A Trip Around the Minors...

In this week's edition, news on Rich Hill's rehab start on Thursday night in Daytona, a look back on the first halves of both the AAA and AA guys, and Bob Brenly's kid on fire for Boise

Iowa

With the All Star break for Iowa coming at roughly the same time as the Big Boys, let's look at the numbers on the season...

Felix Pie-Pie is hitting .264 in AAA this year, which is far from spectacular, but a closer look is more revealing. After Pie got sent down to Iowa in May, he finished out the month batting .156 in 64 AB's. Since the calendar turned to June, he is hitting .316. He seems to be working hard on cutting down the K's; he had one every 2.7 AB's in the Bigs, and then one per 5.8 AB's in May. In the last month and a half, it's been one per 8.3 AB's.

Rich Hill-Rich Hill wasn't supposed to be on this list. He was supposed to be locked in to the #4 starter's spot. And if he wasn't there, he was expected to be dominating in AAA. Instead, he posted a 2-4 record with a 5.88 ERA, and was put on the shelf. His first rehab start in Arizona made people question whether he needed an extended period away from the game to get his head on straight, after walking 3 and allowing 3 runs in just a 1/3 of an inning. In his next two outings, he didn't allowed a run, had a WHIP of 0.66, and struck out 11 in 9 innings of work.

Hill headed to Daytona on Thursday night for another rehab start. Things didn't go as well; 5 earned runs over 4 and 1/3 innings. He gave up 6 hits and walked 3 (a 2.08 WHIP). For more on the game, here's the wrapup.

Jeff Samardzija-Samardzija was an average pitcher at Tennessee, going 3-5 with a 4.86 ERA in 16 games. 15 of those were starts, but Jeff ND was struggling so much at one point, they skipped him in the rotation and he got an inning of relief. But much to my surprise, he has been better than average at Iowa, compiling a 3-1 record in 5 starts. His WHIP is still high at 1.45 and he's yielded one fewer HR than he did at Tennessee in less than half the innings pitched. The problem with Jeff ND's numbers at Iowa are that he has faced the Isotopes (of Albuquerque) in 3 of his 5 starts. The most positive mark for Jeff ND since being promoted is that he is averaging over an inning more per start than with the Smokies.

Kevin Hart-Despite being bounced between the carrying the pink backpack to the Cubs 'pen and starting for the I-Cubs, Hart has pitched well in Iowa. In 10 starts, he is 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA. He is striking out more than a batter per inning and has a 1.12 WHIP. He has only given up 3 HR's in over 40 innings pitched. The biggest downside has been that due to the constant shuffle, he has only averaged 4 innings per start for the I-Cubs.

Bonus-Bobby Scales, signed as a minor league free agent this off-season, probably isn't going to see Wrigley Field unless the Cubs are devastated by injuries at the 2-sack, but the 30 year old has put up some decent numbers at Iowa. He has hit .307 with a .390 OBP. As a switch-hitter, he has managed a .306 average against lefties and a .307 against righties. He has 11 HR's, 3 short of his career high.

Tennessee

As with Iowa, Tennessee enjoyed their All Star break this week, so again, let's review the season to date...

Tyler Colvin-Colvin has struggled in his third year of professional baseball, hitting just .238 for Tennessee. There isn't a particular time frame to point to and say that's why his average is so low, and he's gone .238, .241, .230, .255 in each month this year. He struggled at the beginning of the season with the K, but only has 24 in his last 160 AB's. On the positive side, 35% of his hits have gone for extra bases.

Welington Castillo-Castillo spent the first two months of the season at Daytona, hitting an average .273 without a HR. Then, thanks to injuries, he was promoted to Tennessee and took off. He's hit .329 with a .418 OBP and a .971 OPS. He has 4 HR's and one fewer double than he did at Daytona in 40 fewer AB's. As noted in TD, he was selected to the Future's Game and was considered the best defensive catcher there.

Jose Ceda-I feel like I am being terribly repetitive, but Ceda's success turned when he moved from the rotation to the 'pen. Ceda was 2-2 with a 4.80 ERA at Daytona, appearing in 15 games and starting 12. Once he was moved up to Tennessee, he was inserted in the back end of the bullpen and has gone on to save 6 games in 11 appearances. He has a 1-0 record with a 1.65 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. He has struck out a ridiculous 23 batters in 16 and a 1/3, and appears poised to potentially see the Bigs before the year is out.

Donnie Veal-Some of Veal's numbers show he's been strong for Tennessee with a 3.67 ERA and 80 K's. But those numbers are a bit deceiving; his WHIP is 1.48 and he's barely averaging 5 innings per start. His ERA was 2.60 when he entered June, but he's yielded at least 4 earned runs in half of his last 8 starts and only won one game.

Bonus-Esmailin Caridad, a NDFA from December 2007, was promoted to Tennessee after an average start (6-4, 4.41 ERA) at Daytona. Since being called up, Caridad has elevated his game. In 6 starts, he is 4-1 with a 3.31 ERA. Amazingly, he has given up 7 HR's accounting for 10 of the 13 runs he's given up...i.e. he has only given up 3 runs not involving an HR in 35 innings of work.

Daytona

Tony Thomas-Thomas has hit safely in 8 of his last 9 games, although he garnered a single single in the 4 games he reached safely this week. He's also struck out 10 times in the last 9 games. On the season, he has 93 hits and 87 K's in 86 games. On the week, he hit .250 with 3 walks and a run. He added 2 stolen bases in 3 attempts, giving him 16 SB's in 22 chances on the season (a 72.7% success rate).

Bonus-Marquez Smith (8th round, 2007) was promoted to Daytona about a week ago after hitting .295 with 14 HR's. Since being called up, he's continued his torrid hitting. He has a .348 BA in his first 7 games with 5 RBI's. He has 2 doubles and a triple to go along with 3 walks, giving him an OPS of .972.

Peoria

Bonus-Nate Samson, a 34th round pick for the Cubs in 2006 out of high school, is finding a groove for Ryne Sandberg's Chiefs. He has an 8 game hitting streak, hitting .424 over that stretch and adding 11 points to his overall batting average, now at .311. He's only K'd 36 times in 338 AB's. He added 2 stolen bases this week, bringing up a terrible stolen base success ratio to 5 of 13.

Boise

Josh Vitters-Vitters is on a 6 game hitting streak, including 8 hits in his last 14 AB's. He is in the midst of a 4 game doubles streak. During the streak, he has scored 6 runs but only driven in 1, despite hitting out of the 3 hole. For the Hawks, Vitters is hitting .344 with a .895 OPS.

Bonus-Michael Brenly sandwiched two 0 for 3 days at the beginning and end of the ATAtM week with a mid-week 8 for 11 over 3 games. He scored 7 times for the Hawks in that 3 game stretch. He was hitting .192 before Monday, he exited Wednesday with a .351 BA. In limited AB's, Brenly has managed an even .400 OBP.

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