I was thinking this morning about the silliness of prospect rankings. Yesterday, the Cubs signed Ronnier Quintero for $3 million for future service, meaning he won’t debut until 2020. He’s 16 with a good power profile. How can I, or anyone, possibly accurately handicap his future against, say, a 26-year-old AAA power bat in Robel Garcia? Two guys that both seem like they could hit a bunch of home runs at Wrigley some day, but the paths to that happening are outrageously different. They were born a decade apart!
And yet, while I find it silly, it’s also what I love about the exercise of ranking prospects. Balancing that highest ceiling with the likelihood of meeting that outcome. For today, I’ll say I’m keeping Robel above Ronnier. But once we start seeing Quintero’s power work in games, that might change quickly. Of course, by then, Robel might be approaching 30 and out of the game. Baseball.
Anyway, here are some notes from the past couple days on the farm …
- Just an awesome story in Iowa: Jeff Passantino, the very last pick in that 2017 draft, was summoned to Iowa (from A-ball) as a fill-in spot starter last week. His first start was good enough to earn a second. And last night, he was brilliant: five innings, three hits, a run, no walks and five strikeouts. Passantino is listed at 5-9, 225, has a max effort delivery where he falls hard to first base, and these were his velocities in his first 10 Triple-A pitches: 84, 78, 81, 81, 84, 80, 78, 83, 85, 85. That’s his whole story, but he’s making it work with command and tunneling. Fun stuff.
- Paul Richan had one of the better outings of his career on Monday, allowing one run over 7 innings, throwing just 52(!) pitches in the process. I watched the start this morning, and it gave some interesting insight into Richan’s strengths. His breaking ball command was fantastic, simply at a level you don’t see in A-ball pitchers. His slider is his best pitch, and breaks sharply away from right-handers, but he tightens it when necessary to throw for strikes. His curveball breaks straight down, it’s relatively average, but the command helps play it up. Despite his efficiency, I actually wouldn’t say it was the best fastball command we’ve seen from Richan, principally because the armside run was pronounced last night. He really tries to own the outside corner against right-handed hitters, but last night balls were drifting to the middle and went unpunished. I’d like to see him pitch inside more, he broke a bat in the sixth inning jamming a righty with a good fastball. The four-seam up was commanded very well. He spotted a few change-ups on the outside corner to a lefty well, but it’s not a pitch we see a whole lot.
- Richan, 22, was the Cubs’ second round compensatory pick just last year, so even modest success at High-A is mighty impressive.
- Zack Short completed his rehab in Arizona, but notably did not return to Iowa: he was sent to Double-A Tennessee. With Robel and Giambrone and Machado and Evans all doing well in Triple-A – and Cristhian Adames almost finished with his own AZL rehab stint – it was deemed better Short would be best at an affiliate where he’d play everyday unencumbered. When Nico Hoerner finishes his rehab (he’s 8-for-15 so far), likely in another day or three, he’ll rejoin Tennessee and make one of the better Cub prospect middle infields in awhile.
- Two players from the all-June team, Reliever of the Month Jack Patterson and Ben Hecht, each received a promotion on Monday. Patterson moves up from South Bend to Myrtle Beach, giving them another lefty in the bullpen (since Ryan Kellogg has joined that rotation out of necessity). In his last outing, Patterson was 92-95 with his fastball, commanded a solid mid 80s curveball, and then began showing this slider at 88-89 that he’s been toying with recently that’s flashing nasty. This is a sleeper, folks. [Brett: Also, I met his parents at Spring Training this year, and they were nice. I have no other point here.]
- As for Hecht, he was a guy that impressed me in Spring Training, showing a fastball with high spin at 93-94, a two-seam with low spin closer to 90-91, and his best pitch is a slider. He pitched in Tennessee as soon as he arrived, tossing two scoreless innings, getting one backwards-K on a 3-2 slider.
- More promotion news! Tyler Durna, who I implored the Cubs to call up in my June farm review, indeed got the bump to Myrtle Beach. He’ll be joined by Delvin Zinn, who had a five-hit game overshadowed by Cole Roederer’s cycle last week. Durna will step into the Pelican first base job, moving Cam Balego over to third base, while Zinn will replace Yeiler Peguero as the third middle infielder for Myrtle Beach. Peguero was released, while Luke Reynolds was sent down to South Bend. Hopefully he can rediscover some of the magic of his 2018 college season in the Midwest League.
- Last night made it five straight quality starts for Alex Lange, including all three since he was bumped to Tennessee. The interesting thing has been that in back-to-back six-inning starts, Lange has struck out just one batter, living instead on groundouts. Lange has seen his groundball rate go from 39.1% in 2017, to 44% last year, to 51% in High-A this year, and now is at 55% since his promotion. However, Lange has a .185 BABIP in Double-A, with particular batted ball luck on groundballs. Success is good, and I love groundballs, but the recipe needs more strikeouts to be sustainable, especially when facing AA hitters. Clearly, though, he’s working on some things.
- If we’re on 2017 first rounders, I should tell you Brendon Little made his debut yesterday, back with South Bend, after missing the first half with a lat injury. Little scattered three runs on three hits over five innings. I saw about half the start, and Little looked pretty good, but not the 92-94 with two plus secondaries we were hearing in Arizona. Let’s hope that emerges this summer.
- Lastly, I’ve had some people ask why the Cubs haven’t bumped any 2019 draft picks to Eugene yet. They’ve all been in Arizona. An educated guess: the Emeralds are just finishing a season-long nine-game road trip. My thinking is the Cubs probably want those draft picks to start at home, so I’m expecting a handful of them to be assigned when Eugene returns home on the Fourth. Will be fun to see how second rounder Chase Strumpf does at that level, specifically, and whether he can earn a promotion to finish the year in South Bend. He’s hitting .182/.406/.318 after a week in the AZL.