A lot can happen in five games. Just ask Kyle Schwarber.
Last Friday, the Cubs’ 2014 No. 1 pick was making his pro debut with the Short-Season A Boise Hawks shortly after signing his first contract. Not even a week later, the catcher/outfielder already appears to have outgrown the talent pool, as he has been promoted to Single-A Kane County.
In five games with the Hawks, Schwarber amassed a remarkable .600/.625/1.350 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line with four home runs, a double, a triple, 10 RBI and seven runs scored in just 24 plate appearances.
The Cougars open their second half on Thursday.
Schwarber, 21, was the fourth-overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Indiana University. He batted .431 and recorded 40 homers, 149 RBI and 41 doubles in three seasons with the Hoosiers (180 games).
The Cubs minor league affiliates went 1-2 Tuesday, with only the Short-Season A Boise Hawks picking up a win, but the real news was two well-deserved call-ups. Last year’s first-round pick Kris Bryant is moving up to Triple-A Iowa after tearing up the Southern League, and 2014 first-round pick Kyle Schwarber is heading to Single-A Kane County after just five games. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (34-35)
3rd Place (-5.5)
After jumping ahead 2-0, Iowa surrendered eight runs to lose at home to El Paso, 8-5.
- SS Javier Baez (.219) hit his 11th homer, a three-run shot with two out in the eighth inning.
- 1B Chris Valaika (.294) recorded his third multihit effort in his last four games, going 2-for-4 with a run, a homer and one RBI (33).
- RF Matt Szczur (.243) added two more hits, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and a double (8).
- Jokisch’s 10 strikeouts were his most since he fanned 11 on May 7, 2012, with Daytona.
Tennessee Smokies (33-36)
2nd Place (-12.5)
Recently called up Tennessee Smokies 3B Kris Bryant, LHP Hunter Cervenka, and RHPs P.J. Francescon and Armando Rivero all made appearances for the North squad in the Southern League All-Star Game. Bryant went 1-for-5 at the plate, and the three Smokies pitchers combined to allow one earned run over 2.2 frames. Tennessee OF John Andreoli, 2B Stephen Bruno and RHP Corey Black, as well as Iowa C Rafael Lopez, had been named to the North Division team, but did not compete. Tennessee will resume regular season play tomorrow, hosting Chattanooga.
Daytona Cubs (25-42)
5th Place (-20.5)
Visiting Tampa scored the game’s only run in the top of the first to beat Daytona, 1-0.
- Daytona managed just four hits in the contest and went 0-for-10 with RISP.
- RF Bijan Rademacher (.289) was the only Cub to reach base twice, going 1-for-3 with a walk. Both times, he was retired on the basepaths, getting picked off at first and then thrown out stealing.
- LHP Rob Zastryzny threw his second quality start of the season. His first came in his last start on June 9 at Clearwater. He has lost both efforts, despite allowing just three earned runs over 13.2 innings.
Kane County Cougars (45-25)
1st Place (+6.5)
In the Midwest League All-Star game, the Western Division routed the Eastern squad, holding them to two hits and winning 7-0. 3B Jordan Hankins and RHP Paul Blackburn represented the Cougars. Hankins went 0-for-2 filling in at third, while Blackburn did not make it into the game. Kane County will return to action on Thursday at home against Cedar Rapids.
Boise Hawks (4-1)
T-1st Place (–)
Boise hit five home runs en route to a 12-3 victory over visiting Tri-City.
- 2014 first-round pick LF Kyle Schwarber (.600) extended his hitting streak to five games with his third three-hit game of the season, including his first double and two home runs (4). He is tied for the league lead with a .600 batting average and 12 hits. He was promoted to Kane County after the game.
- C Justin Marra (.417) went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run and four RBI (7).
- RF Jeffrey Baez (.300) led off the game with a homer, finishing 2-for-6 with two runs and two RBI (5).
- 1B Daniel Canela (.467) went 2-for-4 with three runs and a sixth-inning, solo home run.
It was a tough showing for the Cubs’ minor league affiliates Monday, as Iowa, Daytona and Boise all came out on the wrong side of the ledger. But slugging Tennessee third baseman Kris Bryant did manage to hit 16 home runs to claim the Southern League Home Run Derby crown, and 2014 first-round pick Kyle Schwarber continues to mash. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (34-34)
3rd Place (-4.5)
Iowa managed just five hits in a 5-1 loss at Sacramento.
- DH Ryan Kalish (.207) went 1-for-4 with a sixth-inning, solo home run.
- 1B Chris Valaika (.290) went 2-for-4 with two doubles (13).
- RHP Frank Batista (3.86) allowed just one hit in two scoreless innings of relief.
Daytona Cubs (25-41)
5th Place (-20.5)
Daytona lost its seventh-straight game, falling to visiting Tampa, 7-2.
- C Willson Contreras (.287) went 1-for-3 with a sixth-inning, solo home run.
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.275) went 1-for-3 with a walk and his seventh double of the campaign.
- RHP Zack Godley (5.40) struck out the side in a scoreless ninth inning of work.
Boise Hawks (3-1)
T-1st Place (–)
Boise was dealt its first loss of the 2014 campaign, falling to visiting Tri-City, 4-3, in 10 innings.
- RHP Josh Conway started and gave up four hits over three scoreless innings, striking out three and walking none.
- LF Kyle Schwarber (.563) went 2-for-5 with a triple (1). He’s hit safely in all four games this season.
- 1B Daniel Canela (.455) and CF Rashad Crawford (.333) each recorded two hits apiece.
- RF Oliver Zapata (.250) went 1-for-4 with a walk, a double (2) and one RBI (2).
Iowa snapped a lengthy losing streak, Tennessee battled back to capture a walk-off win, and Boise continued its unbeaten run Sunday. Meanwhile, Kane County lost its third straight. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (34-33)
3rd Place (-4.0)
Iowa snapped its five-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory at Sacramento.
- RHP Kyle Hendricks picked up the win, pitching seven innings, fanning six and giving up two earned runs.
- SS Javier Baez (.223) went 2-for-4 with a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth.
- 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.276) went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and his 16th double of the season.
- RHP Marcus Hatley (2.67) struck out two in the ninth inning to earn his first save of the campaign.
Tennessee Smokies (33-36)
2nd Place (-12.5)
The Smokies scored four runs in the ninth inning and tallied one more in the bottom of the 11th for a 7-6, walk-off win over Mississippi.
- SS Elliot Soto (.164) went 1-for-3 with a walk-off RBI-single in the 11th inning.
- LF Anthony Giansanti (.261) and 2B Stephen Bruno (.291) each recorded three hits apiece.
- RF Rubi Silva (.243) went 3-for-6 with a run, a team-high two RBI (30) and one stolen base (5).
- RHP Armando Rivero (2-1, 1.56) tossed two scoreless innings of relief to earn his second win.
Kane County Cougars (45-25)
1st Place (+6.5)
Kane County dropped its third-straight game, falling at Beloit 5-4 in 12 innings.
- 3B Jordan Hankins (.322) and 1B Jacob Rogers (.245) each blasted solo home runs.
- RF Yasiel Balaguert (.235) went 3-for-5 with a fourth-inning, two-run homer.
- LHP Michael Heesch (3.86) allowed just one walk in two scoreless innings of relief.
Boise Hawks (3-0)
1st Place (+1.0)
Boise remained undefeated on the season with an 11-9 victory over visiting Tri-City.
- DH Kyle Schwarber (.636) went 1-for-2 with a third-inning, solo home run.
- C Justin Marra (.500) went 2-for-4 with a sixth-inning, three-run blast.
- CF Rashad Crawford (.286) went 2-for-4 with two runs, an RBI (1) and one stolen base (1).
- RHP Yomar Morel (1-0, 10.12) allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in 2.2 innings of relief to earn his first win of the year.
Kris Bryant is ripping the cover off the ball in Double-A. (Photo by Stephen Green)
We’re more than two months into the minor league season, so it seemed like a good time to check in on some of the organization’s top prospects. While a few have struggled this year, others are exceeding expectations and could be in line for a promotion in the near future. Here is an update on how MLB.com’s top 10 Cubs minor leaguers have fared thus far in 2014.
1. Javier Baez, SS
Baez entered 2014 as possibly the most talked about prospect in baseball. And a stellar Spring Training left people wondering when the club’s top prospect would make his way to Wrigley Field. But his free-swinging approach looks to have caught up with the 2011 first-round pick at the moment, as nearly 35 percent of his plate appearances have resulted in strikeouts.
There’s no denying his power though, as he still has nine homers and 10 doubles. His .225/.285/.430 (AVG/OBP/SLG) will need to improve, but as he gets better adjusted to Triple-A pitching—the closest replica to what major league arms have to offer—the closer he gets to being a regular on the North Side. Mind you, Baez started last season slowly too, and he has shown signs of breaking out lately. Plus, he doesn’t even turn 22 years old until the offseason.
2. Kris Bryant, 3B
Frankly, there isn’t a whole lot more Bryant can prove in the Southern League at this point. The 2013 first-round pick has destroyed everything Double-A pitchers have to offer, and the stats show he is the best hitter in the league—and maybe in all the minors. He currently is the SL leader in all three slash line categories (.359/.461/.717), home runs (22), RBI (56), hits (85), total bases (170), walks (40) and OPS (1.178).
It’s unclear what the Cubs have in store for Bryant as we reach the halfway point of the season. He could see a position change to the corner outfield, where many believe he’ll see the most time once he reaches the majors. But a promotion of some kind is likely in the works in the near future.
3. Albert Almora, CF
Almora’s season has been up and down, as he’d surely like to improve his .250/.273/.332 line. The defensive standout has been as advertised this year, committing just one error in 152 chances. Though he doesn’t have the power of the first two guys on the list, the 2012 first-round pick benefits from not striking out nearly as much (12.4 K%).
Almora’s batting average on balls in play is down 85 points from last season, and it’s well below his career average. This suggests he might be having some poor luck as well. He has still managed to drive in 29 runs this year, already more than his injury-plagued 2013, which means that his hits have been somewhat timely.
4. C.J. Edwards, RHP
The mid-June report on Edwards could only be summed up as incomplete, as the thin right-hander hasn’t pitched since April 20, following inflammation in his right shoulder. In four starts and 20.2 innings pitched, Edwards has a 2.61 ERA and an 8.7 K/9 total.
Edwards shot up most prospect charts late last season. He dominated at Daytona after coming over in a trade for Matt Garza from Texas.
5. Jorge Soler, OF
Soler has been unable to remain healthy in 2014. He began the season dealing with a stress fracture in his leg and is currently rehabbing his right hamstring. In seven games this year, the Cuban-born outfielder has hit .333 in 27 plate appearances.
Soler’s got the build of a future middle-of-the-order bat, and the Cubs hope he can get back onto the field quickly and remain there. For Soler, it’s all about reps.
6. Arismendy Alcantara, IF
Alcantara is making a nice case for a call-up to the major league level. The middle infielder recently made his first start in the outfield—a likely destination in the bigs—and is hitting .273/.309/.515 with eight homers, 30 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
His ability to play multiple positions definitely bodes well for the future, but he needs to cut down on his 25 percent strikeout rate. He definitely has top-the-order potential.
7. Pierce Johnson, RHP
The 2012 supplemental first-round draft pick enjoyed a ton of success in 2013 as one of the key members of the High-A Daytona Cubs FSL championship team. The 2014 season has been a bit of a struggle for Johnson, as calf injuries have kept him off the field since mid-May. He currently has a 4.39 ERA and a 1-1 record in six appearances (five starts).
Johnson’s 7.43 K/9 rate is still solid for a starter.
8. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Vizcaino was the prize of the Paul Maholm haul in a 2012 deal with the Braves. When he joined the Cubs, he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but he had a setback that caused him to miss all of 2013. The right-hander returned this season and after a solid start in High-A Daytona, was promoted to Tennessee. He’s pitched only 11.2 innings in the Southern League, but has been impressive for his new club, posting a 3.09 ERA and a 10.0 K/9 rate. He’s also cut his walk rate in half from his time in Daytona.
Vizcaino still needs to play more regularly, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him coming out of the Cubs bullpen sometime later this season.
9. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Candelario is still a raw prospect with the Cubs, as his .194 average in High-A indicates. But he’s on the younger end of prospects in the FSL, and his ability to draw walks (9.9 BB/9) is just what the organization is looking for. He’s getting a lot of experience in a league notorious for its pitching, which will be nothing but good for the young Candelario.
10. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
Vogelbach has had a decent season at Daytona this year, despite a slight drop in his power numbers through the first half. For a middle-order bat, he’s managed to cut down on an already-impressive strikeout rate, while maintaining his walk rate. His five homers are down from last year, but he has 25 RBI and his .267/.352/.406 line is right on par with his career numbers. The 2011 pick managed to drop some weight heading into the season, which will bode well for his long-term prospects.
Every Cubs full-season minor league affiliate was in action Thursday, but only Kane County came away victorious. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (33-31)
3rd Place (-1.5)
Iowa dropped its third-straight game, falling at Fresno, 5-2.
- 1B Chris Valaika (.288) went 1-for-4 with a sixth-inning solo home run.
- C Rafael Lopez (.318) and LF Josh Vitters (.222) both recorded two hits apiece.
- RHPs Marcus Hatley (2.77) and Frank Batista (5.40) each tossed a scoreless inning of relief.
Tennessee Smokies (31-35)
2nd Place (-12.0)
Visiting Mississippi scored two runs in the seventh inning to beat Tennessee, 4-2.
- RHP Dae-Eun Rhee gave up two earned runs over six innings, striking out two.
- 3B Kris Bryant (.359) extended his hitting streak to seven games (.444/12-for-27), going 1-for-3 with two runs scored, one walk and his 19th double of the campaign.
- 1B Charlie Cutler (.328) and CF Rubi Silva (.239) both recorded two hits apiece.
- LHP Hunter Cervenka (2.08) struck out all four batters he faced in 1.1 scoreless innings of relief.
Daytona Cubs (25-40)
5th Place (-20.5)
GM 1: Daytona managed just two hits in a 5-1 loss at Dunedin.
- 2B Wes Darvill (.188) went 1-for-1 with his first homer of the year, a sixth-inning solo shot.
- RHP Michael Jensen (2.83) tossed 1.1 scoreless innings of relief.
GM 2: Daytona was swept in its doubleheader at Dunedin, falling 5-2 in the nightcap.
- LF Zeke DeVoss (.179) went 1-for-2 with a run, a walk, a double (3), an RBI (8) and two stolen bases (5).
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.274) went 1-for-3 with a run scored and his first triple of the season.
- RHP Jose Rosario (4.87) struck out all five hitters he faced in his 1.2 scoreless innings of relief.
Kane County Cougars (45-22)
1st Place (+8.5)
Kane County limited host Peoria to just four hits in a 4-1 victory.
- 2B Dan Lockhart (.276) and LF Shawon Dunston (.248) each recorded two hits and one RBI.
- RHP Juan Paniagua tossed his fourth-straight quality start, going six innings, giving up no earned runs and striking out six. He has not allowed a run over his last two starts (12.0 IP).
- RHP James Pugliese (1.19) struck out the side in the ninth inning to earn his second save of the year.
The Short-Season Boise Hawks’ season begins Friday night against Tri-City.
Tennessee scored some late runs to earn a victory, and Kane County battled back to salvage a doubleheader split Wednesday. Iowa took a loss while Daytona was rained out. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (33-30)
3rd Place (-1.0)
Fresno scored seven runs in the first three innings to rout the visiting Iowa Cubs, 10-1.
- 1B Josh Vitters (.215) snapped a three-game hitless skid, going 3-for-4 with his 21st RBI of the year.
- LF Ryan Kalish (.214) posted his third multihit game, going 2-for-4 with two stolen bases (3).
- LHP Zac Rosscup (2.25) struck out the side in the seventh inning in his third outing as part of a major league rehab assignment.
- LHP Jeffry Antigua (3.06) scattered two hits over three scoreless innings of relief.
Tennessee Smokies (31-34)
2nd Place (-11.0)
Tennessee scored a late run in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat visiting Mississippi, 3-2.
- 3B Kris Bryant (.359) extended his hitting streak to six games (.458/11-for-24), going 2-for-4 with his Southern League-leading 56th RBI.
- RHP P.J. Francescon (7-4, 3.41) worked a scoreless eighth to pick up his team-leading seventh win.
- RHP Armando Rivero (1.71) converted his 10th save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning.
Kane County Cougars (44-22)
1st Place (+8.5)
GM 1: Kane County managed just two hits in a 2-1 loss in the first game of a doubleheader at Peoria.
- 3B Jordan Hankins (.313) went 1-for-3 with a double (14) and his 27th RBI of the season.
- CF Ryan Sweeney (.000) went 0-for-3 in the second game of his major league rehab assignment.
- RHP Michael Wagner (3.93) worked a scoreless inning. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last three relief appearances (6.0 IP).
GM 2: Kane County avoided the doubleheader sweep with a 4-3 victory over Peoria.
- 3B Jordan Hankins (.319) went 2-for-3 with a run scored and one RBI (28).
- CF Jacob Hannemann (.236), SS Carlos Penalver (.245) and DH Ben Carhart (.295) all had two hits apiece.
- RHP Tyler Bremer (2.32) struck out the side in the seventh inning to convert his eighth save.
Cubs top prospect Javier Baez playing for the Tennessee Smokies in 2013.
The Cubs have had success at the Double-A level since teaming up with the Tennessee Smokies in 2007. On Wednesday, the clubs worked out a deal that will hopefully extend that success.
The Chicago Cubs and the Tennessee Smokies announced a four-year Player Development Contract extension, keeping the club’s Double-A affiliate in Kodak, Tennessee, through the 2018 season.
“We are pleased to reach agreement with the Tennessee Smokies on a four-year Player Development Contract extension,” said Jason McLeod, Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development. “Our front office has enjoyed our relationship with the Smokies, and the players who have come through Tennessee have spoken very highly of the Smokies and their fans. We thank Randy Boyd, Doug Kirchhofer, Brian Cox and the entire Smokies family for their commitment to providing a great experience for our Double-A players.”
This PDC extension will bring the Cubs and Smokies affiliation to 12 seasons by the end of the 2018 campaign. Since beginning their affiliation with the Cubs in 2007, the Smokies have participated in postseason play in five of seven seasons and have advanced to the Southern League Championship series three times. Tennessee has posted a 553-485 record (.533) as of June 10, with six of seven completed seasons ending with a winning record. The .533 winning percentage is best among all affiliates in Smokies history.
“Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod have been great partners,” said Smokies owner Randy Boyd. “The Cubs have strong ownership and an outstanding organization. We look forward to continuing this affiliation for many more years.”
Tennessee has seen many of the Cubs top prospects over the last two seasons, including No. 1 prospect Javier Baez in 2013 and No. 2 prospect Kris Bryant this year. In total, 35 Smokies have gone on to make their major league debuts with the Cubs, including Jeff Samardzija, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo.
“There’s no question the talent that has come through Kodak recently has been some of the best in baseball, and it’s an amazing opportunity for fans to see the stars of tomorrow pass through here,” said Smokies General Manager Brian Cox. “The impact the players and coaches have made in East Tennessee has been tremendous and the future is clearly bright for both the Chicago Cubs and Tennessee Smokies.”
Just six days after becoming the fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft, catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber has finalized a deal with the Cubs. Schwarber will join the club’s affiliate in Boise, which plays its Short-Season Single-A Northwest League opener at home on Friday.
The 21-year-old from Indiana University batted .341 (238-for-697) with 40 home runs and 149 RBI in 180 games in his three seasons, adding 182 runs, 41 doubles, 12 triples and 23 stolen bases. He walked 116 times compared to 91 strikeouts, leading to a .437 on-base percentage. He recorded a .984 career fielding percentage, primarily at catcher (though he also played some outfield) and threw out 51 of 154 (33 percent) attempted base stealers.
The 6-foot, 235-pound Middletown, Ohio, native hit .358 (83-for-232) with 14 home runs (tied for seventh-most in the nation) and 48 RBI for the Hoosiers this spring, adding career highs with 66 runs, 16 doubles, six triples, 44 walks (compared to 30 strikeouts) and 10 stolen bases. He started all 59 of Indiana’s games and recorded a .464 on-base percentage alongside a .659 slugging percentage, good for a 1.123 OPS.
Behind the plate, Schwarber had a .992 fielding percentage (3 E/383 TC) this season and threw out 16 of 43 (37 percent) attempted base stealers, en route to being named one of three finalists for the 2014 Johnny Bench Award, given to the top Division I catcher in the nation.
In 2013, he was named the top catcher in the country and a First Team All-American by Perfect Game and the NCBWA after hitting .366 (86-for-235) with 18 home runs (first in the Big Ten and third nationally) and 54 RBI in 61 games. He recorded a .456 on-base percentage, walking 42 times, and slugged .647, best in the Big Ten. He was also named Academic All-Big Ten and joined USA’s Collegiate National Team after the season.
As a freshman in 2012, Schwarber started all 60 of Indiana’s games, including 54 at catcher. He posted a .300 batting average (69-for-230) alongside a .390 on-base percentage and a .513 slugging percentage, hitting eight homers and driving in 47 runs. Defensively, he nabbed 27 would-be base stealers, good for second-most in the conference.
Schwarber, a 2011 graduate of Middletown High School, was recommended by Cubs area scout Stan Zielinski.
Iowa gave up a pair of runs in the sixth inning to let a lead slip away, and Daytona dropped another game Tuesday. Tennessee and Kane County were both off. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (33-29)
T-1st Place (–)
Fresno tallied two runs in the sixth inning to beat the visiting Iowa Cubs, 3-2.
- 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.278) recorded his second-straight multihit game, going 2-for-5 with two runs scored and his ninth triple of the campaign.
- CF Matt Szczur (.234) and RF Casper Wells (.217) each recorded two hits apiece.
- RHP Marcos Mateo (5.02) tossed a scoreless eighth inning of relief.
Daytona Cubs (25-38)
5th Place (-18.5)
Daytona lost its fourth-straight game, falling at Dunedin, 11-4.
- C Chadd Krist (.214) went 1-for-3 with a third-inning, solo home run.
- DH Rock Shoulders (.204) and SS Marco Hernandez (.284) each recorded two hits apiece.
- RHP Zack Godley (5.74) struck out three and allowed an unearned run in two innings of relief.