We have reached Promotion Season in the minor leagues, when a player’s performance reaches a sample large enough to demand: MOVE ME UP. First it was Robel Garcia, who actually hit his first home run in Triple-A last night. Yesterday, lefty reliever Ryan Lawlor was promoted from South Bend to Myrtle Beach … where he then took a loss in a tight 2-0 contest. More are coming.
Onto some minor league notes…
- One guy whose potential promotion is surely getting talked about internally is Tyson Miller, who we’ve written about recently, but pitched another gem last night. Miller gave up two solo home runs – which is going to be the bugaboo he has to guard against, given how often he pitches up in the zone – but that was all the damage for a career-high 7.2 innings. He also struck out eight against zero walks. This guy has been so fantastic at Double-A so far – the 1.17 ERA tells you that, as do the stellar peripherals. At some point here soon you just open up the rotation spot in Triple-A and give it to him. Perhaps that new acquisition Chandler Shepherd will be taking Miller’s rotation spot with Tennessee?
- You might wonder why the Cubs are bothering putting in a 40-man waiver claim on a guy like Shepherd, who has never reached the Majors and has a 10.01 ERA in Triple-A. Well, when Ben Zobrist went to the Restricted List, his 40-man roster spot was (temporarily) vacated. This gives the Cubs a little flexibility, and they usually don’t sit quietly with 40-man roster flexibility. The play here the Cubs do most often – this winter with Johnny Field, Jerry Vasto, Ian Clarkin and others, for example – is claiming guys they eventually intend to waive themselves. This is what the Cubs will almost surely do with Shepherd: DFA him when a 40-man spot is needed, and if he’s not claimed, outright him to the minors. Because he was drafted in 2014, he won’t be a minor league free agent until after 2020, giving the Cubs a year and a half to see what they have with him.
- A little video I couldn’t resist not sharing on another dominant Tennessee rotation member, Cory Abbott:
Pitching backwards and pitching in tunnels.
A 3-pitch clinic by Cory Abbott. pic.twitter.com/kI8iRNh22E
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) May 17, 2019
- That’s not even really Abbott as his best stuff-wise, but it spoke to me as a good example on how he succeeds. I’d also note I saw Abbott up in the 92-93 range in this start, a good number for him. Here’s a good recent interview with Cory Abbott from Ryan Sikes.
- It’s mock draft season, and they’re beginning to pop up all over the place. Projecting the Cubs pick is more about saying what type of player the Cubs usually lean, so you’re seeing a lot of college hitters, be it a middle infielder like Logan Davidson, or a power bat like Michael Busch. I, myself, don’t have much interest in projecting the pick, as last year showed the Cubs don’t mind snubbing industry consensus. That worked pretty well last year.
- I will say, however, I’m hoping the Cubs come away with more than a couple power bats in this draft. There’s just so, so few home runs below the Iowa level of the minor league ladder:
The lack of power in Cubs prospect pipeline is scary.
HR leaderboard outside of rabbit ball AAA:
Kevonte Mitchell 6 HR (.198 AVG, .180 ISO)
Miguel Amaya 4 HR (.194, .185)
Aramis Ademan 3 HR (.250, .177)
Jared Young 3 HR (.256, .104)
P.J. Higgins 3 HR (.276, .110)
6 Tied w/ 2 HR
— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) May 17, 2019
- That is pretty, pretty rough. Take Delvin Zinn, for instance, who entered this season with one home run in 110 career games. All it took for him was *ONE* magical day to find a place on Michael’s leaderboard. I really like seeing that bigger leg kick for Zinn this year, giving him a little more as he loads up for the swing:
- In doing that, Zinn made a run at the top of the wRC+ leaderboard in the Cubs system, but Tennessee infielder Vimael Machin is making it pretty hard to catch him right now. Last night Machin had two doubles, a triple, a single and a walk in the Smokies 6-2 win. You might recall Machin spent a couple weeks in Iowa between Zack Short’s injury and Addison Russell’s return, and he’s probably nearing a more full-time promotion here soon. His Double-A numbers are pretty insane for a pitching-friendly league: .357/.443/.524, with more walks (13) than strikeouts (8). The Cubs are loaded with bench infield depth in the upper minors (insert your sarcasm here, even if it’s true).
- In addition to Javier Assad pitching fantastically for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Paul Richan is coming off his best two-start stretch of the season, striking out 15 and walking zero. Here were my thoughts on what he showed last time out:
Gameplan called for loads of fastballs early, and added more secondaries the second and third time thru. I like the state of his breaking balls, would like to see more in unpredictable counts. Change up wasn’t great in this one, but armspeed is good.
Nice outing overall!
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) May 16, 2019
- Some recent notes from Arizona Phil at TCR that are worth sharing. Keegan Thompson is throwing again. The Cub’s 6th round pick from 2016, Chad Hockin, is in the game action stage of his return from Tommy John. Jose Albertos has looked really good, commanding 94-97 mph, recently. Richard Gallardo is mowing them down, and probably will pitch in the Arizona League this summer at age 17. D.J. Wilson is trying to salvage his career after getting demoted to Extended Spring Training from Myrtle Beach. Tony Barnette and Erick Leal are rehabbing.
- Finally, I want to point out that before the draft in a couple weeks, I’m going to release my newest round of prospect rankings. I’d note that MLB Pipeline just updated theirs. Wanted to ask the BN readers: how deep would you like to see a midseason list go? Note that the bigger the number, the less information I’ll likely provide on each guy, so there’s a balance in there to consider, and I’d like to take the group temperature before deciding on my own.