Minor League IPA: Crow-Armstrong Breaks into Top 100, Caissie Heating Up at South Bend, Higgins Clutch in Cubs Win
Hello and welcome to my new column, which, like The Rundown, will be a daily wraparound post covering minor league baseball and specifically the Cubs’ future stars and noblemen. There will be different sections and I’ll get to focus on two things I love besides baseball: indie music, and beer, hence the acronym portmanteau. I chose IPA as a heading because it’s an amalgam of innings pitched and plate appearances, two things most minor leaguers must accumulate as they work their way up to The Show.
Minor League IPA is going to feel an awful lot like my other column here, and I suppose that legitimately brands me, especially when you consider what I am doing over at Bears Insider. The content will be slightly different, however, with a goal to help us all learn more about Chicago’s farm system and its players. That includes me because I can say with full confidence that I’ve learned as much about baseball by writing about it as I do reading about it.
Since the parent club is chin deep in mediocrity, and because last week was American Craft Beer Week, the timing couldn’t be better to start this. The cherry on that sundae is that the Cubs’ farm system is really balling as a whole right now.
Minor League organizational standings (i.e. best combined record of four affiliates):
1. Cubs, 96-62 (.608)
2. Dodgers, 94-64 (.595)
3. Brewers, 93-65 (.589)
28. White Sox, 66-92 (.418)
29. Royals, 64-93 (.408)
30. Astros, 63-95 (.399)
— Sam Dykstra (@SamDykstraMiLB) May 23, 2022
As you all probably know, I’m pretty fond of the community we’ve built here. I’m looking forward to contributions from our readers in the comments section, and I’m happy to better promote the Cubs Insider writers who tend to focus on Chicago’s minor league affiliates. With that in mind, let’s make this a daily accompaniment piece to our expert writers who cover the players at Myrtle Beach, South Bend, Tennessee, and Iowa.
Today’s column is a sample, and it will become a daily starting next week.
Affiliate News & Notes
- Pete Crow-Armstrong has joined Brennen Davis (No. 16) and Cristian Hernandez (85) in the latest MLB Pipeline Top 100 rankings. PCA entered the list at No. 97 and at the pace he’s raking should climb pretty quickly.
- A sluggish start and an injury dropped Davis out of the top 15.
- Crow-Armstrong has pleasantly surprised all of us by adding some power to his arsenal. He was considered a defensive-first outfielder when he arrived from the Mets organization in the Javier Báez trade, but I’m loving the taters, too.
- The Mets are probably going to regret trading the future star centerfielder to the Cubs. It’s almost too funny that Trevor Williams was the sweetener to get Crow-Armstrong.
- Because Willson Contreras is dealing with a bad hammy, the Cubs promoted catcher P.J. Higgins over the weekend. The move gives fans a glimpse of Chicago’s near-term catching tandem in case Contreras gets traded and Yan Gomes takes over as the starter.
- Higgins was instrumental in helping the Cubs defeat the Diamondbacks yesterday.
- Nelson Velázquez hit his second home run of the season for Iowa on Sunday and his 11th overall. Velazquez’s homer got out in a hurry, coming off the bat at 111 mph and traveling a distance of 438 feet.
- After a slow start, outfielder Owen Caissie is starting to light it up for South Bend.
- Caissie mashed two home runs last week and has three straight multi-hit games.
- South Bend Cubs players will be taking orders and serving meals at Portillo’s in Mishawaka, IN on Wednesday to benefit A Rosie Place for Children, a nonprofit specialty hospital in South Bend.
- Myrtle Beach swept their weekend series against the Columbia Fireflies, and they have now won eight straight contests. Richard Gallardo earned the win and took a no-hitter into the 6th inning. The Pelicans are 28-11 and lead the Carolina League’s South Division by 2 games over the Tampa Bay affiliate in Charleston.
- Tennessee shares first place with the Angels’ affiliate in Rocket City.
- Cristian Hernandez has arguably the prettiest swing in the Cubs’ farm system.
This section is named after former Cubs outfielder and minor league scout Arnold John “Jigger” Statz, who at 5-foot-7 and 150 lbs, registered 4,093 base hits in a little more than 2,800 games played for the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League and four major league clubs. Only Pete Rose has more career hits in American professional baseball. This section will be dedicated to one player each day.
Here’s Statz’s story.
Velázquez is slashing .265/.362/.953 in 132 at-bats this season between Tennesee and Iowa.
That ball got out in a hurry.👀 Nelson Velazquez gets us back in it with this two-run shot in the fourth. pic.twitter.com/HRkEZuIWZg
— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) May 22, 2022
This section will appear once per week and will link to the great minor league coverage at Cubs Insider that’s not covered elsewhere in this column.
- Greg Huss hosts the Growing Cubs Podcast with Jimmy Nelligan and this week’s show breaks down the big league debuts of Christopher Morel and Brandon Hughes and includes expert analysis of minor league players Caleb Kilian, Bryce Ball, Chase Strumpf, Kevin Made, and Luke Little.
- In his previous podcast, Huss looks at the differences between Chicago’s farm system in 2019 and today.
950 Miles to Chicago
That’s the distance from Pelicans Park in Myrtle Beach to Wrigley Field and this section will provide a daily scouting report or update on one of the Cub’s minor league players. Since Crow-Armstrong is the newest star in Chicago’s system, he earns today’s honors.
Here’s what MLB Pipeline has to say about the minor league centerfielder:
“The 2020 19th overall pick, who was acquired from the Mets while injured at last year’s Trade Deadline, has been off to a fiery start at Single-A Myrtle Beach, where he’s hitting .372/.463/.584 through 33 games. Crow-Armstrong is a plus runner and plus-plus defender in center on top of that.”
Craft Beer of the Day
Kentucky Brunch Brand Sout by Toppling Goliath Brewing Company – Why not start with the best craft beer ever? Beer Advocate says it is and describes the 12% ABV deliciousness as “Chocolate chip pancakes drenched with maple syrup served with espresso and a shot of bourbon, all in one sip.” The site also calls the award-winning KBBS “decadence in a bottle.”
Best of all, it’s brewed in Decorah, IA, which is only a three-hour drive from Des Moines. For a guy like me who lives in Milwaukee, the taproom is located at just about the halfway point when I’m road-tripping to see the Cubs’ Triple-A team. An afternoon of Kilian and KBBS sounds like a home run to me!
You can even rent out their taproom for private events. Perhaps we should all nudge Evan and Jon into hosting an offseason shindig. If you’re just crazy enough to go see the lowly Cubs play the lowlier Reds in this year’s Field of Dreams Game, make sure that Toppling Goliath is on the itinerary. It will only take you an hour out of your way.
Children of the Corn
Egads! This is my pet name for the column and the section will mostly include players from other organizations.
- Here’s the accompanying article to the updated MLB Pipeline Top 100 prospect list.
- Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman made his major league debut over the weekend and he got caught up in the awe-inspiring moment, which made all of us a little goose-bumpy.
- Rutschman was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft and has been baseball’s top prospect since 2020.
- Daniel Ponce de Leon, a 30-year-old righty who formerly pitched for the Cardinals, struck out the first nine batters he faced on Sunday. Ponce de Leon was released by the Angels just before Opening Day and was picked up on waivers by the Mariners. He now plays for the Tacoma Rainiers at Triple-A.
- Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com attended a minor league game with his 20-year-old nephew to check out the pitch clock and came away liking it for the most part.
- This week’s edition of Minor League Players of the Week includes former Cubs farmhand Thomas Hatch, who now pitches for the Blue Jays affiliate in Buffalo.
- Minor League baseball announcer Joey Zanaboni of the Fredricksburg Nationals has one of the more unique home run calls: “Lock it, cock it, rocket, and restock it.”
- Kyle Stowers (Orioles) is one of three minor league hitters to go yard three times on Sunday. The others were Matt Gorski (Pirates) and Lars Nootbaar (Cardinals). The Orioles are about a year ahead of the Cubs system-wise, and the two organizations are going to be fun to watch next year and beyond.
1, 2, 3 and to the stands
Kyle Stowers hit it out again! @Orioles' No. 8 prospect crushed three homers and they might never land 💪https://t.co/1JBzY66Yku pic.twitter.com/ITGmihRWQj
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 22, 2022
- “I look at Bryce Harper‘s swing, Manny Machado‘s swing,” Caissie said. “Any swing that has a uniqueness to see what they do well and see what other guys do and try to combine and tinker a little bit.” – Caissie
- “First at-bat of the year, big swing. He’s been killing it in Triple A. Just an awesome spot to be in the first day up. Bases loaded, getting a great swing off on a great pitcher. Had to be an awesome moment for him because it was for us.” – Frank Schwindel
Monday Walk-Up Song
Ruby Tail Lights by Hank Midnight – I’ll use this section to promote indie music vids just to keep to the overall theme. This song sounds a little bit like a cross between Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Imogene Heap.