Yesterday, I started going over some of the biggest surprises so far. I also talked about how surprises are different from breakouts because there hasn’t been sustained success over a couple of months. I lalso checked out the surprises at South Bend and Myrtle Beach yesterday and today’s thoughts will be about Iowa and Tennessee.
One thing to remember about any of these players that are off to a great start is they can technically move up to Chicago at any time. It hasn’t been done in a while, but the talent level of Tennessee is usually better than that at Iowa. But in Iowa the players are facing guys who have had some major league experience, and that, in and of itself, might be worth seeing how guys look against more seasoned players
To be quite frank, there’s probably only one player on Tennessee who, before this season began, the Cubs would bypass Iowa so he could start his professional career in Chicago and that was Pete Crow-Armstrong. I thought that he could do well to start the year at Tennessee and hit somewhere around to .280-.290. I didn’t see him coming out and spreading the ball all over the ball park while hitting in the .330s. A .050 point batting average range is quite substantial and there’s no doubt that he’s defensively ready now for Chicago. I just don’t see the Cubs pulling the trigger on him until much later this year, especially if he gets promoted to Iowa midseason.
As a team, I am a little surprised that the Smokies offense has not been hitting as well as it should. It’s clear this team has the most talent of any affiliate in the organization, but they are just not getting off to a great start other than a few players.
I’m also surprised at the ease at which Owen Caissie has also acclimated to Double-A. Last week’s little power output was a surprise to some but not me. I just hope that those aren’t the only home runs he hits for a while. I need to see a little more consistency in his power production.
I thought Ben Brown would do weel at Tennessee but it’s been surprising to see him just utterly dominate. I thought heading in to his first full off-season in the Cubs throwing program would really benefit him this spring, and it looks like it has beyond what I thought possible with his 0.60 ERA. I always thought if that he should use his lower half more rather than be a top-heavy guy whose shoulder carries most of the load.
I also have to give props to Hunter Biggie who looks to be reborn this spring. While he did dominate at Eugene in 2019, injuries slowed him in 2021 and to begin 2022. Like Kohl Franklin, Bigge looks much more reminiscent of 2019 Hunter Bigge than 2022.
As a team, I am a little stunned that the starting pitching has not been better than it has been for the I-Cubs. Hopefully in May, they will pitch much better.
It’s also been surprising to see Christopher Morel just basically dominate the league. As a big fan of him, I was OK with him coming down to get ABs every day. But this seems to be like a broken record the past two weeks as I didn’t see him hitting close to 400 and cranking out home runs left and right . I’ve always loved his swing and his athleticism in the field, but we are starting to see a much better hitter in Iowa than the one we’ve seen in Chicago. Hopefully, that’s what the Cubs want and he would be a boost of energy and enthusiasm in the Chicago clubhouse when he gets called up. It’s not a question of if.
Sadly, I think we all were caught off guard when Ben Leeper went down with Tommy John surgery. That has opened the door for Cam Sanders to get more work in at the end of games, especially since Jeremiah Estrada is now in Chicago.