Results tagged ‘ Tennessee Smokies ’
(Photo by Stephen Green)
A little rain wasn’t going to stop Matt Garza. With elbow and lat issues keeping the the 29-year-old out of action since July and rehab stints getting pushed back by rain and a dead arm, it’s been awhile since he’s taken the mound in a competitive atmosphere.
“I didn’t think there was anything that was going to stop me from going out there,” Garza said of his rainy Wednesday return with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. “A long delay—I sat on a bike for a long time.”
Poor whether caused the game to be delayed for more than an hour and a half, and it was eventually called in the bottom of the fifth. But Garza had a successful, pain-free outing, going 2.2 innings (42 pitches), with one earned run on one hit and two walks. He was back at Wrigley Field on Thursday to check in with the major league squad before heading out to Iowa for his second rehab start on Monday.
“I was just glad to throw strikes, glad they were swinging. It’s a good sign,” Garza said. “I put the ball in the zone a lot, so that’s all I was looking for.”
The right-hander has been on the DL since July 21 of last season after aggravating his throwing elbow. Then early in the spring, he tweaked his lat, causing him to miss all of Spring Training. Manager Dale Sveum said the club would make some decisions about a potential return to the big league club after Garza’s third rehab start. Even though the ace can finally see the light at the end of a very long tunnel, he said his focus is solely on his Monday start.
“I’m just looking forward to [start] No. 2,” he said. “When I get to three, we’ll make those decisions. But right now, I’m just going to prep my body for No. 2, prep my mind for No. 2—going to go from there.”
Garza was 5-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 103.2 innings for the Cubs in 2012.
The Smokies return slugger Justin Bour. (Photo by Rodger Wood)
Coming off of a 2011 Florida State League title, many believed the Tennessee Smokies were destined to repeat in 2012. But that didn’t happen, as the team hovered around .500 for much of the year, finishing 72-68.
This year’s Smokies might not have the hype of the 2012 squad, but after retaining 17 players and adding a few highly touted prospects, a league title could again be in their sights.
The 2013 offense is fronted by a few key returnees in Justin Bour and Matt Szczur. Bour, a 24-year-old first baseman, was the rock in the middle of the order last season, hitting .283/.360/.455 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 17 homers and a franchise-record 110 driven in. If he’s not moved up, he could near that RBI total again, especially considering Szczur and newcomer Arismendy Alcantara will bat ahead of him in the lineup.
Former fifth-round pick Szczur was all over Single-A hitting before his call-up last season. Though he struggled at Double-A (.210/.285/.357 in 35 games), he performed well in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .264 and drawing 14 walks in 105 at-bats. He also stole nine bases.
The 21-year-old Alcantara was promoted after a stellar 2012 in Daytona, where he hit .302/.339/.447 with 13 doubles and swiped 25 bags. The versatile infielder will likely line up at short, and he’s a tough out at the plate.
Alberto Cabrera is a Tennessee newcomer who will head a rotation that features three returnees. The 24-year-old Cabrera pitched in relief for the first time in his career last season and reached the majors, where he went 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 21.2 innings. Eric Jokisch, Dae-Eun Rhee, Dallas Beeler and call-up Kyle Hendricks round out the starting staff.
Buddy Bailey returns to manage the Smokies, who play Friday night at 7 p.m. CST. Here’s the roster Bailey will have to work with to start season:
Frank Batista RHP
Dallas Beeler RHP
Alberto Cabrera RHP
Marcus Hatley RHP
Kyle Hendricks RHP
Eric Jokisch LHP
Trey McNutt RHP
A.J. Morris RHP
Kevin Rhoderick RHP
Dae-Eun Rhee RHP
Zach Rosscup LHP
Brian Schlitter RHP
Tony Zych RHP
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.
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.
With a 2-1 Smokies win over the Montgomery Biscuits on Tuesday, outfielder Brett Jackson continued to prove why he is one of the Cubs’ top prospects. Both of the Smokies’ runs came from solo homers by the 2009 first-round pick.
The 6-foot-2 Jackson struck the first time in the top of the third, tying the game at 1-1 on a two-out home run to right-center off of Shane Dyer. But both teams were unable to come through with any more timely hits, and the game went into extras.
In the top of the 10th, Jackson hit his second off of Zach Quate, and Jeff Stevens shut out the Biscuits in the bottom of the frame to close the win.
While he hasn’t yet made his major league debut, Jackson is on track to make an appearance in the Wrigley outfield, perhaps by the time rosters expand in September. Here’s what our annual Minor League Prospectus had to say about Jackson, who also was featured on the cover:
“Most observers predict it won’t be long before Jackson patrols centerfield at Wrigley. His plus speed allowed him to steal 30 bags between high A and Double A, and he showed above-average power with 12 homers, 66 RBIs and 32 doubles. His strikeout numbers (126) are offset by a keen eye (73 walks). Though Jackson bowed out of the Arizona Fall League due to a staph infection, he should be fine by spring training.”
Brett Jackson career stats: