Cubs Prospect Notes: Thompson, Remy, Hultzen, Little, Uelmen, Draft, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Thompson, Remy, Hultzen, Little, Uelmen, Draft, More

Chicago Cubs

Outfielder Mark Zagunis is going to be heading back to AAA Iowa today. No word on his replacement yet – Brett or Michael will have the details when those are available – but I wanted to take the chance to defend Zagunis’ two months that will surely be mocked some today.

In his time with the Cubs, Zagunis was given six starts, and hit .333 in those games. Zagunis earned his roster spot because he could be a platoon option for either Jason Heyward or Kyle Schwarber against lefties, and he performed admirably in that role in a tiny sample. That he lost the role due to some defensive miscues in Atlanta, in my view, speaks more to management’s unwillingness to trust players with youthful developmental hurdles, rather than to his abilities as a player. That was all the way back on April 4, and Zagunis got just three more starts in the month and a half after that.

Yes, the volatility of young players isn’t ideal for a team with championship aspirations. But you definitely don’t want one bad game to outweigh the process that went into that starting opportunity in the first place. I look forward to seeing what Zagunis looks like in Iowa.

Onto some other minor league notes …

  • A decision that will be made soon is when is the right time to promote Riley Thompson. Last year’s 11th round pick, who became a professional pitcher and instantly harnessed command he never could in college, has been a force for South Bend in the Midwest League. Last night was his best outing yet:

  • Thompson is throwing 92-95, threw a lot of really good changeups last night (as you see in Waldon’s GIF), and will flash a really good breaking ball. But more than anything, it’s the strike-throwing – just 10 walks in 39 innings – that tells me he’s ready for High-A. Perhaps you wait until after the minor league All-Star break, fine, but it’s coming. So is a rise in his ranking on the BN Prospect List (coming next week).
  • There’s another pop-up guy in South Bend, and after his bullpen success earned him a rotation spot, I had to grab some video:

  • The Cubs usually have an older player succeed in the Low-A bullpen, leading to a Low-A rotation spot, and ultimately, an end-of-season cup of coffee in Myrtle Beach. It happened to Michael Rucker, it happened to Rollie Lacy. Remy looks well-suited to be the next in that line of players.
  • Fun news out of Arizona:

  • I hate to go all “big, if true” on you, but: big, if true. Hultzen finished last year in Iowa and looked solid, but was more 88-92 mph, flashing a decent slider and change-up. If he’s added four miles per hour, and can maintain his trust in secondaries and overall command, we could have quite the comeback story here. In a lot of ways, we already do.
  • Staying in Arizona, I thought I’d note that Phil at The Cub Reporter saw Brendon Little throwing live BP this week. That’s great news; we hadn’t heard anything, and I was beginning to wonder if we were looking at a season lost to injury. Little, a former first round pick, will surely be brought along very slowly, and then rehab in the AZL before heading to Myrtle Beach for the second half. So, then, our next pitcher not currently pitching to hold our breath on? Yovanny Cruz.
  • Erich Uelmen made it back to Myrtle Beach, himself, this week, throwing 75 pitches in a start on Wednesday. The performance wasn’t great – 8 hits and 3 runs in 4.1 strikeout-less innings – but having Uelmen back on the mound is more important. A lot of Myrtle Beach pitchers have high BABIP’s this year (likely a byproduct of a bad Pelican defense), which isn’t ideal for the guy pitching to groundball contact. But we’ll see.
  • The draft is almost here, as the Cubs are likely honing in on their early rounds strategy. This is why a list of high school guys coming to work out in Wrigley Field caught my eye.

  • Not sure we’ll preview specific draft possibilities before the draft, but Michael Ernst at Cubs Den did a really good job of detailing the college hitters the Cubs might be looking at. Michael Busch and Logan Wyatt are two guys I like, though I do have skepticism about drafting the first base position so early.
  • I like to finish notes off with a standings check-in on the minor league affiliates. Iowa’s built up a nice 5.5 game league in their division, though they had a three-game win streak end last night. Tennessee has won seven of their last ten, but still sit in fourth place in the North Division, five games behind the Montgomery Biscuits. Myrtle Beach still has the worst record in the Carolina League, despite playing a little better the last ten days. Finally, South Bend snapped a four-game losing streak yesterday, and now stand in fourth place, 4.5 games behind the Great Lakes Loons.
  • Finally, just know I’m in video-watching mode to prepare for an update to the BN Prospect List, coming late next week. Thanks for your previous feedback on how deep the list should go, I think the most common answer was 25 names, so we’ll run with that.

Author: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.