Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This Minor League Season is Ovah!: Iowa Cubs

Yes I am using Hawk's end of game catch phrase in this title, deal with it. The minor league seasons are coming to an end now, with a couple Cubs teams going to their league's playoffs (more on them later this week) so it's time to review what happened down on the farm this year. Today I'll talk about the highest level Cubs minor league team, the AAA Iowa Cubs.

The I-Cubs finished the season with a 72-72 record (how very nice of them to live up to the team name) and had a collapse in the final week of the season costing them a playoff spot. Yes it is the I-Cubs that did this, not the real Cubs. Though many of the Iowa Cubs did spend large portions of the season on the major league team which partially led to their mediocre record.

The best Iowa Cubs players this season were Jake Fox, Andres Blanco, and Sam Fuld. All of them spent most of the season in the big leagues. The Cubs don't really use their AAA team to play major prospects, especially for position players. It was a strategy that worked out well this season because the Fox's and Randy Wells of the world were needed in the big leagues.

Despite playing in the Pacific Coast League which includes many hitter friendly parks, the I-Cubs finished the season with a PCL low 86 homers. This article from the Des Moines Register goes into more detail about that power outage and includes some speculation about the I-Cubs future.

The I-Cubs did have some major pitching prospects on their team this season, the biggest name being Jeff Samardzija. I'll go into more detail about specific players next week, but suffice to say the Shark had a disappointing season. He went 6-6 with a 4.35 ERA in 89.1 IP. The other two prospects that played for the I-Cubs were DeRosa-trade guys John Gaub and Jeff Stevens. Gaub had a lights out season in Iowa allowing just six earned runs in 31 IP. His problem is control, which wasn't an issue since he only had 16 walks compared to 40 strikeouts. Stevens had a 2.03 ERA in 57.2 IP, and spent some time with the big club.

Next season should be an interesting one for Iowa. Many people think Ryne Sandberg will continue his move up the organizational ladder and manage AAA next season. That move would all but guarantee he manages the big club in 2011. He will also have some more exciting prospects with him. Jay Jackson made his final start of this season at AAA, and odds are he starts next season there. Fellow pitching prospect Andrew Cashner might be there too.

Since the big club took most of their good players throughout the season, and most of the exciting prospect are in the lower levels the Iowa Cubs didn't have the most exciting season. They are poised to be the team to watch next season though, especially if Sandberg gets the bump.

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