Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Kilian, Sanders, Herz, Devers continue to shine on mound; South Bend posts 2nd straight shutout; Big days at the plate for Higgins, Young, Perlaza, Triantos, Roederer

Cam Sanders (photo by Rikk Carlson)

AAA

Iowa 10, St. Paul 3

Game Recap

A rare offensive explosion from the Iowa lineup. The effort was led by the two guys who have provided the most consistent production for the team throughout the first month. P.J. Higgins doesn’t provide much power but he’s been above .300 all season, and his 5-for-5 effort yesterday pushed his average to .377 on the year. Jared Young has been a bit on the opposite end of the spectrum. He hasn’t hit for much of an average, but he’s brought the power. His home run brought his total to 8 on the season, second best in the system behind new teammate Nelson Velazquez. Young also doubled, his third over his last two games.

Iowa also got an impressive outing from their most consistent starter. Caleb Kilian has had to work around traffic in several of his starts, but he’s mostly kept the opposition off the board, thanks in large part to the ability to miss bats at an above average level while keeping a lot of the contact he does allow on the ground. The righty has given up just one home run over 24.2 innings. He mixes speeds well, the new curveball has given him another viable weapon, and he just seems like he always has a plan of attack available to him. But his command hasn’t been as sharp as last year, and I’m sure the Cubs are hoping that will come around as the season progresses.

I’m not sure if he could come in and dominant MLB hitters right out of the gate but I don’t see him struggling any worse than the current staff either. I know fans are anxious to see him in Chicago, especially given the big club’s recent results, but I would expect the Cubs to slow play it with Kilian a bit. He’s still being limited to 4-5 innings and 75-85 pitches per start. He threw just 100.1 innings last year (plus a handful of starts in the AFL). I would expect them to slowly stretch him out in Iowa while controlling his innings load over the 1st half, while they let Wade Miley and Alec Mills work their way back into game shape and continue to showcase Drew Smyly. Once trade interest picks up in those veterans Kilian should be a ready replacement.

Top Performers

  • Jared Young: 3-4, HR (8), R, RBI, 2 BB (.283)
  • P.J. Higgins: 5-5, 2B, 3 R, RBI, SB (1) (.377)
  • Tyler Payne: 3-4, 2 R, RBI, BB (.241)
  • Ildemaro Vargas: 3-6, 2B, R, 2 RBI (.279)
  • Robel García: 1-4, R, RBI, BB (.250)
  • Greg Deichmann: 1-4, RBI, BB (.172)
  • Caleb Kilian: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K (W, 1-0, 1.46)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Andrelton Simmons (shoulder) started at DH in his second rehab outing. He was once again removed after getting four at bats. Cubs are clearly not pushing him too hard. My guess is he will require a couple of more rehab appearances this week, maybe trying to get him back-to-back starts in the field before heading to Chicago next weekend.

Stephen Gonsalves was forced to leave with one out to go in the 9th because of an injury. Ben Leeper came on to finish the game.

Brendon Little made his 2022 debut with a scoreless inning. The 94-95 and good slider that put him in line (before injury) for 40-man consideration last September appears to be back.

AA

Tennessee 9, Birmingham 4

Game Recap

His final line doesn’t leap out at you, but Cam Sanders picked up right where he left off in his last start. He was unhittable in his previous outing and through his first four innings yesterday allowed only a pair of weak singles. His control wasn’t as sharp this time around though. He did issue a couple of early walks and thren uncorked his second wild pitch with a runner on in the 5th. He’d eventually give up a two-run homer before being lifted because of pitch count later in the inning.

Consistency remains the one thing holding him back. The stuff is good. And in many innings he can put it where he needs to. But not often enough where I can easily see him projecting as a SP in the Majors. It’s not out of the question, but his best role may end up as the multi-inning reliever the Cubs have found successful with Keegan Thompson, Justin Steele, and Adbert Alzolay in recent seasons.

The Cubs were saved from potentially losing Sanders in the cancelled Rule 5 Draft last offseason. They won’t be so lucky again. Sanders will need to be added to the 40-man this fall, which means the Cubs could jump the gun and add him in the 2nd half of the season and potentially utilize him in Chicago as a replacement for a traded starter or reliever. In the more immediate future, my guess is he heads to Iowa in the next round of promotions.

Sanders wasn’t the only story yesterday. Christopher Morel continues to break out offensively, and could very well being joining Sanders with a move to Iowa soon. And we already know he can field:

Yonathan Perlaza has also taken advantage of the playing time opened up by the recent promotions of Nelson Velazquez and Nelson Maldonado. He recorded the team’s only extra base hit yesterday and has now reached base multiple times in each of his last four games (5-for-10, 2 2B, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 4 BB, HBP, SB).

Top Performers

  • Yonathan Perlaza: 2-3, 2B, R, 2 RBI, HBP, SB (1) (.174)
  • Christopher Morel: 3-4, R, RBI (.313)
  • Andy Weber: 3-5, 2 R, RBI (.311)
  • Bryce Ball: 2-5, R (.297)
  • Bryce Windham: 2-4, R, RBI (.213)
  • Levi Jordan: 1-3, R, RBI, SF (.313)
  • Luis Vazquez: 1-5, R, 3 RBI (.175)
  • Chase Strumpf: 0-3, R, 2 BB (.195)
  • Cam Sanders: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K (3.38)
  • Kyle Johnson: 1.1 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K (2.61)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

trends

High-A

South Bend 2, Peoria 0

Game Recap

D.J. Herz only threw 50 pitches yesterday, but made them count. His control had been off in his previous couple of outings, but he righted himself in this one. He breezed through 2.1 shutout innings, setting the tone for the South Bend bullpen as the team recorded their second straight shutout. Bailey Reid, Eduarniel Nunez, Nicholas Padilla, and Jeremiah Estrada each made quick work of Peoria batters. Other than Estrada providing a scare by walking the bases loaded in the 9th, Peoria never really threatened in any other inning.

Top Performers

  • D.J. Herz: 2.1 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 2 K (0.93)
  • Bailey Reid: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 0 K (5.79)
  • Eduarniel Nunez: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K (W, 4-1, 5.40)
  • Nicholas Padilla: 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 3 K (1.80)
  • Jeremiah Estrada: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, K (S, 3, 0.96)
  • Pablo Aliendo: 2-3, 2B, R, RBI (.175)

Low-A

Myrtle Beach 8, Salem 3

Salem 5, Myrtle Beach 3

Game Recap

Take away one rough outing on April 19th (7 runs, 4 earned in 0.2 IP) and Luis Devers has been as solid as any pitcher in the system so far this year. Since that game Devers has struck out 16, walked just 2, and allowed just 4 earned runs over 14 innings. He was the ACL club’s most consistent starter last season, and he’s shown average or better stuff in the little bit I’ve seen of him this year. I’ll be sure to give him a closer look once Myrtle Beach returns home and I get a better camera view.

In Game 1, the Pelicans offense once again came up with a big inning to pull away from the opposition. This time it was a five-run 3rd featuring a sac fly by Cole Roederer, then back-to-back-to-back hits by Kevin Alcántara, Malcolm Quintero, and Juan Mora. The final run of the inning scored on a wild pitch. Myrtle Beach added two more the next inning on an RBI double by James Triantos (his second double and third hit of the game). He would eventually score on a throwing error as Alcántara stole second base.

Game two was a little rougher on the pitchers. Tyler Schlaffer entered the year as a starter with some buzz, but it’s been a rough go thus far for him. He gave up two runs in 2.1 innings to raise his ERA to 6.30. Jose Gonzalez followed and didn’t fare any better, giving up three runs over 2.2 innings. An Ezequiel Pagan homer and Kevin Alcántara RBI double weren’t enough.

Speaking of Alcántara though, like Triantos, his bat seems to be heating up. These are two young guys with little experience tasked with performing in a pitcher’s league, so bumps in the road should be expected, but we are already seeing each make quick adjustments, which is a great sign.

Top Performers

  • James Triantos: 3-4, 2 2B, 2 R (.260)
  • Cole Roederer: 1-1, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SB (2)
  • Ezequiel Pagan: 1-3, HR (1), R, RBI (.167)
  • Malcolm Quintero: 2-4, R, RBI (.310)
  • Liam Spence: 2-3, 2 R (.169)
  • Kevin Alcántara: 2-7, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB (4) (.250)
  • Pete Crow-Armstrong: 2-7, 2 R, BB (.400)
  • Juan Mora: 1-3, 2B, RBI (.250)
  • B.J. Murray: 1-3, RBI (.308)
  • Luis Devers: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, BB, 7 K (W, 2-2, 4.05)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

In Game 1 Adam Laskey and Sheldon Reed extended their scoreless innings streaks to open the year to 10.2 and 8.2 respectively.

Comments

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  • I was able to make the Smokies game against Birmingham yesterday. I hated to see Sanders pulled with only one out needed to get the win, but a WP and a HR when he was already over pitch count did him in. He hit 97 on the stadium radar gun multiple times, one followed by a 77 mph changeup or curve that was wicked. Kyle Johnson slammed the door on the Barons and kept it shut for another inning. Morel played CF and had a heck of a game. Stumpf didn't get a hit but drove one to the opposite field that was 2 ft shy of being out. Only a great play by the RF kept it from being extra bases. Perlaza doesn't have very good numbers this year, a shame because he moves like a cat and looks great. For the series, the Smokies took 4 of 6 from the white sox affiliate, averaging 6.5 runs per game and moving themselves into 2nd place. Much more exciting to watch than the MLB team this year!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Awesome. Thanks, Cliff

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I took about 300 photos, if you need any let me know.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I usually am short on pics from AA level. Have resources for other affiliates but not Smokies. I'd especially appreciate any from players new to the org since the TDL last year.
    Feel free to email me any you wish to share:
    mikejernst@hotmail.com

    Thanks

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Cam Sanders started so I didn't get any of Espinoza, and Vizcaino is still on the Restricted list. The only other player at AA is Bryce Ball. I hope to catch another game later this summer and I'll try to get the ones I missed along with any that get promoted. I'll send some of Ball and a few more.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Thanks

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I sent photos yesterday about 6:00. Please let me know if you got my emails.

  • I am not sure where we will be at at the end of this year. But I assume we will trade or release 6-8 pitchers and 4-5 hitters. I figure they will add at least 3-5 pitchers next year and 2-4 hitters through free agency. So if we let 12 guys go and add 7 free agents that's only 5 spots on the 40 man.

    So my question is, they have a lot of top prospects that they are going to have to add to the 40 man roster. Can they trade AAA prospects for several low level prospects? I know that's pretty rare but they are going to run into a serious issue next year.

    With R. Thompson, Ssnders, Martin, Killian, Frsnklin, Herz & Wicks this is the deepest our starting pitching prospects have been, since Wood, Prior and Zambrano were coming up.
    Plus they have a ton of relievers ready to hit chicago.

    By July we will have Davis, Morel, Maldanado, Valazquez, Higgins and Young at AAA that will be ready to fill a spot on the big club.

    How far can PCA go this year? Can he get to Tennessee? Many 20 year olds have had success at that level. If he can that puts him, potentially, in chicago in 23'. If he can be successful in chicago what a game changer for this organization.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bleachercreature:

    those are all good questions and it seems like we have a lot of good to maybe great players in the minors.
    I've become a huge PCA fan and think he needs to move up very soon--he's hitting .400 and it doesn't seem like he's being challenged at all. Why not keep promoting him if he keeps hitting like this? We know his defense is ML ready. If he can hit, he can hit in Wrigley.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    PCA has a total of 90 ABs with the Cubs. I would guess they are gong to want to see if he can continue doing well for another month or two before promoting him. I could see him getting promoted at mid season. He is very promising. Who would not want to see a LH hitting lead off hitter who is a gold glove caliber CF. Those type of players are not too common.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I think they'll be more judicious in free agency next offseason. I don't think they will go for volume like this year. Instead they'll focus more on landing another long term guy like Suzuki/Stroman, and a couple of solid sign and flip guys like Robertson/Miley. The roles of Smyly/Givens/Martin types will mostly get turned over to prospects.

    Guessing next year looks like:

    Stroman (or replacement Vet)
    Hendricks (or replacement Vet)
    Miley-like Vet
    Kilian
    Alzolay
    Depth: Sanders, R. Thompson, Marquez, Jensen, K. Franklin as 40-man depth + multiple Vets on MiLB deals

    RHRP:
    Rucker
    Thompson
    Roberts
    Effross
    Heuer
    Wick (maybe)
    Robertson-like Vet
    Depth: Rodriguez, Leeper, Ueckert, Espinoza as 40-man depth

    LHRP:
    Newcomb (maybe)
    Steele
    Wieck
    Depth: Hughes, Little, Hudson as 40-man depth + Vets on MiLB deal

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Just wondering, why do you feel Keegan Thompson would likely not be in the mix for a SP job. Are your concerns more based on his ability, or his durability? Thanks.

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