Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Mervis hits two bombs including walk off and Caissie hits grand slam as South Bend completes big comeback; García also goes deep twice; Four Smokies homer; Swarmer Ks 10

Matt Mervis (photo by Rikk Carlson)

MLB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

There was a flurry of roster moves and promotions throughout the system yesterday, beginning at the MLB level. The Cubs activated Wade Miley from the IL to make his first start of the season last night. The club also purchased the contract of utility man Ildemaro Vargas. To make room on the 40-man roster for Vargas the team designated Adrian Sampson for assignment. Michael Hermosillo (left quad) and Nick Madrigal (low back strain) were placed on the 10-day IL to make space on the active roster for Miley and Vargas.

AAA

Iowa 5, Omaha 2

Game Recap

Robel García blasted two home runs for the second time this season, John Hicks hit a solo shot, and Tyler Payne went 4-for-4 to lead the offense. Outside of those three Iowa didn’t threaten much.

The five runs was plenty however, as Matt Swarmer dominated over five and two thirds innings of work. He got beat just once on a fastball, surrendering a two-run homer in the 4th. It was the only hit he allowed. His slider was devastating throughout as he punched out 10 batters.

Brandon Hughes and Erich Uelman didn’t ring as many guys up as Swarmer, but they did make quick work of the Omaha lineup over the final three and a third, allowing just one baserunner combined.

Top Performers

  • Robel García: 3-4, 2 HR (4, 5), 3 R, 3 RBI (.279)
  • Tyler Payne: 4-4, RBI (.333)
  • John Hicks: 1-4, HR (2), R, RBI (.152)
  • Dixon Machado: 2-4, BB (.304)
  • Nelson Velazquez: 1-3, R, BB (.273)
  • Matt Swarmer: 5.3 IP, H, 2 R, 2 BB, 10 K (2.17)
  • Brandon Hughes: 2.1 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, K (W, 1-0, 0.00)
  • Erich Uelmen: IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K (S, 2, 2.93)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Two well deserved promotions were announced yesterday for starter Cam Sanders and reliever Bryan Hudson. Sanders has been one of the most impressive arms in the system this year. He’s regularly worked in the 95-97 mph range while incorporating a five pitch mix. There are still consistency issues with his command but his arm and stuff is legit. It’s a good bet that we’ll see the son of former Cubs swingman Scott Sanders get a shot at filling a similar role in Chicago at some point in the second half of this season.

Hudson too is having a fine season. The tall lefty creates a lot of extension and deception to help his solid stuff play up. He is throwing more strikes and missing more bats than ever while maintaining the high ground ball rates he’s generated throughout his career. Cubs now have three lefties in Iowa (Hudson, Hughes, and Brendon Little) who should get added to the 40-man roster at some point this season or before the Rule 5 draft this offseason assuming they all stay healthy. It should be a fun battle throughout the season to see which of the three gets the first opportunity once roster spots open up in Chicago. Those three should provide the Cubs with good LHRP depth heading into next spring training alongside a hopefully healthy Brad Wieck, Justin Steele, and potentially Sean Newcomb if the club decides to hold onto him.

AA

Tennessee 8, Montgomery 4

Game Recap

Homers and good pitching were the story in Tennessee as well.

Four different Smokies went deep in this one. Yonathan Perlaza continued his red hot week with a two-run shot in the 2nd. Luis Vazquez hit a solo homer in the 3rd. Then Chase Strumpf hit a three-run blast and Levi Jordan added another solo shot to conclude the Tennessee scoring in the 8th.

Brandon Leibrandt deliver four solid innings. He did give up a couple of homers himself, but he didn’t walk anyone so he managed to limit the damage. Dalton Stambaguh and the recently returned Wyatt Short each fired a pair of no-hit innings.

Top Performers

  • Yonathan Perlaza: 1-2, HR (3), 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB (.183)
  • Chase Strumpf: 2-4, HR (6), 2 R, 3 RBI (.209)
  • Luis Vazquez: 2-3, HR (1), R, RBI (.193)
  • Levi Jordan: 2-4, HR (2), R, RBI (.333)
  • Andy Weber: 2-4, R (.323)
  • Dalton Stambaugh: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K (W, 2-0, 5.23)
  • Wyatt Short: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 2 K (0.00)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Starters Max Bain and Chris Clarke received promotions to Tennessee. The two have been on really good runs of late in South Bend and as they are slightly older prospects it is good to see that they are ready for the challenge in AA. Bain is a fascinating undrafted free agent story. He was not in good shape coming out of college, but worked hard to lose a bunch of weight while dedicating himself to building his velo and learning all the latest info to help develop his repertoire.

He created a lot of buzz heading into last season, but was a bit his results were a bit of a disappointment mostly due to command and consistency issues. Hut he showed the good arm strength, and his secondaries would often flash. He just struggled to put it all together.

He worked hard again this offseason to become more flexible and his mechanics look far more fluid this year. The change has led to better command. Bain has also seemingly settled on a repertoire after doing a lot of experimenting with different grips and pitches last year. It’s put him solidly in the mix as a potential future big league starter or long man.

Unlike Bain, Clarke has always been a highly thought of pitcher, all the way back to his prep days and then again during his time at USC. Unfortunately, durability issues have plagued him for years and causing him to often bounce between starting and relief roles. Minor injuries have cropped up throughout his first couple of years in the Cubs org as well, but he’s stayed on the mound so far this spring and through the first month of the season. If he can finally get in a groove and carve out a consistent role as either a starter or reliever he’s got a chance to make the Majors down the road.

He’s not a pure power pitcher, relying a lot on his curveball and changing speeds. He’ll be Rule 5 eligible this winter, and figures to be one of the tougher roster decisions the Cubs will face so getting as much information as possible on him in AA the rest of this year makes sense.

A third arm received a promotion as well. The Cubs picked up reliever Nicholas Padilla in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 draft last year, which is not typically somewhere you acquire prospects, but the team may just have uncovered one. He’s always had a decent arm, but he’s come into this year and his stuff is just popping a bit more than in previous years. It’s not likely more than a middle relief profile, but considering the method of acquisition it was a good job by the Cubs scouts to identify him.

Veteran Wyatt Short also rejoined the squad for a third (maybe fourth) go around. The lefty spent the early part of the year in EXST waiting for a spot to open up in Tennessee or Iowa.

High-A

South Bend 9, Fort Wayne 7

Game Recap

South Bend found themselves down 7-1 heading into the bottom of the 6th yesterday. That’s no big deal for these comebacks kids though. This team has mounted a bunch of late inning rallies throughout the year, but this one might be the most satisfying.

There is no doubt it has been a trying first five weeks of the season for 19-year old Owen Caissie. There have been few bright moments for him so far, but hopefully yesterday’s big blast can serve as a launching off point for him. With the bases loaded and his team down six Caissie tapped into his plus raw power:

The grand slam still only brought the Cubs to within two with just three innings left. They would be held scoreless in the 7th, but thanks to Bailey Horn and Hunter Bigge’s work over the final three innings of the game the South Bend deficit would grow no larger. The team would draw within one in the 8th on an RBI single by Luis Verdugo.

This also set the stage for Matt Mervis in the 9th. He had already kicked off the South Bend scoring on the day with a solo homer in the 2nd and then added another RBI on a swinging bunt single in the 3rd, but the first baseman has regularly been right in the middle of the Cubs late inning fireworks and he came through yesterday once again. His second homer of the game was a dramatic walk off blast to complete the Cubs comeback. The club has now one seven straight games.

Top Performers

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Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Cole Roederer completed his rehab stint in Myrtle Beach and has rejoined South Bend. He was hitting the ball really well for the Pelicans. Good to see him back in South Bend and hopefully he can put together a few solid months and finish the year in AA.

In addition to Roederer, South Bend also received reliever Walker Powell up from Myrtle Beach.

Jose Albertos and Didier Vargas were activated from the IL and utility man Jake Slaughter was added to the roster from EXST.

Some potential bad news though for Ed Howard:

Low-A

Charlseton 7, Myrtle Beach 3

Game Recap

Not going to dive too deep into this one. A rare rough night for the Pelicans. Luke Little and Tyler Santana showed off their stuff (9 K) but were also wild in and out of the zone (7 H, 6 BB) through the first five innings. Johzan Oquendo and Jake Reindl did come into to deliver four shutout innings to give the Pelicans a fighting chance for a comeback.

Their effort was for naught though. The birds did draw eight free passes of their own, but couldn’t deliver a big inning as they managed just five hits on the night.

Top Performers

  • B.J. Murray Jr.: 1-3, HR (2), R, RBI, BB (.310)
  • James Triantos: 1-3, 2 BB (.263)
  • Johzan Oquendo: 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 5 K (4.91)
  • Jake Reindl: 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 2 K (1.00)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Comments

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  • Interested in how Matt Mervis develops going forward at Duke his first 2 seasons he was used primarily as a pitcher not until his junior and senior seasons did he play 1st base on a regular basis. He did have nice success in the Cape Cod League and always seem t have a back for driving in runs. Michael how is his Defense at first I know he is at least a big target around 6'4".

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    Mervis is a good athlete for a guy his size. No issues at 1B and has good range there. Even has enough speed to occasionally swipe a bag. Doesn't have plus power, but it's solid enough for a 1B. He's intriguing.
    Myrtle Beach is a tough environment for LH power. It definitely suppressed his offense a bit last year.

  • Keegan getting the start today. Nice.

  • We all know Cubs need financial commitment from ownership, and savvy baseball operations.

    After 2019 season-contracts expired
    Hamels $20 million
    Zobrist $12.5M
    Morrow $9M
    Cishek $6.5M
    Strop $6.25m
    Kintzler $5.0
    Russell $3.4M
    plus Castellanos.

    After 2020 season these contracts expired-plus 20/21 offseason
    Lester $25 Million
    Chatwood $13M
    Quintana $11M
    Descalso $2.5M
    Darvish-traded $21 million
    Caratini-traded
    Schwarber-non-tender
    Almora-non tender

    We all know during the 2021 season Cubs traded
    Bryant
    Baez
    Kimbrel
    Rizzo
    Plus others

    Lot of talent off the roster since 2019
    5 starting pitchers who all made over $10 million in 2019.
    Closer, Starting 3B, SS, 1b, LF, Zobrist, & one rental Castellanos.

    2022 season would it surprise anyone if Cubs trade Happ, & Contreras?

    I’m 100% on board with moving on from the old core, & we all understand rosters usually have more turn over each off-season in the modern game.

    Cubs are the financial behemoth of the NL central. Cubs should double down on their player development/analytics, & amateur scouting departments. 2022 has proven to me Cubs cannot build a winner for $150 million unless they have affordable star players.

    Ownership needs to open the wallet, because with this roster $150 million dollar payroll is not cutting it. The front office needs to evaluate players better, especially their own players. Cubs should be super active. Cubs should be willing to take big swings/chances with trades & free agents.

    Dodgers front office turned a contracts dump of Kemp/Puig/Wood into Homer Bailey & prospects. One of those prospects was part of the trade package for Betts, through aggressive trading, & massive financial commitment from ownership. Red Sox traded Betts in a payroll saving move, but guess what Red Sox kept their team payroll right at the luxury tax limit.

    I’m not a fan of long-term high priced contracts, & it doesn’t look like the Cubs are either. Signing free agents like Correa/Bryant/Story to contracts of 6 years or longer, I don’t think is the answer to building, or keeping a winner. Cubs/Jed good luck!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Naujack:

    Naujack, the Cubs have paid a lot for players and it paid off in one WS win. Sometimes it's the judgement of the FO on who to pay, not the pay itself. I hope the Cubs have increased their scouting Department so we can find the Contreras's and the Baez's, etc. Hopefully the Christian Hernandez (and brother) work out. They Cubs are not very watchable this year--I pay more attention to the minor league scores and players than the big club, although as I write this the Cubs game is on.
    I think maybe even next year we will be at at least .500. Don't forget how much the Cubs paid for Seiya, that was approaching $100 M.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Interesting that the two cubs you mention (Baez, Contreras) were Hendry picks while most of the Epstein/Hoyer folks are long gone. Seems as if the pay for future rather than past performance has lead to all but Hendricks leaving. Why is it that hardly any stay when they become free agent eligible?

    I haven’t heard any rumors on Contreras FA offers. Most ,if not all , of sports pundits wonder why Contreras hasn’t even been offered FA ctt? Are the Ricketts that CHEAP or are they afraid of Jason 2.0 situations?

  • In reply to stix:

    Ricketts doesn't make baseball decisions. He hires people like Theo, Jed, and now Hawkins to do that. If the front office determines a free agent has value the money will be there. Suzuki and Stroman, for example. He holds his baseball decision makers accountable. Theo and many others are now gone.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Slug, so you don’t seem to see how the baseball decisions are dictated by the budget that is decided upon, by Ricketts? You just BLINDLY go right along and say the ‘money will be there’.
    First, how can you say that. And,
    Second, Theo QUIT, leaving $10M on the table.
    Don’t give us the Suzuki, Stroman thing. Please. This is a major market city. Or don’t say this isn’t a tear down.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    It's a major market team with a roster that had too many needs and questions to justify over spending at this time, and counter productive. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with Ricketts seeking big a profit. One could argue, that if an owner would have brought back a popular player like Rizzo or Schwarber to put fans in the seats. History shows that this ownership has been willing to bust their own budget when asked to do so by front office.

    I can concede 2022 is a 'rebuilding year' at this point, which is no surprise.

    Theo knew that his best shot for a second
    World Series had come up short and did the org a solid leaving.
    I'm not Ricketts lap dog, but I think it is a huge stretch to put this mess, such as it is, on him, or maybe anybody. The org top to bottom came up short despite their best efforts. Do fans really even need a whipping dog?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Your the one that pointed the finger at Theo, then said that your boy Ricketts was holding ‘his baseball people accountable’. Your quote, not mine.
    Fact is, Theo QUIT and left $10M on the table. And when Theo left, he told the press that by not taking his final year salary, that he hoped it would be used towards paying for players. Then what was the first order of business? It was the Darvish trade.
    Now I’m not saying that was a bad decision, I’m just saying Ricketts doesn’t know accountability, daddy Ricketts just dumps money in Tommy’s lap.
    And the reason there are so many needs for this team, is because Tommy’s priorities are elsewhere.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    I'm not ready to say that yet.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    My opinion, there are so many needs because Theo traded away many prospects to get the 2016 world series. Which I am OK with (except the Quintana deal). All of the guys who got us the World Series win, their bill all came due at the same time. I think the offers to Rizzo and Baez were appropriate but those two said no thank you. I think we dodged a bullet on those potential contracts.

    After not resigning Fowler (or at least a replacement) and Zobrist retirement. There were not enough on-base guys left to score in front the hammers.
    So the offense from guys like Bryant, Baez, Rizzo & Schwarber regressed.

    I do expect the Cubs to spend even more next year. With Killian, Stroman, Hendricks & Steele or Thompson or Alzolay or a veteran like Smyly or Miley they only need to sign an ace. They will need a closer and a high end shortstop (maybe if Correa opts out).

    That will be a lot of cash for those 3 but I do believe that is all they need. I guess if they dont resign Contreras they will need a catcher too. When you add in the 4-5 rookies who will be part of this team next year. That should be enough to put the Cubs back on top.

    So open up the pocketbook again next year Ricketts i think we are getting close.

  • In reply to stix:

    We don't have any idea what Contreras has, or hasn't, been offered. He may have received multiple offers and turned them down because his agent - and his ex teammates, advised him to "test the market."
    As for why FAs don't stay, we could ask that about Freeman. Or Correa, Or any of dozens of FAs that change teams every year. Many of them, like the Cubs group from last year, have become FAs for the first time and are likely to be at the highest value they will ever be. I'm not surprised they'd rather have 30 teams bidding for their services instead of just one.

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