It's time to vote for the Bleed Cubbie Blue Minor League Player of the Month award again! In case you're new around here, the rules are simple. I nominate one player from each minor league affiliate and one "wild card" for a total of five candidates. You vote for your choice. You can vote for whichever player you want, but remember this award is designed to honor production, not their value as prospects. Vote for the player who had the best month, not for the player whom you think will be the better player in 2020.
The winner will be announced in tomorrow night's Minor League Wrap. I'll also have a vote for the Pitchers of the Month tomorrow.
My apologies go out to Iowa's Dan Vogelbach and Tennessee's Victor Caratini, both of whom had award-worthy months but got edged out for a nomination. With all that said, here are the five candidates:
Iowa Cubs catcher Willson Contreras: The big question coming into this season was whether Contreras' breakout season in Tennessee last year was a fluke. It doesn't appear to have been a fluke and the calls for Contreras to make his major league debut are getting stronger.
Contreras had a huge month in May as he hit .324 with a .419 OBP. On top of that, Contreras connected for eight home runs in May, which are as many as he hit in all of 2015. If Contreras has added home run power to his offensive arsenal, look out. He even hit seven doubles and two triples in May for a .657 slugging percentage.
If Contreras has anything left to work on in the minor leagues, it's his defense and game-management skills. But defensively, he's improved over the past two season to the point where he's a net-positive fielding his position. He's always had a strong arm and this year, he's learned how to use it better as he has only one error so far. As far as pitch-framing and game-calling skills go, that's the one thing I hear he needs to work on, but no one thinks he can't manage it. He's gotten lots of praise for how hard he works at improving himself. Contreras should see Wrigley Field sometime this season.
Tennessee Smokies outfielder Mark Zagunis: Zagunis is the ultimate player for those of you who really put a lot of emphasis on strike-zone judgement. You can almost hear Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill saying "He gets on base" about him. Zagunis hit .333 with three home runs and 12 RBI. He scored 21 times in 26 games. But what was really impressive about Zagunis is that he walked 17 times and only struck out 18 times in May. That gave him a .444 on-base percentage. The three home runs along with eight doubles gave him a .522 slugging for the month.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans shortstop Gleyber Torres: I'm actually pretty pleased at the minimum of teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling on the part of Cubs fans after the lousy start Torres had to the season. Maybe because the major league team is playing so well, fans are giving the kids a little more space. But Torres has answered his bad April with a terrific May. Torre hit .306 with a .353 on-base percentage in May. But somehow, he managed to surprise us all by showing some power that he'd never shown before. Torres hit five home runs in May. That's more home runs in one month than he had ever hit in an entire season before. He's still stealing bases too, as he stole six bases in eight attempts.
Defensively, Torres continues to impress at shortstop. He's not going to be an Andrelton Simmons out there, but he's pretty much dispelled any doubts that he might not stick at short.
South Bend Cubs outfielder Eloy Jimenez: There have been a lot of eyes on Jimenez since the Cubs landed the biggest prize of the 2013 international free agent market. This month, Cubs fans got to see what all the fuss was about.
Jimenez hit .364 in May with seven walks, giving him a .407 OBP. But what was really impressive about Jimenez was that he finally tapped into that power we've heard about, slugging seven home runs and eight doubles in the month for a .627 slugging percentage. Jimenez had 23 RBI and 17 runs scored in 28 games. He hit that big dramatic walkoff home run against Lansing in a 1-0 game on May 29. Jimenez even managed to steal two bases.
South Bend Cubs second baseman Andrew Ely: Ely is repeating South Bend after a late-season promotion from Eugene last year. He bounced back from his early struggles by hitting .371 with a .436 OBP over 22 games in May. He also hit two home runs and nine doubles for a .539 slugging percentage. Ely has been a great leadoff hitter in May, scoring 19 times and stealing five bases in six attempts.