It's time once again to vote for the BCB Minor League Player of the Month for May! The rules this month are the same as every month: I nominate five players from the Cubs minor league system, one from each full season team and one "wild card" until Eugene gets underway this month. Then you vote for your choice for the Minor League Player of the Month. You can use whatever criteria you want to make your choice, but remember, this is an award for performance and not for prospect status. Whatever criteria you use, be sure that it happened in the month of May.
Talk about an embarrassment of riches this month. So many players had a great month down on the farm that it was hard enough cutting this list down to ten players, let alone five. So I just wanted to mention the following players that didn't make the cut: Arismendy Alcantara, Matt Szczur, Taylor Davis, Dan Vogelbach, Willson Contreras, Billy McKinney, Jeimer Candelario, Yasiel Balaguert and Cael Brockmeyer. Clicking on their names will take you to their MiLB.com page and you can see their splits for the month. (At least for their current club. For someone like McKinney who got promoted, you'll have to go to their Baseball-Reference.com or Fangraphs page and piece it together yourself.)
So that's nine players who easily could have been nominated in a different month.
We'll vote for the pitchers starting tomorrow. Voting will stay open until about a half hour before the final minor league game tomorrow and the winner will be announced in Tuesday's Minor League Wrap.
With that said, the nominees are:
Iowa Cubs SS/2B Javier Baez
We'd hoped that Baez was done with this list and there's little point in going over why he's back in Iowa. But after missing close to the entire month of April after the death of his sister, Baez roared back with a big May for the I-Cubs, hitting .314/.392/.505 with five home runs and 21 RBI in 29 games. On the big question that everyone is concerned with, yes, he's cut down on his strikeouts. He's still striking out 25% of the time, but that's down from 30% in Iowa last summer. If he can keep his strikeout rate around there, well, that's lower than Kris Bryant's strikeout rate in Triple-A last season.
Did I mention he stole six bases in seven attempts?
Defensively, Baez has split his time evenly between shortstop and second base. Both positions are currently occupied on the major league level, so it may take an injury to get Baez back in the majors with the Cubs. Or some creativity by Joe Maddon.
Tennessee Smokies C Kyle Schwarber
Schwarber has done nothing but hit since the Cubs took him with the fourth pick in the draft a year ago. Schwarber didn't hit for average like he did in April and his OBP took a small dip too. But he still hit .297 with a .443 OBP. More than making up for that, Schwarber clubbed eight home runs in 28 games the month of May. He struck out 24 times in the month of May, but he countered that with 24 walks. Schwarber had 17 RBI and scored 18 runs in May.
Defensively, Schwarber has only been a catcher or DH this season. Although he'll occasionally make a play that will make you think there's something there, he's still not good back there. I know the front office is telling people how much he's improved, but he's still throwing out fewer than 20% of runners trying to steal. He's got six passed balls already this season, and there have been several wild pitches that a different catcher would have blocked.
But the bat will play anywhere.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans OF Mark Zagunis
Unlike Schwarber, the Cubs have decided to have Zagunis give up catching. But luckily, Zagunis also has a bat that can play anywhere. For the month of May, Zagunis was pretty much on base any time you tuned in to a Myrtle Beach game. Zagunis hit .333 with a .471 OBP for May. He had seven doubles, a triple and a home run for a .484 SLG. Even better, Zagunis has walked 23 times and struck out only 16, making him an ideal leadoff hitter. He even stole three bases in May, although he was caught twice. All in all, the future looks bright for last season's 3rd round pick out of Virginia Tech.
South Bend Cubs/Myrtle Beach Pelicans 2B Chesny Young
Last season's 14th round pick got a mid-month promotion to High A after starting the season in the Midwest League with a .315 batting average and nine steals. Moving up to the Carolina League hasn't slowed him at all, as Young hit .362 with a .449 OBP in his first 15 games in Myrtle Beach. For the entire month of May, Young's combined stats between South Bend and Myrtle Beach saw him playing 24 games and hitting .370/.438/.435 with four steals in six attempts. Young also symbolizes the Cub system's commitment to plate discipline, as he walked 12 times in May and only struck out ten times.
South Bend Cubs SS Gleyber Torres
Torres actually tailed off quite a bit from his torrid April. He was still awfully darned good. For the month of May, Torres hit .316/.375/.400 over 24 games. He scored 13 runs and had 17 RBI, although he only managed to steal one base in four attempts in May, after stealing seven in April.
Did I mention that he's still only 18?