The focus of yesterday’s game, justifiably, was Jake Arrieta’s final spring start before the regular season arrives. In that regard, despite the earned runs you may have seen, the outing was a big success. Arrieta threw strikes, had typically good stuff, and missed a lot of bats.
That wasn’t the only highlight from the game, though, as two of the Cubs’ less-discussed prospects homered, and possibly the Cubs’ most-discussed prospect doubled twice.
That latter guy is Ian Happ, only recently cut from camp, and having received effusive praise for his ridiculously strong spring performance. He came off the bench yesterday, and just kept doing what he’s been doing:
You know that ball was hit hard, given how far it traveled the opposite way, despite looking like it came off the end of the bat (good sound, though). That was only one of Happ’s doubles in the game, pushing his spring line to a hilarious .415/.475/.811. He’ll soon head to AAA Iowa to begin his minor league season, but, depending on what happens in the big leagues, he could theoretically come up at any time. Keep an eye on the strikeout rate (which has been a touch high, even here in the spring), but if Happ keeps hitting the ball this hard when he does make contact, he might very well survive despite an elevated strikeout rate.
Speaking of hitting the ball hard, Chesny Young is really showing off his power this spring:
That was a big-time mistake pitch, and Young absolutely punished it. Ultimately, that’s where Young’s power will mostly be, if it develops: a mistake on the inner half, and Young turns on it aggressively with authority. And, as we’ve said before, Young’s future will go as his power goes. No, not because he needs to be a slugger to succeed, but because he needs to hit for just enough power to make the rest of his offensive game (high contact rate, lots of singles, good discipline, lots of walks) actually shine through. Without the fear of a little power, pitchers can pound the zone, reducing the walks and taking advantage of the better big league defense behind them.
And speaking of power, first base prospect Yasiel Balaguert has plenty of it:
Yeah, he can send the ball out. Balaguert, 24, has a 2.000 OPS on the spring (albeit in 10 at bats), and will likely head to AA to begin the season after getting by at High-A last year. I say getting by because, although he had some ridiculously hot streaks, Balaguert’s overall production at the plate was just about average. That won’t cut it as he climbs the ladder as a bat-first/bat-only prospect. Here’s hoping he’s taken that next step, and the might of his offensive ability shines through this season. Even if he never winds up finding a spot with the big league team, last year’s Dan Vogelbach trade proved that a bat-only prospect can still net a nice return in trade.