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Chicago Cubs Around the Farm 25th Edition: 9/4/22

Check out the stars and underwhelming performers from around the Cubs’ farm system on Sunday, September 4.
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Iowa Cubs starting pitcher Wyatt Short fires a pitch against St. Paul during a MiLB baseball game on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at Principal Park in Des Moines.

Sunday, Sept. 4 was an interesting one around the farm for the Chicago Cubs. They were scheduled to play six games due to weather delays Saturday that limited them to only two games. One of those makeup games occurred in Iowa, but Tennessee couldn’t play again due to more poor weather.

As a result, the Cubs’ farm system played five games and went 3-2 on the day. In doing so, Matt Mervis made Around the Farm history, MLB veterans struggled to keep up with the minor league prospects, and Kevin Alcantara reintroduced himself to this series. Check it out.

Triple-A Iowa Cubs Game One: 5-3 Victory Over Columbus Clippers

Biggest Yes: Matt Mervis — 2/3, BB, HR (9), 2 RBI, 2 R

This marks three consecutive Biggest Yes awards for Matt Mervis for Triple-A Iowa. The dude is just unreal. Mervis’s home run in the third inning—off of a fellow lefty—was demolished. Then, he was part of the seventh-inning heroics that put the Cubs back on top to get a victory.

As much as Mervis keeps crushing things, we can still expect him to be with the Iowa Cubs for the rest of this season and, likely, most of 2023. He doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster, and a ton of Cubs prospects do. As such, the plan is to keep the 24-year-old in the minor leagues. Still, how hard will it be to justify doing that if Mervis continues to play like he has been when 2023 comes around?

Biggest Yikes: Jonathan Holder — 0.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 SO

Caleb Kilian mostly cruised through five innings of one-run ball for the Cubs as the starter in this one. He got into jams, but—with some help from the umpires—escaped relatively unscathed. Then, Jonathan Holder came in, and I actively thought, “Welp. There goes the lead.” Holder did not take long to prove my thinking correct.

The Clippers lit up Holder immediately. Right away, he gave up a single to Gabriel Arias, then he lofted a pitch over the plate for George Valera to smoke into right field for an RBI double. Holder did manage to collect a strikeout before giving up another base hit. That finally got him removed from the game, but he was responsible for the next run that crossed the plate, too. Boom, the Cubs were suddenly losing.

Holder, 29, is now a month into returning from the injured list. He’s shaking off rust, yes, but he’s just an absolute liability on the mound right now.

Triple-A Iowa Cubs Game Two: 0-1 Loss to Columbus Clippers

Biggest Yes: Wyatt Short — 4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 4 SO

Wyatt Short was responsible for literally every run the Clippers scored in this game, and he still takes home his first career Biggest Yes award. The game as a whole was hilariously boring from an offensive perspective. Short gave up a solo shot to the second batter of the game. Then, no one else scored on either team.

All things considered, Short performed admirably on the mound. He had the home run in the first, then he hit two batters in the second, but he always limited the damage.

Biggest Yikes: John Hicks — 0/3, 2 SO, 1 LOB

Really, you can give Biggest Yikes here to the Cubs’ collective offense. To pick out a single player, it’s easy to point to Hicks.

The veteran catcher was the cleanup hitter for Iowa and left a runner in scoring position to end the top of the fourth inning. He struck out in his other two chances. Nothing stands out as horrendous for the Cubs in this one, but nothing stands out as great, either. Hence, Hicks collects the Biggest Yikes in this one.

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Double-A Tennessee Smokies: 5-2 Victory Over Mississippi Braves

Biggest Yes: Miguel Amaya — 1/2, BB, HR (2), 3 RBI

Amaya went yard in the very first inning with a three-run shot. That ended up being the cushion the Smokies needed as they went on to win 5-2 in just seven innings. Amaya also took a walk, which bumped his Double-A slash line up to .259/.358/.407 in 23 games played.

For a guy whose defense is already MLB-ready, those numbers are mildly encouraging when considering the potential for the catcher to be a solid contributor in Chicago in the next couple of years. It is very possible the Cubs will want Amaya—my 19th-ranked prospect in the system—with Triple-A Iowa next season so he can be called up to Chicago in a pinch when they need a third catcher. Games like this one only help his case with that scenario.

Biggest Yikes: Delvin Zinn — 0/3, 2 SO, 1 LOB

The entire bottom third of the order struggled with similar stat lines for Tennessee. Chase Strumpf didn’t strike out, but he left two on base. Meanwhile, Bryce Windham posted an identical stat line to Zinn. All of them came to the plate in the fourth inning with a runner on second base and failed to bring him home.

The reason Zinn takes the cake is that his runner left on base was with two outs (Strumpf and Windham), and at least Windham put up a more competitive at bat. Windham worked the count full before going down on strikes. Then, Zinn came up and flew out in just a couple of pitches to end the inning. You could go either way, but that was the differentiation for me as Zinn picks up his first Biggest Yikes award.

High-A South Bend Cubs: 1-2 Loss to Lansing Lugnuts

Biggest Yes: Joe Nahas — 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 5 SO

This was the weirdest game I’ve seen South Bend play. They got no-hit, but they still scored a run. We’ll touch more on that later. For now, let’s focus on Joe Nahas putting together a very solid start even as he picked up the loss. Nahas gave up a solo shot to the second batter of the game, but he totally settled in after that.

In the top of the second and third innings, Nahas retired the side in order. Between the home run in the first and a Max Muncy single in the fourth, Nahas didn’t even have a ball in play leave the infield. Since being activated off the Development List in early August, Nahas has quietly been really good, mostly coming out of the bullpen. In 16.0 innings, Nahas has a 2.81 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.

Biggest Yikes: Casey Opitz — 0/3, 2 SO, 2 LOB

Opitz was just one of many Cubs to struggle immensely at the plate in this one. Obviously, he wasn’t alone in not collecting a hit (no one did), but he was also pretty bad outside of that.

Opitz left runners in scoring position while striking out, and the catcher’s arm delivered no outs on the basepaths. In total, the Lugnuts swiped three bases with Opitz behind the plate. Yes, several other Cubs players who should be able to be counted on more for offense also produced none of it, but Opitz managed to struggle in multiple facets of the game.

Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans: 9-6 Victory Over Charleston RiverDogs

Biggest Yes: Kevin Alcantara — 2/4, BB, HR (14), 4 RBI

It’s really hard to not give Biggest Yes to the guy who smacks a grand slam in the eighth inning to put the Pelicans on top and set them up to win the game. We haven’t seen Alcantara, my third-best Chicago Cubs' prospect, in this series in almost a month, so he wanted to remind us all of how he can impact the game.

After a cooling-off period in July (.258/.340/.382), Alcantara has been swinging it much better in August and September. The decrease in power has been noticeable since hitting 10 homers combined in May and June, but Alcantara certainly demonstrated the pop in his bat again on Sunday.

Biggest Yikes: Parker Chavers — 0/5, 2 SO, 6 LOB

While the Pelicans collected a win, Chavers’s stat line was ugly. Granted, when a team has runners on base as frequently as the Pelicans did Sunday, there are bound to be a decent number of runners left stranded on base.

Still, six left on base—with several in scoring position—is spectacularly bad. Throw in the 40% strikeout rate, and Chavers gets his first Biggest Yikes award of the season.