YOUNG CUBS: Schwarber Smash, MLB Edition and the Excellent Underwood

Hello, readers. Welcome to another edition of “Young Cubs.” The short-season Eugene Emeralds began their season on Thursday night with a 6-1 loss to the Everett AquaSox. Given that the team is on the west coast, I cannot say with absolute certainty how I will handle the updating of stats for the Emeralds, but I am working on it. There are a number of interesting young prospects at Eugene, as the team represents the next “wave,” as Theo would put it, of Cubs minor leaguers. The Emeralds should get contributions from players who played in Mesa last summer, international players making their way over to the States, and recent draft signees. Between these three talent pools, the Emeralds are likely to feature an enormous amount of raw talent, so I would certainly pay as much attention to them as any other level of the minor leagues. It is difficult to conceive of the potential major league future for many of the players at this level, but the development of this wave of talent is vital to the farm system’s continued health. Well, with that being said, here we go!

BP Top 10 Update (Stats for 6/8-6/11)

  1. OF Albert Almora, Double-A Tennessee: 2-for-7, 1 3B, 0 BB, 0 K
  2. C Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs: The news we had all been hoping for broke on Monday night. Schwarber was promoted to the major-league roster starting Tuesday in order to DH for the team, as they make a trip through several AL ballparks. Already, Schwarber has collected a myriad of hits including a triple and his first home run in only two games starting as the DH. His approach is quite clearly very advanced and the bat is absolutely a major-league ready tool. The Cubs’ front office is being very clear that he will be sent to Iowa after finishing up the series with the Minnesota Twins, but this cup of coffee is still very exciting for a player who has more than earned his shot to impress at the highest level.
  1. OF Billy McKinney, Double-A Tennessee: 1-for-4, 0 BB, 1 K
  2. RHP Pierce Johnson, Double-A Tennessee: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
  3. SS Gleyber Torres, Low-A South Bend: 1-for-11, 2 BB, 3 K
  4. 1B Dan Vogelbach, Double-A Tennessee: 2-for-8, 1 BB, 2 K,
  5. LHP Carson Sands, Short Season-A Eugene: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
  6. RHP Jen-Ho Tseng, High-A Myrtle Beach: Did not pitch.
  7. RHP Carl Edwards, Jr., Triple-A Iowa: Did not pitch.
  8. RHP Duane Underwood, Jr., High-A Myrtle Beach: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

The Non-Prospects

Javier Baez: He’s still hurt. I am sad. That is all.

Arismendy Alcantara: Mendy continued to be something of a mixed bag this week, going 3-for-18 in four games with two home runs, a triple, a walk, and five strikeouts. Watching him you can see that he is clearly working on adjustments. It still seems, however, that he is in the middle of that process and not at the end of it. Before the injury to Javier Baez, it was clear to anyone who saw him play that Baez appeared to have locked in the changes to his swing, stance, and approach. Mendy has not made it as far in his progress yet, and while I still believe he could be a help to the major-league roster, I think it behooves him to continue working at Triple-A instead.

Team Updates/Standings

South Bend Cubs, Low-A, Midwest League: 27-37, 11.5 GB of first place, eighth place in the Eastern Division; This team has been miserable in the first half, but an infusion of talent from the draft, at least on the positional side, may aid them in the second half.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans, High-A, Carolina League: 38-27, first place in the Southern Division; The Pelicans’ magic number stands at two heading into Friday. With four games in three days this weekend, they have ample opportunity to close this out.

Tennessee Smokies, Double-A, Southern League: 36-29, 4 GB of first place, second place in the North Division; The Smokies have now officially been eliminated from the first half division race. Booooooo. With the team officially losing Kyle Schwarber to Iowa by way of Chicago and with Vogelbach likely to be tossed around in trade proposals like a proverbial football, it may be hard for this team to replicate its first-half success.

Iowa Cubs, Triple-A, Pacific Coast League: 35-31, 9 GB of first place, second place in the American Northern Division; The Oklahoma City Dodgers are an absolute juggernaut of talent, much like their major league parent club, but Iowa is about to get an upgrade in the form of Kyle Schwarber, so maybe, just maybe, they can begin to close the division gap.

Player of the Week: Duane Underwood, Jr., 20, RHP

Underwood continued his run of excellence on Tuesday, going seven innings and allowing only two hits and no runs to help Myrtle Beach shutout Winston-Salem 6-0. Once again, Underwood induced a great deal of weak contact and generally was pretty efficient. The mystifying thing about Underwood continues to be the lack of strikeouts. Four punch outs in seven innings isn’t terrible for a young starter, but it’s also not who Underwood has been believed to be as a prospect. This is certainly something to keep an eye on, but is ultimately a minor quibble about the young righty. He is having a very nice season and is showing why the Cubs continue to believe in his potential.

Latest Start (6/16): 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

Player To Watch: Ian Happ, 20, UTIL

Happ officially signed on Thursday, but we’ve known the details of his bonus since Monday. This year’s Cubs first-round pick is likely to spend a little bit of time in Arizona getting the “Cubs Way” treatment and being introduced to development staff in the Cubs organization. While there’s no official timetable, the Cubs will likely look to get him to Eugene as soon as possible. Happ is an exciting prospect and given the graduations of Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, and Addison Russell off the top prospects list, his debut is now the most anticipated event in the Cubs farm system (OK, outside of Schwarber moving up to the majors permanently). I want to temper expectations, because we’ve all been spoiled the last few years by the explosive offensive output of Bryant and Schwarber. Still, it’s hard not to be excited about his potential to be yet another fantastic bat in a system that’s been flush with them in the Theo Epstein era.

Tweet(s) of the Week

How exactly do the Smokies keep fans entertained during a rain delay? Well, naturally, they use the tarp as a slip ‘n slide. Here, we see Cubs no. 6 prospect Vogelbach and my favorite org guy Anthony Giansanti compete to see who can slide the furthest. Just listen to the crowd, they’re really loving it! Part of what I love so much about the minors is how much fun these players are having, even if, like Giansanti, they know they may never reach the majors. This is just a glorious video and it deserves to be seen.

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.

South Bend Cubs vs. West Michigan Whitecaps, Sunday, June 21st, Mick Foley Appearance: I must admit to being something of a professional wrestling fan. I know, I know. It’s all fake and staged and often times very much like a soap opera. All of that is true, but it also features some larger-than-life personalities and unforgettable moments. Any fan of wrestling will know the name Mick Foley. He’s a true legend in wrestling, mostly for his wild and eccentric characters and willingness to do even the craziest things in a wrestling ring. He’s also had quite a bit of outside success writing children’s books, of all things. It’s really very cool that he’s spending Father’s Day with the South Bend Cubs and it should be a fun opportunity to get a picture, autograph, or just to say a few words to one of the most interesting people to be on the New York Times bestseller list.

Game(s) To Look Forward To

Myrtle Beach Pelicans vs. @ Lynchburg Hillcats, Saturday, June 20, 5:05 PM ET (Game 1); TBD (Game 2): Another doubleheader for a Cubs affiliate due to rain. This one is especially important, as the Pelicans go into the weekend only up 2.5 games on the Salem Red Sox in the Southern Division. Now, it could all be over very quickly with a Pelicans win and a Salem loss tomorrow. However, if Salem wins, then the Pelicans will be in position to determine their own fate on Saturday. Should be exciting regardless, as the first half draws to a close. It may very well be a different Myrtle Beach roster in the second half, so hopefully this group can go out on a high note before seeing guys off to new organizations or to Tennessee.

Odds and Ends

  • Readers, I present to you your 2015 Short Season-A Eugene Emeralds. I will be doing a whole section on some of the interesting prospects on the team on Monday, but until then, do peruse the roster and catch their weekend games online or via TuneIn Radio.
  • South Bend third baseman Jesse Hodges will be representing Canada in next month’s Pan Am Games in Ajax, Ontario. The Olympics may no longer have baseball, but the Pan Am Games have decided to go in the other direction this year, with not only men’s baseball but the first ever women’s baseball tournament, which will indeed feature the U.S. Women’s National Team. Basically, if you’re looking to get your international baseball fix next month, keep an eye on the Pan Am Games and root for Jesse.

Lead photo courtesy of David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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