While Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer continue to build for the future lets take a look at this weeks minor league report
It was business as usual this week for Anthony Rizzo, going about his work as he has in the recent past. Pounding towering home runs over the fence and driving runs in at will, causing Cubs fans to salivate at the thought of their future first baseman doing the same at Wrigley Field.
But then Tuesday happened.
A pop up was hit into foul territory and Rizzo gave chase with a full head of steam. The future slugger slid to avoid crashing into the fence, but it was too late. Rizzo slid knee-first into the wall and the Cubs faithful collectively held their breath. Ultimately, Rizzo walked off the field under his own power with what is being called a knee contusion.
He is listed as day-to-day. The injury could not have come at a worse time because before his run-in with fence, Rizzo was arguably hotter than he has been all year. He went 11-for-28 (.392) on the week with six runs, 10 RBIs and five home runs, including back-to-back games with two round trippers. Rizzos injury shouldnt be a long-term concern but it does create some angst amongst Cubs fans. The day of his call up is inching closer though and it couldnt come soon enough.
Brett Jackson began his climb back to top prospect form two weeks ago, but took a small step back this past week. He went 7-for-28 (.250) with three RBIs, all coming off his only home run of the week. The alarming statistic was Jacksons 10 strikeouts. Striking over a third of the time you come to the plate is not going to help when you are trying to grind back to hitting .300.
Luckily, his mediocre week only resulted in a two-point drop in average (.259). Pretty soon, Rizzo is going to get his call and there will be a large void of run production that will need to be filled in Iowa. Jackson must view this as an opportunity and have a stellar second half, proving to Cubs management that he will be an integral part of their plan for the future.
The Double A Tennessee Smokies had a productive week as a team, going 5-1. A number of these wins wouldnt have been possible if it were not for the efforts of rising star Junior Lake. Lake saw minimal action this week, appearing in only three games, but when he had the bat in his hands, he delivered. He went 5-for-12 (.417) with one home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. Lake appears to be doing everything in his power to be a part of Theos equation a few years down the line. If he continues to mature and produce, he should be right on schedule.
Trey McNutt was a tale of two starts this week. If you looked at the stat line alone, it would seem as if two completely different pitchers showed up. In his first start, McNutt went 5.2 innings and gave up no runs on three hits. He struck out three on his way to a dominant win. The right-hander looked like he was finding his groove coming off another win five days earlier.
His second start of the week suggested otherwise, though. McNutts outing was short lived, as he lasted only 3.1 innings. In this short workday, he was touched up for nine runs on nine hits, including a home run. McNutt is a glaring example of the ebb and flow that is minor league baseball.
The Daytona Cubs have been struggling to find the bright side of anything as of late. They are five games under .500 and sit 12 games back in the division. Frankly, Matt Loosen does not let his teams record affect his preparation. He takes the mound every start with the same attitude and that is to do whatever it takes to win. And thats exactly what he did this week as Loosen was 2-0.
He pitched a total of 11.2 innings, giving up only 5 hits and no runs over the two-game span. He struck out six in his first start and seven in his second. He is now 5-1 on the season with a 2.63 ERA. If Loosen continues to absolutely shut teams down in this fashion, he should be expecting a promotion very soon.
Javier Baez is still getting comfortable in his role as a professional baseball player and that is a process that takes time. Coming off a successful first week-and-a-half, Baez hit a bit of a speed bump this week. He was 3-for-20 (.150) in six games played. Baez had one RBI and five strikeouts. It is weeks like this that test a young players mental toughness.
There is no denying Baezs talent but it will be exciting to see how he responds to his recent struggles.