Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Porter Hodge and Matt Mervis continue breakout seasons; Canario drives in 5; Alcántara homers

Matt Mervis (photo by Rikk Carlson)

MLB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

I’m sure you saw, and had opinions on the flurry of roster moves yesterday, but he’s a recap:

Also got some rehab news from Mesa on Ethan Roberts:

AAA

Toledo 7, Iowa 6

Game Recap

Caleb Kilian started and looked like he was using his first MLB start as a learning experience. He went mostly fastball/slider in that game, and was in the strike zone maybe a bit too much for my taste. I know he can keep hitters off balance and induce weak contact while throwing strikes, but one thing I think he needs to work on is including a chase pitch. His curveball has the upside to be just that, and at least in this outing he was clearly working on including it more, perhaps even forcing it. It wasn’t the greatest results (3.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, BB, 6 K) but yesterday seemed like one of those days where production took a back seat to process/development, with the hopes that it improves his results when his next opportunity in Chicago comes around.

In the pitching production category, Bryan Hudson looked good again in an inning of relief, and then Cayne Ueckert had maybe his best outing of the season. He really opened some eyes in AA last year and then in Mesa this spring, but it’s been a rough couple of months in Iowa to open the season. Lots of inconsistency, especially with his command. But not yesterday. He was pumping in upper-90s and controlling his breaking ball. He’ll be Rule 5 eligible in the offseason and if he can string together a good month or two, he figures to be someone the Cubs look at in the 2nd half of the season in Chicago to help determine how ready he will be for a full time job next year. Hudson will be a Minor League free agent, but is making a case for a 40-man spot as well.

It was a good offensive day for the Cubs. Narciso Crook homered and scored twice. Darius Hill added three hits. In fact, six different batters contributed multiple hits, and one who didn’t (Nelson Velázquez) reached base three times and threw a guy out at the plate from center field.

They carried a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the 9th, before Aneuris Rosario and Brendon Little suffered control issues trying to nail down the victory. Walks and wild pitches came back to bite them as they let the victory get away.

Top Performers

  • Narciso Crook: 2-5, HR (5), 2 R, RBI (.230)
  • Darius Hill: 3-6, RBI (.313)
  • Dixon Machado: 2-5, RBI, BB, SB (9) (.297)
  • Nelson Velázquez: 1-3, RBI, 2 BB (.242)
  • Jonathan Hicks: 2-4, R, BB (.224)
  • Carlos Sepulveda: 2-5, 2B, R, RBI (.258)
  • Levi Jordan: 2-5, R, RBI (.237)
  • Cayne Ueckert: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 3 K (6.85)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

AA

Biloxi 14, Tennessee 10

Game Recap

Not much good on the pitching side in this one as Anderson Espinoza was victim to the big inning a couple of times (a common issue for him this season), and the results were no different for Peyton Remy, who piggybacked off his start.

There was plenty of good on the offensive side though.

Matt Mervis homered and doubled again as he continues to cement himself as the breakout prospect in the system this season. The track record remains short, but he’s a guy I talked about throughout last season as a having the tools (both offensively and defensively) to succeed, but he wasn’t hitting the ball in the air enough and wasn’t always getting himself in the best counts. Myrtle Beach’s home park did him no favors as well. Still, not even I saw anything like this season coming. Mervis is just killing the ball this year. A promotion from High-A to AA has not slowed him down one bit (combined 333/384/667).

I love the swing. He creates bat speed and doesn’t sacrifice contact for power. The bat path stays in the hitting zone a long time. He’s still not the most patient hitter, and that is probably an adjustment he needs to make once he reaches AAA, but I’m beginning to believe that Mervis may just be the 1B of the future.

Mervis wasn’t the only contributor though. Alexander Canario was actually the biggest star of the game. He also doubled and homered, driving in five runs. On a team with a lot of intriguing players but few top prospects, Canario definitely has the loudest, and he showed most of them off in this one. He is starting to get comfortable in AA.

Jake Slaughter, who has swung a hot bat for both South Bend and Tennessee since coming up from EXST, added two more hits to raise his average to .391. Bryce Ball has not been hitting as much this month as previously, but had a nice game yesterday, with a single, double, and a walk.

Top Performers

  • Alexander Canario: 3-5, 2B, HR (6), R, 5 RBI, SB (2) (.216)
  • Matt Mervis: 2-5, 2B, HR (8), 2 R, RBI (.313)
  • Bryce Ball: 2-4, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB (.286)
  • Jake Slaughter: 2-5, 2 R (.391)
  • Chase Strumpf: 0-3, R, 2 BB (.236)
  • Yonathan Perlaza: 1-4, R, RBI, BB (.220)

High-A

Cedar Rapids 6, South Bend 1

Game Recap

Not much to talk about, but Daniel Palencia remains a very intriguing arm, even if he only ends up as a reliever. Because it is potential closer stuff:

A nice defensive play from Scott McKeon:

Top Performers

  • Jordan Nwogu: 3-4, 2 2B, BB (.256)
  • Yohendrick Piñango: 2-4 (.264)
  • Luis Verdugo: 2-4 (.226)
  • Owen Caissie: 1-3, BB (.242)
  • Daniel Palencia: 4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, BB< 4 K (L, 0-2, 4.68)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

I don’t really know what to make of Jordan Nwogu. There are a ton of individual skills/tools, but they come together in a weird mix that always leaves you wanting more. He is beginning to produce more consistently though, and if he ever figures out how to access his plus raw power in games, then you probably got something, even though his arm likely limits him to LF (kinda weird to think of such a good athlete ending up playing 1B/DH but that may end up happening too).

Low-A

Myrtle Beach 5, Carolina 3

Game Recap

I didn’t get a chance to watch any of this one, and have weirdly missed most of his starts this season, but Porter Hodge apparently had another really nice game. Todd Johnson has been big on the young righty all season:

Hodge showed a good slider and occasional flashes of velo last season, but he’s come into 2022 leaner and stronger, allowing his stuff, velo, and command to play more consistently. I don’t have a list in front of me right as I write this, but he’s certainly moved his way into the top 15 pitching prospect discussion in the system, and unlike some, there seems like a chance he could stick as a starter. We are still pretty early into this new version of him, but he’s definitely remade himself into a prospect to keep an eye on.

On offense, Kevin Alcántara continues to do things you rarely see from guys that young in the Carolina League. Going oppo with power as easily and as consistently as he does is a tremendous sign for future success.

Top Performers

  • Porter Hodge: 5 IP, 2 H, R, BB, 7 K (W, 4-1, 2.80)
  • Kevin Alcántara: 1-5, HR (7), R, 2 RBI (.272)
  • Reginald Preciado: 1-3, R, HBP (.212)
  • Kevin Made: 0-2, 2 R, RBI, SF, 2 BB (.265)
  • Matt Warkentin: 0-2, R, 2 BB (.333)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

ACL

Cubs 5, Brewers 4

DSL

Astros 7, Cubs Blue 4

Yankees 6, Cubs Red 0

Comments

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  • Clint Frazier was insurance, incase Jed was unable to sign Suzuki or another everyday type outfielder. It's never a good idea to be badmouthing the org, that you just left, like Frazier did with the Yankees. The Cubs are in the process of thinnig the herd, as there only so many spots. When Velasquez arrives at the trading deadline, he will need to be in the lineup most days. Good luck to Frazier.

  • As far as the outfield after the trade deadline, will it be Happ Morel/Ortega Suzuki?

    Instead of moving Ortega, I would like to hold on to him. Until, if and when, Pete Crow arrives. Ortega is an above average hitter against righties. He is one of the few lefty bats we have.

    I know Frazier over Heyward is curious. But I can see why Frazier is gone. There is no place for him on the current roster with Valazquez, Young, Davis, Canario, Alcantera, PCA & Cassie all arriving in the next few years. I know some of these guys wont make it or get hurt or get traded. But if a third of them show up along with Happ Morel and Suzuki that is a huge glut.

    I am excited about the Cubs near future. But it still comes down to top quality starting pitching. So hopefully money will be spent next year again on that.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I’m not sure why ‘Frazier over Heyward is curious’!!!! Why?

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Is Heyward gone if Suzuki ever gets off IL or is he kept for his PRODUCTIVE LH bat? Which of the kids in minors is LH and ready to play reasonable outfield defense?

  • In reply to stix:

    Lol, at this point does it matter if a ‘kid in the minors’ is LH or RH? JHey is done. He has zero value to the team for 1) contributing to winning a game, or 2) trade value, or 3) evaluating him for the future. I’d just as soon see Darius Hill, or Maldonado. Or Velazquez or Young for that matter.
    Ready or not, we may as well give them a look.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Frazier over Heyward, we all know the reason. It is easy to DFA Frazier. It is also easy for the Cubs to play Heyward against RH starters, than make the tough decision to make Heyward the 26th man on the roster, who hardly ever plays.

    Jed is maybe an average-ish modern baseball president. Theo, walked away from $10 million dollars, to avoid dealing with his freaking mess.

    Cubs opening day payroll was 14th in the MLB at $143.4 million. Ridiculous that the big market Cubs are hanging their hopes on prospects in A ball or below.

    I know the 2022 off-season was all about being intelligent! Media for large market teams, should be writing articles about how the Cubs will add talent during the off-season. This past off-season Chicago media wrote tons of articles about how Jed/Cubs were going to be intelligent.

    Even with the Cubs being cheap-ish. Cubs should much more. This was a perfect off-season for the Cubs to take on the risk of signing 2 or more mid-tier free agents to short term contracts like Kikuchi, Soler, & Matz. There was a long list of mid-tier free agents available during the 2022 off-season. It is easy to take on the risks on a one year contracts-like Frazier for $1.5 million plus bonus.

    Cubs front office absolutely are doing a few things well. They get good results from 2nd, & 3rd tier relief pitchers. Younger pitchers are coming. Front office did a good job finding a few useful player from career minor leaguers. I also liked how the Jed/front office focused on lower level/teenage prospects trades.

    As far as adding MLB Players-Cubs/Jed need to get much better when acquiring starting pitchers, & position players.
    Arrietta $6 million, Davies $8.6, Pederson $7.0, Williams $2.5, Romine $1.5, Marisnick $1.5, Duffy $1.0, Stroman $25, Suzuki $17, Miley $10 million, Gomes $6.5, Villar $6.0, Smyly $5.25, Simmons $4.0, & of course Frazier's $1.5 million

    Many teams have proven you can win without signing super high priced free agents to long term contracts.

    Cubs should be more aggressive when it comes to signing mid-tier free agents. Then wait out the free market to the end, & see if any of the stars are left standing like they did with Darvish/Fowler who signed a value driven deal, &/or add depth pieces like Smyly.

    At this rate, Ricketts might come up with the great idea borrowed from Cubs past-college of coaches. Updated modern version graduate degrees of General Managers carousel! I can see it now Ricketts announcing to Cub fandom eight people with graduate degrees will rotate as acting GM-- talk about the brain power/intelligent spending.

  • Canario, Slaughter and Mervis again last (Saturday) night.
    Rinse and repeat! Keep going fellas, make them make room for you in Iowa.

  • Tough night for Swarmer. I guess he should master a third pitch. It's always hard for soft tossers if they catch too much of the plate. Yankees have lots of power, but some of those big boys can be handled by executing good pitches. Mistakes go a long way.

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    Awful day for the Cubs today--actually the whole stay in NY. We need pitching. For this draft as much as I'd like to get one of the best hitters I'd like to draft a #1 pitching prospect. We don't have that many in the minors now; even if it's Dylan Lesko and he won't pitch until next year, if he's the best available then draft him.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Got to go best player available. If it is Lesko and he is available then you pick him. If it is Johnson or Collier then you pick them. Just can't pick based on need.

  • Mervis another multi hit game tonight (Sunday), including a double. However with the score tied in the 6th inning, he’s been removed from the game. ??

  • I hope Jed can pick up some decent SP prospects when the Cubs sell off again this trade deadline. Not sure it is worth using the first round pick this draft on a weak pitching class with the top end being loaded with so many hitters.

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