In 2012, the Boise Hawks played to within a few outs of the Northwest League title. Almost as a unit, they moved on to Kane County for the first Cubs team in Geneva last year. That did not translate very well. This season, with a new batch of players (that also almost won the Northwest League championship) that include far fewer offensive prospects, they are three games over the .500 mark early. Why are these less-reputed players outperforming last year's squad?
A portion of it ends up sounding like a case of parsing. There is a difference between evaluating a player (how he is now) and as a prospect (how he will be in a few years). Many of the players on the 2013 team were young for their level. This is usually good from a prospect perspective. However, youthful players are prone to making youthful mistakes.
The Cougars defense wasn't very good last season. Far too many plays that shouldn't have been terribly difficult were. Be they errors or shaky hits, they extended pitch counts and innings. While many of the Cougars hitters last season project out as potential big league players, they aren't that far above the curve yet. A talented youthful offense and defense can lead to some excitement, but having a team like the 2014 version isn't giving away as many outs.
A generally older, more experienced team might have less of a future, but more of a present. Hence, a better record. Small-sample-size and all, but this appears to be the case this season in Geneva.
The key, though, has been the pitching. While too many pitchers have been wild (which happens at any level in the minors), the rotation has been solid. Juan Paniagua is much better this season. Jen-Ho Tseng and Paul Blackburn have also been solid. Daury Torrez has represented as well, and Tyler Skulina has done well, also.
The starters have not given any games away. Far too often, the team would be behind by a handful of runs early last year. Despite not having "name" hitters throughout the lineup, they remain in games, grind out opposing pitchers, and are three games over at this writing. Small sample size applies, but so far so good.
Yes, it would be better to have more prospect-y players, but it's nice to be winning, with or without them.
Three Up/Three Down
Hard-throwing right hand pitcher Scott Frazier (Low-A Kane County) has a WHIP of 21, and an ERA of 162.00. That would be in two appearances.
Tennessee (Double-A) OF Rubi Silva is 5-for-33 with an OPS of .404.
I-Cubs Lars Anderson and Logan Watkins have combined for two hits. Over 30 at bats. Both are singles.
Yasiel Balaguert and Jacob Rogers have 10 RBI apiece through nine games for Kane County. The Cougars scored in their sixth straight first inning on Sunday
Daytona (High-A) OF Bijan Rademacher is hitting .421 on 8-for-19 hitting.
Daytona's Felix Pena is 0-2, but is sporting a WHIP of 0.75 through 12 frames.
Double-A Tennessee's Kris Bryant (OPS 1.060) and Dustin Geiger (OPS .905) both have three early home runs.
Iowa Cubs (Triple-A) Josh Vitters (.930) and Chris Valaika (.919) have an OPS over .900.
I-Cubs Tsuyoshi Wada has a WHIP of 0.6 through two starts of over 13 innings combined.