McKinney, Billy 1507 (Mitchell)

YOUNG CUBS: Billy the Kid Keeps It Up

Hello, readers. Welcome to another edition of “Young Cubs.” The All-Star break for the minor leagues was this week, and it saw some great performances from Cubs prospects throughout the system. Dan Vogelbach, for instance, hit a three-run homer in the Southern League All-Star Game for the South Division squad.

That means that there weren’t a large number of games to cover this week, so the stat lines will look very thin. Still, it was great fun getting to see so many prospects from around the system take part in the All-Star games, and a great chance for them to be recognized for their accomplishments thus far. Anyways, let’s get started!

BP Top 10 Update (Stats for 6/22-6/25)

  1. OF Albert Almora, Double-A Tennessee: 0-for-3, 1 BB, 0 K
  2. C Kyle Schwarber, Triple-A Iowa: 2-for-12, 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 BB, 5 K; Schwarber has now had a first-hit triple at all of Double-A, MLB, and finally Triple-A. He’s a real speedster. He also had a walk-off double in Iowa’s first game of two on Thursday night. STUD.
  1. OF Billy McKinney, Double-A Tennessee: 3-for-4, 0 BB, 0 K
  2. RHP Pierce Johnson, Double-A Tennessee:2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
  3. SS Gleyber Torres, Low-A South Bend: 2-for-4, 0 BB, 0 K
  4. 1B Dan Vogelbach, Double-A Tennessee: 0-for-2, 2 BB, 2 K
  5. LHP Carson Sands, Short Season-A Eugene: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
  6. RHP Jen-Ho Tseng, High-A Myrtle Beach: Did not pitch.
  7. RHP Carl Edwards, Jr., Triple-A Iowa: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
  8. RHP Duane Underwood, Jr., High-A Myrtle Beach: Did not pitch.

The Non-Prospects

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

Arismendy Alcantara: Mendy went 0-for-10 with two walks and six strikeouts this week. It’s a small sample size, but it’s a really ugly one, unfortunately. His progress continues to, on the surface, be moving along quite slowly. He’s really had an up and down year at Iowa, and so it’s hard to tell when he’ll be ready to come back up to the majors. The Cubs had a scare earlier this week with Dexter Fowler, and he is still yet to return to the starting lineup, so that once again showed how important having another competent center fielder truly is. Alcantara would likely be called upon in the event of a DL stint for Fowler, so monitoring his season remains vital. As always, I want to caution that the stats can be deceiving, as Alcantara is likely working on lots of adjustments at the plate. Hopefully, he can lock those adjustments in and get back to the major leagues soon, because a successful version of Mendy would be fun to watch and incredibly helpful to the roster situation of the Cubs.

Team Updates/Standings

Eugene Emeralds, Short Season-A, Northwest League: 3-5, 2 GB of first place, second place in the South Division (tie w/Boise Hawks and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes)

South Bend Cubs, Low-A, Midwest League: 1-0, first place in the Eastern Division (four-way tie)

Myrtle Beach Pelicans, High-A, Carolina League: 0-1, 1 GB of first place, fourth place in the Southern Division

Tennessee Smokies, Double-A, Southern League: 1-0, first place in the North Division (tie w/Montgomery Biscuits and Birmingham Barons)

Iowa Cubs, Triple-A, Pacific Coast League: 38-34, 10 GB of first place, third place in the American Northern Division

Player of the Week: Billy McKinney, 20, OF, Tennessee Smokies

McKinney has been scorching hot ever since late last week, and didn’t slow down on Thursday night. McKinney went 3-for-4 in Tennessee’s return to action to begin the second half of the Southern League season. He’s now gone 12 for his last 16 and has brought his Double-A OPS well above .800. McKinney shows no signs of slowing down, and it may very well be that he’s beginning to adjust to the level. This is not to say he wasn’t hitting well before, but the last four games have been something of a revelation for him. Here’s to hoping there are many more stretches like this in his future, even as what organization he’ll be with come August remains uncertain.

Player To Watch: Frank Batista, 26, RHP, Iowa Cubs

The story of Frank Batista’s 2015 season has been one of the more fascinating and overlooked in the minor leagues this year. Prior to this season, Batista was a reliever who had moved up steadily through the Cubs system with increasingly good performance. He finally reached Triple-A last season and only looked so-so in his limited time at the level. All in all, 2014 was a success for Batista and he appeared poised to compete for a shot at the Cubs’ bullpen sometime in 2015. However, much to the surprise of many observers (myself included), Batista opened the season at Double-A and he was STARTING. Yes, the Cubs had stretched him out over the offseason and suddenly he was a starting pitcher in the high minors. You could be forgiven for thinking that he’d probably be mediocre, going likely somewhere between four and five innings every start. That would be a mistake, however, as Batista has looked exquisite in a starting role, compiling a 1.70 ERA in 79.1 innings pitched over 13 starts. So, it really wasn’t surprising when the Cubs promoted him to Triple-A on Thursday. Hopefully, Batista can keep up the good work and possibly position himself as a depth starting option for the Cubs.

Tweet(s) of the Week

We all know how difficult it can be to spell and/or pronounce Rob Zastryzny’s name, so I completely sympathize with the gate attendant mentioned in this tweet. I can still remember trying to memorize his name and everyone comparing it to “Samardzija” in terms of difficulty. It’s also fun to see Rob acknowledge it with a wink and a smile. He scores yet more Twitter points on this one.

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.

Eugene Emeralds vs. Tri-City Dust Devils, Friday, June 26th, 60th Anniversary Kickoff: The Emeralds are celebrating their 60th year this season and they’re having their first celebration of it on Friday night. There will be an Emeralds pennant giveaway, throwback uniforms, decade-specific food from the 50s, and more. It should be a lot of fun for all the fans and it is a great opportunity to show some love for one of the older minor-league teams.

Game(s) To Look Forward To

Tennessee Smokies @ Mobile BayBears, Friday, June 26, 8:05 PM ET: Kyle Schwarber has made his way to Iowa, but the Smokies still have a lineup featuring Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach, Willson Contreras, and Billy McKinney. There’s still a lot to love about the lineup at Double-A, so every game they play has the potential to be an offensive rout. The real reason I’m pointing out this specific game, though, is because it is a scheduled rehab start for Patrick Corbin. You may remember Corbin as the young starter who had a breakout 2013 for the Diamondbacks, but who has been on the shelf since late March 2014 after getting Tommy John Surgery to repair damage to his UCL. Well, he’s now on rehab assignment with the BayBears and so this is an exciting opportunity to see how players like McKinney and Vogelbach handle a recent major league All Star.

Odds and Ends

  • The Iowa Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber and Carl Edwards, Jr. were announced as members of the U.S. Team for the 2015 MLB Futures Game. This game, in my opinion, is the most fun part of the All-Star festivities and so I highly recommend watching it.
  • The effect of being a Cubs’ affiliate in the northern part of Indiana, you ask? Well, record crowds, for starters. The South Bend Cubs are learning how incredibly widespread and passionate Cubs fans truly are.




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