Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Steele makes his case from promotion; Avelino and Rivas stay hot; Org debuts for three newly acquired pitchers; Pelicans bullpen dominates

Justin Steele

AAA

Iowa 2, Indianapolis 1 (Game 1)

Iowa 6, Indianapolis 4 (Game 2)

Game Recap

Justin Steele continued his impressive conversion back to a starting pitcher. Right now, he is showing no fear attacking hitters. He believes in his stuff (and why shouldn’t he?). Though his control still wavers on occasion, leading to walks, it isn’t because he is trying to nibble at the edges of the zone. He used to have issues repeating his delivery, but Steele’s always been a good athlete, and now that he is stronger he seems to be putting that issue behind him. He reached 80 pitches over 5 innings (second consecutive 5 IP start), so if he takes any more turns in the Iowa rotation, I think it would be one at the most. But I think he is ready for a return to Chicago.

At the start of the year many assumed Cory Abbott would be the young starter putting himself in position to take over a spot in the Chicago rotation. Although he was injured for most of the 2020 season at the South Bend alternate site, he was coming off a very good 2019, leading the Cubs organization in strikeouts, and earning Minor League Pitcher of the Year with AA Tennessee. He reported to spring training in great shape this season, but his season has just not gone as expected. Abbott has continued to strike batters out, but he’s also been hit harder than he’s ever been. Some of it is command related, but it also seems like batters are picking the ball up out of his hand better this year.

I’ll have to dig a little deeper in the near future on why things have gone sideways for him in 2021, but at least he didn’t give up any homers last night and the I-Cubs were able to overcome his struggles (4.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 9 K) in game two. Ethan Roberts earned the win with 1.1 shutout innings in his AAA debut, and Scott Effross earned his first career AAA save.

The offense didn’t do much in game one, as Justin Steele actually drove home both runs with on a single in the 4th inning, but the bats came alive in game two. Abiatal Avelino continued his rebound after a slow June at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles. Alfonso Rivas walked walked three times and also drove in two on a double. Nick Martini tripled home two runs as well.

Top Performers

  • Justin Steele: 5 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 8 K (W, 2-0, 1.32)
  • Ryan Meisinger: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K (S, 3, 4.08)
  • Ethan Roberts: 1.1 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K (W, 1-0, 0.00)
  • Scott Effross: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K (S, 1, 4.88)
  • Alfonso Rivas: 2-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI, 3 BB (.267)
  • Abiatal Avelino: 3-5, 2 2B, R, RBI, BB (.284)
  • Trayce Thompson: 2-4, R, RBI (.224)
  • Ian Miller: 1-3, R, BB (.278)
  • Greg Deichmann: 0-4, R, 3 BB, SB (1) (.200)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Abiatal Avelino (.284/.356/.405) got off to a solid start in May (.286) before falling off a cliff in June (.186), but he’s been on fire since the calendar turned to July (.357/.403/.529). He’s continued his hot streak into August (.364/.500/.636). His wRC+ over his last 25 games is 158. He’s also been a solid defender all across the infield.

Still just 26, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs re-sign him in the offseason to provide depth in Iowa again next season. Avelino wasn’t overwhelmed at the plate in his limited MLB shots with San Francisco, he just ran out of options and couldn’t break through full-time before he became a Minor League free agent. As we’ve seen with Patrick Wisdom, and to a lesser extent with Sergio Alcantara, sometimes it clicks a little later and there may still be a breakthrough coming. The Cubs really did do an excellent job securing all three of these players last offseason. While the team did eventually fall out of the race, without Wisdom and Alcantara bolstering the infield in May/June when the Cubs encountered a swath of injuries, the Cubs could have been buried a lot earlier in the year.

Take out Alfonso Rivas‘s first seven games at the end of June when he was still shaking off some rust, and he’s been an absolute on-base machine for Iowa in his 30 games since (.300/.453/.490, 153 wRC+, 18.8 BB%/17.2 K%)

AA

Montgomery 13, Tennessee 1 (Game 1)

Montgomery, Tennessee PPD (Game 2)

Game Recap

A 2 hour and 39 minute rain delay ruined the Cubs debut of starting pitcher Caleb Kilian. A breakout prospect from the Giants system included in the Kris Bryant trade, Kilian dominated in High-A and AA before coming over to the Cubs, but after the rains began falling four batters into the 1st inning the Smokies did not send him back out after the layoff.

Once the game resumed… well, let’s not dwell on that. Brandon Hughes was really good in relief. That’s about it.

Top Performers

  • Brandon Hughes: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 6 K (2.19)
  • Nelson Velazquez: 1-3, RBI (.333)
  • Carlos Sepulveda: 1-3 (.237)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Nelson Velazquez and Jake Washer got bumped up to AA. Velazquez earned his promotion with an inconsistent but productive first half in South Bend. He’s been a lefty killer at the very least, and the Cubs are going to need to start moving some outfielders up from Mesa and Myrtle Beach soon. Washer got the nod, I assume, because Bryce Windham is nearing a return to South Bend.

High-A

Peoria 5, South Bend 2

Top Performers

  • Yonathan Perlaza: 2-4, HR (9), R, RBI (.252)
  • Jake Slaughter: 2-4, 3B, R, SB (11) (.271)
  • Anderson Espinoza: 3 IP, 2 H, R, BB, 4 K (L, 0-2, 4.83)
  • Alexander Vizcaíno: 0.2 IP, H, 2 R, 2 BB, K (27.00)
  • Matteo Bocchi: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 3 HBP, 9 K (3.30)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

New acquisitions Anderson Espinoza and Alexander Vizcaíno made their organizational debuts. Espinoza is still working his way back (31.2 IP this year) from multiple injuries which have kept him off the mound since 2016 (!). He was once considered one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Still just 23 years old, there is arm strength and a very good changeup to work with, but Espinoza is already on the 40-man roster so he’ll need to stay healthy and make a jump next year. He’ll definitely be a guy to watch during instructs this fall (or maybe even in the AFL should the Cubs go that route).

Alexander Vizcaíno has been a slow developer in the Yankees system, whose stuff has always exceeded his results, but he seemed to be breaking through in 2019. Unfortunately the 2020 layoff came at an awkward time for him and potentially killed some developmental momentum for him. He opened 2021 on the shelf with a shoulder issue, but began getting back into action just prior to the Anthony Rizzo trade. Like Espinoza, Vizcaíno is already on the 40-man, and features an impressive fastball/changeup combo. It will be important for both to stay on the mound and refine their breaking pitches in 2022 in order to stay on track as potential starting pitchers.

Low-A

Myrtle Beach 4, Columbia 3

Game Recap

Matt Mervis and Ethan Hearn homered and the Pelicans got a tremendous relief effort by recently demoted Tyler Suellentrop and ascending prospect Danis Correa.

Suellentrop has good velo and movement on his breaking ball, but he battled command and control issues in South Bend. He was pretty dominant in his first go around with Myrtle Beach and was so again in his first performance back with the team last night (6 K in 3 IP).

The same kind of dominance was on display by new closer Danis Correa, who has now punched out 41 batters in his 24 innings this season. He’s always had a powerful arm, but health and inconsistent breaking ball held him back in previous years. The undersized righty has been healthy and throwing better secondaries this year.

Top Performers

  • Matt Mervis: 3-4, 2B, HR (9), 2 R, RBI (.209)
  • Ethan Hearn: 1-2, HR (5), R, 2 RBI, BB (.191)
  • Luis Verdugo: 1-4, 2B, RBI (.173)
  • Tyler Suellentrop: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K (W, 1-0, 1.15)
  • Danis Correa: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K (S, 1, 1.88)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Manuel Espinoza has been placed on the developmental list. The Cubs are no doubt throttling the innings for the 20-year old righty. I’ll be curious to see who takes his place in the Pelicans rotation. They already placed Jeremiah Estrada on the IL earlier this week.

Comments

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  • I think Steele will succeed as a starter. We already have seen him get consistent outs against mlb hitters in relief.

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    I look forward to seeing Steele in Chicago in the near future. This should be a time to really see prospects in the system come up and play. It's not a lost season for all those who want to impress. I look forward to seeing Ethan Roberts too. I'd like to see Davis, but will the Cubs burn a year of eligibility for a month or so of him in the show.
    I also saw that J.R. Richard just passed away. In his prime he was one of the best pitchers I've seen, and one of the scariest. His FB must have approached 100mph and it was something to watch him. He was only 71 (I know, some of you are saying "only 71!!") but that's not old.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Yeah - JR was a good one in his prime.

    And it'll be nice to see a finally completely home-grown SP come out of the Cubs farm system. When was the last time that happened? Seems like forever.

  • Javy back to form today. 0-5 all k’s

  • In reply to stix:

    The Score (Parkins show) was talking about Crowe-Armstrong the other day and scouts aren't very high on him anymore, although at the time he was a first round talent. They didn't say why he dropped or how they could tell if he is bad, he hasn't played more than a handful of games.

  • In reply to Squareburgers:

    Do yourself a favor and stop listening to that little weasel parkins. From your comment it sounds like they have no data or stats to validate their opinions. He is of the opinion that everything ricketts is bad. Spineless talking head that guy.

  • In reply to Squareburgers:

    Crowe-Armstrong was hitting .417 with an ops over 1000 before he got hurt. He has a great arm, sb speed, great defense in CF, high obp.

    If the injury is career threatening then yes its is a bad trade. If not we could have a generational leadoff guy.

    Oh by the way Javy had the golden halo +1 today. Just saying.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Screwed that up. Golden Sombrero not golden halo

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I hope he is great, I'm just paraphrasing what was said on the Score. I really hope he is great though!

  • In reply to Squareburgers:

    I could be overly optimistic. But the next 2 years will be very interesting.

    Lots of talent will be showing up in chicago. The key as always will be how good is your starting pitching.

    2 losses in colorado, starting pitchers (davies and arrieta) put us in a huge hole.

  • In reply to Squareburgers:

    I’ve seen some of the minor league talking heads on MLB Network comparing him to Almora. If so, that’s not very exciting.

  • In reply to stix:

    that would be awful. Jason McCloud was awful at evaluating talent and Theo put too much faith in him.

  • In reply to Squareburgers:

    I haven't read or talked to a single person who is less high on PCA now than in the past. Now, there were some who soured on him prior to the draft (heading into his draft year most people saw him as a potential top 5/10 candidate). A little swing and miss early that year scared some scouts (because the hit tool has to pan out given PCA isn't much of a power threat), but he improved as the season went along and by the end he was nearly a unanimous 1st rounder, with most having him top 20. I think I had him rated somewhere 14-17 range iirc.

  • Hey Michael, I really like what I've been seeing in the box scores from Yonathan Perlaza; I'm sure you've touched on him before, prayerfully he has some big league potential.......what are your thoughts?

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    He's kind of a sleeper candidate. Former high bonus IFA. Left-handed bat, avg pop, line drive swing. Former infielder, had some injury defensive issues early in his career. Kinda stalled for a while, but light seemed to go on a bit late in 2019 when he got healthy and moved full time to OF. He's been inconsistent this season, but also seems to be getting more comfortable/confident every month. I don't really see starter upside, and he can't play CF, so it limits his bench utility. If he becomes a RHP killer he can make it, otherwise he likely gets stuck in AAA.

  • Baez went 0-5, 5K's today. I don't miss that.

  • In reply to Squareburgers:

    So far in NY, Javy's results are .160/.192/.400 I don't think the Cubs will miss those results. He is very entertaining but I am guessing he will have a hard time getting the contract he thinks he should get.

  • In reply to John57:

    SSS to say the least. I'll go out on a limb and say of all of the Cubs moved this year, Javy will have the most positive impact in the playoffs for his team this year.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Well I don't think Rizzo will have much impact for the Yanks in the playoffs because I don't think the Yanks will make the playoffs. Of the three he will do the best in the regular season though. As for the Mets I don't think they do well in the playoffs as a team. I don't know what Javy will do but he does thrive when the lights are bright.

  • So far I have been impressed with Ortega, Wisdom & Schwindel (small sampls size). But I would give Alcantera 2 more weeks, if he cant layoff that slider at his ankles then send him down and bring up someone else for an audition (avelino) or put Romine out there.

    We still need to get Diechmann and Vargas up to see what they can do as well.

    Can we bench Davies, Arrietta, Brothers, Heyward and Happ? They are really bad.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Alcantara has a window while Hoerner is out. After that, his everyday opportunities will be limited. It might be helpful to send him back to AAA and role with Romine as the backup IF. But Alcantara has had no issue with AAA pitching, and might just need the exposure against MLB sliders. I'll be curious to see how they handle him. He's got a shot to secure the inside track for a utility role next season. His defense is ready (and would add a nice defensive replacement for Madrigal should Cubs roll with Hoerner at SS next season). Even if he falters in 2nd half, he'll get a shot next spring, but Cubs would add greater competition.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Baseball America just came up with updated rankings, and they're saying the exact opposite. Their scouts are actually higher on PCA than they were last year, and ranked him as the cubs #3 prospect. I know Squareburger is just relaying what was said on the radio. but I trust Baseball America when it comes to prospects a lot more than I trust some talk radio show.

  • Ugh. Brothers and Happ are just awful. Brothers will be gone soon enough, but Happ is gonna get another year because he's so affordable.

  • In reply to Ronson54:

    Maybe Jed will surprise.

  • In reply to Ronson54:

    Don't be so sure. Happ will be an intersting decision of whether or not to tender him a contract (his arb number may be 6M+).

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    $6 MM is way to much to pay for Happ based on how he's fared this season and even in the abbreviated 2020 season he was ugly a lot of the time at the plate. He always had a lot of swing & miss, but it's very much NOT gotten better.

  • Baez, Bryant, and Rizzo are gone and they are not coming back. That's ok. Baez strikes out too much, Bryant has a hard time staying on the diamond, Rizzo will be 32 years old with a bad back. Mostly they have not delivered the three years when it counted the most. I wish them well.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    “…not delivered the three years when it counted most…” not sure what you mean.seems like 2016 counted for something. Seems as if Javy was second in MVP in 2018. Rizzo was a 30/100 machine for a number of years.

    Don’t disagree re Baez and ks. Rizzo and his back and KB and his never ending injuries but they made they playoffs in 5 of 6 years. If you wanted more WS titles then they probably didn’t deliver but last I looked they didn’t pitch and only played in three of nine positions. What did you expect them to do for the other 22/23 players on the team.?

  • In reply to stix:

    Hitting was the bigger issue down stretch and in the failed postseasons. Of course, I didn't expect them to do it all, but they didn't do their part either. 2016 is long gone.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I'm talking about team success, not Individual accomplishments, those can be deceiving. Lots of players put up good numbers, but don't win.

  • Boy does our rookie team have a bunch of hitters. Alcantara, Caissie, Preciado, Mena, Mora. I will be paying attention to those guys. The Darvish trade could end up being fantastic.

  • In reply to John57:

    Yeah, the ACL offense is stacked. Pitching down there hasn't been great though.

  • Stats from Caleb Kilian pitcher the Cubs received for KB. Not too shabby. I'm sure you have seen this before but not a bad return for a rental and every team knowing the Cubs had a fire sale.
    His current Double-A Northeast ranks:
    1.14 BB/9 (1st)
    3.3 BB% (1st)
    8.00 K/BB (1st)
    0.29 HR/9 (1st)
    1.70 GB/FB (1st)
    2.38 FIP (2nd)
    2.43 ERA (2nd)
    0.94 WHIP (2nd)
    .221 BAA (4th)

    11 G, 64 K, 8 BB at AA

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    Yes, those are nice stats. I hope his next start is in Iowa. Or Chicago for that matter. He can’t look worse than Jake.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Jake doesn't have a needed role going forward. Without a fit, he is kind of just in the way, but the Cubs want to treat him respectfully. They could use the roster spot for younger guy tho.

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