Let’s talk about the prospects …
- Last week, Albert Almora Jr. suffered a thumb contusion, after falling to the ground chasing a ball in the gap. Although he remained in the game (and even took another at bat later on), Almora was reportedly visibly uncomfortable and was ultimately removed.
- At the time, Iowa Manager Marty Pevey was relatively optimistic, indicating that no X-rays had yet been taken and that the disabled list wasn’t a foregone conclusion; however, according to the I-Cubs roster page, Albert Almora Jr. has indeed been sent to the 7-day disabled list. There isn’t a ton of new information out there, so hopefully this is just a sit down, rest-up, and get back out there kind of injury, especially considering the likelihood of his call back up to the Majors in about two weeks (rosters expand on September 1). That said, Almora is already on the 40-man roster and Iowa plays games until September 5. So, even if he needed more time to get back up to game speed, there’s plenty of breathing room available. Using Almora as a late-game defensive replacement in September/October might not be the most valuable element to the Cubs hopefully deep playoff run, but it certainly is a nice, extra weapon. We’ll update you, as soon as we hear more.
- At BP Wrigleyville, Ryan Davis writes about Pierce Johnson (who is now 25 years old, can you believe that?) and his transition into the bullpen this season. After recording a 7.75 ERA through his first eleven starts in 2016, the Cubs decided to make the switch, turning Johnson into one of their multi-inning relievers. Since joining the bullpen, Johnson has made six appearances in relief, all but one for more than one inning. Davis has the scoop on the transition here, including a number of great comments from Johnson himself – including, according to Johnson, the possibility of a September call-up, when rosters expand. If he’s truly taking to his new role as a reliever, it’s entirely possible we can see Johnson sooner rather than later.
- Another righty who could plausibly see time in September is right-handed reliever Armando Rivero. Rivero has long been discussed around these parts, but has rarely been mentioned as a likely call-up this season. But with rosters expanding in September, it’s possible. In fact, if he can continue what he’s done in the Minors, he might even look mighty good in the Cubs bullpen come October. Consider, since June 15, Rivero has posted a 0.32 ERA (lol) over 28.0 innings in relief, with a 1.79 FIP to support it. He’s also recored an excellent 39.3% strikeout rate, to just a 9.8% walk rate. And while the latter number is relatively high, the former is entering elite levels. To be certain, Rivero, 28, will need to show what he can do against Major League hitters, but he could be a pleasant surprise.
- On Thursday night, Oscar De La Cruz exited his game after 5.0 no-hit innings, featuring six strikeouts to just one walk. Despite working on history, he left the game due to a pitch count set in place after suffering an injury earlier this season. Although it’s quite clearly the right move for his career, I’m sure it was a bit of a bummer in the moment. Guys are so infrequently working towards something like that, but reaching the Majors as a healthy, successful starting pitcher would likely trump it anyway. Through three starts with the South Bend Cubs this season, Cruz has a 0.61 ERA (1.50 FIP), with an outrageous 41.5% strikeout rate and a 5.7% walk rate. After a very nice 2015 season as well, Cruz may is very likely the top pitching prospect in the Cubs organization. Luke placed him number 4 overall in the Bleacher Nation Midseason Top 40 Cubs Prospect Rankings.
- And a couple items from The Bullets earlier this morning, but which fit here:
- Third base prospect Wladimir Galindo – a less-heralded, later-signing member of that big 2013 IFA class – won NWL Player of the Week honors after hitting .467/.515/.867 with six doubles and a couple homers. The young man has significant power, and the potential to be a tremendous hitter, but he’s going to have to dramatically reduce his strikeout rate (and ability to recognize breaking pitches) to get there.
- At South Bend, pitcher Oscar De La Cruz won Pitcher of the Week honors for the Midwest League, which is completely unsurprising, because the 21-year-old was just overpoweringly dominant in his two outings for the week. If healthy, I am not sure you can really debate that he’s the best pitching prospect in the Cubs’ system, because he almost certainly is. The forearm injury that kept him out until a few weeks ago is, of course, a big question, but we’ve seen in recent years that the Cubs are extremely cautious with young pitchers. For that reason, De La Cruz might still finish the year out at South Bend, even though his stuff and his polish is probably better challenged a level or even two levels higher. Hopefully he has a healthy offseason, and a full year in 2017 – it’s not at all crazy to say that he’s the type of arm that could fly up the ranks and contribute out of the big league bullpen late next season as part of a plan to expose him to big league pitching with an eye toward him starting in 2018 and beyond. I’m getting way ahead of myself.”