Minor League IPA: Robel García Mashing at Iowa, Herz Dominant, Crow-Armstrong Promoted to South Bend, Iowa Snaps 5-Game Skid

Our old friend Robel García is garnering a lot of attention these days and he’s coming off an incredible stretch where he hit eight home runs in eight games. He, Jared Young, and Cayne Ueckert have really impressed vice president of player personnel Jared Banner, who recently sat for an interview with Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register.

“Obviously Robel had a really impressive month with a lot of the power he’s displayed,” Banner said. “Jared’s had a quietly very strong season. He’s had some bad luck in spurts but you look at his underlying numbers, he’s really hit a ton since the season began — he’s been pretty consistent as well. So he jumps out also. Cayne’s really picked it up of late. His last few outings, the last couple of weeks have been a lot better. I think he’s turned that corner and made that adjustment.”

García got a lot of hype back in 2019 before losing his gig when Theo Epstein acquired Nick Castellanos at that year’s trade deadline. The former Italian league star had a couple of shining moments while playing for the Cubs but otherwise struggled and became a bit of a journeyman after. He finished his first stint with Chicago hitting .208/.275/.500 with five home runs, two triples, and a .775 OPS in 31 games.

The switch-hitter was selected by the Reds after the Cubs released him in 2020 and had subsequent chances with the Mets, Angels, and Astros. He also played in the Dominican Republic and for Independent League Sugar Land before finding his way back to the Cubs earlier this year. He’s 29 years old now, was named the International League Player of the Week May 9-15 after hitting .409 with six home runs that week, and could be on the verge of forcing his way back to the Friendly Confines.

Versatility has always been the best component of García’s game, but it’s his stick that is his carrying tool these days. He’s slashing .295/.394/1.013 with 12 home runs and 30 RBI for the Triple-A Cubs. Though he’s your prototypical 4A player, he could help the big league team because he can play a multitude of positions, provides a little ower, and, of course, hits from both sides of the plate. If anything, he could parlay his performance into a chance with another organization as a throw-in at the deadline.

Best of all, García is a fun guy to root for. He’s never going to be a star, but give him credit for not giving up. It would be lazy to say he’s a late-bloomer given his age and career arc, but stranger things have happened. Just ask Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom.

Affiliate News & Notes

Jigger Statz

DJ Herz had a career game for South Bend Wednesday, striking out 12 Dayton batters in five near-perfect innings of work. He retired 14 in a row at one point before the game was suspended. The 21-year-old lowered his ERA to 1.45 and has amassed 53 whiffs in 37.1 innings.

Herz had a strong full-season debut in 2021, striking out an impressive 131 batters in just 81.2 IP between Low and High-A. His plus changeup should help him move quickly through the minors and he could make his MLB debut by late 2023. That said, the lefty has some command issues and may eventually be moved to the bullpen.

Herz’s low-80s slider with its two-plane break has the potential to match his changeup as a plus pitch, and his curveball has improved enough to neutralize right-handed batters. The Cubs have been notoriously slow to develop big-league starters, so they’ll give him every opportunity to maintain his current development path. Herz is still figuring things out, but last night’s effort proves the upside is legitimate.

“We knew what kind of athlete and competitor he was. But the fact that the stuff has jumped this much, this fast, that’s really a credit to him and how hard he’s worked.” – Matt Dorey, last summer.

Sod Busters

950 Miles to Chicago

More love for Owen Caissie, who has really been on a heater after a very poor start. It’s important to remember that the Cubs have been very aggressive with the young outfielder and he has responded well to everything they’ve thrown at him. The 2024 season is a realistic target for Caissie’s big-league debut.

Craft Beer of the Day

Village IPA by Alphabet City – If you’re looking for the bathtub gin of craft beer, perhaps this IPA will do. “Born on a stovetop on East Seventh Street” in New York City, this 6.2% ABV is an earthy brew with an herbal hop bounce and a smoky caramel follow that’s a little bitter until your palate adjusts. I got mine from Beer Across America and if I’m being honest it’s just a little above average. You’d expect a better selection from a beer club that charges about four bucks per beer.

I was going to review the Kentucky Tangerine Cream Ale I picked up at Total Wine & Spirits but I’m actually saving that one for this weekend. Every time I go to the fridge I see it staring at me and it’s hypnotizing. I hope it’s worth the wait.

Children of the Corn

Top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez of the Orioles was removed from his start Wednesday due to back discomfort.

Astros SS Jeremy Peña leads all qualified rookies in batting average (.285), home runs (8), slugging percentage (.494), and OPS (.825), all while playing elite defensive shortstop. He’s the early favorite for AL Rookie of the Year. Seiya Suzuki of the Cubs has the second-best odds of capturing the award in the NL.

OF Corbin Carroll of the Diamondbacks and LHP Kyle Harrison of the Giants are the early favorites for minor league hitting and pitching prospects of the year.

Rangers prospect Jack Leiter set a career-high in strikeouts on Wednesday.

Post-Game Presser

  • “We talked about [promoting] a number of guys. Caleb has been fantastic ever since we got him. Went to the Fall League and did a great job. Because of the Fall League, we sort of took it slow with him in spring and we’ve continued to do that. I don’t think his development is done yet. There are more steps and there’s probably development that will happen when he gets up here. We’ve had good conversations with him about his timeline. He knows where things are and where things stand. We’re excited to have him. He knows where we are as far as his progress and his development. I think we’re in a good place.” – Jed Hoyer

Thursday Walk-Up Song

Space Song by Beach House – It’s June, and welcome to those hazy, spacey days of summer!

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