There are essentially two purposes of an organization's minor-league system. The first is to develop players that will help at the big-league level. The second would be to trade prospects to gain players to help the big-league club during a winning cycle.
Where are the Chicago Cubs right now in that circle of baseball life? Opinions may vary. They certainly went out and spent some money in free agency this past offseason. They have traded veterans for prospects in recent years. And where they are in June and July will determine what they do at the trade deadline.
However, the minor-leaguers deserve our attention. They earned the right to be called professional ballplayers. They put in a tremendous amount of work, and while improvements are being made to minor-league pay, there is still a long way to go. So, it is important to recognize those efforts and the successes in the minor leagues.
Each week, we will take a look at how the Cubs' affiliates are performing as a team and their upcoming schedule. But our focus will be on the players. For each of the four full-season affiliates whose seasons are just getting started, we will name a Hitter and Pitcher of the Week. At the end, we will let you decide who the Cubs Minor League Hitter and Pitcher of the Month are, so please take some time to read about the prospects and discuss them in the Comments. Let's get started in Iowa.
Triple-A Iowa Cubs
Last Week: Home vs Omaha, 2-2 (games postponed Saturday and Sunday)
Standings: 4th place in the International League
What’s Next: Six games at Buffalo (6-8)
Top Hitter: Christopher Morel
Christopher Morel is off to a fast start in Iowa. In four games this past week, he hit .400/.471/1.133 (1.604) with a single, two doubles, three homers and seven RBI. In 12 total games this season, he is hitting .378/.500/.822 (1.322) with six doubles, a triple, four homers and 14 RBI.
Morel signed with the Cubs in August of 2015. However, he didn’t make his professional debut until 2017. He is back in Triple-A to start the 2023 season after jumping to the big leagues directly from Double-A last year. He played 113 games and hit .235/.308/.433 (.741) with 19 doubles, four triples, and 16 home runs. He added 10 stolen bases. He played 57 games in center field, 33 games at second base, 18 games at third base, and 13 games at shortstop. This season, the 23-year-old has six games at third base and two games at all three outfield spots as he awaits an opportunity to return to Chicago.
1B Matt Mervis (25) (#6 Prospect): 4 G, 6-for-13, .462/.632/.846 (1.478), with two doubles and a homer. He also walked six times.
C Dom Nunez (28): 3 G, 4-for-11, .364/.462/.818 (1.280), with two doubles, a homer and seven RBI.
SS Sergio Alcantara (26): 4 G, 7-for-18, .389/.389/.667 (1.056), with two doubles and a homer.
Top Pitcher: RHP Nick Neidert
Nick Neidert has been a bit inconsistent through his first three starts, but he had a solid start last week. He gave up one run on four hits over five innings. He only struck out two batters, but he didn’t walk anyone. The one run allowed came on a solo homer, and Neidert was credited with his first win of the season.
Neidert was the 2nd round pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2015 out of high school in Georgia. After the 2017 season, he was packaged with two other players and sent to the Marlins for Dee Strange-Gordon. Between 2020 and 2022, he pitched in 13 games (49 innings) for the Marlins. After last season, he became a free agent and signed a minor league contract with the Cubs. In three total starts for Iowa this season, he is 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA and a 2.32 WHIP. In 10 1/3 innings, he walked five and struck out nine batters. He will remain 26 years old throughout the 2023 season.
RHP Cam Sanders (26): 2 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 2 Holds, 3.1 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 4 K.
Double-A Tennessee Smokies
Last Week: At Montgomery, 2-4
Standings: Tied for 5th place in the Southern League
What’s Next: Hosting Chattanooga (6-3) for six games
Top Hitter: OF Owen Caissie (#8 Prospect)
Owen Caissie is off to a fast start despite being just 20 years old and already in Double-A. He played for Team Canada in the WBC and did well. A consensus Top 100 prospect, he played in all six Smokies games last week. He went 7-for-21 and hit .333/.364/1.048 (1.412) with a double, a triple, four home runs, and nine RBI. Much of his damage was done in one game. Of course, he struck out 12 times in 22 plate appearances. In other words, when he puts the ball in play, good things happen.
Caissie was the 2nd round pick of the San Diego Padres in the 2020 draft out of Notre Dame High School in Burlington, Ontario. The Cubs acquired him that next winter in the Yu Darvish trade. He is a big, strong dude (6-4, 190 pounds) and tremendous power potential. He won’t turn 21 until July. In nine total Double-A games, he has hit .303/.343/.788 (1.131) with wo doubles, a triple, and four homers. In 35 plate appearances, he has 20 strikeouts and two walks.
C Pablo Aliendo (22): 3 G, 2-for-7, .286/.500/.429 (.929), with a double. He also walked three times in 10 plate appearances.
Top 20 Prospects
Pete Crow-Armstrong (21) (#1 Prospect): 5 G, 6-for-19, .316/.316/.474 (.790), with a double and triple.
C Miguel Amaya (24) (#19 Prospect): 3 G, 2-for-8, .250/.417/.500 (.917) with two doubles and three walks.
Top Pitcher: LHP Bailey Horn
Bailey Horn pitched in two gams out of the Bullpen. In 3 2/3 innings, he gave up no runs, no hits, he walked one and struck out eight batters. On the season, he has two walks and 10 strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
The 25-year-old southpaw was the fifth-round pick of the White Sox in 2020 out of Auburn. At the trade deadline in 2021, he was traded to the North Side in exchange for reliever Ryan Tepera. In 2022, he pitched in five games for South Bend before finishing the season going 1-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 28 games with the Smokies. In his 41 2/3 innings, he struck out 58 batters but walked 27 times. He then pitched in eight more games in the Arizona Fall League. And, you'll want to check out his curveball.
Top 20 Prospects
LHP Jordan Wicks (25) (#5 Prospect): 1 G, 0-0, 13.50 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 2.2 IP, 4 ER, 5 H (2 HR), 3 BB, 7 K.
RHP Daniel Palencia (23) (#10 Prospect): 1 G, 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 5 K.
RHP Porter Hodge (22) (#13 Prospect): 2 G, 0-2, 9.00 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 7.0 IP, 7 ER, 7 H, 5 BB, 7 K.
High-A South Bend Cubs
Last Week: Home vs Beloit, 3-3
Standings: Tied for 1st place in the Midwest League
What’s Next: Six games at Great Lakes (4-5)
Top Hitter: 1B Haydn McGeary
Haydn McGeary played in all six games for South Bench last week. He went 9-for-25 and hit .360/.429/.720 (1.149) with three doubles, two homers, and nine RBI. He’s primarily playing first base, but in the past, he has spent some time behind the plate.
The 23-year-old was the Cubs’ 15th-round draft pick in 2022 after four seasons at Division II Colorado Mesa University. After signing, he played in six games in the Arizona Complex League before finishing the season with a dozen games at Myrtle Beach. In nine total games this season, he is hitting .378/.439/.676 (1.115) with five doubles, two homers and 11 RBI.
OF D.J. Artis (26): 4 G, 6-for-16, .438/.500/.563 (1.063), with a triple. He had three steals.
C/1B Casey Opitz (24): 5 G, 7-for-22, .318/.304/.682 (.986), with three doubles, a triple, a homer, and six RBI.
OF Yohendrick Pinango (20): 6 G, 7-for-21, .333/.500/.429 (.929) with two doubles and eight RBI. He also walked seven times.
OF Brad Beesley (25): 5 G, 8-for-22, .364/.391/.500 (.891) with three doubles. He stole four bases.
Top 20 Prospects
OF Kevin Alcantara (20) (#3 Prospect): 5 G, 4-for-21, .190/.292/.476 (.768) with three doubles and a homer.
SS Kevin Made (20) (#18 Prospect): 5 G, 4-for-17, .235/.350/.235 (.585) with two walks.
Top Pitcher: RHP Kohl Franklin
In the early levels of the minor leagues, starters rarely complete five innings, especially this early in the season. In his first start of the season, Kohl Franklin went four scoreless innings. He gave up one hit, walked two and struck out seven batters.
The 23-year-old was the sixth-round pick of the Cubs in 2018 out of high school in Oklahoma. He went to the same high school (Broken Arrow) as Archie Bradley and Brad Penny. The 23-year-old ended the 2019 season with a start at South Bend. He made 23 starts for South Bend in 2022 and had 75 strikeouts (but 41 walks) in 69 1/3 innings.
Top 20 Prospects
Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Last Week: 3-3 at Lynchburg
Standings: Tied for 5th place in the Carolina League
What’s Next: Six games at home versus Augusta (3-4)
Top Hitter: Cristian Hernandez (19) (#11 Prospect)
Cristian Hernandez played in four games last week for Myrtle Beach. He went 6-for-12 and hit .500/.571/.917 (1.488) with a triple and a homer. He also walked twice and stole two bases.
The Cubs signed a 17-year-old Hernandez in January of 2021 for a reported $3 million signing bonus. He spent that summer in the Dominican Summer League. Last summer, he played in the Arizona Complex League. The Cubs are challenging him this spring, but through a half-dozen games, he’s off to a good start.
OF Christian Franklin (23): 6 G, 8-for-25, .320/.393/.640 (1.033), with three doubles, a triple, a homer, and six RBI. He also stole three bases.
1B/OF Felix Stevens (23): 5 G, 5-for-16, .313/.476/.750 (.1.226) with a double, two homers and four RBI. He also walked four times.
OF Andy Garriola (23): 5 G, 7-for-18, .389/.389/.722 (1.111) with three doubles and a homer
C Miguel Pabon (22): 3 G, 4-for-9, .444/.500/.556 (1.056) with a double and a walk.
Top 20 Prospects
OF Moises Ballesteros (19) (#17 Prospect): 5 G, 5-for-19, .263/.333/.579 (.912), with two homers and five homers.
3B James Triantos (#15 Prospect): Did Not Play (knee surgery, possible return late May)
Top Pitcher: RHP Cade Horton (#7 Prospect)
There weren’t a lot of strong performances by pitchers in Myrtle Beach, so the choice here is the Cubs top pick in 2022, righty Cade Horton. The Norman, Oklahoma, native was the seventh-overall pick out of the University of Oklahoma, also in Norman. He made his professional debut last week and went 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He gave up two hits, walked none and struck out five batters.
LHP Marino Santy (21): 1 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 3.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 BB, 4 K.
Top 20 Prospects
Now is your opportunity to vote on the weekly Cubs minor league awards:
Hitter of the Week
Christopher Morel (Iowa): 4 G, 6-for-15, .400/.471/1.133 (1.604), 2-2B, 3-HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K
Owen Caissie (Tennessee): 6 G, 7-for-21, .333/.364/1.048 (1.412), 1-2B, 1-3B, 4-HR, 9 RBI, 1 BB, 12 K
Haydn McGeary (South Bend): 6 G, 9-for-25, .360/.429/.720 (1.149), 3-2B, 2-HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K
Cristian Hernandez (Myrtle Beach): 4 G, 6-for-12, .500/.571/.917 (1.488), 1-3B, 1-HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K
Pitcher of the Week
Nick Neidert (Iowa): 1 G, 1-0, 1.80 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Bailey Horn (Tennessee): 2 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.27 WHIP, 3.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K
Kohl Franklin (South Bend): 1 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 4.0 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 7 K
Cade Horton (Myrtle Beach): 1 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
Feel free to ask questions and discuss the Cubs’ minor league affiliates and prospects in the COMMENTS below.
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