Chicago Cubs Weekly Farm Report (9/27/21): Christopher Morel to Iowa, Look Back at Tennessee, South Bend, Myrtle Beach

I haven’t had to deal with this awkward time period in the farm system before. This was my second season writing the Weekly Farm Report and the previous one featured four full-season affiliates that started and ended on the same days and one short-season team that started late but still completed its season in line with the others.

This year, the three lower full-season affiliates are done while the Triple-A Iowa Cubs are in the home stretch due to a two-week addition to the end of their season. It still feels like the minor league season is complete, but I can’t talk with a true finality to the stats and players like I would truly like to.

As such, this report is going to look different. I’ll wrap up Iowa’s week like I typically do and I’ll give some thoughts about the seasons for each of the other three teams. Next week, I’m thinking I’ll put together some stat leaderboards for you to see exactly who the best performers on the farm were.

News in the System

  • The Arizona Fall League schedule was announced and the Mesa Solar Sox (the team that will include several Cubs prospects) begins the season on October 13. The season will wrap up with a championship game on Saturday, November 20.

Triple-A Iowa Cubs

  • Iowa went 1-4 against the St. Paul Saints this week, bringing their record to 50-70 this season. The offensive performance was, uh, not good as the team averaged shy of three runs per ballgame.
  • We saw Brennen Davis get the call to Triple-A a week ago for a late-season cup of coffee and we saw quite a few more roster changes leading into this week. Christopher Morel falls into a similar situation as Davis, being a top prospect getting some experience at a higher level; catcher Caleb Knight returns after getting time in Iowa earlier this year; catcher Tyler Payne is one of the most beloved teammates in the system and will get some work with an older pitching staff; and 2020 undrafted free agent reliever Scott Kobos is now with his FOURTH affiliate this year in what has been a truly remarkable season for him.
  • Greg Deichmann got the call back up to Chicago this week. He hasn’t performed as well as we would have liked after coming over from the A’s in the Andrew Chafin deal, but he has definitely changed the way he approaches his at-bats. After seeing elevated walk numbers as an Oaklander, Deichmann has been more aggressive at the plate in attacking pitches early on in the count. That strategy has worked awfully well for Ian Happ during the stretch run of this season.
  • Cory Abbott put together yet another good start this week, going 5.2 innings of three-hit, one-run ball. Over his last four starts, he has a 1.90 ERA and 1.01 WHIP while opponents hit just .167 off of him. Most importantly, Abbott has given up just one homer in those 23.2 innings of work.
  • The I-Cubs will finish up their season with a series at home against the Omaha Storm Chasers. If you want to get your final fix of minor league baseball, tune in on MiLB TV for broadcaster Alex Cohen’s call of every single game.

Double-A Tennessee Smokies

  • The Smokies finished the season with a record of 46-63, good for last place in North Division of the Double-A South League. Their .422 winning percentage put them in 25th out of 30 teams in the entire Double-A level in that category.
  • Tennessee saw their fair share of talented players call Kodak home this season, with Davis, Morel, Miguel Amaya, Chase Strumpf, Nelson Velazquez, Manny Rodriguez, Ben Leeper, Ethan Roberts, and Ryan Jensen all playing there. Unfortunately, there was rarely enough overlap in any of their appearances for it to ever amount to consistent winning for the team.
  • Morel would have brought home team MVP honors if there were such an award. His 17 homers, 17 doubles, and 16 stolen bases were some of the best numbers on the team while playing all over the diamond.
  • On the pitching side, the bullpen was as good as advertised at the beginning of the year. It was paced by Scott Effross (2.89 ERA, 18.2 IP), Rodriguez (2.02, 13.1), Leeper (1.26, 14.1), Roberts (1.97, 32), Cayne Ueckert (1.61, 28), and Brandon Hughes (1.76, 30.2).

High-A South Bend Cubs

  • South Bend finished the season with a record of 52-67 and in fifth place in the division. Their winning percentage placed them in 25th out of 30 teams, just like their big brothers in Tennessee.
  • The Cubs had an outrageous 36 different position players suit up for them this season. That number is the most of any team in the system and the most I remember ever seeing for a minor league affiliate. All told, South Bend had 76 different players wear their jersey this season.
  • Eight different hitters posted at least 200 plate appearances with South Bend this season, led by the strong performance of Yonathan Perlaza. His .280/.351/.479 slash line was one of the best in the system this year.
  • On the flip side, only six pitchers logged at least 50 innings on the bump. They were Matteo Bocchi (who has been released by the organization), Max Bain (a completely unknown man just over a year ago), Derek Casey (missed a huge portion of the season with an arm injury), Ryan Jensen (will be the runner-up for Cubs MiLB Pitcher of the Year), Joe Nahas (another relatively unknown pitcher, but threw at three different levels this year), and Chris Clarke (got an extremely late start to the season while recovering from injury).

Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans

  • Myrtle Beach finished the season with a record of 59-61, best in the Cubs system and second place (23 games back) in the Low-A East, South Division. They were the 16th best team in Low-A this season by winning percentage.
  • Manager Buddy Bailey put together yet another masterful performance this season, working with a roster full of teenagers to somehow win nearly half of the games they played. That record feels like a wild success from a team that was consistently one of the youngest in the league all season long. 
  • This was the team to watch on a daily basis, partially because the hitters could go a long way in making sure the Cubs’ next competitive window is a long one. We saw Ed Howard, Jordan Nwogu, Yohendrick Pinango, Pablo Aliendo, and Kevin Made all get a significant number of at-bats down in Myrtle. While some had strong statistical performances (Nwogu, Pinango) and some did not (Howard), they all flashed plenty of skills that proved they could all be legit top 10 prospects in the Cubs system.
  • DJ Herz will be your Cubs MiLB Pitcher of the Year thanks to the performance he put together with the Birds. He will be found all over my leaderboards next week, but here is a reminder that he put up 65.2 innings with a 3.43 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .144 opponent average, and 40.4% strikeout rate this year. What a stud.
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