Daily Cubs Minors Recap: A monster day for Kevin Alcántara, with a triple, two homers and a franchise record 8 RBI; Crook homers for third straight day and Hill stays hot for Iowa as well with three doubles

Kevin Alcántara (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

MLB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

The Cubs optioned Michael Rucker back down to Iowa and activated Sean Newcomb from the IL.

AAA

Toledo 14, Iowa 9

Game Recap

Iowa has gotten great production out of corner outfielders Darius Hill and Narciso Crook this month, and yesterday was no exception. Hill doubled three times, and Crook hit his 7th homer. They led an offensive attack which amassed nine runs on day, but unfortunately each of the Cubs six pitchers on the afternoon got tagged for at least one run and Iowa was playing from behind from the 3rd inning on.

Hill has continued his torrid first half, as he was one of Tennessee’s top producers, not a total surprise, but with an unexpected uptick in power Hill is increasing his chances of becoming a MLB player. Prior to this year Hill was little more than a good contact/average hitter who took few walks and rarely hit more than a single. He’s more than doubled his ISO (from .080 in 2021 to over .170 in both AA and AAA) this year though, not just adding extra base power, but even hitting 7 home runs so far. He still doesn’t take many walks (6.8%) but if he can continue to hit for average and power it will be enough. As a LF, he needs to produce in 2 out of those 3 categories to make it, and he is now doing so (and at the highest level). If he keeps this up, he could force his way into the Cubs plans.

Crook was a Minor League free agent signing from this winter who got off to a terrible start for Iowa in April, which stretched into May, and I wonder how close he was to potentially being let go as the Cubs began promoting Hill and others from AA. His playing time certainly decreased. But all of a sudden, his bat has come alive in June (.389/463/.917) with 5 of his 7 home runs on the season coming in just 9 games this month. He’s only 26, and has produced fairly well in AAA in years past as a member of the Reds org. He too has traditionally been a corner outfielder with limited power and patience, and as a RHB it had created an even greater barrier for reaching the Majors, but he began showing more power in 2021, and that is now being put on display in 2022 as well.

Top Performers

  • Darius Hill: 3-5, 3 2B, 2 R (.415)
  • Narciso Crook: 1-5, HR (7), R, RBI (.248)
  • Levi Jordan: 3-5, R, RBI, SB (2) (.271)
  • Jared Young: 2-5, 2B, 3B, R, 2 RBI (.253)
  • Nelson Maldonado: 2-5, 2B, R, 3 RBI (.243)
  • Erick Castillo: 2-4 (.333)
  • Trent Giambrone: 1-4, 3B, RBI (194)

AA

Biloxi 5, Tennessee 4

Game Recap

Chris Clarke had a rough 1st inning as several ground balls found holes through the Smokies infield enabling Biloxi to jump out to a 4-1 lead. Clarke held them there through the next four innings, and the bullpen continued the scoreless streak through the 9th. Tennessee tied the score in the 5th, with the help of a couple of Biloxi throwing errors. The game would head to extras, where unfortunately the Smokies went down in order in the top half before the first batter in the bottom half singled home the winning run off reliever Bryan King.

Top Performers

  • Chase Strumpf: 1-5, HR (12), R, RBI (.229)
  • Matt Mervis: 2-3, 2B, R (.330)
  • Bryce Ball: 1-3, 2 BB (.282)
  • Nicholas Padilla: IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K (2.77)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

A couple of interesting notes from this one, including Chase Strumpf homered, but he also saw a bit of time at 1B. The former 2nd rounder has settled in nicely at 3B after a rocky start there last season, and he’s increased his patience and power production as well, but I still see him coming up a bit short of being an everyday MLB player. He’s doing a lot of his damage against LHP, so it is more likely his role will be as a complimentary bat. If his future is on the bench increased versatility is big, so if he can add 1B, and maybe LF to his 3B/2B skillset it will help him and the Cubs.

Among the parade of relievers Tennessee used in this one, Nicholas Padilla shined above the rest. He recorded all three of his outs via strikeout. The Cubs have a number of relievers making a push for 40-man roster spots this offseason, among them Cayne Ueckert, Danis Correa, Jeremiah Estrada, not to mention Ben Leeper who is not Rule 5 eligible but may be MLB ready, as well as upcoming MILB UFAs Padilla, Bryan Hudson, and Eury Ramos.

At the start of the season I would have placed Padilla at the back of that pack. He’s shown a pretty strong arm and an ability to spin the ball in the past, but he’s really put it all together this season, now throwing 95+ consistently, and pairing it with one of the best curveballs in the system. It is going to be an interesting battle between all of those arms throughout the rest of the season as they try to stay healthy and prove they can throw strikes consistently enough to warrant inclusion on the 40-man. The Cubs will not be able to protect all of them.

High-A

Cedar Rapids 9, South Bend 3

Game Recap

The Cubs skipped Kohl Franklin‘s last turn through the rotation, no doubt working with him on the side in the hopes of getting him back on track. I didn’t catch any of the action in this one, so I don’t have a report, but the results look similar to before (3 IP, 4 H, 4 R, BB, 3 K). Two-to-three innings and three-to-four runs has been the pattern for him since late April. I really hope they can get him straightened out soon, but it is important to keep in mind this is his first game action in a couple of seasons, and he was pretty raw and inexperienced against high level competition before that as well.

Not much else to say from this one. Cubs fell behind and never really challenged for the lead throughout.

Top Performers

  • Jonathan Sierra: 1-4, HR (1), R, RBI (.267)
  • Caleb Knight: 2-4, 2B, R (.235)
  • Scott McKeon: 1-3, 2B, BB (.186)
  • Casey Opitz: 1-4, 2B, R (.071)

Low-A

Myrtle Beach 15, Carolina 6

Game Recap

‘The Pelicans season long and Kevin Alcántara‘s recent rampage through the Carolina League continued Sunday. A monster day from the young outfielder as he bypassed hitting the double he needed for the cycle his last time up and instead launched his second homer of the day. The Birds scored 15 runs on the day, with Alcántara responsible for more than half, as he set a franchise record with 8 runs batted in.

Throughout the season we seen dominance from this group, both as a team and individually as well. Yesterday was just another example. I could go into all the ways the Pelicans scored but it would take away from the spotlight Alcántara deserves in this one.

I will mention starter Tyler Schlaffer though. The Myrtle Beach offense regularly bludgeons opponents so it is easy to overlook the great work being done by the pitching staff. The bullpen got a lot of attention early, but most of those guys have been promoted to South Bend at this point. They do have another batch of hard throwers in the pen now, but the rotation deserves a lot of credit too. Richard Gallardo, Luis Devers, and Porter Hodge have all pitched well throughout the season. Schlaffer struggled early in the season but he’s been turning it around of late and had another solid outing Sunday. It’s not an overpowering group, and none likely make a Top 20 prospect list, but they all know how to pitch and possess solid arsenals.

Top Performers

  • Kevin Alcántara: 4-6, 3B, 2 HR (8, 9), 3 R, 8 RBI (.285)
  • Felix Stevens: 2-3, 2B, 2 R, 2 BB (.212)
  • Ezequiel Pagan: 2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, CS (3) (.270)
  • Kevin Made: 1-2, 3 R, 3 BB (.268)
  • Juan Mora: 1-3, R, RBI (.279)
  • Tyler Schlaffer: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, BB< 7 K (W, 2-3, 4.96)
  • Jose Gonzalez: 3 IP, 2 H, R, 2 BB, 4 K (4.03)

Comments

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  • Michael, or anyone - has anybody heard anything about Mervis being removed for a PR in the 6th inning of last night’s game for Tennessee?

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    The Smokies website seems absolutely useless for finding out anything about the actual games. The Knoxville papers seem to ignore the Smokies in favor of the UT team. It's frustratingly hard to find information about the Smokies.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    I don't usually pay much attention to that. It could be anything on the spectrum from a promotion to a disciplinary thing (like he didn't run hard enough) to an injury. I didn't notice anything specific on the broadcast so it is difficult to say. We'll likely figure it out soon though.

  • Caleb back for round two.

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    Good! I want to see these youngsters. I don't want Jed to spend mega bucks for some 30 yr old just so we can get back to .500. I don't mind a down year or two if we keep seeing progress in the minors. Who doesn't like PCA (although he's on the IL now) or Kevin Alcantara or some of the other players we got back from last year. We got a high draft choice this year and probably one next year but that's when the influx of our young players will be coming. Who thought Morel was going to be this good? I'm looking forward to see what Killian can do and maybe he'll stay up for a while.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Agree, but I don't want any of them up if there is developmental work to do first. Kilian is close, I think. I suspect that free agents will not be anxious to sign here yet next year.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    How about a down decade? That is what happens to small & middle market teams when rebuilds don’t work.

    As a fan I want the Cubs to win. I assume owners of sports franchises look at them as entertainment first. Ricketts are absolutely selling entertainment first to Cubs fans. Sure the owners want to win too, but it absolutely secondary to selling entertainment. Cubs having the 14th highest payroll in 2022 to start the season is not good enough.

    Cubs, minor league system has improved, but it was bottom of the barrel crap. Cubs, current MLB team is total crap, of course younger players offer a glimmer of hope when the Cubs are bad. I know rankings of minor league systems are subjective, but Reds, Pirates, Cardinals, Dodgers, & even Yankees have higher ranked farm systems than the Cubs this year.

    Have Cubs gotten better at drafting or signing amateur international free agents? Jed GM since 2011. The abbreviated 2020 draft is starting to look like a dud for the Cubs,& that was before Howard got hurt. The crappy Cardinals- #1 prospect Jordan Walker who is also ranked 25th overall prospects by MLB.com. Cardinals drafted him out of high school in the first round 21st overall pick in the 2020 draft. Cardinals selected him after Cubs picked Howard, & guess what Cardinals actually signed him for $230K under-slot.

    Cubs are bad because many things went wrong-trades, free agent signings, player development, & cheapness.

    Most fans realize it is hard for teams to come out even on contract like Seager’s 10 year $325 million, Semien 7 year $175 million, Bryant 7 year $182 million, & many times those huge signings end up like Heywards 8 year $186 million deal. Cubs should avoid those type of contracts. There is a lot of middle ground between signing Seager for $325 million or Heyard for $186 million, and a bunch of one year deals like Frazier, Villar, Simmons, Smyly, Arrietta, Pederson, & others free agents signed the last few seasons on small one year deals.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    Awesome presentation. I meant to comment yesterday when I read it, but things got in the way. I hope, just hoping, that some of the crop of minor leaguers currently in the system continue to improve in quantum leaps over the next 3 months, but there are quite a few that will be released after the upcoming draft.. It is like you said a "down decade".

  • In reply to shalin:

    I thought his assessment was total crap. Just my opinion. In the last decade we won the WS.

  • In reply to John57:

    We acquired Heyward for cash plus giving up a 2nd round draft pick. We don't win in 2016 w/o him. We bought Zobrist for cash. We bought Jon Lester for cash. ...........Wilson Contreras, Javier Baez, and a couple of very good pitchers were already in the system thanks to the underrated GM Jim Henry who was restricted in the amount of money he could spend. Epstein wanted a pitcher as his 1 round pick around 2013, but had to "settle for Kris Bryant" That pitcher was out of baseball very quickly. He drafted Albert Almora as his no 1 pick and so many stars were drafted later by other teams, ditto Kyle Schwarder........... Epstein traded Eloy Jiminez and Dylan Cease the only 2 stars besides Gleybar Torres he produced over 10 years of drafting to the White Sox for nothing. He traded Gleybar Torres for Chapman who went back to the Yankers after being a Cub for maybe a month, but we don't win in 2016 w/o Chapman. He gave up a top pitcher from the Hendry era to trade for the professor, ditto a top pitcher from the Hendry era in a trade with the Padres. Looks good now many years later after the traded stars are retired. Jake Arrietta was a feather in his cap. A significant part of Epstein's MO was spending a lot of money. I like a lot of the Cubs draft choices very much over the last 2 years, but not their number 1 picks........Kudos to Hoyer for that. There is a tremendous element of luck in drafting as you well know

  • In reply to shalin:

    Not that it changes your comments much but Torres and Jimenez were int’l signings and not draft choices.

  • In reply to John57:

    It's easy to criticise after the fact. Most of the talent traded was blocked by the core for a few years. Theo traded some high end talent and Ricketts spent lots of money both winning one WS and trying for a second. It was a split decision. It worked and then it didn't. The core pateaued and moved on. Now the org is not going to spend, trade, draft or develop itself back to the WS overnight. This year is a wash and 2023 might be too soon. Fans should just try to enjoy the process and hope for best and, of course, put in their two cents along the way.

  • Although Tennessee got shut out, two more hits for Mervis last (Tuesday) night, including a double. The guy is having an incredible year.

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