Jared Banner, the Chicago Cubs’ vice president of player development, walked into a suite in the Principal Park press box on Tuesday night, put down his things and looked around the stadium.
“It’s beautiful so far,” Banner said of the park. “They do a great job here.”
Tuesday night’s game between the St. Paul Saints and Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate Iowa Cubs was Banner’s first trip to Principal Park. Banner is in his first season as the club‘s farm manager.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” Banner said.
Banner wanted to meet with Iowa’s coaching staff, chat with players and see some of the best minor league players in the organization up close.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, he spoke with the Des Moines Register about several topics surrounding the team’s minor league system.
Caleb Kilian is still ‘close’
Kilian, a 24-year-old right-hander, is the Cubs’ best pitcher in the system. Kilian is 2-0 with a 2.06 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in his first nine starts this season. He had 41 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings of work.
Kilian, the No. 5 system prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has yet to make the leap into the big leagues. The Cubs opted to go with Matt Swarmer for a Monday doubles start against the Milwaukee Brewers instead of Kilian. But Banner said Kilian was “always close”.
Banner: “I would say that by playing so well, he got into conversations. But time will eventually tell when the right time is.
Three guys were really impressive
Robel Garcia, infielder Jared Young and pitcher Cayne Ueckert caught Banner’s eye. Garcia is coming off an incredible streak that saw him hit eight homers in nine games. Young was one of Iowa’s most reliable hitters, hitting a .266/.355/.506 slant line with nine home runs in his first 41 games. Ueckert, ranked the 28th top prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline, went 3-0 with a 4.66 ERA and 20 strikeouts in his first 19 1/3 innings of work.
Banner: “Obviously Robel had a really impressive month with a lot of power that he showed. Jared Young has had a quietly very strong season. He’s had some bad luck in spurts, but you look at his underlying numbers, he’s really hit a ton since the start of the season – he’s been pretty consistent as well. So he jumps too. Cayne has really figured that out lately. His last outings, the last two weeks have been much better. I think he turned that corner and made that adjustment.
Iowa native Bryce Ball looks sharp
The Mason City native was thriving in the Atlanta Braves system before being sent to the Cubs as part of the Joc Pederson deal. Ball had a huge Double-A season, where he hit .286/.368/.470 with 11 doubles and six homers in his first 44 games with the Tennessee Smokies.
PREVIOUSLY: The great power of Mason City native Bryce Ball
Banner: “He’s had a great year so far. What he does do that’s pretty impressive is that he has power but he doesn’t hit much either, which is a pretty rare combination. So he does a great job. His defense is improving. We are really excited about it.
Tommy Birch, the Register’s sports entrepreneur and featured reporter, has worked at the newspaper since 2008. He is Iowa’s 2018 and 2020 Sports Writer of the Year. Contact him at [email protected] or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Who impressed Chicago Cubs farm manager Jared Banner?