It's time once again to honor the best in the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month! A quick reminder of the rules. Each month I nominate one player from each of the top five Cubs minor league affiliates. You then get your chance to vote on them. I leave the voting criteria up to you with one exception. This is an award for production and not for prospect status. Therefore, vote for what the player did in the month of August, not for what they did before August or what you think they might do in the future.
The winner will be announced in tomorrow's Minor League Wrap. I'll run a Pitcher of the Month vote on Thursday and then we'll do a Player and Pitcher of the Year Award sometime next week.
Clicking on the nominees names will take you to their milb.com page when you can go into their statistics in more depth.
With that said, the nominees are:
Iowa Cubs shortstop Javier Baez: I've always been unsure whether or not to include players who have exhausted their rookie eligibility in these votes, but I have in the past so I won't stop now. In any case, I think we can all feel confident that this will be the absolute last time that Baez will be nominated for this award. The season started out rough for Baez as he missed large chunks of playing time after the death of his sister and then breaking his finger upon his return. But since coming back from the injury, Baez has been on a tear. In August, Baez hit .347/.383/.492 with three home runs in 29 games. To answer the question you've all been asking, Baez struck out 29 times and walked eight. He stole seven bases in nine attempts in August. Baez also played three infield positions and took balls in the outfield, even though no one asked him to.
Tennessee Smokies center fielder Albert Almora: This nomination was rough, as I had to leave Smokies catcher Willson Contreras and his .351 batting average off the vote. But Almora beat him by a point as the 2012 first-round draft pick hit .352 for the month of August. Almora also posted a .413 on-base percentage and a .504 slugging percentage, driven by the 14 doubles, one triple and one home run that Almora hit in 31 games in August. Almora walked 11 times, as opposed to 13 strikeouts, in 140 plate appearances in August. That's only three less walks in a month that he drew in all of 2014. Of course, no discussion of Almora would be complete without mentioning that he consistently pulls off a highlight reel catches in center or left field game after game. Almora's always been known for his stellar defense. In August at least, his bat caught up to his glove.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans outfielder Pin-Chieh Chen: Chen is one of those prospects who goes under the radar because he's good at a lot of little things rather than being great at one thing. For the month of August, Chen hit .298/.337/.485 with seven doubles, three triples and two home runs in 97 at bats. Chen also stole four bases and produced solid defense in both center field and left field. Chen started the season in Tennessee and got demoted no so much for anything he did, but simply because of a numbers game in Double-A. That Chen responded with a strong season in HIgh-A says a lot about a player. Sometimes guys just sulk when demoted. Chen thrived.
South Bend Cubs right fielder Jeffrey Baez: Which Baez is hotter? In the first half, Baez was hitting .190/.262/.268 with one home run in 48 games. Since then, Baez has destroyed the Midwest League by putting up a .355/.373/.545 line with eight home runs in 52 games. Baez was a nominee for this award in July, and his August was even better. Baez hit .393/.415/.556 with nine doubles, two triples, two home runs and 13 steals. Moving into the leadoff spot, Baez has scored 26 runs in 26 games. Without question, Baez's second-half has turned him from an afterthought to a prospect.
Eugene Emeralds right fielder Eloy Jimenez: The other Cubs big international signing from 2013 had, unlike Gleyber Torres, struggled a bit adjusting to playing ball in the US-based minor league. But the still only 18 year old Dominican turned it up a notch in August, hitting .301/.355/.494 with four home runs in only 83 at-bats in 20 games. Jimenez struck out only ten times in August while walking seven times. It was easily Jimenez's best month as a professional.