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Toyota Road Report: April 16-21

Cubs play first six-game road series in Beloit versus Sky Carp
April 16, 2024

Yesterday afternoon, the South Bend Cubs had the opportunity to stop by Wrigley Field on the way to Beloit, Wisconsin for the upcoming six-game road series versus the Sky Carp. South Bend took batting practice, played catch, threw bullpens, and got the full tour experience at Wrigley on what was

Yesterday afternoon, the South Bend Cubs had the opportunity to stop by Wrigley Field on the way to Beloit, Wisconsin for the upcoming six-game road series versus the Sky Carp. South Bend took batting practice, played catch, threw bullpens, and got the full tour experience at Wrigley on what was a beautiful cloudless day with the sun shining for the full workout.

Now, South Bend will get a little feel of Wrigley for themselves up in Beloit. A unique series where the Cubs will play four day games is on the way. It all starts Tuesday at 2:05 PM, then an Education Day game on Wednesday at 12:10 PM. Night games will be played on Thursday and Friday at 7:35 PM, before 2:05 starts on Saturday and Sunday. All times are Eastern.

The Cubs are coming off their first home series at Four Winds Field where they dropped four of six games against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. South Bend is still in search of their first series victory, and they can do it at a place that the team has had historical success. The Cubs at one point took five of six games away from the Sky Carp a couple years back at ABC Supply Stadium.

South Bend won on Opening Day in Quad Cities, and takes a 3-6 record into Beloit. Meanwhile, the Sky Carp are 4-4 and once again under the direction of veteran manager Billy Gardner Jr.

Beloit took two games away from their first series battling Cedar Rapids, and were postponed on that Sunday, starting with a 2-0 record. They then went to Peoria, where they also lost four of six games, including being swept in a doubleheader on Friday night.

Still, plenty of talent has been assigned to Beloit by the Miami Marlins, especially in their starting rotation. 19-year-old former Miami third-round pick Karson Milbrandt made his Midwest League debut versus South Bend last year, and he was outstanding. In five innings, the righty gave up a run on three hits. He did walk three, but struck out five and looked sharp with a solid breaking ball and changeup. He’ll pitch against South Bend on Friday night in what should be a prime-time pitching match-up against Cubs left-hander Drew Gray.

South Bend also saw plenty of left Cade Gibson and right-hander Alex Williams in the Beloit rotation last year.

In Beloit’s batting order, Ynmanol Marinez is back with the Sky Carp and playing year number-four with the team. He crushed 10 home runs back in 2022 with Beloit, but last year only hit .199, and is back with the team.

Meanwhile, it’s been a solid start to the season for young infielder Yiddi Cappe. He is also a returning Sky Carp player, but is now older, more experienced, and it will be interesting to see how he has grown into his body. Over the last couple of years, Cappe has still been growing, has gotten taller, and had a multi-home run game against South Bend in 2022.

Cappe is the only Beloit player hitting .300 or better at .303, and in eight games has a home run and two RBI. He’s always been a free swinger, with a walk and seven strikeouts on the year. Still, he’s the Marlins number-seven overall prospect, as ranked by They write, "Cappe's sound right-handed stroke and feel for the barrel give him some of the best bat-to-ball skills in the system. But while he does a good job of putting the ball in play for a youngster facing older competition, he chases and pulls too many pitches and is hapless against breaking balls. With his frame and bat speed, it's easy to project him developing 20-homer power if he can gain more strength.”

Along with Cappe, Milbrandt joins him as the two top-10 prospects on Beloit’s roster.

Players to watch on South Bend…

Brennen Davis, OF (Rehab): Brennen is expected to continue his rehab assignment with the South Bend Cubs on the road in Beloit. In the last series against Wisconsin, Davis looked comfortable, composed, and confident at the plate in his first action of the 2024 season. Unfortunately for Davis, he has gotten accustomed to the rehab assignment lifestyle, but at the same time, he knows exactly what his body needs to do to succeed. And before long, he’ll be back with the Iowa Cubs doing his thing in Triple-A. But while he is here, South Bend is happy to have him. Davis has exclusively DH’d so far, but last year when he rehabbed with the Cubs, he did the same, and then played some outfield in Fort Wayne. That Fort Wayne trip was also where Davis got his mojo back in 2023. He crushed a home run, looked dynamic, and a lot like the Davis that we all know and love. It’s just a matter of timing and comfortability. As soon as both things are evident and he feels good, it’ll be time to make the push for Wrigley Field. Which was also super cool yesterday. Davis was with the Cubs at Wrigley, and you could sense that before long, Brennen will have a locker in the home clubhouse, will be taking at-bat’s with the bleachers in the distance, and will be a Chicago Cub. It’s all part of the path, and Brennen Davis is almost ready for the bright lights. It will be interesting to see what he does in Beloit this week.

Felix Stevens, INF/OF: It was a warm welcome back to South Bend this past weekend for the man from Havana. 2023 South Bend Cubs fan favorite Felix Stevens is back in the blue pinstripes, and after crushing 27 home runs last season, had his first two in the same game on Saturday afternoon at Four Winds Field. Last year, it was an emotional moment when Stevens hammered his 25th homer of the season, as he was visibly emotional and crying around the bases. He set that goal for 25 home runs on the campaign, and he got it done. Now, he says his goal is 30 in 2024. He can very well get there, and now he has his first multi-home run game. Stevens’ first was no easy task, to lead off the 5th inning against Wisconsin, Felix got the Cubs on the board with a big drive off the batter’s eye in center, which is difficult to do in the first place. But the next at-bat came an inning later, and he did something that rarely happens with right-handed batters. A grand slam, over the bridge in right-center field, 418 feet away. A bridge shot from a righty is one of the hardest things to do at Four Winds Field, and Stevens was all over it. His return to the Cubs also means Nick Lovullo has some flexibility on his lineup card. He has three capable first basemen. Stevens plays first as well as both left and right field. And he is paired now with Jonathon Long and Brian Kalmer at first base. The South Bend lineup looks scary on any given day, especially if all three of those guys find themselves in the lineup.

Sam Armstrong, RHP: As one of the more unknowns on the South Bend Cubs opening day roster, Sam Armstrong has done nothing but been impressive in his first two Midwest League outings on the mound. Armstrong has pitched in relief once, and has also started a game. The 23-year-old Cubs draftee out of Old Dominion not only continues a line of Cubs prospect to come out of ODU, including former South Bend Cubs P.J. Higgins and Jared Young, but he is off to quite the start in the Midwest League. On what was a tough night to pitch in Davenport, Iowa, with all kinds of wind and cold, Armstrong locked down the Quad Cities River Bandits in two shutout innings with five strikeouts. His first Midwest League start also featured only shutout work, in four scoreless this time with four strikeouts. Nine K’s and six shutout frames in your first two outings of High-A action will get the job done. And it’s come as he has debuted his filthy slider in the Midwest League. The pitch impressed Marquee Sports Network Player Development Analyst Lance Brozdowski, and it very well can be the money-maker for Armstrong if this pace continues. Of course, a pitcher will always give up runs at some point, but so far Armstrong hasn’t been phased at any point. He’ll get his first nine-inning game starting role on Thursday night in Beloit, as the last start was a seven-inning doubleheader.

Schedule and Probables…

Tuesday, April 16 - 2:05 PM ET: RHP Josh White vs RHP Nick Hull

Wednesday, April 17 - 12:10 PM ET: RHP Jacob Miller vs RHP Will Sanders

Thursday, April 18 - 7:35 PM ET: LHP Cade Gibson vs. RHP Sam Armstrong

Friday, April 19 - 7:35 PM ET: RHP Karson Milbrandt vs. LHP Drew Gray

Saturday, April 20 - 2:05 PM ET: RHP Ike Buxton vs. RHP Luis Devers

Sunday, April 21 - 2:05 PM ET: RHP Alex Williams vs. RHP Tyler Schlaffer