Triple-A Pacific Coast League
Last Game: W, 2-1 (vs. Memphis)
Next Game: vs. Memphis (Sat. April 29, 1:05 p.m. CDT -- Doubleheader)
It took Jae-Kuk Ryu five tries to get his first Triple-A win, but the wait couldn't have ended at a better time. Ryu turned in his best outing of the year, going seven shutout innings and allowing just three hits to help Iowa snap an eight-game skid. He struck out five and walked two as the team won its first with Ryu on the hill.
Coupled with Jerome Williams' performance on Thursday, Ryu's strong outing was the second straight quality start in a row for an Iowa pitching staff that had previously not posted one since Rich Hill's start on April 20. Hill has four straight quality starts and leads the Pacific Coast League in strikeouts (33) and is third in ERA (1.44).
OF Felix Pie hit his fifth double in a 1-for-3 night at the plate after going 0-for-5 the previous night. In perhaps a sign of things to come, the organization's top rated prospect was in right field on Thursday as Buck Coats moved to center for the second time this season.
Speaking of Coats, the shortstop turned outfielder told us before the season that he'd spent the winter months developing a plan geared more toward offense in which to take with him into the new season, since he figured to get the move up to Triple-A.
So far, that plan has worked. Coats has hit safely in eight of his last nine games and 12 of the past 14 overall for a .338 average in 18 games thus far.
"A lot of thought process goes into your game the higher up you go," Coats said. "You see more off-speed pitches and pitchers who spot the ball better. I went into the season with a plan for what I wanted to accomplish and that's what I've been doing."
Part of that plan was to be more selective with pitches, which Cub coaches and instructors equally stressed to him in big league camp this spring, Coats said.
West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx
Double-A Southern League
Last Result: W, 3-2 (vs. Jacksonville)
Next Game: vs. Jacksonville (Sat. April 29, 7:05 p.m. CDT)
OF Nic Jackson made it 15 straight games with a hit dating back to April 11 at Daytona. Nine of his 22 hits this year have gone for extra bases and he's hit left-handers particularly well to the tune of .400 (6-for-15). Between Daytona and West Tenn, he's hit .293 overall.
Shortstop Carlos Rojas, often regarded as the best defensive infielder in the Cubs' system, has hits in five of his last six games but is still below the Mendoza Line at .197 for the year. He has four errors for a .942 fielding percentage.
On the bump, Carlos Marmol got his second win thanks to a seven-inning, five-hit performance that saw him yield one run. He has allowed one run or less in four of his five starts for a 2.63 ERA and .213 average against.
Class-A Florida State League
Last Result: L, 3-2 (at Palm Beach)
Next Game: at Jupiter (Sat. April 29, 5:05 p.m. CDT)
OF Ryan Harvey's month-long slump to open the year grew wider as he was hitless in five at-bats to lower his average to .179. He is hitless in his last 18 at-bats overall and has fanned 24 times in 78 AB's while totaling five homers and a double.
CF Sam Fuld has hit safely in eight of his last nine games and has a .365 on-base percentage to compliment his .291 average. He was caught stealing for the second time this season after swiping six bags in his first seven tries.
RHP Justin Berg is still winless after five starts, but turned in a much more promising effort in five innings Friday. He surrendered a run on three hits after yielding 10 in his previous two starts. The former Yankees prospect brought over in the Matt Lawton trade to New York last summer has walked 11 and thrown seven wild pitches, tied for the most in the Florida State League with Jupiter's Jacob Marceaux.
From the bullpen, RHP Jon Hunton continues to impress. Hunton, who says he shed 26 pounds in the off-season from his bulky 6'9" frame, hasn't allowed a run in any of his last six outings and has 12 strikeouts to only one walk for a 1.46 ERA in nine appearances.
"He's very confident right now," Cubs Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita said of Hunton, an 11th round pick in 2004. "He's continuing into his tall frame."
Class-A Midwest League
Last Result: W, 8-6 (vs. Dayton)
Next Game: vs. Southwest Michigan (Sat. April 29, 6:30 p.m. CDT)
Peoria moved into a three-way tie for first place with Beloit and Kane County. They did so behind Brandon Taylor, who finished 2-for-4 with the go-ahead home run, his second of the year. Taylor has three multi-hit games in his last five starts and is batting .260. First baseman Ryan Norwood made it seven straight games with a hit and eight of his last nine overall. He is batting .333 in 21 games.
RHP Todd Blackford has given up 13 earned runs in his last two starts, including four in five innings on Friday to elevate his ERA to 5.84 in five outings. From the bullpen, RHP Matt Avery tossed his fifth straight scoreless outing to lower his ERA to 1.38.
Steve Holley is the publisher of Inside The Ivy. In addition to his work for Scout.com, he also covers Nicholls State University athletics for the Tri-Parish Times in southeast Louisiana. E-mail Steve at email@example.com.