted to write him off, the prospect with the highest upside in the Cubs' system is back to his old ways (and has even improved parts of his game). Baez's OPS has jumped each month (.617 in April, .738 in May, .815 in June, and .972 so far in July), his walk rate (7.6%) is strong, and take a look at what his strikeout rate has done as the season has progressed:
The blue line (K rate) has stayed in the low 30% range for most of the season, but the orange and grey lines (last 10 game K% and last 30 game K%, respectively) show that he has drastically cut his strikeout rate in recent weeks. In this past week, Baez only struck out twice (TWICE!) in 20 plate appearances. Small sample size caveats and all, but these improvements do correspond to changes he has said he's made in his swing, and are a sign that the overall improvements are not likely to be a fluke.
Look out AAA, 'cause if Javier Baez is becoming a slightly more disciplined hitter, he's going to lay waste to your pitchers over the last month and a half.
Everyone is still hitting bunches of home runs this week! New elite Cubs prospect Addison Russell has settled in, hitting three homers for Tennessee in the past week. The other elite infield prospects, Baez and Kris Bryant, had two apiece. Kyle Schwarber, Christian Villanueva, Dan Vogelbach, and Albert Almora have all gone deep this week, too.
Even when they weren't hitting it over the fence, the Cubs' system had a banner week at the plate. Sixteen different state-side players had an OPS over 1.000 this week, which is pretty absurd.
Jen-Ho Tseng Remains Dominant
Tseng has continued his reign of terror over MWL hitters, allowing just two baserunners in 6 innings of work this week. The young right-hander is starting to draw praise from national writers on a consistent basis, and has firmly established himself (in my mind) as the top pitching prospect in the system. John Arguello of Cubs Den has said the same here. If Tseng keeps this up, he is not long for Daytona.
Top Performers of the Week
You're all familiar with Baez, Bryant, Soler, and Tseng at this point, but the two other names on this list are worth keeping an eye on. Corey Black, acquired for Alfonso Soriano, has touched upper-90s in the past and profiles as a nasty late-inning bullpen arm. Black has significantly cut down on his walks as of late, and may have a chance to pitch in Iowa before year's end.
The other name, Erick Leal, was one of the prospect fliers acquired for the great Tony Campana. Leal's not a very good prospect, but given the amount of vitriol the Campy trade spawned, it's always fun seeing his name pop up every once in a while.
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Filed under: Minor League News