Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Morel hits 3-run, extra inning, walk-off homer to cap Smokies comeback victory; Thompson blasts two homers; Santana and Stambaugh stellar in losing effort for SB

Christopher Morel (photo by Rikk Carlson)

AAA

Toledo 7, Iowa 5

Game Recap

Trayce Thompson hit a two-run homer in the 1st, and the I-Cubs were cruising along in this game, building a 4-1 lead through seven innings behind excellent performances by Ryan Kellogg and Marcus Walden on the mound.

Then the 8th inning… Ethan Roberts (L, 2-2, 7.07 in AAA) had found AAA more of a challenge than AA (1-0, 1.97, 4 SV in AA). He wasn’t pitching poorly before yesterday, but the dominance he displayed with the Smokies had turned into grinding through innings more often than not. Yesterday though, was a real rough one. He walked three, gave up two hits and eventually all five of those baserunners scored as he failed to complete the inning. This is likely just a blip, as control is rarely an issue for the righty, but Roberts is not heading into the final stretch on a high note.

Thompson hit his second homer of the game to lead off the 9th, which narrowed the deficit to two, but the next three batters were retired in order.

Top Performers

  • Trayce Thompson: 2-4, 2 HR (17, 18), 2 R, 3 RBI (.231)
  • Levi Jordan: 1-3, 2B, R (.183)
  • Greg Deichmann: 1-3, R, BB (.235)
  • Trent Giambrone: 1-4, 2B, RBI (.186)
  • Zach Davis: 1-3, RBI (.235)
  • Ryan Kellogg: 5.2 IP, 6 H, R, BB, 7 K (4.65)
  • Marcus Walden: 1.1 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, K (3.96)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Much like Ethan Roberts, Brendon Little is finding AAA a challenge. He was unable to shut the door when he came on for Roberts in the 8th, as all of his inherited runners scored, and then allowed an additional run in the 9th. Both relievers are Rule 5 eligible after the season, and I still expect both to be given 40-man spots, but I do wonder if Little is sent to the AFL to get a little extra work as he missed the first couple of months of the season due to injury. It is good that the Cubs have allowed both guys to get their feet wet in Iowa over the last month. It should set them up to hit the ground running next spring as they will know what to expect.

AA

Tennessee 12, Chattanooga 9 (10 Innings)

Game Recap

Wow. This was a fun one.

The two teams traded the lead back and forth over the first six innings. Nelson Velazquez drove in five of the Smokies first six runs on a two-run double in the 2nd and then a three-run homer in the 6th to give Tennessee a 6-5 advantage.

All seemed lost in the 9th, however, as Dauris Valdez was lit up. He allowed four runs on six hits while recording just one out. Samuel Reyes came on and stopped the bleeding, but not before a one-run lead had flipped to a three-run deficit.

The Smokies offense responded in the bottom of the frame to send the game to extras. Brennen Davis homered to lead off the inning. One out later, Grayson Byrd was hit by a pitch and then Bradlee Beesley hit his first AA home run to tie it up.

Reyes would hold the Lookouts off the board in the top of the 10th, setting up the dramatics in the bottom half. The first two Smokies batters went down quickly, leaving the inherited runner at 2nd, but then Brennen Davis was hit by a pitch to put two men on. Christopher Morel, who had already doubled twice in the game, put an end to the comeback:

Top Performers

  • Christopher Morel: 3-6, 2 2B, HR (17), R, 4 RBI (.219)
  • Nelson Velazquez: 2-6, 2B, HR (7), R, 5 RBI (.287)
  • Brennen Davis: 1-5, HR (13), 3 R, RBI, HBP (.264)
  • Bradlee Beesley: 1-5, HR (1), R, 2 RBI (.125)
  • Tim Susnara: 3-4, R, BB (.253)
  • Edwin Figuera: 2-3, 2 R, 2 HBP (.286)
  • Grayson Byrd: 1-3, R, BB, HBP (.213)
  • Bryan Hudson: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K (3.25)
  • Samuel Reyes: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K (W, 2-1, 3.55)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

It has been a streaky season for Christopher Morel (.219/.293/.440, wRC+ 99), and right now he’s on one of his hot streaks. Over his last 21 games he is hitting .289/.349/.592 (151 wRC+) with 8 doubles, and 5 home runs. Morel also made a couple of very nice defensive plays. He is still a work in progress at the plate, but he is an all around player who can impact a game with his hit tool and power, his speed and instinctual baserunning, and in the field with his glove and arm at multiple positions. I think the 22-year old is still a year away (all/most of 2022 in AAA seems reasonable at this point), but I still project him as an impact super-sub who can start 120+ games across multiple positions. If he does hit his ceiling and the bat comes around fully, Morel has All-Star upside as a full time 3B.

The top four home run leaders in the Cubs organization went deep yesterday. Nelson Velazquez hit his 19th overall, Trayce Thompson hit his 17th and 18th, Christopher Morel hit his 17th, and Brennen Davis hit his 15th.

High-A

Beloit 1, South Bend 0

Game Recap

I didn’t get a chance to review the film yet, but I think it is fair to say both Tyler Santana and Dalton Stambaugh pitched very well just based off their numbers. Santana, an undrafted free agent, got his first pro start after making 6 appearances out of the pen at various levels. He struck out six over four shutout innings. He was followed by lefty Indy ball signing Stambaugh, who has been a bit inconsistent this year, but when he is commanding his pitches has shown he can be effective at both the Low-A and High-A levels. It seems he was on yesterday, as he fired three innings of no-hit ball.

Unfortunately, the Beloit staff was even better on the day, as the Cubs offense managed just three hits.

Top Performers

  • Tyler Santana: 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, HBP, 6 K (2.53)
  • Dalton Stambaugh: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K (3.24)
  • Liam Spence: 1-2, 2 BB (.128)
  • Bryce Windham: 1-3, 2B (.296)
  • Yonathan Perlaza: 1-3 (.273)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

I hesitate to bring it up, but lineup construction is heavily overrated, but I am frankly confounded by the lineups the Cubs have been using over the last month. Their two best hitters (by far) have been Yonathan Perlaza and Bryce Windham, who have most often been hitting 7th and 9th in the order. I know prospect development is more important than wins, so getting more ABs for the Alexander Canario‘s, Bryce Ball‘s and Yohendrick Pinango‘s is essential, but I just don’t get hitting Tyler Durna 3rd or 4th every game, while also slotting Jake Slaughter ahead of those two at this point. Windham has only been on fire for a few weeks, but Perlaza has been their best bat ever since Nelson Velazquez got promoted.

Low-A

Myrtle Beach PPD

Comments

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  • .219 average at AA will keep me from getting excited about Morel but sounds like a fun bench guy.

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    C'mon, man. Brotherhood. Anyone with these defensive tools on the dirt excites me.

    Morel's bat will carry him as far as he goes. I hope it's all the way.

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    He's not only young for AA, but Morel also missed an entire season at the beginning of his career due to a household accident. The Cubs have been aggressive pushing him up the ladder. There is no guarantee but I think it will eventually slow down a bit for him. It might take a year or two on a MLB bench before he becomes consistent enough to be a starter, but it is definitely a possibility. Few guys ever reach their true ceiling though, so I doubt he becomes an All-Star, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility. More likely he settles in as a good part-time starter at multiple positions. HIs defensive usage could end up mirroring what Kris Bryant did this year, but with the added bonus of being able to give innings at SS or 2B as well, which could prevent needing to rely on Andrew Romine types for short stretches.

  • Let's get excited about Vasquez and Valazquez (why arent they true prospects?) the two best statistical hitters in tennessee not named Davis.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    They are. I've had both inside my top 20 at various times, but as the depth has improved in the system, both have fallen out by this point. I do have to admit, I soured on Velazquez too quickly in 2019 (he got bigger and lost athleticism without it translating into greater power/impact at the plate). I thought he was trending in the wrong direction and didn't expect him to recover. He has though. He's slimmer and stronger in 2021. He's regained the ability to fill in at CF. And he's become more consistent at the plate. He's still inconsistent against RHP, but I expect him to improve on that now that his plate discipline is coming around a little. He's definitely re-established himself as a guy to watch. He's Rule 5 eligible this winter so we'll get a real indicator of what the Cubs think about him too.

    As for Vazquez, the defensive skills have never been in doubt. But he was always wiry, and there was some doubt as to how much strength he could add as he got older (he was a career sub-.300 SLG guy heading into this year). I've always been a believer that it would eventually come, and it appears to be starting this year. Hitting the ball with more authority. I do think he tops out as a backup, as the bat probably never gets over the hump to be a full-time MLB starter, but he is absolutely a prospect.

  • Andy Green is a good talker. Is fun to listen to after the game.

  • Thanks Michael for the in depth on Valazquez and Vazquez. I now have a better understanding.

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