Remember Tony Campana? The very (very) light-hitting, speedy outfielder built a vocal fanbase among Cubs’ fans who genuinely believed that speed was all you need at the top of the order, and weren’t worried in the slightest by the fact that that Campana never posted a major league wRC+ higher than 66 in a Cubs uniform. The Epstein/Hoyer front office weren’t impressed and promptly sent him to Arizona prior to the 2013 season.
For the Diamondbacks, that trade got them Campana’s one decent season (OBP of .370 and wRC+ of 93 in 2013). For the Cubs, that trade brought them two very young pitchers. One of them was Erick Leal.
Leal, now 23, missed all of the 2017 season with an arm injury, and he did not return to Myrtle Beach until May 25 of this year. Since then, though, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the farm system.
His ERA is 0.66. The highest it has been this year was 1.27 on June 28. On July 8 it dropped back under 1.00 and hasn’t been over since. In fact, he had an ERA over 1.00 for exactly two games. Two. Games. Last night was his best game of the season, though, as he pitched five innings of one-hit baseball and struck out a season-high eight.
The Pelicans have moved him into and out of the rotation, presumably both to help limit the innings on his rehabbing arm and to help find innings for the sheer volume of pitching prospects hanging out at that level of the Cubs’ farm system. As a starter (21.1 innings over 5 games) he has an ERA of 1.29 and 21 strikeouts. As a reliever (19.2 innings over 10 games) he has an ERA of 0.00 and 17 strikeouts.
He last allowed a run on July 11, but it was unearned. He last allowed an earned run on June 28. He last walked someone on July 4. He has given up multiple hits in a game just four times this year, and only two of them were starts. In the month of July (19.1 innings) batters are hitting .108 off him.
At this point I think the only think the only thing keeping the Cubs from moving him up to Tennessee is that he is coming back from an injury. For now, being patient and prioritizing his recovery is probably the good call.
I think one of two things will happen in the coming months. Either Leal will be included in a trade, or the Cubs will add him to the 40-man roster. He will be Rule 5 eligible if not added, and I suspect some team will see his very low walk rate (1.77 BB/9) and insanely low line drive rate (8.6%) and figure that they can stash Leal in the bullpen for a season. Assuming he is still with the team, I am very interested to see what he can do next year in (probably) Double A.
- Duane Underwood: 5 IP, 1 R, 7 H, 1 BB, 5 K
- Craig Brooks: 1 IP, 1 BB, 1 K
- James Norwood: 1 IP, 2 BB, 3 K
- David Bote: 1 for 3, BB, SB
- Ryan Court: 1 for 3, BB
- Keegan Thompson: 5 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 2 BB, 7 K
- Zack Short: 0 for 2, 3 BB
- P.J. Higgins: 1 for 4, 2B
- Jesse Hodges: 1 for 3, 2B, BB
- Wynton Bernard: 1 for 2, 2 BB, SB
High A: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Carolina 5, Myrtle Beach 4 in eight innings
Myrtle Beach 2, Carolina 0
The Pelicans’ starter in both games of the double header pitched well. Very well, in the case of Leal.
- Tyson Miller: 5 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 K
- Roberto Caro: 2 for 4, HR
- Wladimir Galindo: 2 for 3, 2B
- Game Two
- Erick Leal: 5 IP, 1 H, 8 K
- Jose Paulino: 2 IP, 1 H, 2 K
- Aramis Ademan: 1 for 4, 2B
- Kevonte Mitchell: 1 for 3, 2B
- Jose Gutierrez: 2 for 2, 2B, BB
Low A: South Bend Cubs
South Bend had the day off.
- Riley Thompson: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 K
- Faustino Carrera: 4 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 3 K
- Cam Sanders: 1 IP, 2 BB, 1 K
- Levi Jordan: 2 for 5
- Tyler Durna: 1 for 3, 2 BB
- Luke Reynolds: 1 for 4, 2B, BB
- Grant Fennell: 3 for 5
- Luis Diaz: 2 for 4
- Peyton Remy: 5 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 4 BB, 1 K
- Ryan Webb: 1 IP, 1 BB, 1 K
- Chi-Feng Lee: 2 IP, 3 K
- Dalton Hurd: 3 for 5, 3B, BB
- Andy Weber: 2 for 5, HR
- Edmond Americann: 2 for 2, 2B
- Josua Huma: 1 for 3, 2B, BB, SB
- Orian Nunez: 3 for 4, BB
- Kwang-Min Kwon: 2 for 4, 2 BB, SB
- Blake Whitney: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 9 K
- Allen Webster: 0.1 IP, 1 K
- Henderson Perez: 3 for 4
- Drew Wharton: 2 for 3, 2B, 2 SB
- Luis Verdugo: 1 for 2, SB
- The other guy who came with Leal to the Cubs in the Campana trade was Jesus Castillo. The Cubs traded him in 2016 for Joe Smith. Smith pitched well (2.51 ERA) in his 14.1 innings with the Cubs (none of those innings were in the playoffs). Castillo was ranked as Anaheim’s No. 12 prospect in the preseason and currently projects as a high groundball reliever.
- Yes, Anaheim’s farm system really is so shallow that a groundball heavy middle relief prospect almost cracked their Top 10. Yes, they still outrank the Cubs. For now. Their ranking was greatly helped by signing Ohtani. Now that Ohtani has graduated they’ll fall down quite a bit, but I’m not sure how far yet.
- Jose Gutierrez is a 19-year-old outfielder who jumped from the Arizona Rookie League to High A on July 18. He has a hit in six of the seven games he has played for Myrtle Beach, and actually has a (tiny sample sizes) higher OPS with Myrtle Beach (.900) than he did with Arizona (.619). Usually when a guy jumps that far that fast he is just filling in for a short time, but it is still fun to see Gutierrez perform at a higher level while he has the chance.
- The Ryan Court hitting streak is up to eighteen games.
- Not only did AZL Cubs 1 have 14 hits last night, they also walked ten times. Despite all that offense, though the game only took about three hours and forty minutes. That’s good, since the game time temperature for this night game was a ridiculous 116 degrees.
- Blake Whitney was the Cubs 24th round draft pick last month. The 6’3″ right hander has appeared in five games for AZL Cubs 2 now, but last night was by far his most impressive. While scattering six hits he sat down 9 of the 14 batters he retired on strikeouts… although one of the struck out batters did reach when the third strike got away. Most of the strikeouts were of the swinging variety.