Jake Slaughter – Picture by Todd Johnson

Between going to Davenport and Beloit this month, the monthly All-Star team kind of crept up on me. I was very South Bend-centric for half the month and I really had to go back to check out what other players were doing. 

Hitter of the Month

From my point of view, there were several surprises this month and none being bigger than the Hitter of the Month Jake Slaughter. When he first came up with Eugene in South Bend in 2019, I thought he could hit pretty well. And then in 2021, things didn’t go very well at all as he hit just .242. When he was left behind in extended spring training to start 2022, I was not surprised. In early May, he showed up in South Bend and I saw him for a little bit before he was shipped off to Tennessee. It looked like he was seeing the ball a little better, but he did not have the home run pop he would have in June at Tennessee. He hit 9 HRs this month and drove in 22. He also stole 9 bases while hitting .344. I am happy that he’s doing so well and I hope that it continues and that his performance is not a flash in the pan and that he’s made substantive changes to his swing plane that he’ll continue to follow.

Starting Pitcher of the Month

Javier Assad won the Pitcher of the Month and it wasn’t really that close as he has the lowest ERA by almost a run at 1.78. He’s been able to pinpoint his fastball and his curve has really taken the Southern League by storm as he threw 25.1 innings last month with 26 strikeouts.

Reliever of the Month

I started compiling this list somewhere around a week ago. The relievers are always the last ones to go on the list because of the frequency with which the pitch. I wasn’t quite sure a week ago who was going to be the Reliever of the Month and it really came down to yesterday. I whittled the list down to four which were Danis Correa, Erich Uelmen, Blake Whitney, and Alfredo Zarraga. All were worthy candidates. Zarraga took the award with a 1.04 ERA this month but what sealed the deal for him was that he struck out over 2 batters per inning, 2.16 to be exact. Wow!

Team of the Month

As the only affiliate to put themselves in the playoffs, Myrtle Beach takes the cake with their pennant chase performance!

Hitter All-Stars

Iowa – Darius Hill, Narciso Crook, Greg Deichmann, Maldonado, John Hicks, Jared Young
Tennessee – Jake Slaughter, Yonathan Perlaza, Matt Mervis, Cole Roederer, Chase Strumpf, Alexander Canario
South Bend – Yeison Santana, Yohendrick Pinango, Owen Caissie, Fabian Pertuz, Luis Verdugo, Caleb Knight 
Myrtle Beach – Ezequiel Pagan, Kevin Alcantara, Felix Stevens, Josue Huma

The hitters have taken a giant leap forward the past two months after a rough start in April. We are seeing great performances across the system and we’re starting to see some familiar names from month to month. It was good to see Pertuz and Verdugo return to the All-Star team this month. I have both had excellent months for South Bend and it’s nice to see Nelson Maldonado make the list as well as Cole Roederer and Caleb Knight.

Starting Pitcher All-Stars

Tennessee – Javier Assad 
South Bend – DJ Herz, Joe Nahas, Daniel Palencia
Myrtle Beach – Porter Hodge, Luis Devers, Tyler Santana

June was a rough month for starting pitchers. Even though a few guys made this month’s list, next month should be better. Herz was fantastic this month in the second half as he struck out 37 in 18 IP and it’s cool to see Joe Nahas and Tyler Santana get put in this category. For a while, the two of them were in their own separate category because of the versatile roles they have done this month bouncing back-and-forth between the bullpen and the rotation. It looks like they’re in the rotation to stay for the most part. Palencia had a great run in the second half of the month as he struck out 28 in 22.1 innings. It was also nice to see Porter Hodge make his second squad of the year as he had a 3.10 ERA with 28 Ks in 20.1 IP.

I saw lots of improvement from Jordan Wicks in the second half of the month. He could be on this list at the beginning of August as well as Kohl Franklin who is much improved in his last three starts. 

Reliever All-Stars

Iowa – Erich Uelmen, Blake Whitney, Wyatt Short
Tennessee – Danis Correa, Nicholas Padilla, Bryan King, Samuel Reyes, Jeremiah Estrada
South Bend – Riley Martin, Adam Laskey
Myrtle Beach – Angel Hernandez, Alfredo Zarraga, Frankie Scalzo, Jose Miguel Gonzalez

The reliever position is where we seen the most turnover from affiliate-to-affiliate this year and that’s a good thing. Several of them have had to make adjustments (and some of them still are) as they move to the next level. And it’s amazing how much depth the Cubs now have in their bullpens! There should be a few more names are that will be added to the list next month for guys who are just coming back. Zac Leigh, Michael McAvene, and new reliever Max Bain are definite names to watch for next month. 

Honorable Mentions

Jordan Nwogu, Yovanny Cruz, Gabriel Jaramillo, Ryan Jensen

All of these players did well this month in a limited role. Nwogu was injured for more than half the month while Jensen came on strong in the second half when he came off the Development List. As for Cruz and Jaramillo, they just started playing a week ago and look very good at South Bend! They should move up a level in color next month!

On Sunday afternoon, I will have my rookie league All-Star squads come out in the Rookie League Recap. I will start putting that together tomorrow.