Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Cam Sanders dominates with 5 no-hit innings; Canario and Mervis homers trigger late South Bend rally in comeback win; Iowa bats wake up; Roederer returns

Cam Sanders (photo by Rikk Carlson)

MLB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

David Ross reported that Willson Contreras is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Cubs do not have a 3rd catcher on the 40-man roster so I’m assuming they are hoping to ride Yan Gomes for a few days while they assess his issue and hope it clears up so that they won’t need to make a roster move.

AAA

Iowa 7, St. Paul 3

Game Recap

It has been an offensively challenged season for Iowa, but for one day at least, the bats delivered. The team jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the 1st, then added two more runs in the 2nd, and another in the 3rd. They still aren’t hitting for any power, and there are only a couple of home run hitters in the lineup on a daily basis so that won’t change much, even as the weather warms. There are enough veterans around to expect more guys to hit above the Mendoza line though. So, I do expect some improvement. In some ways, the I-Cubs are facing a lot of the same challenges as the big club.

The two guys who did the most damage yesterday were Dixon Machado and Nelson Maldonado. Machado’s been the teams most consistent bat this season. Maldonado has only recently arrived, and got off to a slow start in his first few games, but he’s hit at every level, so expect more multi-hit games like this one. He’s traditionally been a gap power guy, but he’s gotten stronger this year, and so far a few more of his hits are finding their way over the fence. If that can continue he can provide a huge boost to the Iowa attack.

In additional positive news, Iowa got some good work from a pair of arms who we hope to see in Chicago come the second half of the season. There was some concern regarding some lower velo readings from Caleb Kilian during his last start, but to me it has looked like he is changing his strategy and repertoire depending in different starts. Some days he is relying more on elevated four seamers, so his velo is higher, in others he tries to work his two seamer more. He was firing some pitches in the 96-97 range in the 4th inning yesterday.

Ben Leeper has struggled with his command through several of his early appearances and it led to more walks and harder contact than we got used to seeing last season. His two innings yesterday were more reminiscent of his outings last year.

Top Performers

  • Dixon Machado: 3-5, 2 R, 2 RBI (.299)
  • Nelson Maldonado: 3-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI (.250)
  • Ildemaro Vargas: 2-4, 2B, R (.247)
  • Trent Giambrone: 1-3, R, HBP, SB (3) (.171)
  • Narcisco Crook: 0-2, R, 2 BB, SB (3) (.116)
  • Caleb Kilian: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, ER, 2 BB, 4 K (1.83)
  • Anueris Rosario: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K (W, 1-1, 2.70)
  • Ben Leeper: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K (4.50)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Veteran relievers Kevin McCarthy and Eric Yardley are no longer with the organization. Neither were pitching particularly well and had gotten buried in a fairly deep Iowa bullpen. I imagine the team released them, but it is also possible one or both had a May 1st opt out of their MiLB deal and were anxious for a fresh start.

AA

Tennessee 3, Birmingham 2

Game Recap

Darius Hill led off the game with a homer, and Tennessee would add on two more runs in the 1st. From there, the offense dried up, but it proved just enough thanks to a dominant effort by starter Cam Sanders.

The righty looked as good as he ever has on the mound. Consistency and command have been his main issues through the years, but yesterday everything clicked. He threw a ton of first pitch strikes with more than just his 94-97 mph fastball. His mid-80s changeup and low-80s breaker were weapons throughout the game as well.

This was a perfect example of how well Sanders can perform, and why he likely gains a 40-man roster spot, when he works from ahead in the count. He absolutely dominated throughout his five innings, punching out nine, while allowing little hard contact (and no hits).

Danis Correa kept the no-hitter going for one more inning. But Birmingham got to him in the 7th for a pair of runs. He stopped the bleeding there, and then Eury Ramos and Bryan Hudson finished off the win with solid 8th and 9th inning performances.

Top Performers

  • Cam Sanders: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 9 K (W, 1-1, 3.26)
  • Bryan Hudson: IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, K (S, 2, 2.08)
  • Bryce Ball: 2-3, 2B, R, RBI, BB (.266)
  • Darius Hill: 1-5, HR (2), R, RBI (.310)
  • Christopher Morel: 1-3, R, BB, CS (3) (.303)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

trends

High-A

South Bend 5, Peoria 4 (10 Innings)

Game Recap

D.J. Herz was wild (5 BB) but remained his difficult-to-hit self. His wildness ran up his pitch count and knocked him out of the game after three innings. It forced the pen into a long night. And for a while it looked like it would come back to bite them as the normally reliable Nicholas Padilla and Hunter Bigge were each touched up for two runs in their two innings of work.

Meanwhile, the South Bend offense had no answer for Peoria starter Gordon Graceffo, who is on a fantastic run to begin the year and lowered his ERA to 0.65 with six shutout innings yesterday. It looked grim, but thankfully, the Chiefs pen was not as sharp.

Down four heading into the bottom of the 8th, the Cubs chipped with a run, but they still found themselves faced with a three run deficit when the bottom of the 9th came around. It would take only four batters to erase that deficit. After Fabian Pertuz struck out to open the inning, Yohendrick Pinango doubled, and then Alexander Canario and Matt Mervis delivered with back-to-back blasts to tie it and send the game to extras.

In the 10th, Eduarniel Nunez came on and kept the inherited runner from scoring. Bradlee Beesley delivered a one out walk off single to score pinch runner Edmond Americaan in the bottom half.

Top Performers

  • Alexander Canario: 1-4, HR (6), R, 2 RBI (.284)
  • Matt Mervis: 1-4, HR (4), R, RBI (.302)
  • Luis Verdugo: 3-4, 2 2B (.317)
  • Bradlee Beesley: 2-5, RBI (.241)
  • Yohendrick Pinango: 1-4, 2B, R (.243)
  • D.J. Herz: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 4 K (1.06)
  • Bailey Reid: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 3 K (7.04)
  • Eduarniel Nunez: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K (6.75)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

One of the pleasant surprises of the first month has been the breakout at the play by 3B Luis Verdugo. A fairly major signing out of Mexico a few years back, Verdugo has always been a top notch defender, but his bat has been slow to come around. In the complex leagues he tended to get off to slow starts before finishing strong, and then he struggled mightily in Myrtle Beach last year. The bat speed and projectable frame were always apparent, but his swing was a little long and his results rarely impressed. This year he looks to have added good weight to his frame, improved his approach, and cut down his swing a bit. It has translated into a .317/.388/.450 line and solidified his position as a prospect to track.

Low-A

Salem 8, Myrtle Beach 4

Top Performers

  • Kevin Alcantara: 1-4, 2B, 2 R (.242)
  • Cole Roederer: 2-4 (.500)
  • Kevin Made: 1-3, RBI, BB (.600)
  • Johzan Oquendo: 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 2 K (6.75)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Cole Roederer and Kevin Made were activated from the IL and both delivered solid performances. There wasn’t much of note in this game beyond that. It was nice to see Roederer back on the field after he suffered an elbow injury at the end of May last season.

Comments

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  • Here's hoping the weather warms soon. Baseball is not a winter sport. Probably a big adjustment for these young players to go from AZ warm spring training to the winter conditions the first 4-5 weeks of the season. Probably why Cubs High A and AAA teams are close in conditions to what it will be like when they reach Chicago.

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    I remember pitching a game in college in mishawaka indiana and it was snowing and obviously very cold. Surprisingly, the pitching part of it wasnt that bad, they have us extra pitches between innings. On the hitting side we were using aluminum bats. I cant imagine hitting when its 32 degrees with a wooden bat. That would suck.

  • Seems it could be time to send a couple nuggets of hope to Iowa. Between Morel, Nelson V and/or Darius Hill - - either one or two should be moved along, to challenge them as well as open a spot or two at Tenn to make room for Canario.
    I think Hill is already 24 years old and having played in college, he should be ready for the challenge.

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    BA has it's new top 100 prospects and the Cubs have 4 now. Seiya is in and PCA is now in the 90's. That didn't take long.

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