Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Triantos and Crow-Armstrong with big days as MB wins twice; Luke Little and fellow lefties throughout the system make some noise; Morel and Velazquez go back-to-back

James Triantos and Pete Crow-Armstrong (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

AAA

Iowa 3, Indianapolis 2

Game Recap

The Iowa pitchers were not overpowering on the radar gun, but starter Caleb Kilian mixed in his full repertoire to keep hitters off balance, and then the trio of Brandon Hughes, Erich Uelmen, and Eric Stout did a good job working their low-90s fastball on the edges of the zone and then attacking with really good sliders inside and outside the zone.

I have some concern regarding Kilian because he wasn’t throwing with his normal velo, most of his fastballs were in the 91-93 range (T95 early, not sure we saw it after 2nd) and too many ended up in the middle of the plate. His velo also seemed to decline as game went on. He was getting good movement on most 2S and used his cutter a lot, so I wonder if the game plan was to not use the 4S much this outing after doing so frequently in early outings. Worth monitoring.

The bullpen trio was more impressive. Hughes barely broke a sweat during his two inning AAA debut. Hitters just don;t pick up his pitches well. Uelmen got a little wild for a couple of batters and allowed an unearned run, but he continued his impressive run with not allowing an earned run to open the season (10.2 IP).

Stout also extended his scoreless streak (10.1 IP). He’s been absolute death to lefties this year thanks to his crossfire delivery, 3/4 arm slot and sweeping breaker. Righties don’t seem to pick up the breaking ball well either. His fastball looks fairly straight and in the 90-93 range, but thus far he’s commanded it and its been effective against hitters from both sides.

The offense has been scuffling for Iowa of late, but a couple of guys may be breaking out. Robel García in particular looks like he’s comfortable and starting to take aggressive hacks. He hit a 475 homer the other day and a few hard line drives today. He can put an offense on his back for stretches when he gets hot. And with the way most guys are swinging the bat, the team may need him to do that.

The game winning runs came off the I-Cubs coldest bat to begin the year. Veteran Esteban Quiroz was just 4-for-36 and without a base hit entering yesterday’s game. Hopefully, his two run bomb to RF gets him going, because Iowa needs it. He’s a career .283/.396/.469 hitter at the AAA level.

A shoutout to John Hicks too. He flailed badly at some good curveballs his first couple of times up, but the veteran catcher made a veteran play when he dropped down a surprise bunt to open the 7th inning. He beat the throw to first, then displayed some savvy baserunning throughout the inning to get himself to 3rd on a pair of groundouts, and then eventually scored on a wild pitch. Not easy to score a run in an inning on nothing but a bunt single, but he pulled it off, as a 32-year old catcher too.

Top Performers

  • Caleb Kilian: 4 IP, 3 H, R, 2 BB, 4 K (1.72)
  • Brandon Hughes: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 2 K (0.00)
  • Erich Uelmen: 2.0: H, R, 0 ER, BB, 0 K (W, 2-0, 0.00)
  • Eric Stout: IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 3 K (S, 1, 0.00)
  • Esteban Quiroz: 1-3, HR (1), R, 2 RBI (.128)
  • Robel García: 2-3, R (.279)
  • John Hicks: 1-3, R (.143)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

With Brandon Hughes and Nelson Maldonado now in Iowa, Levi Jordan was sent down to Tennessee to make room.

AA

Chattanooga 6, Tennessee 2

Game Recap

Normally there isn’t much to talk about in a 6-2 loss, but when the two runs come off back-to-back homers in the 1st by a couple of top 20 prospects in the system, it is of note:

Also, Cam Sanders had perhaps his best outing of the season in this one. Sanders is highly unlikely to stick in the rotation in the Majors, but there is a good chance he earns a spot on the 40-man roster in the 2nd half of the season or offseason at latest. In this modern era of 2-3 inning bullpen appearances being so valuable, Sanders is a prime candidate to fill such a role. He’s still got work to do, his control and consistency can still be spotty, and LHBs get to him a little too much, but some of those concerns likely lessen a bit once he’s going max effort once through a batting order as opposed to working as a starter.

Top Performers

  • Cam Sanders: 5 IP, H, R, 3 BB, 6 K (4.40)
  • Nelson Velazquez: 1-3, HR (7), R, RBI, BB, SB (1) (.279)
  • Chris Morel: 2-4, HR (4), R, RBI, CS (1) (.274)
  • Andy Weber: 2-3, 2B, BB, SB (1) (.259)
  • Bryce Ball: 2-4 (.254)

High-A

Quad Cities 7, South Bend 5

Game Recap

South Bend got off to a good start. Yohendrick Piñango jacked a two-run shot to RF in the 1st (always good to see him turn on one). In the 3rd, back-to-back singles by Alexander Canario and Matt Mervis brought home Bradlee Beesley and Piñango. D.J. Herz struggled with his control through three innings, but remained difficult enough to hit that he worked through it relatively unscathed.

Unfortunately, piggybacker Didier Vargas got lit up in his 3.2 innings, and the Cubs offense couldn’t keep pace.

Top Performers

  • Yohendrick Piñango: 2-4, HR (2), 2 R, 2 RBI, BB (.286)
  • Matt Mervis: 3-5, 2B, RBI (.286)
  • Alexander Canario: 3-5, RBI (.286)
  • Luis Verdugo: 2-4, 2B (.289)
  • Bradlee Beesley: 2-5, 2 R, SB (2) (.227)
  • D.J. Herz: 3 IP, 4 H, R, 3 BB, 6 K (1.29)
  • Jeremiah Estrada: 1.1 IP, H, 0 R< BB, 4 K (1.42)

Low-A

Myrtle Beach 5, Columbia 4 (Game 1)

Myrtle Beach 3, Columbia 1 (Game 2)

Game Recap

Myrtle Beach took both halves of the doubleheader to extend their winning streak to seven games.

Leading the way on offense was a pair of red hot hitters and top prospects, James Triantos and Pete Crow-Armstrong. One of the two seemed to be involved in every scoring play throughout both games.

In game two, they had to share the spotlight with big lefthanded starter Luke Little. He faced 9 batters, and sat all 9 down, 6 via strikeout. Can’t get much better than that. Coming from his 6’8″ frame, his uper-90s heat and sweeping breaker can’t be a comfortable for hitters, especially fellow lefties. If he can throw enough strikes, he’s got a big league future, take a look:

Jacob Wetzel secured the win in the second game with a flourish:

Top Performers

  • James Triantos: 5-6, 2B, R, 3 RBI, BB (.283)
  • Pete Crow-Armstrong: 4-7, 3 R, CS (2) (.360)
  • Juan Mora: 1-3, R, 2 RBI, SF, SAC, BB (.308)
  • B.J. Murray Jr.: 1-3, R (.133)
  • Luke Little: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K (3.86)
  • Jake Reindl: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K (S, 1, 0.00)
  • Jose Gonzalez: 3 IP, H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K (W, 2-0, 3.97)

Comments

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  • Tennessee is coming to Birmingham next week and I can't wait to see the guys in action! A Myrtle Beach game would be even better, but I might have to wait a year or two before those guys reach AA.

  • Caleb Kilian just gets people out. I like that in a pitcher.

  • In reply to cubs09:

    Ha, me too!

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    a few questions Michael. Does Brandon Hughes throw in the mid-90's and do you think he could be in our bullpen this year, and is it time for PCA to move up? The way he plays defense it seems to me that the only thing keeping him in the minors is his bat. Thanks.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I've seen Hughes touch as high as 96, but its unusual and it could be from hot guns. He's usually in the 91-94 range. I do think he could be in the pen this year. Cubs are going to try to trade several relievers at the TDL. Hughes will definitely be one of the candidates to replace them. Ueckert and Leeper are two other relief prospects who could get added. Both have struggled a bit so far with their command this year, catching a lot of plate, but not worried yet.

    I think they wanted to be cautious with PCA given all the time he missed, and that he said he wasn't 100% comfortable with his new swing. Sending him to cold weather in MWL could have been rough. But as the weather warms up next month... yeah, he should probably get to SB soon.

    I could see PCA open 2023 in AA. And maybe see AAA in 2nd half. That could put him in line for Opening Day 2024 at the earliest. That's kind of best case scenario.

  • A lefty starter who throws upper 90's, in addition to a BFC (Back Foot Charlie), has to be in the top 10 of the Cubs prospect list now.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Little has had massive control issues throughout his college and pro career. The stuff is great, but he's a huge guy who has difficulty repeating his delivery. A common problem for tall pitchers. He's still got a lot to overcome. There is a little bit of Brailyn Marquez vibes, but even more so toward the "he's going to be a reliever."

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Maybe a better idea of who/what he's been is Dillon Maples.

  • Its early but Cubs offense is first in runs per game, obp, batting average, second in doubles & obps. No coincidence but Cubs are bottom 5 in most strikeouts.

    Yes the 21 run game helped. But they scored 21 runs with only one home run. That is very hard to do.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Yeah - the offense hasn't been the problem for our Cubs in April. Some of those stats are very promising if they can continue to hold through the summer.

    The SP has been iffy, with Hendricks and Stroman underperforming so far, and Leiter and Steele are walking too many guys. The BP has also been iffy other than Robertson, Effross and Wick.

    And please, please, please - stop playing Villar at SS.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Please play Rivas every day at first. Have Frank the tank be the DH. Put Hermosillo/Ortega in CF (until the deadline). I have seen enough of Villar and Heyward. Can we please move on.

    I am ready to see Killian & Hughes. Then Brennan Davis & Riley Thompson when they are ready. Let's get this started. We know starting pitching is the key to success. I dont want to see Mills & Leiter in that 5th spot. I want to see guys that will be in our future.

    If we are going to compete next year a rotation of Hendricks, Stroman, Steele & Killian (with alzolay, r. Thompson, herz and wicks ready to follow) is only good if you add a stud at the top of the rotation and that will have to come from free agency.

    I am optimistic and impatient both.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Why did you leave Thompson out of the positives in the BP 1 run in 16 innings not good enough for you?

  • Agreed, the Cubs are stuck in neutral until they are ready to move on without JHey. I don't think the Cubbies will compete this year unless something major happens on the trade front.They need stronger pitching and I hope to see Killian brought up to the majors.
    Has anybody noticed Rizzo is on fire and good for him !

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Baseball is a strange game the Pirates are 3 & 8 in there last 11 games. We all know those 3 wins came against the Cubs.

    Cubs one huge advantage over the other NL Central teams, Cubs can actually buy top tier free agent starting pitching, & can afford to take more risks while trying to acquire playoff caliber type of starters.

    Cubs front office want to play-lets out think the league. Cubs can be frugal/smart with the position players, & bullpen. My two cents Cubs front office should be hyper-focused on having three playoff caliber starting pitchers every season.

    It is early in the season, but this team doesn't look promising, & the sell-off looks like it is coming. Not sure what kind of return the Cubs will get for all the pending free agents, & other players they put on the trade block?

  • In reply to Naujack:

    Cubs need Hendricks to get right so he can be part of the sell off. Problem is, I’ve had a strong feeling since they extended his contract that his best days are already behind him, and he’s done nothing to prove me wrong yet.

    I’ve also always felt that Stroman was over-rated, and those guys definitely gets snuffed out as they age. Are we seeing that too with him?

    If both those guys can get on hot streaks over the next coupe months it sure would be nice to get some good returns for them. I’m doubtful though…

    Problem with trying to buy 3 playoff caliber starters is that will cost more than a third of the yearly payroll, and it’s not sustainable and then you get to the point where we’re finally good and competitive and then we won’t be able to sign the position players we’d like to keep around. Sound familiar?

    On the flip side, I have enjoyed watching our cubs take the bat. They aren’t giving away at bats. They grind! And boy do I love the Suzuki signing. He’s a good batter to build the team around.

    No reason to rush anyone to the bigs this year, don’t need to waste service time on development. I’m very hopeful that next year will be a different story. But this organization needs very badly to develop its own starting pitching, which I’m still not sure they are doing that.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I believe the Cubs could actually get away with spending/trading assets more often on playoff caliber starting pitching than most other MLB teams. Cubs could go cheap on the rest of the team and still have a great chance to win most season. Cubs are not competing against other large market teams in the NL Central.

    In the past 35 years how many #1/#2 type of starters, & dominate back-end bullpen arms have Cubs developed? How many stayed healthy?

    I never believed the nonsense first we develop hitters, then pitching. Player development does not work that way. 2015 Mets had all that dominate young pitching, what happened?

    Cubs of course need to develop pitching, & hitting. It looks like they are doing it. Small and medium market teams usually must develop/acquire impact staring pitching in order to have a chance to build a winner.

    Cubber Lang- I'm wrong quite often, & developing starting pitching would of course help the Cubs. Far from a requirement for the large market Cubs in the NL Central.

    Developing impact players helps teams win. Which is obvious to everyone. Developing depth is also nice. It appears slightly easier to develop impact hitters, & league average hitters. Cubs have limited resources to acquire amateur players. I hope they always focus on using the majority of those resources to acquire amateur position players.

    I believe in Theo's philosophy of pitching development with volume not premium picks. Cubs could dominate the NL Central if the volume approach to pitching actually led to developing bullpen arms on a regular basis. Maybe even Cubs get lucky, and a few pitchers every decade became dominate bullpen arms. Bullpen arms are easier to develop when compared to starters. We all have seen how dominate bullpen arms can really help teams win playoff series.

    It is really hard to develop pitching. Developing homegrown top-tier starting pitchers who stay healthy, seems like the hardest things to do in the major professional sports. Geez, Cubs have not even been able to develop back-end #4/5 starters this past decade. Cubs of course need to try to develop starting pitching, but I would rather see Cubs prospects with premium stuff-come up as bullpen arms to see if one could become dominate for one/two innings.

    Really look at the NL Central, why are the Cubs having to do a second rebuild? Cubs do not have to compete against other large market/high revenue teams to win their division! I agree you cannot build a team with high priced free agents. Being good at player development really helps, but for my two cents Cubs have zero excuses not to sign/trade for premium top-tier starting pitching, most years. NL Central competition is three small markets, & one medium market, developing starting pitching is a bonus for the Cubs, but not required for them to compete/win/dominate the NL Central.

    I think every other large market team in MLB would love to trade places with the Cubs, & be in a division with three small market teams, & one medium market team!

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Rizzo is on fire because he plays in yankee stadium all his fly outs to the track in Wrigley are homers in Yankee Stadium. His first two hrs in his three hr game don’t make the warning track in Wrigley.

    He’s in the right place for his abilities. If he were in Wrigley the fans would be wondering if he was over the hill. In NY he’s the reincarnation of Barb Ruth or Roger Maris.

  • In reply to stix:

    Exactly, I like Rizzo and he is in the right place at the right time. He is going to hit lots of home runs if he stays healthy.

  • Watching this game now, my main thoughts are: What a collection of misfits. Jed can start backing up the truck anytime. This infield is a mess. And Simmons isn’t going to help sort out that mess, in any way, shape or form. Justin Steele isn’t giving me any reason for hope for the future.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    None of them are really. Maybe Keegan Thompson, but we need way more than one, and need to see him keep this up a lot longer. I couldn’t even get myself to watch after suffering through yesterday’s game.

  • I think it’s getting very close to the point where Ross and Jed need to go about the rest of the season to evaluate the future. I don’t need to have JHey trotting out to CF, to give the false impression that he’s got anything to offer down the road. Br Davis likely shouldn’t see Wrigley until 2023. Playing Villar at the expense of PT for Madrigal and Hoerner is pointless. Hitting Willson in the top 3 spots in the lineup isn’t proving anything. Nothing against Willson.
    And I definitely think some of these young pitchers we have - - absolutely need to be used in piggyback starting roles. Even if used for 45 - 70 pitches an appearance, helps them develop and gives Ross and Hottavy the opportunity to work with them.
    This season is toast.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Think of how this team will look after the trade deadline?

    At the end of the season, will the Cubs have a universally ranked top 10 minor league system?

    Is Jed the right person for the job?

  • In reply to Naujack:

    Yeah, I’m still ok with Jed, because of the talent he’s brought in by trades. I believe his decisions are somewhat restricted by the limitations put upon him by the budget he’s given.
    To me at least, the question is, ‘is Ricketts the owner for the job’?

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Madrigal needs to be playing every day. I'm tired of the mantra that the Cubs are trying to be like the Giants, using the whole roster to mix and match to put the "best" 9 on the field every day. If Madrigal is the future 2B, then play him until he figures it out or send him to AAA. We already know what Villar can, and can't, do.

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    I also think Jed is the right person now, just as Theo was the right person back then.
    I can see a massive trade dump in July like we had last year and a top 10 draft choice again next year, but after that I think we start going upward. Maybe PCA comes up next year after raking in the minors for a whole year. We have pitching prospects who are a year or two away--Hicks is looking good and who knows about Brailyn Marquez? He was a top 100 project and now is forgotten. The future looks good if we don't think the future is this year.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    btw, Wicks had a terrible day today. As Emily Litela used to say
    "never mind."

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