Decision to Call-up Bryant, Not a Simple One

So….. Kris Bryant is pretty darn good. Everyone knows this. But, just how good has his season been this year and should he be promoted to Triple-A Iowa?

First let’s take a look at his season numbers: Bryant leads the Southern League in 8 offensive categories. Yes, freaking 8 categories! He is also in the Top 3 of three more categories. He has done everything for the Smokies this year. He is hitting for average and leading the Southern League to the tune of .349. Bryant is hitting for power. He leads the league in both HR and SLG%, with 15 and a .667 mark, leading the league by 5 HR’s and 130 points in slugging. Bryant is also getting on base. Once again he leads the league in OBP and is 3rd in Walks. His .452 OBP leads the Southern League by .18 and his 30 BB are only 2 behind the leader. Since he his on base so much he is leading the league with 44 runs, which is 9 ahead of the man in 2nd. With both his Slugging and OBP prowess he is leading the league with a whopping 1.117 OPS. 2nd place, is teammate Rafael Lopez with a .942 OPS! To go along with his Slugging Bryant leads the league with 124 total bases and is tied for 3rd with 14 Doubles. Oh, and Kris Bryant is striking out, he is 3rd in the league with 60 whiffs. Put this all together and you see a player who is clearly at a different level than his Double-A counterparts. So what is he still doing in Double-A Tennessee and why is he not in Triple-A Iowa?

 

Christian Villanueva is currently the starting Third Baseman in Iowa. Although he is off to a slow start, he is far more superior defensive player than Bryant. Villanueva has a line of .230/.289/.382 in Iowa. He had a slow start in April and seems to be turning a corner here in May with a line of .260/.309/.420 with 5 doubles and 3 HR. Villanueva is also a legit 3rd Base prospect who hit .261/.317/.469 in Double-A Tennessee last year. And is ranked as the Cubs #13 Prospect by Baseball America. Villanueva was acquired from the Rangers along with Kyle Hendricks for Ryan Dempster in 2012.

 

As you can see it is not just as simple as calling Kris Bryant up to Triple-A what do you do with Villanueva? Do you send him down to repeat Double-A, which he showed he could handle last year? Or do you move Kris Bryant to the outfield and leave Villanueva at 3rd? Or do you let Bryant continue to mash Double-A pitching and call him straight up to the Big League’s?

 

To answer the first question, I think it would send a bad message to Villanueva by sending him down now when he starting to turn the corner and is starting to hit better in Triple-A. He’s already proved he can handle Double-A. Now I don’t know what his mental makeup is but he could regress if he is sent down.

 

Another possibility is moving Bryant to the outfield, where most scouts believe he will eventually settle. So why not speed up his development and let him learn to play Right Field. This might seem like a logical option, but Kris Bryant wants to play third base and the Front Office has shown they will let a player stick at a position until proving they can’t handle it.

 

Finally, does Kris Bryant even need to play in Triple-A? The Front Office has been pretty adamant that they believe a full season at each level is important to the progression of prospects. Javier Baez has gotten at least 200 ABs at each level before being promoted. Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Antony Rizzo, and Junior Lake all fit this mode as well. But unlike all these guys Kris Bryant is an advanced college bat, with a good approach at the plate. So are there exceptions to the rules the FO has put in place?
Time will tell on the approach the Cubs will take with Bryant, and a lot of it will shake out after the Draft which is next week. With all the promotions and demotions throughout the organization as the draft concludes, short season leagues start, and players start getting traded. Until then we can continue to enjoy Kris Bryant crushing baseball and dream of what the future may hold.

Who is Yasiel Balaguert?

Yasiel Balaguert

Yasiel Balaguert isn’t the first position player prospect that comes to your mind when discussing Cubs Prospects. With the likes of Bryant, Baez, Almora, and Soler in the organization most other position prospects are just afterthoughts. But Balaguert has demanded attention by tearing the cover off the ball early in the season for Kane County.  He has a .328/.418/.770 slash line during his 1st stint in a full season league. But who exactly is Yasiel Balaguert? Signed out of Cuba in 2011 the 21 year old is a stocky right handed hitter who stands at 6’2, 215. Balaguert projects as a corner outfielder because of his below average speed and plus arm. He made is professional debut in 2012 where he spent time with both the AZL Cubs and Peoria Chiefs. Balaguert broke out as a prospect last year with the Boise Hawks where he led the Northwest League in RBI (48) ranked 2nd in extra base hits with 24, and 3rd in slugging (.433). After the season he was honored by Baseball America as the #9 Prospect in the Northwest League where they described him as, “one of the NWL’s premium power sources.” He uses the whole field which allows him to rack up RBI and extra base hits. Although he is a good power hitter and uses the whole field he still chased pitches out of the zone which led to his 29% strikeout rate last year.

Yasiel Balaguert has built on the momentum he gained last year, carrying it over to this year with Kane County, where he ranks 2nd in the MWL with 14 RBI. He has been the Cougars most productive and consistent hitter early in the season leading the team in Hits, Batting Average, RBI, OBP, SLG, and OPS.  Although it is still early it looks as if he has refined his approach by lowering his strikeout rate to 16% on the season. This is a very important season for Balaguert as a prospect because scouts will be looking at how he can hold up for a full season since this is his 1st stint in a full season league.

In my eyes Balaguert has turned into one of the more intriguing prospects to track during the season. The potential is there to become a valuable hitter with gap power and could push his way to Daytona by the end of the season. I will continue to keep an eye on Balaguert and track his progress throughout the year.

Minor League Farm Report: 4/13/14

Daytona Cubs Lose Again 1-0

The Daytona Cubs unbelievably lose a 3rd straight Felix Pena start 1-0. You have to feel bad for Pena who has given up a total of 3 runs in 20 IP this year and yet is 0-3. Can we just kill the Win!? Pena’s final line for tonight: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, all 3 hits were singles and none in the same inning. The D-Cubs are now 2-9 on the season and are struggling at the plate and are now 0-13 and 1 RBI with the bases loaded this season. The D-Cubs left 10 runners on base while compiling 6 hits. Tim Saunders collected 3 of those hits including 1 2B, and now has 3 straight multi-hit game. Dan Vogelbach also had a multi-hit game going 2-4. Chadd Krist had the lone other hit for the D-Cubs after a 1-3 with a BB.

 

Smokies Blow Game in 9th: 6-4

The Tennessee Smokies blew a 4-3 lead in the 9th inning and fell to the Jackson Generals 6-4. The Smokies are now 5-6 on the season after the blown save by Tony Zych. Zych was the victim of bad luck in the 9th when Jae-Hoon Ha misjudged and fly ball and then stumbled allowing the ball to get by him for a RBI triple. This came after a failed double play attempt by the Smokies infield. In Zych’s 1.2 IP he gave up 5 H, 3 ER and is now 0-2 on the year with 2 Blown Saves.

CJ Edwards was solid in his start although he didn’t have full command of his Fastball. Edwards relied on his devastating Curveball for most of the game, and when he needed to make a pitch that is what he threw. (multiple times in 3-2 counts). Edwards only allowed 1 hard hit ball all game and it was a HR off the bat of Jack Marder. Edwards gave up 2 runs in the 3rd due to an infield single, two stolen bases and a bloop hit to left field. His final line read: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.  Austin Kirk made his season debut with the Smokies after getting called up from Daytona and gave up 2 hits in his 2.1 innings of work.

Dustin Geiger showed off his power again tonight hitting his 4th HR of the season in the 2nd inning and also just missing out on another HR in the 9th with a ground-rule-double. It is really nice seeing Geiger hit this well so far early in the season especially in the upper level of the minors. As a right handed 1B prospect he is going to have to rake to continue his ascent to Chicago. Catcher Rafael Lopez had a very good game at the plate going 2-3 with a solo HR and a RBI single in the 7th. Kris Bryant also just missed out on a HR in the game with a hard hit ball than went off the RF wall to drive in Silva in the 7th.

 

Minor League Farm Report: 4/10/14

Kane County Wins 7-5: 

The Kane County Cougars score 6 early runs and hang on to a 7-5 win over the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The Cougars are on 4-3 on the season after the win. Don’t let the box score fool you, Tyler Skulina was on cruise control for most of the game for the Cougars en route to his 1st win of the season. Through 5 IP he gave up 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB and 5 K. However in the 6th inning he gave up a lead-off double, but looked like he was going to get out of the inning after recording 2 consecutive outs. 3 straight hits later Skulina was out of the game giving up 3 more runs and still responsible for runners on 1st and 2nd. When all was said and done Skulina’s final line was 5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K  and that friends is why you can’t trust Minor League Box Scores. Justin Amlung hurled 2.1 IP giving up 1 hit, a walk, and a K. Tyler Bremer was credited with the save in his 1 inning of work giving up 2 hits and striking out 1.

Kane County’s offense was very good today collecting 9 hits and walking 5 times. Danny Lockhart led the way at the lead-off spot going 2-5 with 2 runs score. Carlos Penalver followed him in the order by going 2-5 with a double and 3 runs scored and his 3rd SB of the season. Yasiel Balaguert was the beneficiary of the table setters and drove in 3 runs on his 1-5 day and now has 7 RBI in 7 games. Trey Martin was 1-3 with a RBI and a walk.

 

Smokies Shutout 0-1: 

The only run of the game came in the 9th inning off the bat of Chattanooga’s SS, Ozzie Martinez. Tony Zych relieved Dae-Eun Rhee with runners on 1st and 3rd and gave up the single Martinez. The Tennessee Smokies are now 2-5 on the young season and only managed 4 hits in the game. However the Smokies had plenty of chances to get a run across as they walked 7 times and left 9 runners on base. Stephen Bruno was the only Smokies player with an extra base hit as he went 1-3, with a walk. Zeke DeVoss was 1-4 with 2 Ks and his 1st SB of the season. John Andreoli and Dustin Geiger each had a hit, while Andreoli stole his 3rd base of the season.

Jake Arrieta made his 2nd rehab start and had a very solid 3 2/3 IP. Arrieta gave up 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K while throwing 66 pitches, 40 for strikes. Through 2 rehab starts his stats are: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, and 7 K. Dae-Eun Rhee was very solid in his relief appearance but was still saddled with his 1st loss of the season. He was responsible for runners on 1st and 3rd when Tony Zych gave up the single to Martinez. Rhee’s line: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.

 

Baez Powers Iowa to a 5-1 Win: 

Javier Baez hit the go ahead 2 run HR in the 6th inning and the Iowa Cubs never looked back en route to their 3rd win of the year (3-4). Baez was 1-4 at the plate with a K. Chris Valaika tacked on anther run in the 6th with a RBI single, he also added on an insurance run in the 8th with another RBI single. For the day he was 2-4 with 2 RBI. Matt Szczur was 2-4 with a run scored out of the lead-off spot. Arismendy Alcantara also added a 2 hit game for the I-Cubs with a run scored.

Kyle Hendricks was much better in his 2nd start of the season and picked up his 1st win of the season going: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Neil Ramirez came in for the 8th inning and gave up 1 hit while striking out 1 in his inning of work. Blake Parker finished out the game in the 9th with a scoreless inning giving up 1 hit and striking out 2.

 

Minor League Farm Report: 4/8/14

Kane County Outlasts Fort Wayne in 12: 4-3

The Kane County Cougars scored the first and last run of the game and improved to 3-2 on the season after a 4-3 win over the Fort Wayne TinCaps in 12 innings. Kane County took advantage of 5 Fort Wayne errors 3 of which occurred in the bottom of the 12th. Carlos Penalver led off the inning by reaching on an error by 3rd baseman Dustin Peterson. Penalver then reached 3rd after a throwing error allowed Jake Hannemann to reach base on a sac bunt attempt. After Danny Lockhart was intentionally walked Penalver scored on a wild throw to the plate that Ben Carhart hit to the SS. Jen-Ho Tseng made his professional debut and the 19 year old threw fairly well going: 5 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. Kane County’s bullpen was great in this game giving up only 2 hits in 7 IP. Gerardo Concepcion gave up a hit and struck out 3 in 3 IP. Tyler Bremer hurled 2 scoreless innings walking 1 and striking out 2. Zack Godley picked up the Win in relief with 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 K.

2013 3rd Rd draft pick: Jake Hannemann led the Cougars offensively going 2-5 with a run and RBI while stealing his 4th bag of the season. The rest of the Cougars offense only managed 4 hits, Ben Carhart played 3B tonight and was 0-4 with a Run and 2 walks. Trey Martin was 1-5 with a run scored and stole his 2nd base of the season.

Iowa Cubs Fall To Nashville: 1-4

The Iowa Cubs drop to 2-4 on the young season after a 1-4 loss to the Nashville Sounds. Chris Rusin was much better in his 2nd start with the I-Cubs but was still saddled with the loss. Rusin went: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K and is now 0-2 on the season. Alberto Cabrera threw 2 innings of relief giving up 3 H, 1 ER, 1 K. Marcos Mateo hurled 1 inning of relief with a strikeout. The I-Cubs only managed 4 hits offensively. Eli Whiteside drove in the lone Cubs run with a RBI single in the  5th for his only hit of the game. Christian Villanueva continued his strong start in AAA with a 1-3 night and scored on the Whiteside single. Villanueva is now hitting .313 on the year in 16 ABs, with a HR and 3 RBI. Both Matt Szczur and Javier Baez were 0-4 with 2 Ks. The Iowa Cubs will be back in action tomorrow at 12:05 CST for the 3rd game of their 4 game series with Nashville.

 

 

Minor League Farm Report: 4/3/14

Daytona Cubs Lose Opener: 1-0

The Daytona Cubs lost in a good old fashioned pitchers duel. Brevard County ran out 5 of the Brewers top 30 prospects to the field. The game only took 1:59 and saw a total of 9 hits. Felix Pena faced off against the Brewers #16 prospect, Tyler Wagner. Pena threw 6 innings giving up: 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. Zach Cates pitched 1 inning while striking out 2. Arodys Vizcaino made his Cubs debut and threw a scoreless inning giving up 1 hit. Arodys was sitting at 93 and topped out at 97 mph on his fastball and is starting the year in Daytona to take advantage of the warmer weather in Florida. Gioskar Amaya lead the D-Cubs offensively going 2-2 with a walk and a SB. Jeimer Candleario, Dan Vogelbach and Marco Hernandez each added a hit.

2014 Top 30 Cubs Prospects

The first thing I’m going to say about this list is… “Wow, that was difficult.” The Cubs minor league system has a lot of depth, it was hard to pick just 30 prospects without saying, “Dang, why didn’t I put him in, or how did I overlook this guy.” But after a little tinkering (which I could do for weeks) I am really happy with my final list. Keep in mind this is just the appetizer, where I show the overview of my Top 30 prospects. Throughout the rest of the week I will get to the meat and potatoes portion of my Top 30 Cubs Prospects list where I highlight and give as much detail as I can about each of the prospects in a 3 part series. So without further adieu here is my list:

  1. Javier Baez
  2. Kris Bryant
  3. Albert Almora
  4. Jorge Soler
  5. CJ Edwards
  6. Arismendy Alcantara
  7. Pierce Johnson
  8. Dan Vogelbach
  9. Christian Villanueva
  10. Jeimer Candelario
  11. Arodys Vizcaino
  12. Rob Zastryzny
  13. Mike Olt
  14. Paul Blackburn
  15. Duane Underwood
  16. Matt Szczur
  17. Kyle Hendricks
  18. Jacob Hanneman
  19. Neil Ramirez
  20. Marco Hernandez
  21. Gioskar Amaya
  22. Dillon Maples
  23. Brett Jackson
  24. Ivan Pineyro
  25. Alberto Cabrera
  26. Corey Black
  27. Josh Vitters
  28. Juan Carlos Paniagua
  29. Eloy Jimenez
  30. Gleyber Torres

There you have it: My Top 30 Cubs Prospects, tell me what you think! Also remember to stay tuned as I highlight each player starting with #30-#21 which will be posted tomorrow.