Chicago Cubs Weekly Farm Report (6/7/21): Cory Abbott Promotion Is Big Deal, 3 Pitchers Throw No-Hit Starts
Stats are finally starting to mean something down on the farm and that is terribly exciting for a total stat nerd like me. Of course, it is still super early and fully-developed conclusions about who players are can’t be made just over a month into the season. But when you see Miguel Amaya with a 20% walk rate or Ryan Jensen with a 73% groundball rate, it isn’t ridiculous to say those are numbers are approaching their normalized rates.
News in the System
- The month of June rolling around means we finally made it a full month into the season and, as we expected, that means mass amounts of promotions throughout the system. A total of 16 players received the call up to the next rung of the organizational ladder this past week and I’ll give the rundown of what guys landed where in the corresponding section.
- The Cubs officially announced their minor league player and pitcher of the month for May. Darius Hill took home the award for hitters after he batted .337 with five doubles and 16 RBI for Myrtle Beach and Tennessee. DJ Herz was the winner from the mound and was an obvious selection. He posted a 0.75 ERA and opponents recorded just a .416 OPS against him in May.
- It was an incredibly rough week in the wins column for the entire organization this week. Combined, the four affiliates went 7-15. Injuries have run rampant this year and it is finally starting to take its toll on the results for these teams.
- I’ve been beating the drum as a Cory Abbott believer for quite some time now. I called for him to be the Cubs’ No. 5 starter on opening day, we had him on the Growing Cubs Podcast early during the minor league shutdown, and I’ve compared his bulldog mentality to Jon Lester. So let’s just say I was more than excited when he got the call to the bigs on Saturday night and made his MLB debut.
- For a very long time, the Cubs have shown that they believe starters are starters and relievers are relievers when it comes to pitching prospects and their journey to the big leagues. With Keegan Thompson being consistently used as a multi-inning reliever and Abbott now destined for the same role this year, it is clear that something has changed on that front. The best pitchers should be in Chicago, no matter their role. And just because a guy like Thompson or Abbott is in the bullpen now doesn’t mean he (or they) can’t be in the rotation next year.
Triple-A Iowa Cubs
- The Iowa losing skid continues to grow as they have now lost 13 of their last 14 games after a 1-5 week against the Omaha Storm Chasers. Their record this year now stands at 10-18.
- The newcomers to the Triple-A roster include pitchers Scott Effross and Matt Swarmer, along with offseason MiLB signing Michael Hermosillo. All three guys are minor league vets that have proven they belong on the Iowa roster as regulars.
- Andrew Romine was on another planet this week with an OPS sitting at 1.342. He only struck out twice in his 24 plate appearances and got on base four times on both Thursday and Sunday.
- Playing for Iowa as a part of his rehab assignment, Alec Mills appears to be about ready to be activated off the IL. He logged six innings in which he only threw 60 pitches, allowing no runs on two hits.
- Dakota Mekkes, a long-time fan favorite and host of The Compound podcast, has somehow still flown under the radar this year. Four more innings with no runs and a lone hit now puts his season line at a 1.53 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 29.9% K-rate, and 7.5% BB-rate.
- Iowa now heads back home for a six-gamer with the Cleveland affiliated Columbus Clippers. It will be the first time the I-Cubs and Clippers have faced off against each other in the newly aligned Triple-A East division.
Double-A Tennessee Smokies
- It would have been nice if the Smokies’ Sunday matchup with the Birmingham Barons hadn’t been rained out so they could have picked up another win in an otherwise subpar week. They put together a record of 1-4 in some close matchups and now have an identical record to their big brothers in Des Moines, 10-18.
- Tennessee received the big haul in the prospect gift exchange this week, with big-time prospects Brennen Davis and Chase Strumpf being joined by the underrated Peyton Remy and standout bullpeners Brandon Hughes and Matteo Bocchi.
- Speaking of Remy, he was lights-out in his Double-A debut, going six innings and only giving up two knocks and a walk with seven strikeouts. One run came across, but it was unearned.
- Ethan Roberts went another two innings out of the ‘pen without giving up a run. Since his rough opening week of the season, Roberts has logged nine innings, giving up four hits and walking three with 15 strikeouts en route to just one earned run. That’s the shutdown reliever we expected coming into the year.
- Strumpf homered on the first pitch he saw as a member of the team and Davis doubled twice, walked more than he struck out, and OPS’d .840 this week.
- The Smokies head back home for a series with Rocket City. In the second series of the year, Tennessee went 1-5 against the Angels affiliate.
High-A South Bend Cubs
- It was yet another even 3-3 week for South Bend against the Lansing Lugnuts and the team continues to sit just below .500 for the season with a 14-15 record.
- Edmond Americaan, Jose Albertos, Scott Kobos, and Eduarniel Nunez were the men promoted up to the High-A level after their stellar performances in Myrtle Beach. In addition, Matt Burch found his way to what should be his “normal” level for the season after spending a significant portion of the season in Triple-A as an injury fill-in.
- Bradlee Beesley was the star at the plate this week for the Cubs. He posted a 1.103 OPS thanks to his two doubles, a triple, and a homer in just 17 plate appearances.
- It was a rough week for the previously red-hot Nelson Velazquez coming into Sunday. Then he put together the best offensive performance of the season. It was a 3-for-5 day with a double, two homers, three RBI, and two runs for the big outfielder.
Nelson Velazquez just hit an absolute piss rod deep to left center pic.twitter.com/zbaXioy3Q3
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) June 6, 2021
- On the mound, Ryan Jensen was the standout thanks to his no-hit performance. He looked dominant yet again, with only one walk and seven strikeouts in his five innings of work.
Cubs' No. 8 prospect Ryan Jensen caps off five hitless innings with his 7th K of the game for @SBCubs. pic.twitter.com/RKmXRU0Iaw
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 3, 2021
- South Bend is back home for a series against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. Wisconsin, much like the Cubs, has been an incredibly average team this year with a record of 15-15.
Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans
- The weather was an absolute pain for Myrtle Beach this week. They started a game on Thursday that had to get pushed back to Friday due to rain. After finishing the suspended game on Friday, game two of the doubleheader was then suspended and pushed back to Saturday. They squeezed in both games of the doubleheader on Saturday before being completely rained out of their Sunday matchup with the Columbia Fireflies. All things told, the Pelicans went 2-3 this week and only scored 2.4 runs per game.
- There weren’t any new bats to crack the Myrtle roster this week, but newly signed Gabriel Jamarillo and Jarod Wright were a couple of new arms. We also saw the return to the mound for oft-injured Jeremiah Estrada and Danis Correa.
- DJ Herz did it again, y’all. No hits. No runs. One walk. NINE strikeouts. All of that in four dominant innings on the mound. The pitcher of the month now has a 0.56 ERA this year, opponents are hitting just .060 off of him, and he is striking out 50.9% of the batters he faces. The league average is a 28.2% strikeout rate.
Though tonight's @Pelicanbaseball game has been suspended, enjoy this compilation of strikeouts by DJ Herz (@DavidjohnHerz).
The dude was dealing tonight. 9 K's, no hits, and just one walk in four innings of work.@wmbfnews #MBPelicans pic.twitter.com/VKcKlYXdPk
— Gabe McDonald (@GabeMcDonald_) June 4, 2021
- Herz wasn’t the only starting pitcher to not give up a hit in his outing. Sam Thoresen also went four hitless innings, striking out six and walking three. The Birds took a no-no into the seventh inning in that seven-inning ballgame.
- It was another big week for Pablo Aliendo, a guy that continues to put the bat on the ball. He hit .429 this week and doubled twice while getting pretty consistent playing time behind the dish.
- It is back on the road for the young Birds and they are the only team on the farm that plays away from home starting on Tuesday. They will face off against the Augusta GreenJackets, an Atlanta affiliate that currently finds itself in last place in the Low-A East – South Division.