As many of the Cubs minor league affiliates approach the halfway points of their seasons we take an in depth look at some of the top names in this weeks minor league update.
Many wondered how Cubs top prospect Anthony Rizzo would bounce back after his injury scare last week. Needless to say he didn't disappoint. Although Rizzos numbers did slightly drop last week (4-for-15 (.266), 1 HR, 2 RBIs), he continued to deliver when his team needed it most. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 7th Sunday afternoon, Rizzo came to the plate hit-less on the day. With one swing of the bat he sent his 23rd home run soaring over the fence giving his team a 3-2 lead. The two-run blast proved to be the deciding factor in Sundays contest. It is evident that Rizzos time in Iowa is coming to an end and what better way to thank the fans then giving them one last game-winning round tripper to remember him by.
Brett Jackson once again left us scratching our heads in disbelief this week. He was 5-for-18 (.277) with four runs scored, three RBIs and a .380 OBP. While these numbers are nothing to spit at, Jackson continues to strikeout at an alarming rate. Over the past 10 games his K rate sits at an astronomically high 50 percent. This is Jacksons third year in the organization and he has been labeled a top prospect from the day he was drafted. His performance in the first half of the 2012 season has been forgettable at best. If Jackson wants to be an integral part of the Cubs plan for the future he is going to have to make some major changes immediately.
Tennessee Smokies coaches cannot stop raving about their 21-year-old shortstop prospect Junior Lake, and the praise comes with good reason. Last week, Lake was 7-for 20 (.350), scored four runs and stole three bases, doubling his season total. The Junior Lake that came into the All-Star break hitting .301 is a completely different player than the one who showed up to the clubhouse on opening day. Coming into the season the youngsters main problem was his wild approach at the plate. He was known for chasing pitches well out of the zone and tallying his fair share of one pitch at-bats. What we see now is a Junior Lake with a much more refined skill set at the dish. He has grown in his approach and it is elevating his stock to a new level.
Trey McNutt struggled again in his one start last week. He went 5.2 innings allowing five runs on nine hits. Of the nine hits, three of them found the cheap seats. McNutt was labeled the Cubs top pitching prospect by many scouts at the beginning of the season but he has failed to live up to the hype. His 4-6 record and 4.09 ERA are two major indications that something simply is not clicking for the right hander. What is most alarming for me is McNutts endurance. In his 13 starts he has yet to pitch deeper than the sixth inning.
Arismendy Alcantra may not be a household name just yet but the Daytona shortstop is everything we love and hate about highly talented prospects. Last week, he was 6-for-17 (.353) with two RBIs and a .363 OBP. Most impressively, he swiped his 20th base of the season which is good enough for third best in the Florida State League and just two off the leader. Along with Alcantras tremendous athleticism and speed comes a youthful disposition that at times can lead to avoidable errors. The shortstop recorded his 25th error of the year and like the majority of his blunders it was of the throwing variety. A move to second base is looking like it will be beneficial not only for his team but also for his career.
In four games last week Javier Baez managed to break out of his hitting funk in a big way. The Peoria shortstop was 5-for-12 (.416) with two round trippers and a ridiculous 1.438 OPS. Baez also recorded five RBIs and four runs, one in each game. This is the type of production we expect from one of the Cubs top prospects and I believe it will become regularity for Baez as he grows both mentally and physically.
Joe Musso contributed to this report