Chock-full of young and inexperienced players, the South Bend Cubs went 14-11 in June. That was good enough to be the best winning percentage in the Cubs’ minor league system.
The month of June saw the start of the season for all of the Cubs affiliates. With that, Cubs fans will get a glimpse not only at the recent draft picks, but also at the distant future.
Player of the Month: Tyler Durna
Since the 2012 draft, the Cubs current front office had not selected a player who was primarily a first baseman. Until the 15th round in 2018, when they selected Tyler Durna from UC-San Diego.
After signing on, Durna got off to a good start in his professional career. The left-handed hitter went .272/.337/.391/.728 with 4 doubles, 2 triples, a home run and 15 RBI in 27 games with both the AZL Cubs and Short Season-A Eugene.
Coming into this season, the Cubs planned to have many of their 2018 draftees skip a level and go straight to Advanced-A Myrtle Beach. There was a lot of speculation that the 22-year old would be part of that group. However, Durna was left behind with Low-A South Bend.
Instead of sulking, Durna decided to rake at the plate. Batting .293 with 13 RBI in the first month of the season, Durna looked like a candidate for early promotion. But Durna leveled off with only a .253 May, although he still drove in 15 runs.
As the calendar turned to June, Durna stepped on the gas. Posting a .372/.465/.535/1.000 line, Durna also added 3 homers along with 3 doubles, a triple, and another 14 RBI. Defensively, Durna can really pick it at first base. With only 5 errors in 813 professional chances, Durna provides a great security blanket for young infielders that may be eager to impress.
On top of all of that, Durna was promoted to Myrtle Beach on July 2.
Pitcher of the Month: Jack Patterson
As unlikely as Tyler Durna being player of the month, a pitcher like Jack Patterson being pitcher of the month is almost unheard of.
It is no secret that the Cubs as an organization has had difficulty in developing pitching. The situation is even more so with left-handed pitching.
Selected in the 32nd round of the 2018 draft, Patterson came to the Cubs from tiny Bryant University in Smithfield, RI. Patterson was nondescript in his Cubs debut, with a 2.83 ERA and 1.286 WHIP in 11 appearances, most of which were in the Arizona rookie league. Patterson did have 33 strikeouts in 35 innings against mostly teen-aged talent.
Held back in extended spring training, Patterson did not make his 2019 debut until late April. With South Bend there was an adjustment period, as Patterson put up numbers similar to the previous year in May. While the 23-year old had 23 strikeouts in 20 innings, he also had a 3.60 ERA and 1.150 WHIP.
But June was a different story, as Patterson was practically unhittable. In 19 innings, Patterson held the opposition to a .164 batting average. Patterson also posted a 0.95 ERA, a 1.053 WHIP, and had 22 strikeouts as he went a perfect 3-0. Like his teammate Tyler Durna, Patterson was promoted to the Pelicans on July 1.
DSL Update: Stars on the Horizon
Fans typically ignore the distant Dominican Summer League, but ignore at your own peril. You may be the first of your fan base to say “Where did they get that guy, he’s awesome!”
The Cubs have two teams in the DSL, and they posted opposing records of 8-16 and 16-8. Currently, the hitters are ahead of the pitchers as 17-year old OF Yohendrick Pinango is leading the pack. The lefty bat is hitting .378 with a .961 OPS and 10 doubles in 90 at bats for Cubs 1.
Shortstop Rafael Morel, the brother of Cubs #33 prospect Christopher Morel, has also been impressive with a .329/.389/.557/.946 line along with 6 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, and 14 RBI in 79 at bats. Another infielder, 18-year old Nestor Heredia, has kept pace with a .329 average, 6 extra base hits (including a home run), and 9 RBI in 70 at bats.
For Cubs 2, 19-year old switch-hitting infielder Flemin Bautista has been destroying the baseball. In 61 at bats, Bautista has slashed .361/.437/.738/1.174 with 4 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs, and 26 RBI.
AZL Update: Draft Picks and Rehab
Like their younger brothers in the DSL, the Cubs have two teams in the Arizona Rookie League with reciprocal records: Cubs 1 is 7-4 while Cubs 2 is at 4-7.
The big story has been rehabbing infielders Cristhian Adames, Nico Hoerner, and Zack Short. After playing in 6 games and hitting .375, Short has been sent up to Double-A Tennessee on a rehab assignment. Adames has just started his rehab and has slugged 2 home runs in 5 games back. For Cubs 2, Hoerner is crushing the ball as he is hitting .533 with a 1.163 OPS in 4 games.
On the pitching front, Cubs 2017 first round pick Brendon Little has looked good. In 7.1 rehab innings, the 22-year old lefty had a 1.091 WHIP and received a promotion to Low-A South Bend on July 2.
The player making the biggest splash is 2019 25th round selection Zac Taylor. The 23-year old OF has cranked 5 home runs and 15 RBI in 8 games while batting .417/.463/.917/1.380. Another OF, 20th pick Darius Hill, is also off to a good start. In 7 games, the 21-year old left-handed hitter in batting .323/.344/.516/.860.
Eugene Update: Speed and Pitching
The Eugene Emeralds have had a hard time getting on track offensively this season, as they opened with a 7-10 June. The only consistent performer at the plate is OF Fernando Kelli. At 20-years old, the speedy Kelli already has 113 stolen bases in a 3+ year professional career. Kelli has shown that he is more than a base stealing threat, hitting .290 with six doubles, 2 triples, and a home run in his first 18 games.
The Emeralds have also gotten a spark from the pitching of 19-year old Kohl Franklin. The 6th round selection in 2018, Franklin has fanned 22 in 17.2 innings to go with a 1.53 ERA and a 1.133 WHIP.
Myrtle Beach Update: Same Old, Same Old
There has been little to cheer about in Myrtle Beach, as the Pelicans descended to a 7-16 record in June. The idea of assigning some of their college-aged 2018 draft picks has not worked out, but there has been some incremental progress.
While OF Jimmy Herron still has a long way to go, he was able to add 36 points to his batting average in May to hit .250 in June. Herron paired that with a .348 OBP, and has swiped 17 bases for the season.
After a horrendous start. Alex Lange improved enough in June to earn a promotion to Double-A. The 23-year old had a modest 2.77 ERA for the month, but also had a 1.000 WHIP and held batters to a .208 average.
Tennessee Update: See Myrtle Beach Update
In June, the Smokies continued to lose ground by posting a 12-15 record. There has been a lot uneven play by some of Tennessee’s highly regarded prospects. However, catcher Jhonny Pereda has recently shown progress. The 23-year old slashed .339/.414/.403/.818 with 4 doubles and 9 RBI for the month.
In an organization that desperately needs left-handed pitching, reliever Wyatt Short is staking a claim. With 3 saves in June, the 24-year old also had 12 strikeouts in 12.1 to go with a 1.46 ERA.
Iowa Update: Ditto
The I-Cubs barely eked out a winning record at 14-13 for the month. Now, Iowa will have to go on without utility player Robel Garcia. Promoting the 26-year old switch-hitter to the majors on June 3, Garcia now takes his all-or-nothing approach to The Show. Garcia hit 15 home runs in Triple-A (12 solo), but also struck out at a 38% rate.