Juan Paniagua was on the trainer’s table in Clinton was he was informed he had been named Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Month for June. A few minutes later, his teammates were congratulating the right-hander with a loud applause in the clubhouse—a common sight for Kane County as it was the third straight month a Cougar has been honored.
The 24-year-old Dominican appeared in four games for Kane County in June, going 3-0 with a 0.89 ERA, allowing just two earned runs in 20.1 IP. He averaged 11.5 K/9 and only issued five free passes. The right-hander held opponents to a .194 BAA and tossed back-to-back six innings of shutout ball against Cedar Rapids and Peoria.
Armed with a 95+ fastball along with a change-up and slider, Paniagua entered the season with only 76.1 innings of pro ball experience and last season was hampered by visa problems. And when he finally did make it stateside last summer, he had command issues, walking 24 in 21.2 innings between Kane County and Boise.
Under the tutelage of pitching coach David Rosario, Paniagua (5-3, 2.97 ERA, 69.2 IP) has shown why the Cubs spent $1.5 million on the free-agent in 2012. He’s made 12 starts for Kane County (15 games) and shown great improvement with command and tempo as the season’s progressed. Paniagua has surrendered three or fewer runs in each of his 12 starts and held left-handed batters to a .208 average and a .287 slugging percentage. The MWL is hitting .227 against him.
Kris Bryant was named the Cubs Player of the Month for June, not a surprise to anyone.
Bryant, 22, combined to hit .354 (34-for-96) with 24 runs, eight doubles, 11 home runs and 27 RBI in 26 games between Double-A Tennessee and Iowa. He walked 17 times to contribute to a .447 on-base percentage, and delivered a .781 slugging percentage to produce a 1.228 OPS. He twice homered in three-straight games, June 7-9 with Tennessee and June 22-24 with Iowa, including a multi-homer effort, June 22 against Albuquerque.
Bryant's 11 home runs in June led all of minor league baseball while his 19 extra-base hits tied for second and 27 RBI tied for third. Bryant's .781 slugging mark and 1.228 OPS were third among all full-season minor league players. He began June with a .373 average (19-for-51) in 14 games for Tennessee prior to winning the Double-A home run derby and participating in the Southern League's All-Star Game. He was then promoted to the Triple-A level for the first time in his career and homered in his first game with Iowa, June 19 against El Paso.
The second overall pick of the 2013 draft out of the University of San Diego, Bryant is hitting .355 with 26 doubles, 29 home runs and 78 RBI in 86 games between Tennessee and Iowa this season. His 80 RBI and 56 extra-base hits lead all minor league players while his 30 home runs are tied for first. This is his second-straight Cubs minor league monthly honor.
The awards keep piling up for the Kane County pitching staff as Duane Underwood was named the Midwest League’s pitcher of the week. The second-round pick in 2012 made one start to earn the honor, blanking Clinton for six innings on July 5. He fanned six, allowed three hits and didn’t walk anyone. The 19-year-old is 3-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 12 starts in his first full season and has already set a career-high with 56.2 innings. It was the fourth straight week a Kane County player has been honored by the MWL.