Cubs Aug. 15 Minor League Recap

Pierce Johnson extended his scoreless innings streak to 19 innings as the right-hander and three relievers blanked Huntsville. Kane County hit three round trippers including an inside-the-park homer from Trey Martin. Iowa was shutout, Tampa beat Daytona, and Boise lost. Northsiders also takes a look at some of the Cubs’ catching prospects.

Roster Moves, News, Notes

Cubs second-round pick Jake Stinnett has been promoted from Mesa to Boise after the right-hander from the University of Maryland appeared in three games in the Arizona Rookie League (0-1, 7.71 ERA, 4.2 IP, 9 H, 1.93 WHIP)......Blake Cooper, acquired from Arizona yesterday for Brett Jackson, was assigned to AA Tennessee, according to his agency..... RHP Dan Straily, acquired from the A’s in the Jeff Samardzija trade, will get the start on Saturday in New York and to make room for him on the 25-man roster, the Cubs optioned Junior Lake to AAA Iowa. I’m not going to over-analyze this move. The Cubs wanted to get Straily a start and Lake had options available. Hoyer said recently they weren’t going to take players off Iowa’s roster as they try to make the playoffs.

AAA—Las Vegas 2, Iowa 0

I-Cubs were held to four hits and fell into a first-place tie with Omaha.

At the Dish: Cf Matt Szczur (.261) had the only extra base hit with a double while C Rafael Lopez (.270) added two singles and Ryan Kalish (.225) stroked a pinch-hit single.

On the Hill: Eric Jokisch (9-9, 3.52 ERA) made his team-high 24th start as the lefty is among the leaders in the PCL in innings pitched and strikeouts. Eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December, Jokisch should be added to the 40-man roster and get a September call-up. He took the loss Friday night, allowing two runs on nine hits and two walks over six innings. He recorded six strikeouts in his 97-pitch outing. Alberto Cabrera (2 IP) and Arodys Vizcaino (1 IP) finished up for Iowa.

I-Cubs Notes: Heading into play on Friday night, the I-Cubs held a one-game lead over Omaha and a three-game advantage over Oklahoma City with 17 games remaining, including a four-game home stand with Oklahoma City to close out the season.

AA—Tennessee 2, Huntsville 0

Four Smokies pitchers blanked the Stars on five hits.

At the Dish: Smokies grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when SS Addison Russell’s dribbler back to the pitcher scored RF Pin-Chieh Chen (.212) from third as he beat the pitcher’s flip home. Russell (.291) was 0-4 with a RBI (20). Three straight singles to start the second by 3B Christian Villanueva (.236), C Charles Cutler (.310) and 2B Stephen Bruno (.274) plated the second run. Bruno and LF Lars Anderson (.344) both tripled but were stranded.

On the Hill: Pierce Johnson (5-4, 2.49 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) took the hill for his 14th AA start. Despite two stints on the DL, the 23-year-old has established himself as the Cubs top pitching prospect and should move to AAA next year with an eye on a possible call-up. He extended his scoreless streak to 19 innings, adding four more on Friday night. Johnson only allowed three hits but walked three and fanned seven, reaching his pitch count with 89—56 for strikes. Matthew Loosen (5-5, 5.64 ERA) earned the win with a one-hit, three-inning performance. He walked one, fanned one, and threw 40 pitches. Andrew McKirahan (0-2, 2.82 ERA) earned his fourth hold with a scoreless 8th and Frank Batista (4-0, 1.13 ERA) picked up his 10th save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Smokies Notes: Heading into play Friday night, the Smokies held a one-game lead over Chattanooga, two-games over Huntsville and Jackson, and Birmingham are three-games back......Ivan Pineyro (0-2, 4.30 ERA, 1.59 WHIP) will make his second start after returning from a two-month stint on the DL.

High A—Tampa 7, Daytona 2

Tampa cut the D-Cubs lead to two games with an easy win on Friday night.

At the Dish: Cubs were held to six hits, including two doubles and a RBI from 1B Daniel Vogelbach (.266). DH Billy McKinney (.320) was 2-for-4 and knocked in the D-Cubs other run. LF Kyle Schwarber (.245) doubled and 3B Wes Darvill (.263) singled and scored.

On the Hill: The development of Tyler Skulina (0-1, 7.27 ERA) continued Friday night as the 22-year-old right-hander made his third start for Daytona. After a pair of rocky outings, it didn’t get any better as he didn’t make it out of the 4th and finished with a line of 3.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K.....Stephen Perakslis fanned four in 2.1 scoreless frames and Michael Jensen gave up two runs in 1.1 innings. Yao-Lin Wang got the final two outs.

D-Cubs Notes: Rob Zastryzny (2-6, 4.84 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) makes the start Saturday in Tampa. Entering Friday night, the D-Cubs held a three-game lead over Tampa and end the season with a three-game home stand against the Yankees.

Low A—Kane County 7, Wisconsin 2

Cougars hit three homers including an inside-the-park shot from Trey Martin to beat the Rattlers.

At the Dish: Jacob Rogers (15) and Cael Brockmeyer (6) both swatted solo blasts in the second to give the Cougars a lead they didn’t relinquish. Rogers was 2-5 with two RBI. Daniel Lockhart had three hits and Trey Martin was 2-for-3 including a liner to center that got by the outfielder and allowed the speedy Martin to circle the bases. Mark Zagunis, Cubs third-round pick in June, went 1-3 with a run, two walks and a RBI in his MWL debut.

On the Hill: Give the Cubs’ minor league scouts credits, they know how to identify minor-league arms in trades, and you can add Jonathan Martinez (8-5, 3.46 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) to that list. The right-hander won for the second time in three starts with Kane County, allowing two runs on six hits over five innings. He fanned two and threw 64 pitches, 44 for strikes.....Tyler Ihrig (1-1, 2.93 ERA) earned his first MWL save, holding the Rattlers to just one hit and a walk over four innings. He fanned three and threw 50 pitches, 34 for strikes.

Cougars Notes: Daury Torrez (10-5, 2.94 ERA) gets the start Saturday night for the Cougars........Kane County ran away with the first half title and are selling playoff tickets. They have a one-game lead over Cedar Rapids (Twins) for the second half.

Short-Season—Hillsboro 5, Boise 4

The Hops held off a Boise rally in the ninth to win the deciding game of the series.

At the Dish: 1B Danny Canela (.300) gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead in the first with a RBI single, scoring CF Rashad Crawford (.272). C Justin Marra (.280) launched his 8th homer of the year for a 2-0 lead in the second. The next 14 Boise batters were set down in order and they didn’t get on the board again until the 9th when 3B Jesse Hodges (.267) delivered a two-run double. The tying run was at third when SS Bryant Flete (.311) grounded out to end the game. RF Charcer Burks (.290) and LF Kevin Brown (.271) both singled as Boise was held to five hits.

On the Hill: Dillon Maples (0-2, 11.57 ERA) made his fourth start for Boise and it was pretty much like the first three. Maples walked five and allowed three runs on three hits in 3.1 innings. The Hops also took advantage of five stolen bases and a wild pitch. Maples fanned four, including two in the first, but ran into trouble in the second and third. Alberto Diaz (0-2, 7.71 ERA) tossed 2.2 innings of relief and Tommy Thorpe (1-0, 2.77 ERA) surrendered two runs in two innings.

Hawks Notes: Erick Leal (4-2, 4.76 ERA) gets the start Saturday night as the Hawks travel to first-place Salem-Keizer for a big three-game series.....Boise is in last place in the NWL South, 4.5 games behind the Volcanoes.

Arizona Rookie League—Cubs

Had the day off. Cubs are 5-10 in the second half and eight games out of first in the Arizona League East.

Venezuelan Summer League—Cubs

The VSL season is over as the Cubs finished in fourth place in the five-team league at 28-40, 17 games behind the first-place Tigers, who beat the Phillies two games to one in the playoffs.

Dominican Summer League—Yankees II 10, Cubs 1

The Yankees handed Santiago Rodriguez his first DSL loss as they recorded 16 hits off three Cubs pitchers.

At the Dish: 3B Antonio Valerio (.263) went 2-for-4 with a double and scored the Cubs only run on a wild pitch. The only had six hits and fanned 14 times.

On the Hill: Rodriguez (8-1, 1.68 ERA) only lasted four innings as the right-hander allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk. Luiz Escanio (0-1, 5.75 ERA) gave up three runs on 3.2 frames and Dilson Vasquez (1-1, 5.75 ERA) gave up three more before he could get the final out of the 8th.

Catching Prospects—Around the Minors

AAA—Rafael Lopez—With all the talk about Cubs needing help in the minors at catcher, I think its assumed they don’t have anyone—better pay attention to Rafael Lopez. A second baseman when he arrived at Florida State, Lopez was the Cubs 16th round pick in 2011 and has quietly made his way through the minors. Invited to spring training as a non-roster player the past two years, Lopez has used that experience to improve his game, with the bat as well as developing his skills behind the plate. A two-time Southern League all-star, the 26-year-old hit .297/.412/.466 at Tennessee this year and has held his own in AAA after being promoted in early June with a slash of .263/.361/.301. With almost all of their catching prospects in the lower levels, Lopez provides the Cubs a serviceable back-up at the upper levels and Kris Bryant said Lopez was the best catcher he had ever played with, so I’m going with that endorsement.

AA—Taylor Davis—I have to admit, I didn’t think the 24-year-old would still be a roster but he’s been a pleasant surprise. Signed as a free agent in 2011, Davis only played 33 games last year as he bounced on and off the DL and between Daytona and Tennessee. After not getting much playing time the first two months, the Morehead State product has not only delivered some big pinch-hits this year but is batting .327/.373/.525 with 3 HR and 23 RBI. Davis is Rule 5 eligible and could return to the Cubs next season as he’s one of the few upper level catcher’s that would be under contract as Charlie Cutler and Luis Flores are free agents.

High A—Willson Contreras—Another catcher that’s Rule 5 eligible, the third base man switched to behind the plate two seasons ago at Boise. In 2013 at Kane County, Contreras struggled making the adjustment behind the plate with 18 errors and 19 passed balls. In 86 games, he batted .248/.320/.423 with 11 HR and 46 RBI, a good campaign for his first full season and learning a new position. The 22-year-old got off to a slow start this year hitting .159 after the first month but Contreras caught fire and by mid-July had his average up to .287. He’s struggled since, batting .225/.299/.322 in 236 at-bats with only two homers.

Low A—Cael Brockmeyer—The Cubs 16th round pick last year spent the first month on the disabled list (roster spot issues not an injury) and made the most when given the opportunity. I got a chance to interview Brockmeyer this year and was impressed with his maturity and baseball IQ. Even at 6-foot-5, the San Diego native provides a low target and has done a good job handling the Kane County staff. Despite only getting just over 200 at-bats, Brockmeyer has been very productive, hitting .307/.372/.454 with five homers and 35 RBI. With a backlog of quality catchers at the lower levels is hard to predict where Brockmeyer will end up but he’s definitely put himself in the conversation.

Short Season—Justin Marra—A 15th round pick in 2011 out of Canada, he only played in 56 games his first two pro seasons but has settled in at Boise this yaer. Batting .279/.351/.503 in 44 games, Marra leads the Hawks with 7 HR and has also knocked in 31. He’s thrown out 21% of base stealers, below the league average of 27%. Still only 21, Marra could find himself preparing this winter for a full-season at Kane County.

Rookie—Alberto Mineo—The 20-year-old has played more games this season that he did his first two years after signing as a free agent out of Italy in 2010. A career. 230 hitter, Mineo has excelled at the plate in Mesa, batting .268/.370/.384 with 20 RBI. Mineo has only caught six games, spending most of the season at first (11 games) and DH (16 G).

DSL—Yohan Matos—Signed last year as a 16-year-old for $270,000, Matos has grabbed the attention of prospect watchers with an impressive first pro season in the DSL. In 34 games behind the plate, he’s nabbed 42 percent of base stealers, and with the bat has hit .287/.378/.473 with 6 HR, 38 RBI, and 7 SB. I wouldn’t be surprised if Matos earns a trip to fall instructs and becomes familiar with Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League.

Cubs Minor League box scores Aug. 15

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