There's one month gone in the 2016 season and that means it is time to honor the best in the Cubs minor league system. For those of you who are new here, every month I nominate five players and five pitchers for Player of the Month honors. I choose one player from each team and one wild card that can come from any team, at least until June when Eugene starts their season. Your job is to vote for whichever one you think should win the award. You can vote for whichever player you want with only one rule: This award is meant to reward production, not who is the best prospect. Otherwise we'd all be voting for Gleyber Torres and he had a miserable month. So vote for the player you think had the best month.
You can vote up until about an hour before I post the Minor League Wrap on Tuesday night. I'll announce the winner there. You'll also get a chance to vote for the best performance by pitchers in the system tomorrow.
Narrowing the field down to five players was really tough this month. Iowa catcher Willson Contreras hit .344 and South Bend outfielder Daniel Spingola hit .403 and neither one got nominated.
With that said, the nominees are:
Iowa Cubs outfielder Albert Almora: I don't think any Cubs prospect has a bigger microscope on him than Almora has right now. Because while it's clear that Almora has a major-league level plus-plus glove in center field, the issue has always been whether he would hit enough to hold a starting job. One month still falls in the small-sample-size category, but so far, so good for Almora. In the month of April, Almora hit .366/.405/.549 and he leads the I-Cubs with three home runs already. Almora only hit six home runs in all of 2015. He also walked 6 times in 80 plate appearances and stole two bases in two attempts. Oh, and he also caught pretty much every fly ball hit between Ankeny and Indianola. Almora scored 15 runs in 19 games and drove in 11.
Tennessee Smokies second baseman Chesny Young: All he does is hit. And field. He's not bad at that either. But mostly, he hits. Fresh off winning the Carolina League batting title, Young just kept going, hitting .402/.505/.524 with two home runs and 11 steals in 13 attempts. That's impressive for two reasons, other than just the "hitting .400" thing. For one, two home runs is twice what he hit all of last season. Second, Young did this with a torrid final ten days. As of April 19, Young was hitting just .262 on the season, albeit with a .380 OBP. Young has scored 13 runs and drove nine in. Young has also walked more than twice as many times as he's struck out with a 16-to-7 ratio.
Tennessee Smokies outfielder Bijan Rademacher: Rademacher being on this list is impressive, in part because he started the season as a fourth outfielder, mostly coming off the bench the first week of the season. Rademacher is tied for the home run lead in the Cubs system with four, including two on April 19. The line for Rademacher for the month of April was .351/.493/.614 with 11 RBI and 14 runs scored in 73 plate appearances. Rademacher has walked 15 times to only 11 strikeouts. And he still has a cannon for an arm in right field, although he only has one outfield assist so far this year.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans second baseman Ian Happ: Happ played second base for the first time in his professional career this month and there were some ups and downs there, but the ups pretty much outnumbered the downs, so that's a very positive sign. But what's best is that Happ didn't let the difficulty of learning a new position affect him at the plate at all. Happ hit an outstanding .313/.427/.550 and is tied with Rademacher with a system-high four home runs and in a tougher league to hit home runs in. Happ also had five doubles and a triple and he stole three bases in three attempts. He had 18 RBI and 13 runs scored.
South Bend Cubs outfielder Donnie Dewees: Dewees' position really isn't "outfield." His best position is "pest," at least as the other team sees him. Whenever I would turn on the SB Cubs game, Dewees was on the bases again and he was always looking to get another base. Dewees hit .345/.394/.583 with eight doubles and a mind-blowing six triples in the month of April alone. Let me make sure you got that: In just 94 plate appearances, he had six triples. Pretty much all of them were ones he legged out. Minor league speed legend Billy Hamilton never hit more than 14 triples in an entire season. Dewees also stole seven bases in nine attempts. Dewees scored 17 runs and drove in 16 in 21 games.