McKinney, Billy 1503 (Mitchell)

Young Cubs: Movin’ On Up, The Reign of Ivan, and Tennessee’s Other Catcher

Hello, readers. Just as quickly as I mentioned the possibility of promotions beginning to happen, Billy McKinney received his call up to Double-A. He deserves it and I’m excited to see what he’ll do with the opportunity. Several other players received promotions as a consequence of this move, and so the season promotions/demotions has officially begun. Prepare to see more roster moves made in the Cubs organization and around the minors in the coming weeks as teams shuffle their rosters to reward good performance, challenge prospects, and showcase talent for potential trades. The Cubs may be doing quite a bit of the latter, as the major-league team will be looking to reinforce itself for a playoff run by trading prospects. This is an exciting time as we get a real picture of where many of the prospects in the system stand organizationally. Well, with that being said, let’s get started!

BP Top 10 Update (Stats for 5/11-5/14)

  1. SS Addison Russell, MLB: I will no longer be reporting major league stats for Russell or Bryant, as it seems a bit unnecessary.
  2. 3B Kris Bryant, MLB: I will no longer be reporting major league stats for Russell or Bryant, as it seems a bit unnecessary.
  3. OF Albert Almora, Double-A Tennessee: 2-for-12, 1 BB, 2 K
  4. C Kyle Schwarber, Double-A Tennessee: 4-for-15, 1 HR, 2 BB, 5 K
  5. OF Billy McKinney, Double-A Tennessee: I’ve been harping on it and it finally happened. Billy The Kid got promoted to Double-A and didn’t miss a beat, going 2-for-4 with two doubles in his first game there last night. He now joins an outfield that already features Albert Almora and Jacob Hannemann, who along with Schwarber and Vogelbach, make Tennessee one of the most interesting lineups in the entire minor leagues. To celebrate his ascension to the upper minors, here’s a treat, courtesy of the Smokies:

  1. RHP Pierce Johnson, Double-A Tennessee: 7-Day DL
  2. SS Gleyber Torres, Low-A South Bend: 8-for-17, 2 2B, 1BB, 2 K
  3. 1B Dan Vogelbach, Double-A Tennessee: 5-for-8, 1 HR, 5 BB, 1 K
  4. LHP Carson Sands, Extended Spring Training: Extended spring training stats are difficult to come by, but if you’re interested, Arizona Phil at The Cub Reporter does some great work covering the team out of Mesa.
  5. RHP Jen-Ho Tseng, High-A Myrtle Beach: Did not pitch; see Odds and Ends for further discussion of the postponement of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans-Carolina Mudcats series

The Non-Prospects

Javier Baez: Baez had a pretty decent week, going 6-for-15 with a home run, two walks, a stolen base, and only three strike outs. Not too shabby at all. It was good to see him hit a home run, as his power has been a bit depressed at Iowa. The most important thing, though, is that he continued to take some walks and avoid the strike out. Javy’s adjustments continue to look promising, as he is seemingly making gradual, but not insignificant progress. I’m really quite encouraged about his ability to aid this team later this season and hope he continues to prove any doubters wrong.

Arismendy Alcantara: Mendy, in contrast to Baez, continued to look lost at the plate this week. He shows flashes of his power every now and then, but he’s simply still failing to make enough contact. His positional versatility makes him a potentially valuable major leaguer, but he needs to hit enough to justify his being on a roster. I still believe in the talent, but it’s hard not to be discouraged. I continue to caution patience, as Mendy is working on major adjustments and that can take time, but it’s just as likely that he’ll be one of those prospects who ultimately doesn’t work out.

Team Updates/Standings

South Bend Cubs, Low-A, Midwest League: 17-17, 3 GB of first place, fifth place in the Eastern Division (tied w/Lake County Captains)

Myrtle Beach Pelicans, High-A, Carolina League: 20-12, first place in the Southern Division

Tennessee Smokies, Double-A, Southern League: 18-15, 2.5 GB of first place, second in the North Division

Iowa Cubs, Triple-A, Pacific Coast League: 17-17, 6 GB of first place, second place in the American Northern Division (tied w/Omaha Storm Chasers)

Minor League Player of the Week- Willson Contreras, 23, C/DH, Tennessee Smokies

Contreras has been on a tear as of late and has raised his line to .341/.416/.515, all while turning 23 this Wednesday. Happy Birthday, Willson! Anyways, Contreras spends a lot of time at DH since Schwarber is also at Double-A, but his bat makes him an asset in the lineup regardless. His place in the organizational catching picture is mostly unclear, but he could have value as a future backup catcher or trade throw-in. Still, it’s fun to see a young player hitting the ball this way. Hopefully the gains in his power stick and he can build up a small amount of value. Whatever the case may be, we should enjoy it while it lasts, because he’s making an already potent Tennessee lineup even more fun to watch.

Stats (5/11-5/14): 6-for-14, 1 HR, 1 3B, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K

Player To Watch: Ivan Pineyro, 23, RHP, Tennessee Smokies

Pineyro only went five innings this time around, but added another seven strikeouts to his total while once again not walking a single batter. Pineyro’s stats over his last three starts look very impressive: 19 IP, 4 ER, 22 K, and 0 BB. Ivan is having probably his best stretch in the Cubs system yet and is raising his profile, if even only the slightest bit. He now has five starts in which he has not walked a single batter, so the excellent command is starting to become the rule instead of the exception to it. It is time to start monitoring his progress to see if the young righty is emerging as a sleeper prospect.

Tweet(s) of the Week

Corey Black has a reasonably entertaining Twitter account that he uses fairly often, so it was only a matter of time before I featured him here. This week we find the young Cubs pitching prospect pondering his slider. He provides the type of insider analysis that not even our own BP Prospect Team can give to you. This is some really hard-hitting stuff and it is sure to factor into future evaluations of him as a pitcher.

Best Promotion of the Upcoming Weekend

If you’ve ever been to a minor-league baseball game, you’re likely aware that the teams have some great promotions. They are sometimes fun, sometimes silly, sometimes downright bonkers, and they ultimately are a large part of what make the minor league experience so much fun. Here, I will highlight an upcoming promotion that stands out to me.

Tennessee Smokies vs. Montgomery Biscuits, Saturday, May 16, Blues Brothers Night: Blues Brothers is one of the best comedies of all time. It’s an amazing movie with great humor and awesome music. The Smokies are celebrating it with all kinds of giveaways and contests, including Smokies sunglasses for the first 1,000 fans. This should be fun.

Game(s) To Look Forward To

Myrtle Beach Pelicans @ Carolina Mudcats, Sunday, May 17, 2 PM ET:  This would be the projected next start of major Braves pitching prospect Lucas Sims (no. 54). Now that McKinney has been promoted, the matchup won’t be nearly as much fun, but it’ll still be interesting. It’ll be important to see how Zagunis especially does against this caliber of pitcher. Getting a chance to see this quality of pitching prospect is still a relatively rare experience throughout the season, so take advantage of it.

Odds and Ends

  • The Myrtle Beach Pelicans and Carolina Mudcats were slated to play a three-game series this week, but it was postponed. This was due to a bus accident that left some Carolina players hospitalized. Thankfully, nobody was severely hurt and all those who were hospitalized have already been released. The Carolina League stepped in and postponed the series, which was absolutely the right choice. I’m personally just happy that everyone is okay and wish everyone on the Mudcats a speedy recovery.
  • A flurry of roster moves were made on Wednesday to coincide with the McKinney promotion. I could list them all here, but it’s a complicated web involving demotions, promotions, activations, and releases. Thankfully, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans have us covered with this press release that explains it all.
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