Picture by Iowa Cubs
Let’s get right to the awards today.
Hitter of the Week – Jake Slaughter
Jake is knocking on the door of Chicago right now. The changes he made in extended spring training last year are for real. There’s no more of a wait and see what happens over time. Just stop and appreciate the fact that the best thing that ever happened to him was being left behind in Arizona in the spring of 2022.
I loved Jake when he was at Eugene in the summer of 2019 and he later joined South Bend for their championship run. He could definitely hit. That much was true. He could also play some third, some first, and DH that year. But in 2021, that Jake Slaughter disappeared. All the tools to do well were still there, but the results were not. He hit .252 with just 3 homers. He would often talk with his teammates that he should be in Tennessee despite going 1-for-19 to start the year there.
When he was left behind in spring training, Arizona Phil of The Cub Reporter deftly described the realization and changes Jake needed to make and, to his own credit, he did make them and he did buy in.
So Slaughter was at EXST with several other older position players (Byrd, Sepulveda, Garcia, Huma, Warkentin, Rivero, et al) who also were left behind, and Slaughter in particular really took full advantage of the opportunity to work with Cubs minor league hitting coordinator Tom Byers, minor league infield coordinator Ryan Serena, and minor league baserunning coordinator Doug Dascenzo on improving various areas of his game.https://www.thecubreporter.com/comment/272680#comment-272680
Slaughter’s exit velocity increased, he changed his launch angle to elevate balls more, he improved his base-stealing technique, and his defense (especially at 3B) improved as well. He essentially re-invented himself. Maybe it’s because he saw his future as a professional baseball player at stake. I don’t know. But he is a different player today than he was three months ago.
After a brief debut 3 week stay with South Bend in May and early June, Slaughter went to Tennessee and just demolished Double-A hitting .293 with a .923 OPS to go along with 20 dingers and 28 SBs while driving in 68 in 86 games by the end of the year.
Now that 2023 is here, I proclaim the changes to be permanent, but we already knew that. If I was to do a Top 10 Cubs prospect list, Jake would likely be in it today. Yep, you read that right. Hard to believe myself.
This year at Iowa, he’s hitting .304 with a 1.007 OPS and he’s got 6 dingers with 29 RBI in only 21 games. We should be talking about Jake in the same circles as Christopher Morel about heading to Chicago.
Just this past week, he went on a tear as he cranked 4 homers to go along with 10 RBI while hitting 286 with an OPS of 1.280.
Starting Pitcher of the Week – Jackson Ferris
I knew he was close to being ready in Arizona. And in certain electronic spaces I would espouse my point of view based on some double top secret intel I had and I would be ridiculed by my friends. Well, I got the last laugh this because Jackson Ferris is something special and I called him coming up.
Ferris will be all of 19-years-old all season long. He does not turn 20 until next January. Let that sink in.
This week, he debuted at Myrtle Beach as a Cub. 3 Innings. 0 runs. 0 hits. 7 Ks. It was magnificent!
It’s one start, but it is so hopeful. Still, patience is needed, Padawans. Patience.
Reliever of the Week – Nick Burdi – Iowa Cubs
He is looking close to being ready. Still a little inconsistent, but the stuff is there. This week – 2 IP, 6 Ks. 0 runs. That’ll do.
Affiliate of the Week – Tennessee Smokies
Yup, the first place Smokies (that felt good to type) are starting to live up to their hype as skipper Michael Ryan had them firing on all cylinders. Pablo Aliendo is becoming a star before our eyes while Jordan Wicks is starting to push in the direction of Iowa. They manhandled Rocket City this week going 4-2.
Movement – Big Names in New Places Next Week
DJ Herz is back in a Smokies uniform this week. He was stretched out to four innings last week in Mesa and that should put him right where he needs to be. He put a pic of himself on his Instagram leaving Arizona and then Greg Huss got a screenshot of him during the Smokies game in the dugout Saturday. Cade Horton was seen walking around with fellow Oklahoman Kohl Franklin Saturday night in South Bend. In addition, Luke Little is in Tennessee. Luke is the only “official” transaction so far. He threw 2 innings yesterday and struck out 6.
Those moves should all be announced tomorrow, if not today, since they are the worst kept secrets known to man.
Getting the Camera Ready for Appleton and Beloit
I was originally going to go up to Appleton this coming weekend to catch a couple of day games. I was only going to drive up one day, depending on who would be pitching. Those plans have now changed as I might stay overnight in Appleton on Saturday and then catch the day game again on Sunday as well. If Cade Horton pitches on Tuesday, he will be pitching again on Sunday and I will be there to take lots of pics!
The week after, South Bend will be in Beloit for six days. It is just 30-35 minutes from my front door to their front door. I will be in the dugout to start all those games. Then I move around the stadium to get different looks.
Cards of the Week
By Affiliate This Week
Iowa 2-4 – The offensive juggernaut of last week is completely gone. This week, the Cubs struggled to put runs on the board. Caleb Kilian pitched well but that lack of offensive production was too much.
South Bend 2-4 – The Cubs also struggled offensively as McGeary’s absence left a big hole in the lineup. Still, Kohl Franklin and Richard Gallardo along with Brandon Birdsell pitched very well.
Myrtle Beach 2-4 – The Pelicans offense will show bright spots from time to time but they do lack consistency. That will come in time. The starting rotation with Horton and Ferris looked very good. Even Nick Hull looked good on Saturday.