TO RECAP: Iowa finished ninth in the International League West division, ending the 2022 campaign with a record of 68-81. They finished the season 13 games below the .500 mark and 23.0 games out of the top-spot in the division. The I-Cubs 216 transactions and used 85 different players to get through the 2022 season. 20 of those players made their Triple-A debut with Iowa, while 16 players came through Iowa to make their Major League debut and 43 players played for both Iowa and Chicago.
SOMETHING ABOUT SATURDAY: Iowa struggled to the tune of 51-78 record in 2021, but struggled in particular on one day of the week. Iowa recorded just four wins in Saturday games all year in 2021, going 4-15 including just 1-8 at home. Saturday, July 31, marked the only home Saturday game the I-Cubs won all season. Fast forward to 2022 and it was more of the same, as the I-Cubs improved their overall record to 68-81, but still struggled to win in Saturday games. They were just 7-17 overall, their lowest total of wins for any day that they played at least three games, including going just 2-10 at Principal Park. They won their first Saturday home game of the year on April 16 against Toledo and later on June 4 against St. Paul, but didn’t win any other home Saturday dates. With one win in 2021 and two wins in 2022, Iowa is now just 3-18 in the last two years in Saturday games at Principal Park and 11-32 in Saturday games overall the last two years.
TWO WINS SHY: Marty Pevey returned as Iowa’s manager for the 2022 season, marking his 10th consecutive season at Iowa’s helm. Pevey was already the winningest skipper in Iowa history, but after completing this season, he is now also the longest-tenured manager in franchise history. Iowa went 68-81 this year, putting his career managerial record at 1,242-1,286, just 44 games below the .500 mark. 68 wins this year also gave him 598 total wins as Iowa’s manager, just two shy of the 600 -ark. The skipper collected his 500th win on July 4 last year, coming just short of another milestone this season.
THE LONE THREE: Iowa played 149 games in the 2022 season, using 216 transactions and 85 different players to get through the six months. Of those 85 players, just three remained on Iowa’s active roster for the entirety of the season. Two of the three were catchers John Hicks and Tyler Payne, joined by infielder Trent Giambrone. Three players staying active for the whole season matched the number of players that stayed active for Iowa’s 129-game season in 2021.
A BIG SWING: Iowa’s bullpen blew 30 saves this year, going just 32-for-62 in save opportunities. Their 30 blown saves were the third highest number in the International League behind Indianapolis who blew 33 saves and St. Paul and Louisville who each blew 31. Out of 14 pitchers who recorded a save four Iowa this season, just four of them did not have a blown save, with three of the four only recording one save.
THEY WON’T EVER FORGET IT: A total of 16 different players that played with Iowa made their Major League debut this year, including 11 pitchers, three outfielders and two infielders. Three of those players made their debut before joining Iowa’s roster, while the other 13 came through Iowa before getting the call they have always dreamed of.
MAJOR LEAGUE TALENT IN IOWA: One of the many fun things about coming down to Principal Park for an I-Cubs game is the level of baseball you get to see. Iowa is the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, meaning the I-Cubs are just one step away from the Major League level, the closest affiliate to Chicago. That being said, when big league players get hurt or struggle, they tend to come to Iowa to either get healthy or work on various mechanics to find a way back up to Chicago. This year, Iowa had 16 players on Major League rehab and 43 players play for both Iowa and Chicago. Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki highlighted the list of rehabbers to join Iowa’s roster this year, while former All-Star Wade Miley and Gold Glover Andrelton Simmons also donned an I-Cubs uniform.
SITTING AT THE TOP: Acquired back on July 30, 2021, in the Kris Bryant trade, Alexander Canario made his presence felt this season throughout three different levels of the Cubs minor league system. In all, the outfielder hit .252 (117-for-464) with 84 runs scored, 26 doubles, two triples, 37 home runs and 97 runs batted in. He also took 59 walks compared to 147 strikeouts, stealing 23 bases along the way. His 37 home runs ranked second among all minor leaguers this year, just two behind the leader. The breakout campaign for the 22-year-old moved him up the Cubs’ prospect rankings all the way to No. 9, according to MLB.com. He struggled over his first eight games at the Triple-A level, recording just one hit, going 1-for-20 (.050) with five walks and nine strikeouts. He didn’t play for two weeks nursing an injury, but when Canario came back to action, it was a completely different story. The Dominican Republic native hit .311 (14-for-45) over his final 12 games with the I-Cubs, clubbing two doubles and six home runs to drive in 13 runs. He walked eight times compared to 12 strikeouts over that span, bumping his on-base percentage to .446.
SAVED THE DAY: Although his overall numbers at the end of the year weren’t eye-popping, Ben Leeper had an incredible season as one of the few back-end relievers in Iowa’s bullpen. The righty was just 3-3 with a 4.50 in his 42 relief appearances, finishing the game in 29 of those 42 games. Of those 29 games he finished, Leeper earned 11 saves for Iowa, going 11-for-14 in save opportunities. His 11 saves led the team and was the most for any I-Cubs pitcher since Spencer Patton went 11-for-12 in save opportunities in 2016. Leeper turned in on late in the season, earning eight of his 11 saves after August 3 including five saves in just the month of September.
NOT WHAT HE WAS LOOKING FOR: After an incredible 2021 campaign, the 2022 season did not go as planned for Brennen Davis. The outfielder entered the year coming off a year in which he climbed three levels (South Bend to Iowa) hitting .260 (91-for-350) with 25 doubles and 19 home runs overall. He was an MiLB.com Organization All-Star for Chicago for the second consecutive season, a Futures Game selection, the Futures Game Most Valuable Player and named the Buck O’Neil Cubs Minor League Player of the Year. Davis entered the 2022 season as the Cubs’ No. 1 ranked prospect, and, at just 22 years old, was primed to make his Major League debut. Unfortunately for Davis and the Cubs, the season did not turn out as either side had hoped. The outfielder hit just .195 (15-for-77) with two doubles and two home runs in his first 22 games with Iowa before landing on the injured list on May 12. He had back surgery shortly after that and was out until August 15 when he went to the ACL Cubs on a rehab assignment. After five games with the ACL Cubs, he then went to South Bend where he played five more rehab games before joining Iowa’s roster on August 30. Davis hit .188 (12-for-64) in his 21 games back with Iowa, clubbing four doubles and two home runs along the way.
FOUR IN A ROW: Entering the 2022 season, just one player for Iowa since at least 2008 had hit a home run in four consecutive games. That player was Trent Giambrone, doing so back in 2019 from June 14-17 against Fresno and Sacramento. This year, the I-Cubs had three different players accomplish the feat, starting with Robel Garcia. The switch hitter clubbed five home runs in four games including at least one in each game from May 10-13 against Omaha. Over the four-game stretch, Garcia hit .438 (7-for-16) with a double, five home runs and eight runs batted in. He had a slugging percentage of 1.438 with an OPS of 1.908. The next player to do it was outfielder Greg Deichmann, who clubbed a home run in four consecutive games from June 1-4. He also hit a home run on May 29, giving him five in six games. Deichmann’s four-game stretch was eerily similar to Garcia’s, as he also hit .438 (7-for-16) with one double, four home runs and 12 RBI. Less than a week later Narciso Crook joined in on the fun, hitting a home run in four consecutive games from June 10-14. He hit .421 (8-for-19) over that stretch, clubbing a double and driving in six runs to go along with his four long balls. In his first 12 games of June, Crook hit .383 (18-for-47) with two doubles, a triple, seven home runs and 14 RBI. He was slugging .915 with a 1.378 OPS over that time. Hitting a home run in four consecutive games is an extremely rare feat, happening just four times in the last 15 years of franchise history, with three of the four times coming this season.
A CAREER YEAR: In his age 32-33 season, John Hicks had one of the better statistical years of his career and of any catcher in professional baseball this season. Hicks closed the year out going 2-for-5 in each of his final three games, bringing his average in 95 games with Iowa to .261 (93-for-357). Over 50% (47-of-93) of those hits went for extra-bases, as the catcher notched 25 doubles, two triples and 20 home runs. His double and home run in his final game of the year marked the first time in his career he has clubbed 20 home runs in a single season. 25 doubles were the second-most doubles of his career after hitting 32 for Advanced-A High Desert in 2012. He was one of just four catchers in all of professional baseball to have 20 doubles and 20 home runs this season.
COULDN’T GET A WINNER: The 2022 Iowa Cubs did not have a winning record for a single month this year, coming in at .500 in the first month of the season. In April, a month in which they went 11-11, the I-Cubs had their worst batting average of any month (.222) and their best ERA of any month (3.42). They finished two games under even in May (12-14), four games under in June (11-15) and July (10-14), just one game under .500 in August (13-14) and two games under in the final month of the season, going 11-13 in September. As April provided season-lows in batting average and ERA, June provided season-highs in each category, as the team hit .279 in the month of June while pitchers held an ERA of 6.10.
WHAT A SEASON IT WAS: After struggling to the tune of just a .204 batting average in 69 games with Single-A Myrtle Beach last year, Matt Mervis exploded onto the scene in 2022. The infielder hit .309 (158-for-512) over three different levels this year, clubbing 40 doubles and 36 home runs while driving in 119 runs along the way. His 119 RBI were the most by a single player in Minor League baseball since 2019 while his 36 home runs were the most by a Cubs minor leaguer in a season since Kris Bryant crushed 43 in 2014. The 24-year-old started the year with High-A South Bend where he hit .350 (35-for-100) in 27 games before getting promoted to Double-A Tennessee on May 17. In 53 games with the Smokies, Mervis hit .300 (61-for-203), earning a promotion to his third level in the system. He joined Iowa’s roster on July 22, where he played 57 games. At his final level in the 2022 campaign, the left-handed hitter hit .297 (62-for-209) with 15 doubles, one triple, 15 home runs and 39 runs batted in. Despite playing in just 57 games with the I-Cubs, his 15 doubles were tied for seventh on the season-long roster while his 15 home runs were good for fourth and his 39 RBI put him fifth on the team. Mervis also ranked sixth with 21 multi-hit games and fourth in multi-RBI games with 12. Mervis was named the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Month for the month of August as a member of Iowa’s roster, hitting .305 with seven doubles, four home runs and 12 RBI in 24 games, posting a 10-game hitting streak from August 18-31 over that stretch. Among all minor leaguers this year, Mervis ranked tied for third in home runs with 36, first in RBI with 119, fifth in slugging percentage with a .605, eighth in OPS with a .984, tied for seventh in hits with 158, tied for second in doubles with 40, first in extra-base hits with 78 and first in total bases with 310. His 2022 campaign was capped off by being named the Buck O’Neil Cubs Minor League Player of the Year.
NOT MUCH LENGTH: Although Iowa won 17 more games this year (68) than they did last year (51), their starting pitchers didn’t work nearly as deep into games this year. In 2021, Iowa’s starters recorded 26 quality starts and went at least six innings 32 times. Unfortunately for the I-Cubs, in those 26 quality starts, the team went an even .500, with 13 wins and 13 losses. This year, Iowa recorded just five quality starts, averaging just under four innings per start from their starting pitchers. They were 4-1 in those five quality starts, but rarely got length from their starting pitchers as they had a starter go six innings just five times. To compare that to 2021, Iowa had a starting pitcher go six innings or longer five times in the first 22 games of the 2021 campaign. Iowa’s starters went 20-54 with a 5.39 ERA in 575.2 innings last year and 23-43 with a 4.82 ERA in 584.0 innings this year. In 20 more games this year, Iowa’s starting pitchers accounted for just 8.1 more innings pitched.
SHORTY THE STARTER: After playing in just three games with Double-A Tennessee, Wyatt Short was added to Iowa’s roster on May 19. In his first nine games, the reliever went 1-0 with a 3.71 ERA, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits and 14 walks over 17.0 innings. He then made a spot start on June 24 against Louisville, throwing four innings of one-run ball. His next nine games didn’t go as well, allowing 12 earned runs in 18.0 innings, good for an ERA of 6.00. After that, Short made another start on August 24 against St. Paul. Once again, he dominated as a starter, throwing five scoreless frames, allowing just five hits and one walk while striking out five. From then on, the 28-year-old became a fixture of Iowa’s rotation. He threw another five scoreless innings on August 30 against Columbus, earning back-to-back wins. After his start on August 24, Short never threw less than four innings, going under five innings just once. He also never allowed more than three earned runs. In his final start of the year on September 27, the southpaw set his single-game career high with seven strikeouts, also setting his season high with 67 strikeouts on the year. The Memphis native was tied for the team lead with six wins, going 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA overall. Short had never started a game in his career until he started two in 2021 and made eight starts this year.
TIED FOR FIRST: Darius Hill entered the final game of the season with 163 hits, three shy of the leader among all minor league players in the 2022 season. In that last game, he went 3-for-5, giving him 166 hits over his 133 games with Double-A Tennessee and Iowa. He ended the season tied for first among all minor league players with those 166 hits, the most for a Cubs minor league player since DJ LeMahieu had 174 hits for Single-A Daytona in 2010. The 25-year-old had three hitting streaks of 10 games or longer, including a 12-game streak with Iowa from July 15 to August 5. Hill finished the year playing in 89 games for Iowa after starting the season with Double-A Tennessee where he played in 44 games. Although he was fifth on the team in games played, Hill led the way with 32 multi-hit games and was second in total hits for Iowa with 109. He recorded two or more hits in a single game in 36% (32-of-89) of his games played.
WALK DOWN THE LINE: Control was not a strong suit for Iowa’s pitching staff this season, walking at least 100 batters in every month aside from April. Iowa finished the season ranked 25th out of 30 teams in all of Triple-A baseball with 672 walks, while finishing third in the Triple-A in wild pitches with 107 as a staff. Both Cayne Ueckert and Eury Ramos had more walks than innings pitched, and top prospect Caleb Kilian led Iowa’s roster with 59 free passes. Cam Sanders led the way with 10 wild pitches in his 74.1 innings pitched.
SWARM SEASON: In his sixth year with the Cubs and third straight season with Iowa, Matt Swarmer finally made his Major League debut in 2022. The righty started the year with Iowa and had his contract selected by Chicago on May 30. Each of his first two starts with Chicago were quality starts, but then he struggled in his next couple of games and was optioned back to Iowa. Swarmer has pitched in 67 games for the I-Cubs over the past three years, earning 16 wins over that stretch. He has accumulated 313 strikeouts in those three seasons, 35 shy of the top-five in career strikeouts for Iowa.
A RACE OF THEIR OWN: The 2022 season consisted of multiple home run races in the big leagues, a race to 700 career home runs for Albert Pujols and a race for the American League home run record for Aaron Judge. There was another home run race within the Cubs minor league system between Alexander Canario and Matt Mervis. Canario and Mervis had similar seasons in that they both started the year with Advanced-A South Bend and ended with Triple-A Iowa. The two each hit seven home runs with South Bend and got promoted to Double-A Tennessee in the month of May — Canario on May 9 and Mervis on May 17. After 14 home runs in 53 games with the Smokies, Mervis quickly earned a promotion to Iowa on July 22, a promotion Canario received exactly one month later, on August 22, after hitting 24 home runs in his 81 games with Tennessee. Canario missed some time with an ankle injury, and it looked as if Mervis would take the Cubs minor league home run crown, but a three-home run game from Canario on September 20 against Omaha gave each of the two players 34 long balls with seven games left to play. From there, the two went back-and-forth, with Mervis regaining the lead with a home run on September 21 and Canario tying him again on September 22. Mervis once again went ahead on September 26 with his 36th of the year and Canario matched it with his 36th of the year the next day. The two entered the final game of the year tied with 36 home runs on the season, tied for second in all of Minor League Baseball behind Moises Gomez of the St. Louis Cardinals system. With Iowa trailing 2-1 in the ninth inning of their final game, Canario crushed a solo shot to tie the game and take the lead over Mervis for good. The two finished the year ranked second (Canario, 37) and tied for third (Mervis, 36) in all of Minor League Baseball while ranking first and second in the Cubs system.
DAYS OF THE WEEK: Unlike last year, when Iowa didn’t have a winning record on any day of the week, they were above .500 for three days of the week this year. Iowa played the same schedule format as last year, where they typically played a six-game series starting on Tuesday and running through Sunday. They did play two Monday games this year, however, going 0-2 with a loss at Indianapolis on the Fourth of July and a loss at home on the final Monday of the year against Toledo. The first two days of a typical series were good for Iowa, as they were 15-9 overall on Tuesday’s and 16-9 on Wednesday’s. They went 8-3 on the road on Tuesday and 10-4 at home on Wednesday. The only day they were better at Principal Park was on Friday’s, when they were 9-3 at home and 14-12 overall. Iowa went 8-16 on Thursday’s including just 2-10 on the road, 7-17 on Saturday’s going just 2-10 at home and 8-16 overall on Sunday’s, getting four wins at home and four on the road.
SWIPE THAT BAG: Zach Davis played in 48 games with Iowa, hitting .210 (21-for-100) with 23 runs scored, four doubles and seven runs batted in. Where Davis really made his presence felt was defensively and on the base paths. The outfielder was a perfect 17-for-17 in stolen bases with Iowa and also a perfect 17-for-17 with Double-A Tennessee in his 22 games with the Smokies. His 17 stolen bases led the way for Iowa and accounted for 14% of the team’s 119 total stolen bases this year.
MADE HIS MARK: Back on July 31, Chicago traded shortstop Dixon Machado to the San Francisco Giants for right-handed reliever Raynel Espinal. That trade took away Iowa’s leader in many different categories, including games played (86), hits (106), doubles (20), walks (46) and on-base percentage (.402). His batting average of .312, .402 on-base percentage and his 106 hits were all good for third in the International League at the time of the trade. He was also one of just six players in the IL to have 100 or more hits at the time. Prior to that trade, Machado had led off in 81% (79-of-98) of the team’s games while playing 70% (69-of-98) of those games at shortstop. Although he was gone for the final two months of the season, at the end of the year, Machado still ranked third in batting average with at least 20 games played (.312), fifth in both games played (86) and runs scored (46), second in hits (106), fourth in doubles (20) and first in walks (46) among all I-Cubs players. The infielder also finished the season ranked second on Iowa’s season-long roster in multi-hit games, with 28.
SOMETHING TO BUILD ON: After starting the year going 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA (5 ER/34.1 IP) through his first eight games in Iowa, Caleb Kilian had an up-and-down 2022 campaign. The righty came out of the gates hot, striking out 40 batters through those first eight games, but then gave up four runs against Memphis and got his contract selected to Chicago. Kilian made his Major League debut against St. Louis on June 4, allowing three earned runs on three hits and two walks while striking out six over 3.2 innings. After his debut, the rest of the season was inconsistent for the No. 14 ranked prospect, allowing five or more earned runs in four of his final 18 games. In his last 18 games he also walked five or more batters six times and went five or more innings just six times. After walking just 13 batters in 100.1 innings in 2021, Kilian walked 59 batters in 106.2 innings for Iowa, with 53 of those walks coming in his final 18 games, good for an average of nearly three walks per outing. Although he pitched in three games with Chicago, Kilian still finished tied for fifth in the International League in strikeouts with 125 and second in games started with 26.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Iowa lost four players this year when Chicago released them to go play overseas. Infielder Robel Garcia followed by pitchers Conner Menez, Matt Dermody and Robert Gsellman were all released so they could take contracts with teams overseas. Garcia was a huge loss for Iowa’s offense, hitting .295 (41-for-139) with seven doubles and 12 home runs in his 41 games. He scored 26 runs and drove in 30 runs, taking 24 walks compared to 51 strikeouts. Garcia hit eight of his 12 home runs in a nine-game stretch from May 10-19. Menez was 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in 11 games with the I-Cubs, allowing just five earned runs over 21.0 innings pitched. He surrendered 16 hits and eight walks while striking out 25 over that span. Dermody was Iowa’s best starter for the first four months of Iowa’s season, going 6-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 20 games. He earned a win in four of his last six games with the I-Cubs and his six wins tied for the team lead at the end of the season. Gsellman was untouchable through his first five games with Iowa and had his contract selected by Chicago. After eight games with the Cubs, Gsellman was sent outright back to Iowa and was not the same pitcher, allowing 18 earned runs over his final five games.