Cubs MiLB Week in Review – Fatigue Sets In

For the week of 8/11-8/17

With only a few weeks left in the minor league season, we’ve reached the point where players are who they’ve been. No hot streak will overshadow a poor season, and no frigid end to the year will hurt a prospect’s reputation.

Apart from your usual small sample size concerns, we’re in the dog days of summer where bodies start breaking down. Major leaguers routinely report to spring training carrying 20-30 pounds of extra weight because they expect to lose it all over the course of the season – and those guys have the luxury of team nutritionists, flying between games, and have mature bodies that have built up the requisite strength to play through October.

It’s easy to forget, but these kids to whom we’ve staked our hopes are just that: kids. And kids aren’t used to playing 120+ games while shuttling around the country in run-down buses.

This happened to one of our favorite prospects as recently as last season. Arismendy Alcantara, a wiry infielder who maybe weighed 165 pounds was in the midst of a full-blown breakout until falling off soon after he eclipsed his previous games-played high in July.

We didn’t think any less of Arismendy for tailing off, because it’s almost expected that players will wear down. Building up strength and endurance is a big part of the minors, and let’s remember that while we watch the last few games of the year. Just don’t tell that to…

The Hot-Hitting Kyle Schwarber

Schwarber posted an OPS of just a tick under .900 in the past week, and has performed admirably in Daytona for someone who caught a full college season before playing 60+ pro games later in the year. Schwarber continues to draw praise from around the sport, including Baseball Prospectus’ Jeff Moore, who posted this scouting report on Schwarber last week. It’s free and well worth the read.

You might, however, want to keep fatigue in mind when talking about…

Albert Almora’s Home Stretch

Almora has played in 111 games thus far, and is on pace to double his 2013 mark of 61 games. Almora’s a strong athlete, but I would not be surprised if the rigors of his first uninterrupted season of pro baseball have started to drag on him. Adjusting to AA pitching is hard enough already, and doing it while playing this many pro games for the first time is a real challenge. Almora posted an OPS of .896 last week, but his overall AA OPS remains below .600.

And speaking of the home stretch…

Two Hendry-Drafted Outfielders Leave Iowa

Only one is headed to Chicago, though. Matt Szczur, a former top-100 prospect (a head-scratcher of a ranking at the time), has made his MLB debut after an underwhelming year in Iowa. Don’t get too bogged down in his numbers at the plate though because, well, he’s not going to hit much in the bigs anyway.

I like Szczur as a 4th/5th outfielder type who should provide excellent outfield defense, but I don’t like his swing enough to think he’ll be more than that. Which is OK – it takes all kinds of players to build a winning ballclub.

The other Iowa outfielder to leave the team was Brett Jackson, who has been traded to the Diamondbacks. I always liked Jackson, even as he was struggling in the minors these past few years. It’s unlikely at this point, but I still believe he could be a bench outfielder. He has some power, an above average glove in center, and runs the bases well. I wish him the best, even though he couldn’t cut it with the Cubs.

Speaking of which…

It’s About Time for Josh Vitters to Leave the Organization

He’s mired in the middle of another lost season and has no path to value in the majors. He can’t walk, has only middling power, and has no position to play. I know we love to bash Hendry, and rightfully so, but the Josh Vitters story is going to come to a sad end that I don’t think you can blame Hendry for. Everyone loved Vitters before the 2007 draft, and most teams would have taken him. Sometimes players simply can’t adjust.

But enough about failed hitting prospects…

Who’s the Top Pitching Prospect in the Organization?

Pierce Johnson apparently saw all of our Jen-Ho Tseng lovefests this summer, cause he’s doing everything he can to reclaim his title as the #1 pitching prospect in the system. Johnson’s been on a pretty strict pitch limit since returning from the DL, so he only threw 4 innings this week, but his 7 Ks and 0 ER moved his season line to 76 1/3 innings of 2.36 ERA and 9.2 K/9 innings.

Not to be outdone, Jen-Ho Tseng has continued to put up numbers that feel dishonest to report – he has a 2.00 ERA in 18 August innings with 12 K’s, 4 BB, and a 0.72 WHIP. I’d still put Tseng as my favorite of the three best pitching prospects in the Cubs’ system, but it’s nice that we can have that discussion again.

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