Results tagged ‘ Double A ’

Farm Report Wrap-Up: Keep an eye out for some sleepers on Smokies roster

Tennessee Smokies infielder Logan Watkins was named the organization’s 2012 Minor League Player of the Year. (Photo by Rodger Wood)

Today we continue our tour around the Cubs farm system, taking a level-by-level look at performances the organization hopes to build on in 2013. The Double-A Tennessee Smokies are next in the spotlight.

For all the talent we’ve written about in the lower levels of the Cubs system, it was the Tennessee Smokies who featured two full seasons from the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year.

Two nights ago, infielder Logan Watkins and right-hander Nick Struck were honored by Jason McLeod and farm director Brandon Hyde in a pre-game ceremony at Wrigley Field. Watkins was a 21st-round pick out of high school in the 2008 draft, and he’s shown a consistent ability to get on base throughout his minor league career. This year, he hit for a .281/.383/.422 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) and collected 76 walks in 588 plate appearances. His 13 percent walk rate was three percentage points higher than his already lofty career standards, and his slugging percentage was nearly 50 points higher despite having roughly the same batting average. In other words, it was a career year.

Of course, Watkins’ skill set is broader than just patience. He has versatility in the field—spotting at shortstop and center field in addition to second base—and the speed to rack up double-digit triples and stolen bases. He bats left-handed too. A 23-year-old sleeper to track as he likely moves to Iowa next year.

Struck also is turning out to be a late-round sleeper. A 2009 39th-round pick out of an Oregon community college, Struck emerged as the Smokies’ ace a season after he split time between three levels (A, AA and AAA). His 155 innings led the team, and he finished with a 3.18 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Just as importantly, his hits and walks allowed ticked down from a year ago, while his strikeouts climbed to just over seven per nine innings.

Struck isn’t a high-ceiling type—in other words, someone with a high-90s fastball or a wipeout breaking ball—but he’s succeeded with poise, pitch ability and a versatile four-pitch mix. He turns 23 this month and also is likely to wind up in Iowa next season.

Final Records:

First Half / 35-35, tie-second place, 7.0 GB

Second Half / 37-33, tie-second place, 4.0 GB

Storylines: This is a team that the Cubs front office hopes will develop some future contributors in Chicago. Matt Szczur struggled in his first taste of Double-A, but he has the toolset to hit for average and use his speed on the basepaths and in the outfield alongside Brett Jackson. Right-hander Trey McNutt has had mixed success since his breakout campaign two years ago, but this summer, the Cubs found a new home for his plus fastball and power breaking ball in the bullpen. Shortstop Junior Lake also is smoothing out rough edges, but he has a ceiling that few prospects in the higher levels can match. Outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha deserves special mention after a successful all-around campaign including a home run in the Futures Game.
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