I am not quite sure what to make of this week in both rookie leagues. The Dominican Summer League did not take a big break this week and they kept playing while the Arizona Complex League was off Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of weeks in Arizona as we start to see more and more debuts from draft picks. The draft picks are posting pictures of themselves signing their contracts and just being in Arizona. So they are coming.

Down in the Dominican

One of the hottest hitters in the Dominican this month has been Alexis Hernandez. It seems that every day he’s now going 2-for-4 or 2-for-5. But it’s a nice stretch for him after he got off to such a poor start in June barely hitting .100. Now, in just July, he’s hit .344 with a 138 wRC+ and an OPS of over 900.

Jefferson Rojas is back at it after a little slump and Adan Sanchez just keeps hitting every day. He is the model of consistency and he’s also been playing third base a little bit more. 1B Jose Herrera seems to be improving every week after getting plunked in the head and missing some time. He leads all DSL players with 4 HRs in about half the games.

Starting pitchers Kevin Valdez, Gabriel Agrazal, and Diego Duarte seem to be holding their own as starters. Valdez has been impressive as of late as he has 34 Ks in 23.2 while Agrazal has a 1.09 ERA and Duarte just recently moved to starting.

 I still have concerns about the pitching. We’re starting to see some guys get into the fourth inning now which we didn’t see before this past week very much. The hardest thing for most pitchers in the Dominican to deal with is their lack of experience in game action. It’s a totally different emotional experience playing in a game rather than in a showcase or work out setting. Being able to ramp it up in the bullpen is a lot different than being able to do it with men on base and your teammates depending on you. They’ll get better when time, the question is just how much time?

At the end of the DSL season, I will have a post called “Heading North” that looks at who could earn a trip stateside for either instructs his fall or to come to Mesa to play in spring training and the ACL next year. Is it going to be a few guys, but not as many as in recent years.

Down in the Heat of Arizona

Our own Greg Zumach happened to be in Arizona for a conference this week and he got to go to a game on Saturday morning in Mesa and I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of that and also hearing what Greg has to say on a few prospects.

The story of the summer continues to be the top three hitters in the lineup. Pedro Ramirez replaced Cristian Hernandez at the top of the lineup. Hernandez then moved into the number two spot while Moises Ballesteros is firmly implanted in the three spot. Ballesteros continues to rake and leads the ACL in home runs with seven.

As well, Rafael Morel looks like he is having his best season yet. He will be at Myrtle Beach next spring along with the other three listed above. Reivaj Garcia also is hitting very well and will hopefully get a long awaited spot at class A in the spring. It seems like he’s been around forever, but he’s still only 20. OF Ismael Mena looks to be in a groove at almost .300 and fellow OF Christian More could see Myrtle Beach next month along with the aforementioned players.

As for the pitching, there are some bullpen arms coming together, Tomy (only 1 M) Sanchez, Rony Baez, and Jose Romero all have ERAs under three now. As well, pitcher Ben Hecht has been getting his rehab work. He still might need a few more games before heads back to Tennessee. Koen Moreno is pitching every week but his command is off but he’s been able to pitch out of jams so far. Almost all of these guys just need experience and time.

In addition, Wilson Cunningham had this cool story about him in the Tribune (subscription required).

While the pitching has been a disappointment in Mesa, last week’s draft clearly showed how much confidence the system the organization has in this group of hitters. The Cubs only went out and got four position players in the draft in McGeary, Gariola, Paciolla, and Collier. It could be five if you count Nazier Mule who could DH and pitch. 

Once the draft picks are all signed, the arms will begin pitching an inning or maybe two. That might change the fortunes of the team although it’s a little too late to get into the playoffs. But it gives us a little glimpse of what we might expect at Myrtle Beach next spring. It’s still a little early to get the crystal ball out.

Drafting high school players is not something the Cubs did a lot of under Jason McLeod, but Kantrovitz seems just fine with it. And with the preponderance of prep picks, it will not be uncommon for a player to spend two years in Mesa. I wouldn’t be surprised to see half to two-thirds of the Mesa pitching staff return next summer unless they take a giant leap forward this off-season and next spring. They could even spend extended spring training trying to prove themselves to get a promotion to Myrtle Beach before rookie league begins. Then that’s kind of going to be the new normal with no short season team.

Next week, I will have the July All-Star team and there are going to be some new names when it comes to hitting, especially in the Dominican and we might have a few surprise pitchers in there as well.