Minor League Roundup: Cubs Shortstops . . . So Hot Right Now

Today’s roundup features a stellar performance from a Red Sox righty, more power from Cubs shortstops, under-the-radar prospects in the Pirates, Brewers and Rangers systems, a trio of teenage wunderkinds and a Midwest League shutout.

Player Home Runs
Joey Gallo 37
Kris Bryant 36
Matt Olson 32
Pete O’Brien 31

The Great Minor League Home Run Race

Joey Gallo: Did not homer this weekend. How kind of him.
Kris Bryant: Homered on Friday night.
Peter O’Brien: Did not homer this weekend. Did, however, go from Portland, Maine, to Mobile, Ala., which can’t have happened too often.
Matt Olson: Homered on Saturday and Sunday. Up to 32 this season. He and teammate Renato Nunez have combined for 59 homers this season, which is more than four Carolina League teams have hit all year.

Bigger Than The Game

A cool story has circulated this week regarding Neil Medchill, a former outfielder in the Yankees system now with Sugar Land of the independent Atlantic League. A CBS affiliate wrote last night that Medchill’s season (and possibly career) could be over soon because of a selfless act. In short, he is donating bone marrow to someone he’s never met, and the obviously arduous procedure will knock him out for the rest of the year. Read more here.

International League • AAA

Matt Barnes, rhp, Pawtucket (Red Sox): Matt Barnes will be a major leaguer, that much seems clear. What kind of big leaguer he’ll be depends on the consistency of his curveball. When it’s working, he can be dominant. When it’s not working, he’s little more than a guy with a very good fastball. On Saturday night, he definitely had his hook working, as well as everything else. Against Columbus, he tossed seven hitless innings with two walks and 10 punchouts before hitting his pitch count and yielding to the bullpen. It was the first time this season he’d fanned double-digit hitters, and just the second time this season he’d thrown a scoreless outing.

Pacific Coast League • AAA

Javier Baez (Photo by Dennis Hubbard).Javier Baez, 2b/ss, Iowa (Cubs): Baez, like Hansel, is so hot right now. At least as far as longballs are concerned. Baez, who will presumably have to fight Starlin Castro and Addison Russell to the death for a spot on the Cubs’ middle infield at some point in the near future, popped two more bombs on Sunday, and has swatted five of his 23 homers this season in the last 10 days. He’s got bat speed and he’s got power and he’s got lots of time on his side. In the second half of the season, Baez is hitting .329/.370/.685 with five doubles and seven longballs.

Eastern League • AA

Willy Garcia, rf, Altoona (Pirates): Though he snapped a 13-game hitting streak on Sunday (the nerve!), Garcia, like Baez and Hansel, is so hot right now. During the course of his hitting streak, which started on July 21, Garcia went 24-for-56 (.429) with seven doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs. He also struck out 14 times against one walk. Beyond his bat, Garcia has one of the best arms in the Eastern League (Does he have the best? Check back later this week for the results of our annual Best Tools survey), making him a very valuable weapon in the outfield.

Southern League • AA

Addison Russell (Photo by Tony Farlow).Addison Russell, ss, Tennessee (Cubs): Before he fights Javier Baez to play shortstop in Chicago, Russell has some work to do with the Smokies. He missed a good chunk of the first half with a torn hamstring (hello, second straight year in the Arizona Fall League), then was dealt from the Athletics to the Cubs on the Fourth of July as part of the package that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Bay Area. He clubbed two homers in three games this weekend has thrived overall with his new club. In 18 games with Tennessee, he’s hitting .293/.333/.566 with eight homers and 18 RBIs. Oh, and he plays pretty fantastic defense, too.

Texas League • AA

Odubel Herrera, 2b, Frisco (Rangers): Are we writing about a Frisco RoughRider not named Joey Gallo? Yes we are. Herrera, a 22-year-old utility player, collected six hits (including three doubles and a triple) over the weekend, and since June 1 leads all of Double-A with 77 hits. Herrera, who signed with Texas for $160,000 as a 16-year-old, is a plus runner from the left side and brings energy to the field. More than the intangibles, his 128 hits this season lead all Rangers minor leaguers.

Florida State League • Hi A

Tyler WagnerTyler Wagner, rhp, Brevard County (Brewers): As under the radar as it gets, Tyler Wagner has quietly dominated the competition in the Florida State League. He brings a low- to mid-90s sinker and complements the pitch with a solid changeup and slider. He gets grounders at a better than 2-to-1 ratio and hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in any start since June 9. He went five innings of two-run (one earned) ball on Saturday, and now boasts a 1.54 ERA and .215 opponent average in high Class A.

California League • Hi A

Julio Urias, lhp, Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers): Can we stop for a moment and think about just how absurd the Julio Urias story is? He’s 17 years old, has one eye nearly shut due to childhood cancer, and is blowing away the competition in the hitter-happy Cal League. Moreover, he threw a perfect inning against big leaguers in spring training this season, and was one of the pitching stars at the Futures Game. If you wrote this script and brought it to, say, Michael Bay, you’d get laughed at and spend the rest of your days waiting tables in Hollywood. He went four innings on Saturday, allowed two hits and a walk, struck out six and was up to 96 mph. He has 73 strikeouts in 63 innings this season. He is 17.

Carolina League • Hi A

Tyler Danish (Photo by Brian Westerholt)Tyler Danish, rhp, Winston-Salem (White Sox): Speaking of young guys, Danish is 19 years old and in his first full pro season and is having quite the go of it in high Class A. The sidewinding righty brings a lively fastball that tops out at 93 mph and couples it with a slider and changeup that are both swing-and-miss offerings. The changeup in particular can be deadly to lefthanders when it’s going right. He struck out eight on Sunday while allowing just two hits and and two walks. All of his Ks were swinging, and he had 13 swings and misses over the course of the evening. The strikeouts matched Danish’s high-water mark for the season, and he’s walked more than two in a start just once this year.

South Atlantic League • Lo A

Carlos Tocci, cf, Lakewood (Phillies): Of all the marvelous, amazing, incredible things that happen on a daily basis in the minor leagues, this might be the most awesome. Tocci, he of the zero career homers entering this season, hit a home run. And it was his second of the season, his first at Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Stadium. He didn’t have a triple to his name entering this year, either. He’s got eight so far with the Claws. He’s repeating low Class A Lakewood as an 18-year-old (which makes Urias, above, even more amazing), and the biggest knock against him was the need to add strength. He’s a graceful defender in the outfield, and in July hit .293/.339/.448. Perhaps he’s finally discovered pork roll and tomato pies?

Midwest League • Lo A

Edwin Diaz, rhp, Clinton (Mariners): So yeah, that happened. For the third time this season, a Midwest League pitcher spun a nine-inning shutout. The first two whitewashings came against Peoria (Harrison Cooney on May 30 and Markus Solbach on July 20). Diaz, a 20-year-old righty who brings his fastball into the mid-90s, handcuffed the Bees for nine innings, surrendering just three hits and striking out five along the way. He also threw a wild pitch and balked twice. The performance was especially surprising considering he had lasted just 1 2/3 innings in each of his previous two outings. A third-rounder from Puerto Rico in 2012, Diaz has battled control issues this season, walking nearly four batters per nine innings, but he will continue to rank among Seattle’s prospects based on his stuff alone.