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Toyota Road Report: June 14-19

South Bend Cubs Travel West for Second Series at Quad Cities
June 13, 2022

We’re getting ready to officially kick off another summer of baseball with the South Bend Cubs. After we got a taste of one last remnant week of Spring this past week at Four Winds Field, the sunshine and warmth will be soon on the way when the Cubs return home

We’re getting ready to officially kick off another summer of baseball with the South Bend Cubs. After we got a taste of one last remnant week of Spring this past week at Four Winds Field, the sunshine and warmth will be soon on the way when the Cubs return home next week. This week’s mission? Play some solid road baseball against a team that you know very well.

The Cubs will head west to clash with the Quad Cities River Bandits over the next six games. Quad Cities was in town in South Bend on Opening Weekend, then the Cubs have already been to Modern Woodmen Park earlier in April. Quad Cities has played well against South Bend, as the Cubs just 3-7 against them.

The Midwest League West Division is still a tight race with the Cedar Rapids Kernels leading the pack. The Kernels just took four of six games from the Cubs this past week. Cedar Rapids possesses a 3.5 game lead on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and a seven game advantage over the South Bend Cubs. Quad Cities is out of the race at 16 games back and a 21-36 record. Still, the Midwest League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals has some dangerous pieces that the Cubs will have to be careful with.

Depending on what happens until the first half concludes later next week, let’s see if the Cubs can play spoiler and give a scare to the top two teams in the division. South Bend continues to rank in the top third of the Midwest League at the plate. They have bounced between first and second place consistently for the most base hits and top team batting average in the league. Tony Cougoule’s pitching staff has also been flirting with the top spot in the circuit for strikeouts.

A strong end to the first half could equate to the Cubs playing solid baseball when the second half of the campaign begins. With big series coming up at home against Peoria, then a road trip on 4th of July weekend in Beloit, South Bend can set the tone for what’s to come with a lot of baseball to play the rest of the way in 2022.

Players to watch on Quad Cities…

Diego Hernandez, OF: The dangerous part of the lineup for Quad Cities is certainly their speed and ability to make pitchers uncomfortable on the base paths. That all starts with their one-two punch of Diego Hernandez and Tyler Tolbert. Tolbert, a shortstop, is only hitting .213 in the month of June, but Hernandez has continued to stay hot. The speedy center fielder has his average at .305 with three homers and 14 RBI. When he does get on base, he’s never afraid to swipe a bag and has stolen 19 bases. In the outfield, he’s fearless. There was a play in the last away series at QC where the Cubs smashed a line drive to right center, it looked like extra bases all day. Hernandez sprinted to gap, made a sensational catch, and barreled into the wall. He was down on the ground for a while but stayed in the game. Just 21-years-old, Hernandez plays the heart and soul factor for the River Bandits. He’s a solid ballplayer.

Emilio Marquez, LHP: As part of the Quad Cities bullpen, Marquez has done a really nice job in a long relief role for Brooks Conrad’s team this season. From a South Bend side, they’ve seen him a lot, and he has been dynamite versus the Cubs order. In three games against the Cubs this year, Marquez has combined for 8.2 innings with two runs allowed, two walks, and 12 strikeouts. In two of those three games, he has been the winning pitcher. Marquez has a really changeup from the left side, and doesn’t throw overly hard. A crafty southpaw, he has also gotten the opportunity to pitch one game at Triple-A this season with the Omaha Storm Chasers. He’s obviously doing something right, as since making his debut in the Royals organization in 2018, he is 19-4 with his record while not even being a full time starting pitcher.

Peyton Wilson, INF: Peyton Wilson is by far the top prospect to watch on the Quad Cities roster. Unfortunately for the former second round pick, he has cooled off since making his Midwest League debut against the South Bend Cubs back in April. Still just 22-years-old, the former University of Alabama man was terrific the last time that the Cubs saw him. He played five of the six games in that series, and went 5/18 with a home run and five RBI. In the field, primarily as a second baseman, he can really flash the leather. His average is down below the Mendoza Line now at .197, but it shouldn’t be very long until he starts to heat up again. Maybe it’s just a matter of the weather around the Mississippi River to really scorch up. Temperatures are expected this week in the high-90s, and with that wind whipping around in multiple directions straight off of The Big Muddy, we’ll see how the ball is flying this week.

Players to watch on South Bend…

Daniel Palencia, RHP: In the South Bend Cubs starting rotation, we have seen some absolute filth as of late across the board. But maybe no one more than Daniel Palencia. The Chicago Cubs top-30 prospect struggled with command to begin the season, but as of late, in the zone, he’s been lethal. In his first two Midwest League starts, Palencia had eight walks to nine strikeouts. It wasn’t that the stuff was not good, he just had trouble commanding all three of his pitches. Now, especially with the fastball, he is dominating the zone and hitters are leaving the box perplexed as to what they just saw. That was clear this past series against Cedar Rapids. Palencia was tossing 91-92 MPH sliders, then his fastball was pounding in 100 MPH-plus. The big numbers to look at in his last two starts are not the runs allowed, but instead the walks to K’s. He has begun June with just one walk and 11 strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work. If that pace keeps up, Palencia this summer is going to be somebody to really keep an eye on.

Jonathan Sierra, OF: Each time that the Quad Cities River Bandits have taken on the South Bend Cubs this season, they have not seen Jonathan Sierra. The big lefty started the year on the development list, and has played in just 14 games this season. Although he has had limited playing time, Sierra has done a really nice job in the bottom third of the Cubs order since being put on the active roster. Watching Sierra during batting practice is a spectacle everyday. And South Bend Cubs fans know what Jonathan’s power can consist of after he played over 100 games with the team in 2019 and was the team’s entrant in the 2019 Midwest League Home Run Derby. Sierra crushed his first home run of the season on Sunday, and is hitting .267 in two weeks worth of work. Of course, the names like Owen Caissie, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Yohendrick Pinango, and Jordan Nwogu might have higher prospect evaluations than Sierra, but if he continues to hit like this, watch out. Sierra has also played a lot more first base than outfield to begin 2022. After Matt Mervis was called up to Double-A Tennessee, the Cubs don’t have a true full-time starting first baseman. Sierra, Grayson Byrd, Caleb Knight, and Jake Washer have been splitting time. It’s a job that is up for grabs, could it become Sierra’s?

Hunter Bigge, RHP: The back-end of the South Bend Cubs bullpen has provided lock down work for practically the entire season. Guys like Jeremiah Estrada and Sheldon Reed have taken a grasp of the late inning responsibilities. Hunter Bigge was in that grouping to start the season, but after struggling to end the month of May, Bigge has been pitching in multiple spots trying to get that big mojo back. Big took a big step on Saturday night while being put in a high pressure situation. The Cedar Rapids Kernels had the tying run at second base, and the go-ahead tally at first. Bigge was called into the game by Lance Rymel to secure the final two outs of the night. With one down and two on, Bigge dominated two hitters and struck out two to end the ballgame, giving the Cubs a 4-3 win. The important outing for Bigge came after allowing 10 combined runs in his previous three times on the mound. The hard-throwing righty from Harvard will continue to get opportunities against Quad Cities and beyond, and if he can replicate what he did on Saturday night, we’ll be back to seeing him in true form in no time at all.


Tuesday, June 14 - 7:30 PM ET: LHP DJ Herz vs. LHP Noah Cameron

Wednesday, June 15 - 7:30 PM ET: RHP Manuel Espinoza vs. RHP Anthony Simonelli

Thursday, June 16 - 7:30 PM ET: RHP Daniel Palencia vs. LHP Rylan Kaufman

Friday, June 17 - 7:30 PM ET: LHP Jordan Wicks vs. RHP Adrian Alcantara

Saturday, June 18 - 7:30 PM ET: RHP Kohl Franklin vs. RHP Charlie Neuweiler

Sunday, June 19 - 2:00 PM ET: LHP DJ Herz vs LHP Noah Cameron

Catch the entire six-game series in Quad Cities on Sports Radio 960 AM WSBT, online at, or on with Max Thoma on the call.