Injuries, Updates, and Trends
The Cubs optioned Michael Rucker back down to Iowa and activated Sean Newcomb from the IL.
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.
- 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)
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.
- 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.
Chase Strumpf leadoff HR. Number 12 on the year. pic.twitter.com/PviBVCGqza— Brad (@ballskwok) June 12, 2022
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.
His line in those last 42 games: pic.twitter.com/IOKHsc0TuK— Brad (@ballskwok) June 13, 2022
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.
What a play for the first out of the game by CHC Luis Verdugo pic.twitter.com/61QI5bIsWc— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) June 12, 2022
- 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)
‘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.
The Kevin Alcantara game.— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) June 12, 2022
His second home run of the game is a three-run homer to set a new single-game franchise record with EIGHT RBI.
Pelicans 13, Mudcats 2 in the bottom of the seventh. pic.twitter.com/DeWqNGoiyc
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.
Alcantara continues to torch the ball today, now adding a HR off the scoreboard in LCF. Like that he has been able to shorten his swing and begin to turn on inside pitches. He just needs a double now to hit for the cycle heading into the 4th inning. https://t.co/LFKwssq3zi pic.twitter.com/JpJ82MlYW7— Tyler Jennings (@TylerJennings24) June 12, 2022
Kevin Alcántara’s monster day merits a montage. pic.twitter.com/aIwv0f7tn2— Brad (@ballskwok) June 13, 2022
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.
- 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)
Filed under: Daily Cubs Minors Recap