Alexander Canario – Picture by Micah Manuel/Tennessee Smokies
It was a good month to be Justin Stone, the Cubs’ Director of Hitting, as whatever he has having his coaches and roving coordinators working on with the players is having terrific results! Guys just seem to raking with no end in sight and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do in the dog days of August as those pitchers start to wear down.
As for Craig Breslow, the Director Pitching, the work the Cubs have been doing on the mound is going really well with the bullpen at all levels and for starting pitchers at the lower levels of the minors. Things could improve at the higher levels for starting pitchers but that’ll come in time. Be very patient as starters move up to Double-A and Triple-A.
This month’s All-Star team has a few new names on it along with a lot of returning regulars. A couple names I was really happy to see get back on the list were Bryce Windham at Tennessee as well as Pablo Aliendo at South Bend. And it was awesome that Jacob Wetzel made his very first All-Star team in July at Myrtle Beach as he did some serious damage in the month.
Let’s get right to the awards
Hitter of the Month
In addition to becoming a father at the end of the month, Mr. Alexander Canario just destroyed the baseball in Tennessee. But behind that destruction he showed a much more advanced approach as he walked 19 times on the month. His strikeout rate dropped precipitously and he continued to mash home runs to the tune of a slash line of .354/.500/.800/1.300 with a WRC plus of 230 for the month. Just amazing! He also hit 7 HRs and drove in 16. And he missed the last week with the birth of a daughter.
Starting Pitcher of the Month
There were several good choices this month to choose from but Luis Devers is this month’s winner. It’s the second time he’s won and he shifted gears from Myrtle Beach to South Bend. Originally, he piggybacked off of Jordan Wicks and then he went on his own and was just dazzling every time out. For the month, he made five appearances with a 0.42 ERA. He also struck out 15 in 21.2 innings.
Reliever of the Month
This award came down to this last weekend. I thought Jeremiah Estrada had it in the bag and then I thought Michael McAvene had a lock on it until the ninth inning yesterday. Still, Michael and Jeremiah had tremendous months as runners up.
The award goes to Hunter Bigge who had his best month at South Bend. He had an ERA of 0.73 in 12.1 IP with 16 Ks. What sealed the deal for him was that hitters could only manage a batting average against of .100 versus him. Good for Hunter as he works hard every day and I am glad it all came together for him this month.
Team of the Month
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans did not get a lot of home cooking in July. They spent the last two weeks on the road and finished the month at 14-10. They also lost 4/5 of their rotation to South Bend and yet it does not seem to faze Buddy Bailey and the Birds.
As for the rest of the All-Star team, let’s break it down by categories.
Iowa – Matt Mervis, Jackson Frazier, Jordan Hicks, Levi Jordan, Narciso Crook, and Darius Hill
Tennessee – Alexander Canario, Jake Slaughter, Chase Strumpf, Bryce Windham, Yonathan Perlaza, Bryce Ball, Luis Vazquez, Jake Washer, and Bradlee Beesley
South Bend – Yohendrick Pinango, Owen Caissie, BJ Murray, Pablo Aliendo
Myrtle Beach – Juan Mora, Ezequiel Pagan, Jacob Wetzel, Alejandro Rivero, and Kevin Alcantara
It’s a lot of fun seeing a lot of names on this list. The one thing that just floors me is how many guys at Tennessee made this month’s squad. If Andy Webber and Miguel Amaya had played more than just a handful of games, they could’ve had 12 guys on this list. FYI – Jake Washer made the list for Tennessee but his damage was done at South Bend.
For Rivero, this is a cool moment! I know he just turned 25, but there is a lot of context to why he is such a cool story despite his age. He is from Cuba. He left without a deal to play baseball. He came to the US, wound up playing at a NAIA school in Miami, and didn’t get drafted or signed after college. He picked himself up, worked hard to improve, played independent ball, got a chance in the Pioneer League last year and just dominated. The Cubs then signed him last fall. And now he is an All-Star this month. If you want to make fun of his age for that, I feel sad for you, very sad. Because Rivero doing well is a great, great story.
Iowa – Matt Dermody, Sean Newcomb
South Bend – Porter Hodge, Luis Devers, Tyler Schlaffer
Myrtle Beach – Tyler Santana, Luke Little
The dominance is not there like I thought it would be, especially in Iowa and Tennessee. Still, what is most encouraging to me is that half the guys here are 21 and under.
Iowa – Dakota Mekkes, Brendon Little, Wyatt Short, Michael Rucker
Tennessee – Jeremiah Estrada, CD Pelham
South Bend – Michael McAvene, Hunter Bigge, Eduarniel Nunez, Zac Leigh, Riley Martin
Myrtle Beach – Chase Watkins, Gregori Montano
The Cubs relief depth is just crazy. They have so many guys that throw 95+ it is ridiculous. I remember in 2012, I don’t know if we had more than one or two in the entire system who threw above 97 miles an hour. Now most of South Bend’s bullpen is sitting in the mid to upper 90s. In addition, it’s good seeing Dakota Mekkes finish strong even if he only pitched in just 5 games.
Names to watch next month who finished strong this month – Miguel Amaya who just started back up and Andy Weber who looks to be healthy again. I also think this Cam Sanders moving to bullpen thing is going to be a lot of fun to watch play out!