A few weeks ago, I lamented to someone that the Cubs didn’t seem to have enough breakout prospects in 2019. The top of the system had performed very well, strengthened their prospect statuses, but the depth seemed a little shakier to me.
Then, Christopher Morel began to breakout in South Bend. And it felt a little better. Then, the breakout pitcher popped up with a scoreless streak. A scoreless streak that tomorrow will reach a month old. And during that streak, Jack Patterson planted himself firmly on The Prospect Map.
During that month, a lot has changed for Patterson, a 32nd round pick in 2018 from Bryant University. He started June as a middle reliever for South Bend. He got a spot start on June 12 in the second game of a doubleheader. He went back to the bullpen. But as the zeroes kept coming, Patterson was promoted to Myrtle Beach. He was named our Reliever of June, and more, the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of June. And then he was told he’d be transitioned to a starter with the Pelicans.
Last night, Patterson made his second start with Myrtle Beach (and his first on MiLB.tv): 5.0 innings, 1 hit, 3 strikeouts. Faced the minimum. The scoreless streak rose to 19.1 innings. In his last 6 outings, since that spot start in South Bend, he has these insane numbers: 18 IP, 5 H, 0.00 ERA, 7 BB, 20 K.
And don’t worry, this is not a story without good stuff. Patterson throws a fastball that sits about 91-93 mph, it peaked at 94 mph last night, and 95 in South Bend. He has the system’s second-highest groundball rate, a little north of 61%. His most comfortable pitch is a low-to-mid 80s curveball with sweeping downer action.
But the pitch that changed everything for me of late is his slider. Patterson began tinkering with the pitch in South Bend to great success. By throwing the pitch harder, Patterson was able to get better separation from his curveball. And it’s something he can throw for a strike – Amaya went to it in the middle innings if Patterson fell behind 1-0 – or as a nasty K pitch:
Loved this pitch from Jack Patterson’s final outing with South Bend. It’s an 89 mph slider that was preceded by a 95 mph fastball. Cubs Pitcher of June – amazing value in round 32 of 2018 Draft. Real pitching prospect.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) July 8, 2019
I noticed a change-up from Patterson last night, but it’s a fringe offering in need of more development. He doesn’t need it right now, as he’s held right-handed hitters to a .157/.265/.183 batting line, with a more-than-healthy 28.6 K%.
Last night on the Myrtle Beach broadcast, play-by-play men Zach Bigley and Noah Cloonan helped navigate why Patterson has been such a diamond in the rough. The 6-foot-even lefty grew up in a Connecticut town where soccer was the biggest sport, and that was Patterson’s focus. You see it the way he moves, fielding a bunt last night or covering first on a close play. He didn’t focus on baseball much until his junior season in high school.
From there, it was four years at Bryant University, where he didn’t play much his first two seasons, only emerging as a starter his senior season. Credit to Cubs area scout Matt Sherman, who helped identify Patterson as a lefty to draft, clearly an opinion that wasn’t consensus industry-wide. The Cubs got him in their infrastructure, added a tick or two, and now have an almost-24-year-old with very little wear and tear on his very talented left arm.
Of course, we have to mention this breakout is happening in July, during a time where scouts are flocking to watch the Cubs low minors, trying to find sleepers their team can ask for in trade talks. I have no doubt that Patterson has emerged as someone that will draw some discussion. It will be up to the Cubs to value him correctly, hopefully as I do: flying up the Cubs internal prospect list, now (for me) in the top 25.