A lot of great Cubs prospect notes to get into today …
- This weekend’s Cubs Convention was loaded with interesting prospecting bits, particularly the Down on the Farm panel yesterday. Jordan Bastian had a great write-up, as did Patrick Mooney, and Bryan and Evan Altman also fired off a bunch of useful tweets, too. First those, then some remarks.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) January 19, 2020
Where is the next core player? On a different Cubs Convention and the opportunity for prospects Miguel Amaya, Brennen Davis and Brailyn Marquez: https://t.co/VNlkVfw5iR
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) January 20, 2020
Question about what Iowa will look like.
Dorey says guy that jumps out is Zack Short. A guy that does a lot of things offensively that we like, and plays a premium position at a high level. Big league caliber shortstop. Needs to stay in approach, let great hand eye do the work.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 19, 2020
There’s a new performance center in Double-A Tennessee for the players this year, which is great to hear. That was the affiliate that could have used the facility improvement, and now every affiliate provides great opportunities for prospects.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 19, 2020
Dakota Mekkes, Wyatt Short, Adbert Alzolay, Tyson Miller named as guys who can contribute in Chicago this season.
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) January 20, 2020
- I was very glad to hear Farm Director Matt Dorey talk about Nico Hoerner’s developmental needs in a way that was apparent to some of us last year: “He knew that the league didn’t know him and he wanted to try to get off his ‘A’ swing as soon as he could early in an at-bat. A big part of his developmental plan moving forward will be his, I don’t want to say plate discipline, but just making better decisions and having the ability and the comfort to grind out at-bats with two strikes. I think that’s what we’ll evaluate in Spring Training and Nico’s hyper-aware of that. We’ll see how that plays out.” It was crystal clear that Hoerner was going with that approach in his month of work – which is fine early on – but it was also clear that within a week or two, pitchers adjusted to his aggressiveness, as they do.
- The Cubs aren’t committing to where top pitching prospect Brailyn Marquez will open his season, though AA Tennessee is a real possibility after the way he dominated at High-A in the second half. Marquez turns 21 this month, so he’s still very young, but I think the Cubs know what they have in him: a very special arm that could contribute in the big leagues very, very soon. So they aren’t going to put an artificial ceiling on him. That said, because they know how good he could be – the upside of an actual front-of-the-rotation arm, something the Cubs haven’t developed internally since the days of Prior and Wood – they are going to be very, very careful to make sure they don’t miss anything with his mechanics or his pitches or the data. They’re going to want to make certain everything is proceeding as perfectly as possible for him to succeed long-term.
- The Cubs loved what they saw from Miguel Amaya at High-A last year, and that’s despite him being young for his level *and* being a catcher (where the offense tends to develop a little more slowly). He’s likely to open at AA this year.
- The farm panel mentioned the idea of “prospect fatigue” for Adbert Alzolay, which definitely happening at this point – you hear about a guy so much for so long and he hasn’t yet really jumped up at the big league level, and that makes him kinda fall off your radar in favor of newer, shinier objects. But Alzolay, as we’ve discussed, very much has big-league-impact stuff. He’ll get a shot at the 5th starter job out of Spring, though I tend to think it’s more likely the Cubs take advantage of his final option year to maneuver him around a bit between minor league starts and the big league bullpen. Then, in 2021, you hope to have an idea what his permanent role can be.
- Kyle Hendricks is a believer, and Alzolay is currently in the best shape of his life (I know that’s the joke, but he meant it sincerely):
Kyle Hendricks thinks Adbert Alzolay is the real deal and thinks the 24-year-old Venezuelan could be a "big piece" for the Cubs this year.
"He's electric. I think he has a really good shot at being a really good major-league starter for a long time." https://t.co/FQsN6F4p42
— Madeline Kenney (@madkenney) January 19, 2020
- To be very clear, the obvious best-case scenario for the Cubs is that Alzolay just looks too good in the Spring *not* to make him the 5th starter, because he’s got the most upside – and team control – among the guys who could step into that spot immediately and become long-term rotation pieces. If that were to happen, Tyler Chatwood would resume being the Swiss army knife of the bullpen (if he’s not traded), and Alec Mills would serve as a multi-inning reliever and depth starter. I really like those two guys, too, but Alzolay breaking out as a starter is the bigger/better dream scenario.
- Obligatory whenever this topic comes up: I think Mills is underrated, and if Alzolay isn’t ready and the Cubs prefer to keep Chatwood in the bullpen, I’m fine with Mills opening the season as the 5th starter, given that the Cubs don’t seem to be bringing anyone else in.
- A nice honor for Cubs second rounder Chase Strumpf, who winds up 8th on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top 10 second base prospects right now. Keep in mind, second base prospect lists are always a bit thin because so many of the best upper-level/big league second basemen are still shortstops in the minor leagues for prospecting purposes (case-in-point, Nico Hoerner is viewed by most folks as a future second baseman, but he is not considered a second baseman for prospecting purposes). Nevertheless, although Strumpf doesn’t have the defensive chops to play outside of second base and maybe a corner outfield spot, everyone has liked the bat plenty since the Cubs drafted him last year.
- It’s definitely a pretty swing, and it’s another guy who was taken in the second round (compensatory):
Cole Roederer got plenty of praise from his teammates and the front office at the Cubs Convention this weekend, especially regarding his athleticism.
I’ve gotta say, I can understand why! He has potential to be a legit 4-tool guy and already has the prettiest swing in the system pic.twitter.com/f0hUZTmXtG
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) January 20, 2020
- And since we’re going off about former Cubs second rounders, Bryan rightly seeing that Cory Abbott doesn’t get enough love:
Oh btw, struck out more batters in a season than any other Cub pitching prospect last decade.
Throws 3 pitches in any count, generally spots a fastball that he can run up to 94 if he has to, and has a slider that is absolutely plus.
Let’s put some respect on @Cabbott40’s name.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 20, 2020
- Sleeper for 2020:
Cam Balego had 1 HR in his first 279 pro PAs and then popped 12 in 468 this season in a tough hitter's park/league. All while keeping his K% under 19% and posting a 12.4% BB% (plus 18 HBP). Interesting to see what he does in a hitter's park in Tennessee. pic.twitter.com/ROn12FeP4H
— Brad-Tor and the Snow Dog (@ballskwok) January 20, 2020