First half record: 36–33
For the Tennessee Smokies, they were blessed with the most potent offense in the Southern League in the first half. They led the league in home runs and hitting while their bullpen was one of the best in the Southern League.
Their issue however was their starting pitching after Javier Assad was uncertain from week-to-week and month-to-month.
Ryan Jensen and Riley Thompson both went on the development list for over a month. Cam Sanders was promoted. Max Bain and Chris Clarke were called up in May along with Dalton Stambaugh who also started a few games with fellow reliever Brandon Leibrandt, who is now in Iowa. Anderson Espinoza was called up to Chicago for a while. Manager Michael Ryan had to mix and match as best he could in May and June. That’s a little difficult to do right when you’re in the middle of a playoff race.
Bain would eventually go on the IL and then the Development List and it looks like he is going to be heading to the bullpen for the second half. Jensen and Riley Thompson though, still have some issues to work through despite a month on the Development List. Peyton Remy threw a no-hitter but had an ERA over 7. Anderson Espinoza, the same. It was a weird rotation that often struggled or dominated. It was, for lack of a better analogy, a Jekyll and Hyde kind of half.
While Michael Ryan may have lost sleep over the starting pitching, he was probably pretty excited to fill out that lineup card every day. From Alexander Canario to Matt Mervis to Bryce Ball to Chase Strumpf to Andy Weber to Yonathan Perlaza, they are an exciting bunch to watch hit. Add in the recently named Hitter of the Month in Jake Slaughter and there are almost no holes in this lineup. And that does not include Darius Hill, Nelson Maldonado, Nelson Velasquez, and Chris Morel who left after the first month of the year. It’s a potent mix as we’ve seen any Cubs affiliate have probably since 2015. Now, Cole Roederer has been added and we could see Yohendrick Pinango arrive in the second half. Cam Balego recently returned to aid Bryce WIndham, who has caught a lot and now Harrison Wenson just returned the other day.
As for the Second Half
Javier Assad found his way to Iowa fairly quickly in the second half. DJ Herz should arrive to take his place and slide in beside Jensen, Thompson, Chris Clarke, Anderson Espinoza and Peyton Remy.
Most of the bullpen should stay in tact. Jeremiah Estrada and Nicholas Padilla should be fun to watch this half in Tennessee. Samuel Reyes and Danis Correa might get promoted soon as they have been lights out for a while.
If Brailyn Marquez and Miguel Amaya (who is now on a rehab assignment in Mesa) return, then things start to get really interesting in the second half.
Right now, Strumpf is probably the most likely player position player to get promoted in the second half. Andy Weber might be close along with Matt Mervis. I think the Cubs are going to stick with most of them here through July.
Once the trading deadline is done and draft picks signed, we could see a lot of movement to Tennessee to Iowa and to Tennessee from South Bend. Until then, it’s going to be fun watching the Smokies’ bats do some fireworks every day.