The End of Short-Season Ball for 2019 and Other Cubs Minor League Notes

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The End of Short-Season Ball for 2019 and Other Cubs Minor League Notes

Chicago Cubs

Short-season ball in Arizona and the Dominican closed shop this week, meaning the end for four Cubs affiliates. Covering these teams is always a unique challenge, as we have no video to go on and instead end up placing far too much emphasis on box scores and rumors.

Anecdotally, it felt like the big winners from this complex season came on the offensive side. In Arizona, you have July Player of the Month Pedro Martinez breaking out, along with nice seasons from other infielders like Luis Verdugo and Fabian Pertuz. In the Dominican, outfielders Yohendrick Pinango, Felix Stevens, and Jose Lopez all got talked about a lot, in addition to infielder Rafael Morel.

The offensive side of the system will hopefully get stocked more in the years to come as these players mature. On the pitching side, we’ll see. I didn’t hear much one way or the other about the DSL pitchers, though teenagers like Carlos Paula, Kelvin Feliz and Luis Devers posted some good numbers. On the AZL side, Ben Rodriguez showed a good quick arm but will need more strikeouts. Richard Gallardo, 17, just debuted in Eugene yesterday, so his maturity raised eyebrows (so, too, did Manuel Espinoza).

Before long, these guys will be in Eugene and South Bend and we can have a better idea who and what they are as prospects.

Onto some notes …

  • You’re going to see Iowa and South Bend clinch playoff appearances this weekend, and you can bet the Cubs are preparing their playoff rosters for those teams internally right now. Kohl Franklin and Blake Whitney were both promoted from Eugene to South Bend yesterday, both as reinforcements for a tired South Bend staff, and for the developmental benefit that pitching in big games could mean for them. I suspect Iowa could also see some reinforcements from Tennessee; I think we’re all hoping for Nico Hoerner and Cory Abbott there.
  • By the way, Abbott is in the midst of quite the streak:

  • Something in the AFL release that really excited me: the Cubs feeling like Keegan Thompson will be far enough in his rehab to be able to compete at the AFL talent level. We might even see him pop up in South Bend for a rehab start in their playoffs before the AFL begins. I really believe Thompson was ready to have a big 2019 season, and the idea that he can help salvage a lost season some is a good thing. The AFL will be good practice for the offensive environments he has ahead of him.
  • Someone else I’m hoping we see pop up for South Bend’s playoff run: Brennen Davis. He’s been out for a while after a HBP (the second time it’s happened this season).
  • Edmond Americaan is a short-season guy having a better season than I realized. Last night he hit a big home run to right field and a long double to center, as well as drawing two walks. But he’s been rock solid in his last 41 games: .314/.368/.485, good for a 143 wRC+. Americaan was an above-slot signee from junior college last year, playing this season at age 22. He’s quick-twitch and has added some strength, but still struggles to walk enough (6.4%) and hits the ball on the ground almost entirely (66.3 GB%). A deep-cut prospect, yes, but a prospect nonetheless.
  • A more well-known outfielder also destroying the ball of late: Nelson Velazquez. In his last 23 games, Velazquez is hitting .310/.371/.506, good for a 151 wRC+ in the Midwest League. Velazquez has shown to be a much more well-rounded hitter this year, avoiding the all-or-nothing power pitfall that I worried he might fall into. He’s shown enough to be sent to Myrtle Beach next year for what will be his age 21 season, but he needs to stay healthy next year to capture a little more development time in 2020. He has an offensive upside that’s pretty rare in the system.
  • I think I’ll write about James Norwood and Dillon Maples when September 1 comes around (they both figure to spend most of September with the big Cubs), but as a preamble for that piece, let me just share their recent work with you. In Norwood’s last four outings at Iowa, he hasn’t allowed a hit and has struck out 11 of 15 batters he’s faced. That’s just part of this larger stat line he’s had over the last 10 weeks: 26.1 IP, 16 H, 3.08 ERA, 12 BB, 45 K. I have some thoughts on what’s behind that, but we’ll let it be a tease for the forthcoming piece.
  • As for Maples, he’s coming into September on one of those stretches that makes you wonder. Check out his August: 11 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 18 K. But, of course, in earning his sixth save last night, he walked two batters, and I had that sinking feeling it was all about to fall apart. Will he ever be able to allow us more confidence?
  • Something really silly that’s entertaining me as I track Myrtle Beach Pelican box scores down to the season’s final day: the race for the team OPS title. Miguel Amaya fell to .760 yesterday with an 0-for-5 performance, while Cam Balego jumped up to .762 with his 12th home run. The two have see-sawed for weeks, and I’m making this in my head a much more significant competition than it is. But it’s fun!

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Author: Bryan Smith

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