Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Leeper extends no-hit streak; Homers by Morel and Davis propel Smokies to win; Casey brilliant before exiting with injury

Derek Casey (photo by Rikk Carlson)

AAA

St. Paul 10, Iowa 3

Game Recap

The I-Cubs fell behind 10-0 after starter Joe Biagini and reliever Ryan Lawlor were roughed up in the 3rd and 4th innings. They scored three consolation runs on a bases loaded double by Alfonso Rivas in the 6th.

The key takeaway from this game was the performance of the right handed relievers.

Jake Jewell is a guy who got a chance with the Angels a couple of years ago but a fairly hittable fastball (despite good velo) and then eventually a gruesome ankle injury suffered while covering home plate set him back for a couple of years. He’s been throwing well for a good month or more for Iowa though, and even if I still have doubts how his fastball will play, he does give the Cubs a more experienced arm should they chose to empty out their bullpen at the trade deadline. The Cubs would need to add him to the 40-man roster.

One guy already on the 40-man who will surely get another shot once a roster spot in Chicago opens up is Trevor Megill. He’s still inconsistent with his command and secondaries, but when he is on he can mow opposing hitters down. He’ll get rocked for the occasional big inning in the Majors, but he can put together stretches where he looks like a legit setup man.

Manuel Rodriguez has been on a nice run for a while. He’s got a nice power FB/CV combo, and while I predict his inconsistent command will cause some homer issues in the Majors, as another guy already on the 40-man I would expect the Cubs to work Rodriguez into a middle relief role in Chicago at some point in the second half.

The one I am most anxious to see, but the one who may have to wait the longest due to roster management is Ben Leeper. The undrafted free agent from last year continues to dominate with an explosive fastball that is now touching 98-99 mph, and a high-80s slider with a tight downward tilt. Because he is a first year pro and will not be ineligible for the Rule 5 draft for quite some time, the Cubs may chose to test out some older arms in the Majors ahead of him. I hope that is not the case though. Leeper has earned a shot.

In his 10 games with Iowa (totaling 12.1 IP) Leeper has yet to allow a hit. If you include his final appearance with Tennessee Leeper has strung together 14.2 consecutive no-hit innings while compiling 25 strikeouts against just 5 walks.

Top Performers

  • Alfonso Rivas: 1-4, 2B, 3 RBI (.200)
  • Tyler Ladendorf: 2-4, 2B (.204)
  • Ian Miller: 2-5 (.263)
  • Jake Jewell: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, K (3.16)
  • Trevor Megill: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K (6.00)
  • Manuel Rodriguez: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K (0.00)
  • Ben Leeper: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K (0.73)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

The Cubs reinstated Justin Steele from the IL and sent him down to Iowa. He was already with the club on a rehab assignment where they’ve been stretching him out to multiple innings of relief. Beginning Sunday he will join the Iowa rotation. He is expected to be limited to aroun 40-50 pitches, before slowly ramping up from there. Should the Cubs decide to move on from Jake Arietta or trade a Zach Davies at the deadline, Steele will give the Cubs another option along with Kohl Stewart and Cory Abbott to join the rotation in Chicago.

Steele has been injury prone throughout his career, which doesn’t bode well for his ability to hold up as a starter, but it is probably worth one more try given the retool situation the Cubs find themselves in. Steele’s slider, which has become his most important secondary, is new since the last time he worked as a starter. That pitch could help him put hitters away quicker and work more efficiently. Hopefully that can help him pitch more consistently into the middle innings than last we saw him as a starter in Tennessee.

AA

Tennessee 5, Chattanooga 2

Game Recap

A three run bomb by Christopher Morel and a solo shot by Brennen Davis helped the Smokies overcome an early 2-1 deficit.

Starter Javier Assad put together five solid innings and Luis Lugo provided three perfect innings of relief as continues his rebound from a disastrous opening month of the season. Cayne Ueckert closed things out to earn his 4th save.

Top Performers

  • Brennen Davis: 1-3, HR (4), R, RBI, HBP (.269)
  • Christopher Morel: -4, HR (10), R, 3 RBI (.214)
  • Zach Davis: 2-4, 2B, R, RBI (.268)
  • Tyler Payne: 1-2, 2 BB (.214)
  • Chase Strumpf: 1-4, 2B, R (.171)
  • Javier Assad: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, BB, 4 K (W, 2-3, 3.91)
  • Luis Lugo: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K (5.29)
  • Cayne Ueckert: IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 2 K (S, 4, 2.14)

High-A

South Bend 4, Beloit 0

Game Recap

In one of the most dominant performances from a starter in the Cubs system so far this year, Derek Casey mowed down ten batters over 5.2 shutout innings using a good combo of a lively low-90s fastball, breaking balls with sharp break and a good straight changeup. It was a complete performance which looked like it could extend even a little further as Casey was at just 71 pitches, but he came up lame while fielding a dribbler in front of the plate with one out to go in the 6th.

Thankfully for South Bend, Tyler Suellentrop and Eury Ramos were able to secure the shutout. Jake Slaughter came through with a solo homer on offense.

Top Performers

  • Derek Casey: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 10 K (W, 5-5, 3.24)
  • Tyler Suellentrop: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K (7.36)
  • Eury Ramos: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K (2.91)
  • Jake Slaughter: 1-3, HR (1), 2 R, RBI, BB, SB (8) (.229)
  • Josue Huma: 1-2, BB (.229)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

No starter in the Cubs system has given his affiliate more consistent innings out of the rotation than Derek Casey. A 9th rounder from the 2018 draft, he’s gone at least 5 innings in 8 of his 11 starts this season. I’d written him off as a future org arm after a less than stellar 2019 but he’s gotten himself into great shape and he’s improved his secondaries enough where he is now a guy to keep an eye on, even if his ceiling is still only a back of the rotation starter. Hopefully, he can return shortly.

Low-A

Augusta 6, Myrtle Beach 5

Top Performers

  • Alberto Sojo: 3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, HBP, 5 K (0.00)
  • Pablo Aliendo: 1-4, HR (3), R, RBI (.256)
  • Matt Mervis: 2-4, R (.209)
  • Jordan Nwogu: 1-4, 2 RBI (.168)

AZL

Cubs1 6, Giants 3

Top Performers

  • Reggie Preciado: 1-4, HR (2), R, 3 RBI (.414)
  • Ezequiel Pagan: 2-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI (.385)
  • Cam Balego: 2-3, R (.800)
  • Jose Lopez: 1-3, 2B (.125)
  • Ismael Mena: 1-3 (.240)
  • Tyler Schlaffer: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K (W, 1-1, 6.75)

Comments

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  • Good articles, keep up the good work Michael !

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Thanks.

  • Amazing when Javy drops the ball and Nico is charged with the error.
    After watching Javy swinging at ridiculous pitches outside of the zone, I wonder if Javy has trouble seeing the ball ? Glasses ?
    Big Rizz doesn't look good at the plate, swinging at pitches he never would have swung at before.
    Is Rizz playing hurt ?

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    I think Rizz is playing with his bad back. He’s striking out a bunch on pitches he used to take out of the zone or foul off. In addition, yesterday he couldn’t get down to stop a hard hit ball down the line that he normally reaches. He’s either hurt or seriously losing his skills at a rapid pace. Doubt that the current Rizz is a trade chip .

  • In reply to stix:

    Some MLB critics are saying Rizzo's skill set is going downhill. Only time will tell.

  • Definitely encouraging to see some good work by some of the pitchers. Leeper sure does look smooth and in control of his delivery.

  • Loving seeing these guys pitching well. Somewhat disappointed that we haven’t seen Marquez & Franklin yet.

    Really looking forward to Sunday as well. My hope is that somehow Sam Bachman makes it to 21. But probably not going to happen. My next choices for pitchers would be Chase Petty & Ryan Cusick. My choice for bat is Stovall. They need hitters 1st. He could play 2B, LF, doesn’t matter. He’s got one of the best LH bats in the top 30.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    * “...need hitters 1st.” Meaning vs what position they play. Obviously I hope they pick the best man available, pitcher or hitter, when they pick.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Don't forget the catcher Miguel Amaya. He may be disabled but no one knows at this time. He should be close to MLB ready.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I too would love for a SP to fall to them, one they felt worthy of the pick. But if they do go for a bat, I sure hope it’s a LH one.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Stovall is LH. Read the report on MLB... Scouts saying best LH bat in Midwest, Sweet LH swing, etc... He fits the mold hitter the Cubs need. He’s 2B & LF, not a SS, but he just hits.

  • Some of the mock drafts have the Cubs tied to a catcher ! Why, I don't know after the Cubs have acquired several catchers in their system ?
    No guarantee , but there are several pitchers going in the first
    round. I hope the Cubs pick a pitcher.
    Some team will draft a pitcher in the late rounds that will turn out
    to be a star ! That's just the way it works !

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    The only catcher I would like to see them draft is Harry Ford a HS catcher from NC. He can hit and run and some look at him like a Craig Biggio, maybe not that talent but the ability to play CF or 2nd base. Could be a top of the order hitter too.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    The only thing that would bother me if they took a catcher, would be ‘what’s going on’!
    Amaya for so long, was billed as the next big thing, behind the plate. Also they have drafted or signed as FA’s, quite a few in the last two years, with supposedly such high upsides.
    Personally I’d like to see them try to extend Willy’s contract a few more years

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Ok to extend Willson, if there is anything left in the tank because the Cubs are over using him playing too many games.

  • I want to win every game possible before and after the trading deadline. Wouldn't it be exciting if the Cubs are still pretty good after moving two to four of the high valued trade guys. In a disappointing (at first) turn of events, it's exciting following the speculation and rumors prior to the end of July. Fun win yesterday with Bryant increasing his worth to any team looking for help. I had not realized his extent in versatility until 2021. Might he yet creat a bidding war for his services. I'm glad the Cubs didn't settle for a lowball pedestrian return earlier. Kimbrel should require a ransom as well. He doesn't have to be moved. Same thing with Contreras. We have an option on both. Baez and Rizzo could be moved as rentals and resigned in the probable slow market this winter. Anyway, this will be an interesting three weeks.

    Also, I'm confident in the draft team the Cubs have this year.

  • Preciado sure looks good in the rookie league with a small sample size. .382/.488/.618 And he plays SS well with 3 SB already. Maybe we have our Javy replacement.

  • In reply to John57:

    Oh and did I mention he is a switch hitter.

  • Contreras leading off again ? I don't get having a base clogger at the top of the line-up.

  • Have you checked Contreras stats vs LH pitchers? You might be surprised at his numbers. His OPS is over .950. Nico is below .700. Any suggestions for better stats?

  • In reply to stix:

    Contreras is an RBI batter and should bat 3rd or 5th behind some hitters. He has a high K rate and a low BB rate (84 - 37)

    Nico has 13 Ks compared to 10 BBs. He is a good contact hitter and is fast and a smart baserunner.

    Nico should be the leadoff batter until someone better comes along.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    In the good old days , I would agree with your comment but I believe baseball has evolved (right or wrong) to place your best hitters at the top of the order to get them more at bats. Look at the top three hitters on the better teams and you see more run producers than singles hitters. Start with Otani, Betts, Stringer, and move through most of the better team lineups. Even includes Goldschmidt, Bryant etc batting second.Not many teams are using the #5 spot for run producers unless they have that many run producers ahead of them.

  • In reply to stix:

    Sorry, but I disagree with the leadoff batter. Nico gets on base more than any other Cub and has the speed to bother the opposition. So far, the top half of the Cubs lineup has been terrible.

    The top teams you are talking about may not have any one better to lead off. Otani, Betts, Stringer are also good contact batters wih speed.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Hoerner is by the far the best leadoff option. With Hoerner in there maybe a few of these solo Homer's would bring in a couple.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Again ,I’ll generally agree with you but Contreras OBP is slightly better than Hoerner vs lefties and that’s how this stream started. Hoerner is way better than Contreras vs RH and should hit before him against righties but I don’t think you let hitters with over .250 OPS points better to bat behind Hoerner.

  • In reply to stix:

    Contreras is NO leadoff batter and NEVER will be, no matter how you look at it.

    However, he is one of the best, if not the best, catcher in major league baseball. He is definitely a keeper.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Well we agree on his overall ability but I believe I heard he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild, so KEEPER will be difficult as I wouldn’t expect the Cubs to be competitive for at least 3 years and I don’t think he stays.

  • In reply to stix:

    They can be competitive next year and still trade Bryant, Kimbrel, Pederson, Marisnick, Davies, Mills, Chapin, Tapera, Baez & Rizzo.

    Because right now none of these guys are coming back next year anyway.

    So trade them all then for next year add a shortstop(baez?), firstbasemen (rizzo?), centerfielder(davis?), top starter and a closer.

  • In reply to stix:

    Cubs absolutely could compete for the NL CEntral in 2022, after the potential fire sale in 2021.

    Bullpen is real good, but rotation, & offense are both performing below average in 2021. Cubs need to act like a big market team, & increase payroll going into 2022.

    I believe the front office will be very active with trades this month. The off-season should be one of the busiest in Cubs history with signings, & trades. I assume lots of short term deals.

    This is the NL central, in 2022 which team is the juggernaut? Cubs will not be the favorite, but a good front office with the Cubs huge revenue, & potential budget should be able to compete in 2022, especially after a 2021 fire sale that pumps some more talent into the minors/team?

  • In reply to stix:

    I see mass trading by july 31. Then 4 or 5 quality short term (3year or less) signings over the winter to re-tool not rebuild. Based on reading between the lines of Hoyer's comments.

    I may be wrong, I hope I am not.

  • I kind of like Rossy's lineup tonight. He finally got away from the left/right "crap".

  • I kind of like Rossy's lineup tonight. He finally got away from the left/right "crap".

  • I just watched videos of KB batting when he first came up and I noticed his batting stance was more erect, especially compared to the last few years when his "sqatting" was much more exaggerated. In fact, he is standing more erect lately compared to the previous years.

  • Did anyone investigate umpires for gambling ? Alfonso Marquez is screwing the Cubs into the ground.
    Its no wonder Rob Manfred resist putting in robo umps. This game is not being played on an even slate.

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    That ump took a strike away from Davis and the next pitch was a 2 run homer. When can we get a fair system--one that doesn't include umps calling strikes and balls?

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