Around this time last month, the Chicago Cubs announced Pedro Martinez, Jack Patterson, and Brailyn Marquez as the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher(s) of the month for July. That trio straight-up dominated all aspects of their game (pretty much across the board), and deserved every ounce of love they got. But here we are, one month later, with another Minor League month in the books, which means it’s time for some more awards!
So … Congrats to Luis Verdugo and Cory Abbott!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 4, 2019
Verdugo, 18, signed with the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent back in July of 2017. And while his age and experience put him relatively far away from reaching the big leagues, his performance this season was phenomenal: .305/.367/.447 (120 wRC+) with a 17.6% strike out rate.
Of course, it was his effort in August that really separated him from the pack. Here’s what the Cubs had to say as part of their press release:
Verdugo, 18, batted .395 (30-for-76) with four doubles, two triples, five homers, 22 runs scored and 23 RBI in 19 games in August with the Cubs’ Mesa 2 team in the Arizona League. He drew four walks contributing to a .439 OBP and posted a 1.136 OPS. He led the league in August in batting average, RBI, OPS and hits, while finishing second in slugging (.697). The right-handed batter hit safely in 14 of 19 games, including six games with at least three hits and a 5-for-5 performance, August 7 against AZL Giants Black.
What else is there to say? An 18-year-old shortstop with a 1.136 OPS that hits for power and doesn’t strikeout kinda speaks for himself, eh? Like I said, he may be a long way off from fielding grounders in Chicago, but we’ll be watching him closely next season, no doubt.
Abbott, 23, by contrast, is a lot closer to becoming a big league factor. Selected by the Cubs in the second round of the 2017 draft out of Loyola Marymount (Calif.) University, Abbott spent his entire season at Double-A Tennessee, where he earned a 3.01 ERA and 3.51 FIP over 26 starts. And while he may have allowed one too many fly balls for my liking (47.4%), he also struck out 27.8% of the batters he faced while walking just 8.7%. Those are some fantastic numbers at a very difficult level of baseball.
But if anything, I’m under-selling him. The Cubs have a little more to say (emphasis mine):
Abbott, 23, completed his third pro season with a strong month of August, going 3-1 with a 0.98 ERA (4 ER/36.2 IP) in six starts with Tennessee. He struck out 50 batters, walking just nine, and limited opponents to a .107 average (13-for-122). He finished the season with 11-straight starts allowing three-or-fewer hits, including all six starts in August. He led the Southern League in August in ERA, strikeouts and WHIP (0.60), while ranking second in wins, innings pitched and opponents’ batting average. He was named Southern League Pitcher of the Week for August 19-25.
Leading the Southern League in ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP while ranking second in opponents batting average on your FIRST trip through that level is flat out impressive.
And let’s not stop there, here’s what Bryan had to say about his #15 ranked prospect three weeks into August:
With those three strikeouts, Abbott will become the first pitcher at the AA level to 150 strikeouts. He will also become the only Cubs pitcher in the minor leagues this decade to reach 150 strikeouts. Chris Archer came closest, getting to 149 in 2010. The Cubs haven’t had a minor leaguer pass that number since 2006, when Donnie Veal and Sean Gallagher both surpassed 170.
Clearly, the Cubs have found themselves a guy.
We’ve said it before – and hopefully it’ll ring true next season – but the Cubs Minor League system has had some new life breathed into it. There are talented players with plenty of ceiling up and down the system. And as soon as next season, I suspect, they’ll start reaping the benefits.
So another congrats to Verduo and Abbott!