Schwarber's Second Half Swoon, Leal's Breakout, Wave of Pitching Prospects, and Other Bullets

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Schwarber’s Second Half Swoon, Leal’s Breakout, Wave of Pitching Prospects, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

To all who serve on this Veteran’s Day – and all the other days – I say thank you. It’s become so easy for everything touching on the military to be politicized in such a way that we forget the fundamental nature of what our servicemen and women do. No, I’m not going to tell you it’s all perfect or that it doesn’t merit discussion and debate. But the humans who serve? The individuals who do the work and take the risk and disrupt their lives? They deserve thanks.

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Home Run Derby memories. #Cubs #ElMago #Schwarber

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  • Someone tweeted at me about Schwarber being one of those guys who fell off after the Home Run Derby, which isn’t actually a thing, but I do think it’s worth noting that he *was* one of the Cubs who fell way off in the second half (First Half, Second Half):

wRC+: 130, 89

K rate: 27.1%, 28.0%

BB rate: 16.5%, 13.2%

BABIP: .298, .272

ISO: .249, .196

Soft Contact: 15.6%, 18.9%

Hard Contact: 42.2%, 36.9%

  • That is … wow. We knew that the Cubs were almost across the board plagued by second half underperformance, but it’s something else when you see the starkness for a particular player presented like that. Like so many of the other Cubs, Schwarber slumped badly in the second half, and it was almost entirely the product of just not hitting the ball hard enough consistently. Schwarber dealt with a back issue late in the year, and who knows about the impact there, but obviously the hope for him – like so many other young Cubs hitters – is that a new (old) voice in Anthony Iapoce will help, as well as natural development.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

  • The best part of that writeup? Although Leal doesn’t feature a plus fastball (sits 90-92), he got most of his success this past season with his plus changeup and no breaking pitch. Now, while dominating Arizona, he’s working on his curveball, which is also flashing plus. Apparently he didn’t throw the curveball much while coming back from Tommy John, so he’s only just now re-incorporating it. A guy with good command, an adequate fastball paired with a plus changeup and a plus curveball? That’s a possible big league starter, my friends.
  • A reminder: Leal is Rule 5 eligible this year, so the Cubs may have to put him on the 40-man roster to protect him, even if he’s only pitched at High-A. You tell a rebuilding club that there’s a 23-year-old with two plus offerings who is fully back from Tommy John and dominating in the AFL and they might just try to stash him in their bullpen for a season.
  • Combine Leal with Justin Steele and you’ve got two good pitching prospects in the AFL, each a year removed from Tommy John surgery, and each of whom absolutely have big league upside. It’s been a long time since the Cubs had a wave of starting pitching prospects that you could look at and say, “Yeah, I actually see a good four or five or six guys who have middle-of-the-rotation big league upside at High-A and above,” but finally – after seven years, I think we’re there. Adbert Alzolay is also there. Alex Lange is there. Keegan Thompson is there. Cory Abbott is there. I think there are a bunch of other guys whom I could list (a little young, or a few more questions, or a little less upside), but the point is less about the specific prospects and more about there finally being a real wave of big-league-caliber pitching prospects rising through the system. You need a wave if you’re going to have a couple guys actually make it.
  • To be quite clear, there isn’t yet a guy you’d point to as having front-of-the-rotation upside, but maybe Brailyn Marquez carries forward his breakout and is that guy. Or maybe Oscar De La Cruz returns from suspension and *finally* puts it all together healthily. Or maybe Jose Albertos fixes whatever on earth happened to him last year. Those are definitely three guys who have the raw ability to be top types.
  • Cubs Productions won some deserved Emmys:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.