I’ll be attending my first Cubs minor league game of the season this week and it’s basically all I can think about. It has been nearly two full years since I’ve been able to watch one of the affiliates in live action and, while it will be the veteran-laden Iowa Cubs, that doesn’t at all take away from the excitement. I’ll be in Indianapolis on Thursday night with my Growing Cubs co-host Jimmy Nelligan, so if you’re in the area or at the park and are interested in meeting up at the game, you know how to find me.
News in the System
- This report is typically reserved for players at full-season affiliates, but it is also worth pointing out the show Owen Caissie is apparently putting on down in Arizona. He has multiple home runs in unofficial games and Arizona Phil reports he has the best power of any player down in extended spring training.
- We are less than two weeks out from the MLB Draft, which means we are less than two weeks out from The Rant Live: MLB Draft Special. Stay tuned for more information on the start time and the guests we will have on the show on July 11th!
Triple-A Iowa Cubs
- Iowa put together their second consecutive solid week, this time with a record of 3-3 against the Omaha Storm Chasers. Their 17-28 record puts them in dead last in the Triple-A East – Midwest division.
- It was the weekend of rehab assignments in Des Moines, with Nico Hoerner, Trevor Williams, Dillon Maples, and Justin Steele all getting into game action on their road back to Chicago.
- Another guy who we have seen in the bigs this year, Kohl Stewart, looked terrific in his piggyback outing this week. He followed Williams on the mound and threw four innings of zeros with three strikeouts
- Ben Leeper threw another 1.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts, one walk, and no hits. The undrafted free agent sensation is now down to a 1.19 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in his 22.2 innings between Tennessee and Iowa this season.
Oh yeah, Ben Leeper can bring it. 96 with cut… pic.twitter.com/c4UmVG5XJm
— Political Pragmatist (@CautiousLefty) June 26, 2021
- The long-awaited debut of Alfonso Rivas has finally happened. Rivas was acquired in the Tony Kemp deal in what seems like 2002, and the walk machine is now manning first base on a daily basis in Iowa.
- Nick Martini had a big week and he seems to be way too good for Triple-A. Whether he can ever put it together at the major league level is yet to be determined, but this week he cranked out two homers and tacked on a triple for good measure.
- Like I mentioned in the intro, the I-Cubs will be in Indianapolis this week to play at Victory Field. The Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate has a 25-22 record this year.
Double-A Tennessee Smokies
- Tennessee sandwiched four losses in the middle of the week with a win to begin the series and a win to finish off the festivities against the Mississippi Braves. It was somewhat of a miracle that they walked away with even two wins considering they averaged just 1.5 runs per game on the week. The Smokies now sit by themselves with the worst record in the system at 16-30.
- The lone bright spot at the plate this week was Nelson Maldonado. It took him a while to get settled at Double-A, but considering he had only played 56 games as a pro before his Tennessee debut, his plus hit tool has played pretty well this year. He doubled twice and hit a tank in his 23 plate appearances.
- The recently acquired Dakota Chalmers and long-time prospect Brendon Little each made their season debuts this week, giving up zero runs in their three innings apiece. Chalmers struck out five and Little only gave up one hit.
- You think this Ethan Roberts fella is ready for a promotion to Iowa? Three more hitless, scoreless innings now puts his ERA at 2.18 with a 0.87 WHIP and .149 average against while he strikes out 33% of the batters he faces.
- The Smokies are back home for a series with the Rocket City Trash Pandas, a team that nearly swept them earlier in the month.
High-A South Bend Cubs
- South Bend was undefeated this week in games that they scored double-digit runs. Unfortunately, they only did that twice this week and went 2-4 against the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The Cubs started off the week 0-3 dispute three lights-out performances from their starting pitchers.
- The Italian Stallion, Matteo Bocchi, made the first strong outing on the mound this week. He went four innings of one-hit ball while striking out eight.
- Max Bain also struck out eight batters, but he didn’t allow a single hit in his Wednesday outing. And get this: He didn’t even have the best no-hit performance of the night! More on that later…
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) June 24, 2021
- While Derek Casey gave up three earned runs on three hits in his 6.1 innings, he also struck out 11 batters and is doing his best to get that call-up to Tennessee. If he can continue to showcase his electric stuff at the next level, we might be looking at a new pop-up prospect.
- There were no real standout performances at the plate for the Cubs this week, but we saw two new MiLB signings make their debuts. Harrison Wenson, a former University of Michigan man, got plenty of work in behind the plate to end the week thanks to a serious shortage of catchers in the system right now.
- Matt Warkentin was the other debut and in his second game he hit the furthest hit ball I have seen in the system so far this season. His 473 foot jack seemed like just a flick of the wrist from the 6-6, 250 pound man. Big Maple is a Windsor, Canada native and I’ve heard some incredible reports about his work ethic from his time in the Northwoods League over his college summers. He is an automatic favorite of mine.
Matt Warkentin's 1st HR in the Cubs' org is a no doubter. pic.twitter.com/G4kJGNWRYJ
— Itsacon (@thats_so_cub) June 26, 2021
- South Bend hits the road for a series against the Lake County Captains this week. The two teams haven’t squared off yet this season so the Cubs will look to make a good first impression on the 25-22 Cleveland affiliate.
Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans
- It was just a 3-3 week from Myrtle Beach this week but you wouldn’t expect that based on all the storylines coming out of Columbia.
- Four birds combined for a no-hitter on Wednesday night, one-upping the Bain performance on the same evening. The feat was started by none other than DJ Herz, with Jeremiah Estrada, Bailey Reid, and Danis Correa coming out of the bullpen to polish off the job. The no-no was the second in the system this season, with the I-Cubs doing it early in the year. How close were they to a perfecto? Not very, as the four arms tossed seven walks along the way.
No no for Myrtle Beach!!!
DJ Herz, Jeremiah Estrada, Bailey Reid, and Danis Correa combine pic.twitter.com/VKHgTEdnbz
— Todd ⚾️🐻 (@CubsCentral08) June 24, 2021
- It’s worth touching on Jeremiah Estrada a bit more, as the righty is now at 8.2 innings on the year and has given up only one run. More importantly, his fastball is showing some serious signs of late life and he has struck out 17 batters.
- Manny Espinoza’s start this week was his entire season in a nutshell. A great performance of five innings, four hits, and no runs, but he only struck out two batters the whole night. He is a guy that pitches to contact and it has proven to be successful so far this year at times. He is striking out 21.5% of the guys he faces, walking an absurdly low 5.4%, and throws more strikes than anyone else in the system (68.9%).
- We might finally be seeing Matt Mervis turn his bad luck into good results at the dish. He doubled twice and homered and the big first baseman even threw in a stolen base to his box score for funsies. He is a guy you should be buying low on. He is poised to break out in a big way over the next few weeks.
- The Pelicans are back home for a series against the Down East Wood Ducks, a Rangers affiliate that stands at 27-20 this year. They round out a quartet of opponents this week on the farm that all have records above the .500 mark.