The Cubs are in the throes of a suspenseful weekend series against the surging Pirates, the All-Star break is just around the corner and the 2016 Trade Deadline is looming in the background …
… so let’s talk about some Cubs prospects.
- At The Athletic, Mauricio Rubio rhetorically asks “Do the Cubs have any major pitching prospects in the minor leagues?” before taking a look at five high profile Cubs pitching prospects in particular. The five are Dylan Cease (easily the highest upside/highest risk pitcher in the organization), Trevor Clifton (a pitcher on the rise), Pierce Johnson (the most well-known Cubs pitching prospect with a big arsenal) Duane Underwood (the former highest upside/risk pitching prospect) and Oscar De La Cruz (the “arm to watch” in the Cubs system, according to Rubio). It’s an excellent read and a very digestible refresher on the state of the Cubs Minor League pitchers. Check it out.
- With the 2016 MLB All-Star Break just around the bend, the Minor League All-Star Break is, as well. And in the PCL (Triple-A), two Iowa Cubs were named to the roster: first baseman Dan Vogelbach and right handed reliever Armando Rivero. Vogelbach slashed .306/.421/.544 with 15 homers in the first half, en route to the All-Star bid, while Rivero has kept a 2.66 ERA across 40.2 IP in relief with a 32.8% strikeout rate. Both are well deserved selections and both could see time with the Chicago Cubs as soon as the second half.
- However, following in the footsteps of the Kris Bryant in the Majors, Vogelbach has declined his invitation to participate in the Triple-A Home Run Derby (sad trombone). Vogelbach admits that it’s just something he didn’t want to do, especially because he’s happy with where his swing is at right now. Although participating wouldn’t necessarily ruin that (the narrative is there for sure, but the data isn’t always), you can’t blame Vogelbach when he is performing better than he ever has and is so close to the Majors. Oh well. Maybe he’ll participate in the 2017 MLB Home Run Derby next year.
- And speaking of great starts to the season, Cubs switch-hitting second baseman and 2015 first round pick Ian Happ has been named the Cubs June player of the month. In his 26 June games (102 PAs) split between High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee, Happ slashed .422/.500/.699 (.525 wOBA) with four homers, a triple, nine doubles and five stolen bases. He also featured – in typical Cubs prospect fashion – a walk rate (15.7%) greater than his strikeout rate (14.7%). Happ may not be expected to follow exactly in the footsteps of the two polished college bats the Cubs took in the first rounds of the years prior, but he’s well on his way, performing very well at Double-A in just his first full professional year.
- At the Des Moines Register, Tommy Birch writes about Corey Black and the pressure he felt upon being traded to the Cubs in exchange for Alfonso Soriano. That pressure has since faded, of course, but is interesting to see the effects of something we don’t normally consider. Black also discusses his transition from a starter into a reliever and how he had to force himself not to throw everything as hard as he could upon entering the pen. In fact, it was when he returned his approach to something closer to what he did as a starter that he began seeing better results. Black began the season at Double-A Tennessee, working towards a 3.18 ERA (8 saves) through 22.0 innings pitched, before being promoted to Triple-A Iowa. Since then, he’s kept a 3.60 ERA through 10.0 innings, and has struck out an impressive 27.3% of the batters he faced. He has to work on his command a bit (11.4% BB-rate), but a future Major League reliever is what he’s looking like.
- Although it happened to much less fanfare (in part due to the rapid fire nature of the call-ups), Jeimer Candelario was called up to the Majors and is currently playing for the Chicago Cubs. We know a fair amount about Candelario, because he was one of the higher profile prospects in Spring Training this year (and did quite well, I might add), but his unexpected promotion and inconsistent playing time has left him and his potential off our radar for too long. At FanGraphs, Chris Mitchell projects Candelario and his expected abilities at the Major League level. In the end, Candelario may not have the upside of many of the other young Cubs hitters, but he does appear to have a future in the big leagues. You should give it a read.
- Baseball America has named their All-Prospect team for June and, expectedly, Ian Happ made the cut at second base, alongside the man we were just discussing Jeimer Candelario. Happ and Candelario have clearly been gaining some momentum lately, which means they’ve both been attracting a lot of attention. That’s a very good sign for the life of the Cubs Minor Legue organization. For a short write-up on each player and the reason they made the team, visit Baseball America. (Pirates prospect Josh Bell also made the cut and was just promoted to Pittsburgh in time for the series against the Cubs).
- The Cubs have a pitching prospect named Preston Morrison at South Bend, and he is working on a 28.1 inning scoreless streak. Morrison threw seven scoreless innings on Wednesday, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out nine. He’s certainly a lesser known name, but this can be a fun streak to follow.