It’s been a busy week going back-and-forth between Beloit and teaching. I was so far behind on writing posts, I was just trying to stay ahead with uploading pictures of the action I saw this week. But Saturday’s day game in Beloit allowed me to get some things in order quickly Saturday night and again tonight..

So when I sat down to do The Breakdown, I already knew what I wanted to talk about – What surprises there were at each affiliate this year? Some of them are good surprises and some of them are not. I divided them up into hitting surprises and pitching surprises.

Let’s take a look.

Hitting Surprises

Iowa – This is easily the performance of Brennen Davis. I thought he would be hitting somewhere around .260 to .280 and cranking out some dingers here and there and that he would be fully healthy after missing his second season in four. Davis has not adjusted to AAA fully. He still has plenty of time to put it together as there is really no need for him in Chicago right now. He can take his time, work on his approach, which he has lowered his strike rate, and increased his walk rate. Let’s hope that when it turns over to June, that things will begin to click for him.

Tennessee – The power of Pablo Aliendo has been a complete surprise in the fact that he’s hit several home runs already. I knew that he had sneaky power. I’ve seen him hit home runs in BP all the time when he was in South Bend Now, it has carried over into game action.

South Bend – James Triantos has been a complete surprise. He struggled at times last year at Myrtle Beach. But when I watched him over the past 10 days, I am a firm believer that he has one of the best eyes in the system when it comes to [itch recognition. As for curves, he’s one of the few at this level who can pick them out and do something with them easily. . His awareness of what pitch is being thrown to him is pretty high for a 20-year-old. 

Myrtle Beach – I’m surprised by the whole lineup, actually. I didn’t think that they would be doing this well after many of them struggled last year in Arizona. It’s good to see players like Reivaj Garcia, Cristian Hernandez, and even 2022 17th round pick Andy Garriola do fairly well at the plate. But the star so far has been Felix Stevens who has hit for average and power.

Pitching Surprises

Iowa – The fact that Bailey Horn did not start here at Iowa in the beginning of the year was the biggest surprise. He really started coming on strong since fully committing to a relief role at the beginning of 2022. We could be hearing his name at some point this summer heading to Chicago.

Tennessee – My surprise is that Jordan Wicks is still in Tennessee this morning. I would hope that he would get the call to Iowa at some point in the next week or two. I’ll take tomorrow if that’s OK with the Cubs. But he really needs to be in Iowa to challenge him some more.

South Bend – Seeing how good Manny Espinoza has become was really eye-opening Saturday. I remember him as a guy that used to throw 89 to 91 and he sat 94 to 95 all day on Saturday. The change up that we saw last year was working to perfection and he’s added a slider that really tied up lefties. I’m really digging what he’s bringing.

Myrtle Beach – To be honest, I thought that Jackson Ferris would be up in Myrtle Beach about a month from now. Not two weeks ago. To see him get this kind of push this early is going to be monumental for his development. Just to remind you, the Cubs are not going to rush him. They’re going to take their time with him and stretch out that arm throughout the first half of the year. I would not be surprised to see him go into the fourth inning until June and then fifth in July. That’s a pretty solid pace to stretch out an arm at the professional level..

Players of the Week

I’m going to keep this simple, nobody was better than Manny Espinoza of South Bend this week. He threw 4 scoreless and hitless innings. He struck out 9 batters and just dominated the top team in the MidwestLeague.

BJ Murray’s has been a model of consistency at the plate all year. Even when he wasn’t hitting, he was still taking his walks. But everything has clicked for him this month, and he’s just probably the most improved player in the organization this summer. HIs 28 game on-base streak ended yesterday. He went .400 with a .444 OBP. Sadly, his on-base streak ended yesterday at 28.

Sheldon Reed was a stud for South Bend this week. I did not get to see him pitch as I usually leave after the 6th or seventh inning because I have to teach. This week, he went 3.2 IP and struck out 5. In addition, for May, his ERA is 1.00 and he has only given up two hits all month.

Affiliate of the Week goes to South Bend (22-17) who went into first base Beloit sitting 2 and 1/2 games back of the Sky Carp. The Cubs went 4-2 on the week and are now just a half a game back and they head back home to Four Winds Field.

The Playoff Hunt

Iowa 25-17 – The I-Cubs are 1.5 games up on Memphis right now. It’s going to be a long summer watching the scoreboard.

Tennessee 21-18 – The Smokies hold a scant one game lead over Rocket City with a month to go.

Myrtle Beach 19-20 – The Birds are 4 back of Augusta and will have to leapfrog 3 teams to get to first. Still, lots of time to get that done.

I will be back tomorrow with a look at what will hopefully be the day that Jordan Wicks moves to Iowa,