Daily Cubs Minors Recap: South Bend rallies late twice to earn lone affiliate victory on Opening Day

D.J. Wilson (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

The long awaited return of the Daily Cubs Minors Recap!

It feels great to be bringing this feature back. The last time I had Minor League games to report on was back in September of 2019. And a lot has happened since, for the Cubs, their affiliates, their scouts, their development plans, but also for us as fans.

There will be many new faces to track this spring and summer. From the youngsters added in the Yu Dravish trade, to the entire draft and IFA classes from last season who had yet to play an affiliated professional game. We’ll also have plenty of surprises in store for us when it comes to familiar prospects. Given the amount of time since last we saw some of them expect plenty of guys with improved physiques, reworked swings, and/or remodeled repertoires.

MLB

Rookie Performers

Keegan Thompson made his first Major League start and made the most of it:

Justin Steele (IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 2 K, W 1-0, 3.68) bounced back from a rough outing against the Reds to earn the win in the 9th. As a reliever Steele has relied heavily on his 93-94 mph fastball elevated in the zone, coupled with a hard slider which he has developed since we last saw him in the Minors back in 2019. And he was pretty excited about his performance…

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

The Cubs placed Jake Arrieta (right thumb abrasion), Dan Winkler (right triceps tendinitis), and Nico Hoerner (left forearm strain) on the 10-day IL. Reinforcements came in the form of Thompson, Kyle Ryan and Ildemaro Vargas (who was re-added to the 40-man roster). The Cubs also added Kohl Stewart as the 27th man for the doubleheader, but he was not needed despite Game 2 heading into extra innings.

AAA

Indianapolis 3, Iowa 0

Game Recap

With Vargas and a handful of pitchers projected to play for Iowa summoned to Chicago as injury replacements, plus Tyson Miller still in COVID protocols, the I-Cubs are currently undermanned. Veteran MLB reliever Joe Biagini made his first start since 2018 and kept Iowa in it, but the offense came up dry in support of him. The bats threatened just once all night, in the bottom of the 6th, when they loaded the bases with no outs on a walk and their only two hits of the game. But the next three batters quickly struck out, ending the potential rally.

Top Performers

  • Joe Biagini: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
  • Jason Adam: 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, K
  • Sergio Alcantara: 1-2, BB

AA

Tennessee, Montgomery PPD

Advanced A

South Bend 7, Quad Cities 4

Prospect Profile

If you predicted D.J. Wilson as the first star of the system for Opening Day, I applaud you. I don’t actually believe you, but I’ll give you a courtesy clap for keeping a straight face.

This isn’t to take anything away from Wilson, who is still one of the better athletes in the system, but at 24 years old and returning to High-A for the third time, he’s become a bit of a forgotten man. It hasn’t helped that injuries have often kept him off the field. In his four full professional seasons, Wilson has never appeared in more than 91 games.

There is definitely still some juice in his legs on both the basepaths and in the outfield. The question has always been if there is enough juice in his bat. At least for one night, the answer was yes.

Game Recap

I wouldn’t label Wilson with the same prospect billing he once possessed, but for the first time in years he looks healthy and his swing is in better shape than I’ve ever seen it. His two doubles and a walk led the way for a potent Cubs attack which rallied from one down in the bottom of the 6th to take a short-lived lead and then again in the bottom of the 8th to break a 4-4 tie.

He wasn’t the only offensive star of the game however. Chase Strumpf delivered quality at bats all night, reaching base three times, while showing plate discipline, pitch recognition and bat control. I was quite surprised when the roster announcements were made that Strumpf was heading to South Bend. He strikes me as more advanced at the plate than a few guys slated for AA. Cam Balego, who reached twice and drove in the Cubs first run also fits that description. And frankly so could Delvin Zinn, who supplied the game winning hit. All three have a legit case for an early promotion to Tennessee.

The Cubs used six relievers after Peyton Remy tired and was unable to complete the 5th inning. Remy looked sharp through the first four however, working effectively with an elevated fastball, while mixing in an okay curve, as well as a good looking changeup which ate up several lefties.

Of the relievers who appeared, the one to keep the closest eye on is Eury Ramos. Once a sleeper relief prospect with the potential for mid-90s velo and a solid slider to pair with it, Ramos has filled out beyond what I projected and is now capable of hitting the upper-90s. He didn’t show a great secondary offering in this one, and his delivery is very high effort, but he is definitely an arm well be tracking in these pages throughout the season.

Top Performers

  • D.J. Wilson: 2-3, 2 2B, 2 R, BB
  • Chase Strumpf: 2-4, 2B, R, BB
  • Delvin Zinn: 1-3, 2B, R, 3 RBI, SB (1)
  • Tyler Durna: 1-3, RBI, BB
  • Cam Balego: 1-3, RBI, BB
  • Cole Roederer: 1-4, 2 R, BB, SB (1)
  • Peyton Remy: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, ER, BB, HBP, 6 K
  • Cayne Ueckert: IP (S, 1)

A

Charleston 6, Myrtle Beach 3

Game Recap

There wasn’t much of note in terms of results in this game, but the Pelicans have the most exciting lineup among the affiliates in the early going of the season. The heart of the order, comprised of 2B Yeiler Santana, SS Ed Howard, OF Jordan Nwogu, OF Yohendrick Pinango and SS/3B Luis Verdugo all offer offensive upside.

Santana, the one non-teenage prospect received in the Darvish trade, was a bit over aggressive in this one, but he flashed very good bat control. There isn’t much power projection with him, so his success will be tied to his batting average, but he seems to have the tools to make that happen.

There are fewer concerns with Ed Howard. In fact, I have almost none right now. He is physically strong and possesses plenty of bat speed to drive the ball for extra bases to all parts of the park. He also happens to be considered an elite defender at short. And Howard flashed some of those skills on Opening Night. Not only did he make a nice leaping catch, but he showed off range and super slick hands on other plays.

Nwogu is the type of powerful athlete the Cubs failed to secure in the draft or IFA for a few years, but have made a more concerted effort to add recently. His swing looks a little smoother than when we last saw him play in games for the University of Michigan.

This may have been my first viewing of 18-year old Yohendrick Pinango, but I’m already a believer in his bat. The kid is going to make contact. A lot of it. The swing is geared for line drives to the opposite field, so any future power will need to come via adjustments, but I expect he could make those changes if he chose to. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Cubs prospect he looks as “hitterish” as Pinango does.

Verdugo has a frame similar to Chase Strumpf, but he is a better athlete, with more defensive upside. His swing is not as compact or polished though. It may take a couple of years, but I can envision 20 homer power.

Top Performers

  • Darius Hill: 2-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI
  • Edmond Americaan: 1-3, R, BB
  • Pablo Aliendo: 1-4, 2B, R
  • Ed Howard: 1-4, RBI

Comments

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  • Welcome back Michael and Minor League recaps. So happy MiLB is back and can follow them through their development.

    Looking forward to the day when we have Nico, Howard and Davis in the lineup everyday. Will be fun to have that level of athleticism on the parent club.

    And nice to see some bats coming through the system that have the hit tool as opposed to the 3-outcome types we have come accustomed to.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Thanks. I finally got done last week with selling my house and packing/getting rid of a bunch of stuff trying to downsize my life a bit. Its been a long few months leading up to it, and it caused a lot of writing false starts for me because I just didn't have much time to concentrate on watching/writing about baseball. But that's all over now. Just a matter of getting back into the flow of writing on a daily basis.

    There is definitely a different feel to the bats in the system right now. Ten years ago it was high end sluggers or guys with a decent hit tool who lacked physical attributes. Five years ago it was essentially just the latter types. Now the Cubs are beginning to develop a nice mix of all types, instead of just those two profiles.

  • Michael welcome back so good to have MiLB back and playing games. Thanks again I love reading your recaps.

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    Thanks.

  • Hello Michael,
    Its nice to read your articles again. I'm not sold on the Cubs manager yet, however in some of the games The Cubs are repeating what they did in 2016, and that is running up the pitch counts of the opposing pitchers which to me is a very good sign.
    The future looks brighter for the Cubbies !

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    The offense has definitely looked better of late.
    Just got to figure out the starting pitching. I don't worry about Hendricks. And I have confidence Davies will figure it out too. He's still in his prime and has never been this bad at any point in his career.
    Arrieta was fine until his last start.
    Williams isn't expected to do much more than the BOR role he's filled.

    The Cubs need Hendricks and Davies to be at or near their best. And they need Alzolay to pitch like a MOR guy more often than not if they want to truly contend in the division.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Even with Davies and Hendricks back to where they should be, can we really compete with the top teams in the league? We wont be buyers at the break so.........

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    If you pull Bryant from this lineup you probably loose an extra 3-4 games. Unfortunately, it will have to be done he will have to be moved.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I'm reading that the Cubs are indeed shopping Kris Bryant. Possibly to the White Sox !!!!!
    Its too bad Scott Boras is his agent. A 300m tag is attached to Kris and Kris will probably get it .

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Bryant $300 million? Time will tell, I don't think his next contract will have enough years. Arenado deal was 8 years for $260 milllion in Feb 2019 which at the time made him the highest paid position player. He was 27 when he signed the deal.

    I'm sure Kris will make a ton of money, but will he get offers at $32.5 million per season? $32.5 is the per season average Arenado was paid. Hoping Bryant has a career year!

    I don't think Cubs owners want, or like long-term high priced deals.

    The media to me, has made it sound like the Cubs extension offers all were value type of offers, certainly not setting the market type of contract offers.

    Outside of their own guys, Cubs wait to the end of off-season & see if they can sign a star-ish type player to a Darvish type of deal. Darvish, did receive less than the experts predicted. MLBtraderumors guessed Darvish getting $160 million for 6 years, & most other sites had it at $150 million for six years. Cubs signed him 6 year $126 million.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    Boras is Rendon's agent. His contract with the Angels gives you an idea of the ballpark he's looking for. I don't begrudge anyone for getting what they can. That said it's rare to not regret those signings in a few years.

    The Lester contract was a good one start to finish. You can't even call the Heyward contract a disaster. Consistent Gold Glove defense with an average bat. Through '20 he's hit .253 with a.330+ OBP.

    The Cubs aren't crippled with misguided long term contracts. Let's hope it stays that way. IMO the days of chasing the dragon with the '16 core needs to conclude.

    Regardless of their current ranking they have a fair amount of very promising young talent not too far away. Including some pitching. Now is the time to add to it.

  • Good to have you back, Michael. Thanks for the terrific recap.

  • Thanks for the recaps Michael. They've been missed. I'll confess to a late night of dissecting the minor league games.

    DJ Wilson's AB's stood out for me. Yes I'd given up on him. Yes he should be at a higher level by now. But wouldn't it be great if he's figured it out with the bat? .....I'm going to be optimistic for now.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    Opening Day is the time for hope.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Ha, in April I made two or three wordy posts at the start of the mlb season, that you just said better in one short sentence.

  • We've been without MiLB for so long now I'd forgotten about Yohendrick. All we had was box scores. Seeing is believing.

    My God I love that swing. That is keeping your head on the ball. I'm going to guess that explains his numbers. And his skill set should play at higher levels.

  • Michael,
    What info have you got on Alfonso Rivas , a first base prospect acquired from the A's in the Tony Kemp trade ?

  • Duffy is really a quality player and puts together good at bats against good pitching. I think Marisnick is going to have a year. I'm anxious to get everybody healthy. It could be a fun season.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Yep. I really like Duffy. Good to have a guy who isn’t always swinging for the fences. Didn’t he finish 2nd to KB for ROY in ‘15?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Yes it's early May. But Duffy has earned the starting 3B job. And I love the enthusiasm Big Jake has brought in addition to his production.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    I typed that comment about Duffy three hours ago. He added three more quality at bats since then.

  • Good to have both minor league ball back and Cubs Den. Thanks, Michael. I always look forward to the discussion here.

  • Who would have guessed they'd finish that 16 game stretch 9-7 with the way it was going? Bookend sweeps.

    Couldn't agree with 44slug more. They look like they're starting to gel. Adding some contact bats to lineup has completely changed the dynamic. Get everyone back and at the least they'll be entertaining more often than not.

  • I agree 100%. Rossy needs to keep playing the contact hitters on a regular basis. We need them.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    With Duffy, Sogard and Marisnick saying goodbye to Bryant will certainly be easier.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    All four are in the last year of control. Why do you believe any of them outlast Bryant on the roster?

  • In reply to stix:

    Cubs will need all their guys. When a team is going good the players feed off each other and the results will be positive. The same players can't carry the load game after game. So, 'if' we are in the mix, few if any will be traded unless it improves the team and our chances of winning it all this year.

  • I hope the Cubs extend Duffy. If Duffy stays healthy , its a great pickup.I hope Sogards approach at the plate is contagious and the Cubs retain him.
    Jake Marisnick looks very comfortable in a Cub uniform, great defender.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Agreed. In truth my introduction to following both of them was in '15. Had them on a fantasy team. Go figure.

    They'd both be handy to have around for at least a couple of years. Duffy's issue has been staying healthy. Hence why he was available. Marisnick needed to figure out the bat. He's continuing a trend from last year. At worst he'd give the Cubs a 4th OFer with a premier glove, some speed and a bat with some pop in it. And I do love the energy and enthusiasm he brings.

    Neither will break the bank. I like Sogard a lot too. But he is 34. That said extending him for a year while they transition wouldn't be the worst idea you ever had.

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