It's time to vote for the BCB Minor League Player of the Month again! The rules are the same as they've always been, but in case you're a new reader, I nominate one player from each of the top five Cubs minor league teams and you pick one to be the Player of the Month. This is an award based on performance, not prospect-status, so vote based on what these players did this past month. Having said that, you can use whatever criteria you want.
We'll vote for the pitcher of the month tomorrow.
We have a serious embarrassment of riches this month.
And the candidates are:
Iowa Cubs second baseman Javier Baez: For the first time this season, Kris Bryant fails to get nominated, although it's not because he had a bad month. Baez and Bryant had almost exactly the same OPS lat month, with Bryant having the higher OBP and Baez having the higher SLG. Normally that would be the tiebreaker as OBP is more valuable than SLG, but then I factored in Baez making a successful transition to second base, and I decided that Baez's slugging and defensive ability outweighed Bryant's OBP edge. Barely.
But it was a big month for Javier Baez. He was the monster at the plate that we all hoped he would, hitting .300 with 10 home runs and a whopping 32 RBI for the month. His OBP was .344 and his SLG was an impressive .655. On top of that, Baez made a transition to second base and looked pretty good doing it.
Tennessee Smokies/Iowa Cubs/AZL Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler: Soler started the month in rehab in rookie ball and finished the month in Triple-A. Along the way, he laid waste to pitchers in three leagues. In 27 games between the three teams, Soler hit .378/.473/.811 with eight home runs and 21 RBI. In 15 games with the Smokies, Soler smashed the Southern League with a pretty incredible line of .463/.538/1.000 with six home runs and 15 RBI.
Daytona Cubs outfielder Billy McKinney: We're not going to count the first three games of the month that McKinney played for Stockton in the California League, This is a Cubs award and not an all of the minors award. Besides, he was only 2 for 10 in those games.
But since coming over to the Cubs in the Fourth of July Trade, McKinney has adapted to the the tougher hitting environment of the Florida State League and then some. Still only 19 years old, McKinney hit .310/.400/.460 with six doubles, two triples and a home run in 25 games. He's also earned a reputation for clutch hitting with 23 RBI with the Cubs. The Daytona Cubs have also transformed themselves from a poor first half to a 4½-game division lead in the second half. McKinney isn't responsible for all of the D-Cubs turnaround, but he's a big factor in it.
Kane County Cougars outfielder Shawon Dunston: Dunston started the year in Kane County as the fourth outfielder, but he played his way into a starting spot by July. Mostly hitting leadoff, Dunston hit .365/.383/.486 with 16 runs scored and 11 RBI in 22 games. He also had eight stolen bases in nine attempts.
Boise Hawks catcher/outfielder Mark Zagunis: Zagunis was the Cubs third round pick out of Virginia Tech in June and his professional career has gotten off to a flying start. Zagunis played 29 games in July, split pretty evenly between the outfield and behind the plate, with a few DH starts in there as well to give his legs a rest. Zagunis responded with a .324 batting average and a very impressive .459 OBP, as he has walked 25 times and struck out only 22. He scored 23 runs, had 18 RBI and stole seven bases in eight attempts.