The Chicago Cubs' top two hitting prospects have been on a tear lately while their top young pitcher awaits another MRI, according to his Twitter account.
Kris Bryant has dominated Double-A pitching all season -- he leads the Southern League in nearly all offensive categories -- while Javier Baez has gotten hot at Triple-A Iowa. Meanwhile, Double-A starter CJ Edwards is having his right shoulder looked at again on Thursday.
Big day tomorrow MRI ready to get back on the diamond missing the game I love
— Cj Edwards (@CEdwardsSBS) May 29, 2014
Edwards last pitched in a game on April 20. He was shut down after experiencing soreness during a bullpen session between starts. An initial examination didn't reveal any structural damage so he's been doing exercises to strengthen his shoulder while getting rest. The Cubs could not confirm the latest MRI or its results as of Thursday afternoon.
Bryant, the Cubs' top draft choice last June, is batting .349 with 15 home runs and 44 RBIs for the Tennessee Smokies, going into Thursday's game. His on-base percentage is up to .452 after getting on base in nine of his last 10 plate appearances. His latest home run on Wednesday may have been one of his best, coming off a fastball at the knees on the outside corner. He put it over the right field fence. The 6-foot-5 Bryant has been working on hitting pitches in the lower half of the strike zone since turning pro and he said recently he believes he's improved in that area.
The Cubs have tried to curb speculation on when he could be promoted to Triple-A Iowa but at this rate it's inevitable. One source close to the situation said a good time for a promotion could be after the Double-A all-star game on June 17 in Chattanooga, Tenn. If not then, it's hard to imagine Bryant still in Double-A by July 1.
Baez, meanwhile, could still be in line for a major league promotion later in the season, a move that looked unlikely just a few weeks ago. He's seemingly found his groove after a slow start. The Cubs' top pick in 2011 is hitting .381 since May 16 with 12 extra base-hits, including four home runs. His strikeouts remain high (59) and his walks down (12) so there's still work to be done before Baez makes his major league debut. But getting his season back on track was the first step.
His manager, Marty Pevey, credited hard work before batting practice with a pitching machine as one reason Baez may have gotten back on track.
Another top prospect, infielder Arismendy Alcantara, has also gotten hot at Triple A-Iowa raising his batting average to .282 after a four-hit game recently. He even played a game in the outfield due to a need at Iowa, raising some speculation he could get more time out there. The Cubs are heavy in infield prospects but not as much in the outfield where Double-A prospect Jorge Soler remains sidelined with a nagging hamstring injury. Single-A outfielder and 2012 top pick Albert Almora only has a .286 on-base percentage so far, walking just four times in 45 games. A promotion for him might not be as imminent as others.