Every week, I'm going to look at the past week in the Cubs farm system, try to spot a few trends, post the team stats, and post "Three Up: Three Down" for some hot and cold performers. There will be less frustrating weeks in the future.
My weekly stats assessment is here. It's a whole lot of not happy, especially in Iowa. The Triple-A Iowa Cubs have lost games in the least imaginative way possible. They've been pounded early. In case you haven't checked the stats (pulled from MiLB on Thursday morning, as will be the goal every week), the team WHIP is 1.89, which is about a half-runner per inning higher than what it should be. On opening night, the I-Cubs surrendered three runs in the first inning. The next night, none. Then two, two, six, three, and finally none again. In the first inning.
The offense has been adequate enough, but not enough to counter that mass of big-number innings by the opposition. Ryan Sweeney, Brian Bogusevic, and Logan Watkins lead the way on offense, but perhaps they already miss Alberto Gonzalez.
None of the affiliates are playing what would be considered really good baseball yet. I've been usually listening to High-A Daytona or Low-A Kane County, and they have set a low bar for improvement, though the D-Cubs actually won their first series. It is going to get better, right?
To compound things, I took a couple days off of work to watch the Kane County games next week in Beloit, and it doesn't sound like Mother Nature wants to co-operate.
Three Up: Three Down
Jorge Soler, OF, High-A Daytona: Soler was 10-for-23 in the first week, with his bat swinging becoming legendary for the wrong reasons in the opposing dugout. He's playing smart defense, has a pair of homers, and has nudged ahead in my mental list of The Prospect game. I was tempted to put him in the other list as well, but that would have been far too depressing.
Rock Shoulders, 1B, Low-A Kane County: Shoulders has a hit in every game so far this season. Very impressively, he has a five-game streak of two hits or more, started off by a four-hit output on April 6. He has two homers, of his team's three on the season. Shoulders even played in left field in a game, though his UZR defensive ratings are still a secret.
Arismendy Alcantara, IF, Double-A Tennessee: Alcantara's numbers aren't eye-popping, but he's extending at bats, playing defense, healthy, but almost more importantly (for this section's purposes), having his name pronounced differently. Last year, it was Al-Can-TA-Ra (or somesuch). This year, it's Al-can-TE-ra. I even saw it spelled that way. He is healthy, though. It's nice to get to watch him play on MiLB-TV most nights. The Cubs system is getting mileage out of developing middle infielders.
Javier Baez, SS, High-A Daytona: There, I said it. Baez still isn't doing much of anything with High-A breaking stuff. I really want him to succeed, but he stands now as a shining example of why I really don't like to project specific success and timetables. Sitting in my house in northern Illinois, it's really easy to say this guy or that ought to progress at a certain rate, or on some time-specific chronology. It doesn't happen that way. At some point, Baez may become a hitter willing to be patient enough to trust his bat speed. Or, he may be that guy who in high school ping-pong wanted me to serve the ball really high to him. I didn't. When I finally did, he slammed it past me, thinking he was 'all that'. Baseball is a game of patience, and constantly following what your coaches are teaching. Offensively and defensively. When Baez learns that, he will be very fun to watch. Until then, he will be Junior Lake frustrating. Or worse.
The Bullpens, in general: Too many times, the starters have turned decent leads over to the bullpens, just to see them squandered. Or the offense cuts in to a lead, a the reliever blows the lead back out a bit. If I were dispassionately looking at the first week, I'd think the system depth still needs an upgrade to seriously help the parent club on a regular basis. Hopefully guys like David DeJesus and others have good enough first halves to bring back more talent.
Kane County's Offense: The Cougars are a young-ish team at the plate. They are hitting for a high average. It is cold. It is very early. However, none of Trey Martin, Jeimer Candelario, Gioskar Amaya, or Marco Hernandez are above .250. Yeah, the weather is cold. Yeah, Quad City has a nice pitching staff. At some point, you need offense outside of your first baseman and catcher. I enjoy Hernandez' glove at short, but I'm starting to wonder if he can hit in weather below 40 degrees, which become important if he ever reaches Chicago.
On a 1-to-10 scale, the worry level on this being a really bad year system-wide is at about two. It's very early, but it's very bad so far.