Mark Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

A look at the Iowa Cubs in April

Willson Contreras, Albert Almora and Daniel Vogelbach are off to hot starts in AAA

The Cubs “veterans’ of the prospect rankings are making their push to the big leagues in Iowa. Former first-round pick Albert Almora as well as first baseman Daniel Vogelbach and catcher Willson Contreras are all off to good starts in their AAA debuts.

Battling injuries early in his career and a slow start last season, Almora excelled in the second half in Tennessee and has continued that success in April. The 22-year-old is hitting .366/.405/.549 in 19 games with three homers, 15 runs scored and two stolen bases. He’s also played a stellar centerfield and started one game in left.

Considered the top catching prospect in baseball, Willison Contreras has done nothing to hurt that image. The Venezuelan native is hitting .344/.423/.410 with eight RBI and has thrown out 5-of-15 base runners. Added to the Cubs 40-man roster during the off-season, Contreras still needs more AAA innings before getting the call to Wrigley.

Another off-season addition to the 40-man roster, Daniel Vogelbach hasn’t produced the power numbers some were expecting from the slugging first baseman the past two seasons. The 23-year-old already has a pair of homers and is hitting .354/.447/.523 with a team-high 16 RBI and five doubles.

Nobody in Iowa’s lineup has been better than Ryan Kalish, who signed as a free agent minor league deal before the start of spring training. Playing for Iowa and Chicago in 2014, Kalish is hitting .408/.516/.571 in 18 games with 14 runs.

After a brief stop to Wrigley, Munenori Kawasaki is back in Iowa and has an on-base percentage of .390 in 11 games. Kris Negron has played all over the infield and is hitting .286/.303/.429 in 18 games while 2B Arismendy Alcantara is batting .246/.310/.415 over 17 games. OF John Andreoli is off to a slow start but did have a two-homer game and is hitting .200/.333/.343.

Matt Murton (.227/.250/.273), OF Juan Perez (.214/.255/.357) and IF Logan Watkins (.188/.216/.229) are looking for a better May. Javier Baez made a brief four-game stop in Iowa for his rehab before joining the Cubs in Chicago. Baez went 4-for-15 with a homer while in town.

The I-Cubs have used 10 different starters in 20 games and their team ERA of 4.37 ranks 10th in the 16-team PCL. 

Cubs 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Ryan Williams (2-1, 5.30 ERA) is learning the AAA ropes as he started the ’15 campaign in South Bend. Pierce Johnson (0-1, 3.55 ERA) had made three starts but only logged 12.2 innings and sports a 1.74 WHIP. Drew Rucinski (0-2, 6.04 ERA) leads the staff with 22.1 innings and 24 strikeouts. Jake Buchanan (0-1, 6.10 ERA) joined the rotation at the end of the month.

Also making starts for the I-Cubs were Eric Jokisch (now a Marlin), Stephen Fife (DL), Stephen Perakslis, Scott Barnes, Michael Wagner and Tyler Ihrig.

Jean Machi (1-0, 0.79 ERA) has been impressive out of the bullpen and leads the staff with nine appearances and 11.1 innings. Spencer Patton has been the best arm with three saves and has only allowed five hits and no runs while striking out 16 in nine innings.

Felix Pena(1-0, 0.82 ERA) has become accustomed to his new role out of the bullpen and has 16 K in 11 IP. Appearing in eight games, Carl Edwards, Jr. (0-0, 3.38 ERA) still shows some command problems, issuing seven walks in eight innings. 

Others seeing action out of the bullpen include Brandon Gomes (1-1, 3.60 ERA, 10 IP, 9 K, 1.30 WHIP), Miguel Mejia (1-0, 4.32 ERA, 8.1 IP, 10 K, 1.32 WHIP), Armando Rivero (1-0, 3.24 ERA, 8.1 IP, 9 K, 1.08 WHIP), C.J. Riefenhauser(0-0, 9.0 ERA, 6 IP, 4 K, 1.50 WHIP), and Giovanni Soto (1-1, 2.08 ERA, 4.1 IP, 4 K, 1.38 WHIP).


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