This week we’ll take a brief look at the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, the Cubs’ AA affiliate in the historic Southern League. West Tenn has traditionally been a hotbed for Cubs pitching prospects and this year is no exception – Carlos Marmol began his year in Jackson and was promoted directly to the major league franchise. Sean Marshall played all of ten games at AA West Tenn before the Cubs decided to give him a spot on the 25 man roster this year, and former Cubs Sergio Mitre and Juan Cruz also promoted directly from the Jaxx to the Cubs.

The D-Jaxx feature a dominant foursome in their starting rotation. Leading the staff is RSP Juan Mateo (2004 – free agent, pictured right.) Juan was selected by St. Louis prior to this year in the 2006 Rule 5 draft but was returned; since then Mateo has a 7-4 record and also boasts a 2.82 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. LSP Chris Shaver (2004 – 4th round) is another tall Cubs pitching prospect, standing 6-7. Chris has a 2.64 ERA but appears to be the team’s bad luck pitcher, going 5-7 despite striking out twice as many batters as he has walked.

JR Mathes (2004 – 16th round) leads the staff in wins with an 8-5 record. He also has impressed with a 3.23 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. JR has walked 23 batters while striking out 76. Finally Cubs prospect Sean Gallagher (2004 – 12th round, pictured left) continues his upward climb to the majors. Sean has impressed at every level and was promoted from High A Daytona earlier this year after a 4-0, 2.30 start. Sean looks a lot like Rick Reuschel did – this guy needs to be kept away from deep dish pizza and Harry Caray’s when he gets to Chicago. Gallagher is currently 5-3 at West Tenn with a 3.14 ERA but must cut down on walks if he is to continue his meteoric rise.

Unfortunately Bobby Brownlie (2002 – 1st round) continues his downward descent at West Tenn, he currently is 2-8 with a 5.96 ERA after being demoted earlier in the year from Iowa. Bobby is another guy that Jim Hendry took despite having had arm surgery prior to being drafted. Best of luck to Bobby in his future endeavors, I’m sure he’s giving it his all.

The West Tenn bullpen was lead by Clay Rapada; prior to being promoted to Iowa Clay had 21 saves and an 0.82 ERA. The current stalwarts are Federico Baez (Baltimore, 2001 – free agent) who is 2-0 with a 1.79 ERA and Thomas Atlee (2002 – 19th round) who sports a 1.80 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 10 holds.

Leading the Diamond Jaxx’ offensive onslaught is speedy centerfielder Chris Walker (2002 – 6th round, pictured right.) Chris currently is batting .307 and has 35 stolen bases. Pretty soon Felix Pie is going to have competition in center field, it’s going to be hard to keep this guy down. Eric Patterson (2004 – eighth round, pictured left) is tied with Walker for the team lead in stolen bases; unlike his older brother, Eric is a slap-hitter who just wants to get to first base. E-Pat was selected as the 2005 Cubs minor league player of the year after excelling at Low A Peoria. Eric also strikes out less than 20% of his at bats – the key thing for E Pat will be to get his OBP up and the best way to do that will be to get his batting average up above the current .272. Eric appears likely to be a late 2007 callup.

Scott Moore (pictured right) is West Tenn’s power-hitting third baseman; Scott was recently named the MVP of the Southern League’s All Star game and leads West Tenn with 16 homers. Moore was acquired from Detroit along with Roberto Novoa in the Kyle Farnsworth trade and was promoted after a very good year last year at Daytona. First baseman Brian Dopirak (2003 – 2nd round) was promoted from Daytona because of connections – Brian is a graduate of Jim Hendry’s own Dunedin High School and will likely be promoted again this year to Iowa despite having just one homerun and an anemic .258 batting average. Brian missed approximately 60 games due to a foot injury after having a positive spring training in Mesa.

Jake Fox (2003 – 3rd round) was promoted to West Tenn after setting Daytona on fire with a .313 16 HR 61 RBI start. Jake, a former University of Michigan catcher has struggled offensively since being promoted to AA ball.

The Diamond Jaxx are currently 3 games behind in the Southern League’s North division. Until this year the D-Jaxx have been led by Cub roving instructor Bobby Dickinson; West Tenn’s website is unclear as to who the current manager is but it appears to be either Pat Listach or Tom Beyers.

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