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Monday, June 16, 2014
Minors report: Bryant, Schwarber red hot

By Jesse Rogers

Enough is enough. The Chicago Cubs need to promote this guy. He’s been hitting the ball all over the place and waiting for a call. It hasn’t come yet. It’s been all of three days, but first-round pick Kyle Schwarber needs to find his way to Class-A Kane County or Daytona already.

You didn’t think I was talking about anyone else did you?

So it goes for the Cubs who might have to change their “Core Four” slogan to the “Fab Five” as Schwarber has lit up Northwest League pitching so far with seven hits in 11 at-bats, including two home runs and eight RBIs in three games. If indeed he’s on the same path as 2013 first-round pick Kris Bryant, he will move up a level pretty quickly. Bryant played 18 games for Boise -- the Cubs' short-season Class-A affiliate -- last season before finishing the summer with High-A Daytona. Either way, it’s a good start for the player the Cubs dubbed the best hitter in this year’s draft.

The best hitter in last year’s draft, Bryant, actually does deserve a promotion. He knows it, we know it, the Cubs know it, but they won’t give it to him despite the fact he's leading the Southern League in all three Triple Crown categories at their All-Star break. Bryant will play in the All-Star game on Tuesday night, but the fireworks display he could put on during the home run derby on Monday night might be the highlight. Bryant has 22 home runs this year while the next competitor has 13. Expect a promotion to Triple-A Iowa next month, but a call-up to the major leagues this season remains doubtful.


The other players in the “Core Four” are having mixed results this season. Albert Almora isn’t exactly knocking the door down for a promotion as his batting average (.245) and on-base percentage (.266) don’t warrant it. He’s played a solid centerfield, but coming out of spring training he was squaring the ball up and getting on base. It hasn’t happened as quickly at Daytona.

Recently, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said he isn’t concerned about Jorge Soler being injury-prone as much as being worried that Soler's development has been slowed two summers in a row now due to foot or leg injuries. Either way it’s put his track to the majors in the same holding pattern as Almora -- but at least Almora is playing. Soler is still recovering from his latest hamstring injury. He’s played in seven games this season, which means, to this point, it’s a lost year for him.

Which brings us to Javier Baez. He snapped an 0-for-19 slide with two hits on Sunday at Triple-A Iowa as his once-climbing batting average stands at .223. His 80 strikeouts to go along with 10 home runs don’t scream a promotion to the majors and if you take the Cubs' word he won’t make it until he dominates Triple-A pitching for more than one stretch. Maybe Manny Ramirez can put some polish to Baez’ game when he joins Iowa, most likely after Monday’s road-trip finale in Sacramento.

It’s been a mixed bag for the Cubs' top prospects in 2014 but at least they can add another name to the batch as Schwarber is an intriguing left-handed bat. The Cubs still don’t know what position some of these players will play in the majors, but one thing is for sure -- if you can hit you’ll get promoted. Schwarber and Bryant should get theirs sooner rather than later. The rest still need to earn it.