How about some prospect notes from around the Cubs’ organization for your Sunday pleasure?
- Jose Albertos had a dominant game on Thursday for the AZL Cubs, throwing four innings, while allowing zero runs on just one hit and seven strikeouts. Albertos, you’ll recall signed a $1.5 million deal with the Cubs as a 16-year-old out of Mexico last season. According to Arizona Phil, Albertos was “masterful beyond his years,” staying ahead of hitters, keeping them off balance and striking them out with ease. Although, when you feature a 96-98 MPH fastball alongside a plus change and an occasional curveball, keeping batters off balance might not be as difficult as it should be. That’s a really good start for the extremely young youngster.
- It’s often said that the Cubs system is vacant of any talented starting pitching prospects, but that is of course untrue. That said, one of the most promising ones, Pierce Johnson, has struggled to stay on the field over the past few seasons. Unfortunately, that goes for this season as well as any. Iowa Cubs pitcher Pierce Johnson is back on the disabled list after leaving his last start with a blister on his pitching hand. While that may not seem like much, it’s actually the third time Johnson has been hurt this season. His first trip to the DL was due to a come-backer hitting him in his pitching arm and the second came from a strained lat. Although a come-backer (or even a blister, to an extent) aren’t things entirely within his control, the presence of the other injuries make those absences even worse. For a guy so close to the majors, the injures are especially frustrating for everyone involved.
- We’ve told the story a number of times before, but it’s as interesting as ever now that he’s back on the field. Dylan Cease, the Cubs 6th round pick of the 2014 MLB Draft, was widely considered a first round talent by most teams at the time. The reason he didn’t get selected earlier, though, was because he was set to undergo Tommy John surgery just after the draft. The Cubs, however, having saved money on the under-slot selection of Kyle Schwarber, enticed Cease to forego his commitment to Vanderbilt and begin his rehab under the Cubs guidance with a $1.5 million bonus. He accepted, and here we are two years later … and Cease is hitting 100 MPH on the radar gun. “The fastball is definitely my best pitch,” Cease said via Steve Mims at The Register-Guard, “I will hit 100 [MPH] every once in a while and sit at 96 or 97 if I’m feeling good.” He later added that he’s got a much better feel for his curveball than he ever has in the past and that he feels as strong and confident as ever. It’s a nice profile piece on Cease if you want more reading.
- Indeed, in his first start this season for the Eugene Emeralds, Cease pitched 4 innings (likely by design), allowing just 1 earned run on 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 2 batters. And then in his second start, Cease went another 4 innings, while allowing 1 earned run again on 3 hits and no walks, only this time he struck out 7 batters. Cease ranked 6th on the BN Top 40 Prospect list, but may be on the rise, given his immense upside and increasing arm strength. The Cubs system may not have a lot of sure-fire arms in the upper minors, but talented young pitchers they have; Cease chief among them.
- At Baseball America, Ian Happ – the Cubs 2015 first round pick (9th overall) – made the Prospect Hot Sheet for his play from June 17 – June 23. That week, Happ slashed .588/.667/1.176 with five doubles, a triple, a homer and four walks. Happ was just promoted to Double-A Tennessee and is looking, so far, like another polished college bat on the rise for Chicago. He even hit his first AA dinger last night.
- Ian Rice indicated on Twitter that he’s being promoted to High-A Myrtle Beach after a nice start to the season, himself, with the South Bend Cubs. The 22-year-old catcher had been working behind the plate for the SB Cubs, where he slashed a fantastic .306/.404/.589 slash line with a walk rate over 15% and a strikeout rate of just 17.9% in roughly 150 plate appearances. However you feel about the Cubs system, you have to given them one thing: they have a heck of a lot of players with walk rates that nearly match their K-rates. And that’s just fine by me.
- [Brett: Michael got these notes started, and I just wanted to add a few here at the end.] Although he got off to a slower start than most were expecting at AA, Jeimer Candelario – remember how big of a story he was in Spring Training after killing it there and in the AFL? – is laying waste to AAA. Since he was promoted 70 plate appearances ago, he’s hitting .357/.471/.661 with his typically excellent walk and strikeout rates. Yes, the BABIP (.439) is going to come down, and the ISO (.264) is far higher than it’s ever been for him (though trending up toward .150 as he’s progressed, which is solid). But if the Cubs keep having injury problems at the big league level, it’s not at all inconceivable that Candelario, who is on the 40-man roster already, could be the next youngster (he’s only 22) tapped to help out. Presently, Candelario has played only third and first base, but it’s worth wondering whether he could also cover a corner outfield spot if necessary.
- Outfielder Mark Zagunis, 23, came up from AA at the same time as Candelario, and he’s also been killing it since that promotion: .308/.387/.523.
- I need to sit down:
— SouthBend Cubs Radio (@SBCubsRadio) June 26, 2016
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.