Although the fortunes of the Cubs Advanced-A squad Myrtle Beach have not been very good this season, there have been some good performances. Going only 12-19 this past month, two members of the Pelicans have been notable.
Pitcher of the Month: Javier Assad, RHP
Spending time in the shadow of your countryman Jose Albertos can make a prospect go unnoticed. But with the former top prospect struggling to meet expectations, Javier Assad has emerged from the shadows.
Inked by the Cubs in the same international signing class as Albertos out of Tijuana, Mexico, Assad had been steady but unspectacular for the past three seasons. Assad put up a career 4.07 ERA and 1.414 WHIP with 203 strikeouts in 210 innings. Moving to Advance-A, Assad became the Pelican’s third starter behind high profile pitchers Alex Lange and Paul Richan.
With Myrtle Beach stumbling out of the gate this year, the 21-year old Assad reflected the team’s fortunes in the first month. Assad posted a 4.50 ERA and yielded a .300 batting average in April. But things turned around for Assad as the calendar flipped to May.
Pitching 30.2 innings in the month, Assad rode a 0.946 WHIP to a 2.05 ERA while holding the opposition to a .176 batting average. Assad also increased his average innings per start by a full inning. In addition, Assad increased his strikeout total from the previous month by fanning 26 batters. On top of all of that, Assad was making highlight reels plays like the one shown below.
Player of the Month: Carlos Sepulveda, 2B
Being out with a shoulder injury for nearly two season can get a minor league player lost among a team’s prospects. But after struggling in the first month, Carlos Sepulveda now seems to be back in the swing of things.
Another of the Cubs‘ signings out of Mexico, Sepulveda fine tuned both his swing and his batting eye in May. In the identical amount of games and at bats, Sepulveda raised his batting average by 60 points and on-base percentage by nearly one hundred.
For the month, Sepuveda slashed .295/.419/.328/.747. While Sepulveda had never been much a power hitter, he has been hitting the ball with greater authority. With his shoulder gaining in strength, Sepulveda has belted three doubles after having no extra base hits in April.
Defensively, Sepulveda has always been considered top notch in the field. The rust has not seemed dull Sepulveda. Committing only one error for the year, Sepulveda has fielded .994, showing great range and an outstanding pivot.
South Bend Update: Two Kids Out, One In
With a roster full of young players, South Bend continues to be one of the hottest teams in the Cubs‘system. The daily grind of full season baseball has not had an effect on the team, as the SB Cubs are one game out of a playoff spot.
For most teams, losing talented young OF’s Cole Roederer and Nelson Velazquez to injury would be a big blow. But South Bend was able to counter those losses with another talented player in Brennen Davis. Since joining the squad 11 games ago, Davis has hit .378 with 1.087 OPS. Davis has also cracked 4 extra base hits, including 2 home runs, over that period.
Pitching has remained a strength for South Bend. Starters Riley Thompson, Brailyn Marquez, and Cam Sanders made the All-Star team, along with reliever Jeffrey Passantino. With a WHIP of 1.143, Thompson is one of the top pitchers of the Midwest League. Passantino brings 48 strikeouts in 33.1 innings out of the pen. Sanders has a rock-solid ERA of 2.72, while Marquez leads the team with 52 strikeouts.
Tennessee Update: Waiting for Nico
A Tennessee team that was carried by a few over-aged prospects during the first month suffered a big blow when the Cubs’ top prospect, SS Nico Hoerner, went down with a hairline fracture in his hand. The Smokies offense has struggled since the loss of Hoerner and INF Robel Garcia to promotion.
One bright spot in the Tennessee line-up has been OF Roberto Caro. The speedy switch-hitter has taken over the lead-off spot, hitting .288 for the month with .420 OBP. The 25-year old is also a game-changer on the base paths. Caro’s 17 stolen bases are good for second in the league.
Pitcher Tyson Miller has remained steady, although it seems as if the league may be catching up with him a little. Miller’s ERA jumped by nearly a full run to 2.39, while his strikeout total more than doubled at 34. Reliever Craig Brooks also had a good month, posting 0.82 ERA and 21 strikeouts with 3 saves.
Iowa Update: At Least They Are Winning
The Iowa Cubs backed a winning April by going 19-13 in May. However, that may be one of the softest 19-13 records seen. No position player playing 30 games or more is hitting above .278; no one starting eight games or more has an ERA lower than 3.34; and no reliever has more than 3 saves.
Twenty-six year old INF Robel Garcia continues to rake, but even his success comes with red flags. Getting the call on May 9, the switch-hitter has a .280/.351/.560/.911 slash line with 8 homers and 17 RBI. But Garcia has also racked up 6 more errors to add to the 7 he committed as a member of the Tennessee Smokies.
The I-Cubs best pitcher was 28-year old Colin Rea. Posting a 1.93 ERA and 1.102 WHIP for the month, Rea went 4-1 with 26 strikeouts in 33.2 innings.
Born and raised on Chicago's Northwest side, Tom is entering his tenth year covering the Cubs minor league system, writing for prestigious sites such as Chicago Cubs Online, Locked On Cubs, and Cubs Den. Over that period, Tom has published interviews with top prospects such as Aramis Ademan, Miguel Amaya, Willson Contreras, Jeimer Candelario, Dylan Cease, Ian Happ, Eloy Jimenez, Cole Roederer, and Gleyber Torres.
Known as "Tom U" across the internet, Tom also has a close working relationship with the front offices of all four of the Cubs' full season minor league teams. A frequent guest of the South Bend Cubs on WSBT radio, Tom has also written monthly articles for the South Bend Cubs' stadium program.