Without a minor league season, we’re not going to get a whole lot of Cubs prospect updates. I miss it a lot. But there’s a good bit to get into, collected over the past week or so, and I think you’ll enjoy making due with what we can …
• Gotta love hearing an eyes-on report from South Bend on top pitching prospect Brailyn Marquez, from fellow pitching prospect Dakota Mekkes:
Brailyn Marquez pitching as a reliever in South Bend, making big leaguers look silly. Next stop, Cubs bullpen?
— Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto21) September 8, 2020
• Things I love to hear there about Marquez: the 100 mph fastball is not max effort and is well-located, the changeup is “disgusting,” the slider is still “good,” and he’s making big league-caliber hitters look silly. You are reminded that Marquez has to go on the 40-man roster after this season anyway, and it has not been ruled out that he could come up this year and contribute out of the bullpen. And did you catch the part where Mekkes said Marquez, who is still very much a starting pitching prospect in the long-term, is currently pitching out of the bullpen at South Bend?
• Speaking of top Cubs prospects, some love for the top overall guy, who is getting a good developmental experience against very high-level pitching this year:
• Bonus bit in there on Adbert Alzolay, from Theo Epstein: “We told him, ‘You should be really proud of yourself. In the middle of a global pandemic, you added a different fastball variant. You firmed up your breaking ball. You’re now essentially a five-pitch guy after being like a two-and-a-half-pitch guy last year.'” So Alzolay now throws his four-seamer, a two-seamer, a changeup, a curveball, and a slider. Alzolay gets at least one more chance to impress out of the rotation tomorrow night against the Reds.
• A visual check-in on relief prospect Ethan Roberts, the Cubs’ 4th rounder from 2018, who was not a guy many expected to be doing this:
• That’s obviously max effort without necessarily looking to command, but we’re talking about a guy who already sports some of the highest spin rates in the minors, and if he can sit mid-90s with his fastball? Yeah, he’s a pure relief prospect who hasn’t pitched above High-A – it’s a profile that always makes you cautious – but he might be a special reliever. Let’s just pray he wasn’t on any of the PTBNL lists from the Trade Deadline deals …
• Meanwhile, another Cubs pitching prospect visual to enjoy, a young arm you might not know well:
Love this❤️ pic.twitter.com/pOi6OJIrAg
— Benjamin Rodriguez (@brodriguez227) September 1, 2020
• The lost minor league season was bad timing for Rodriguez, who was a slower-developing, very-projectable arm who was set to finally pitch outside of rookie ball for his age 20 season. The scouting reports indicate there’s a lot to dream on.
• Tommy Birch recently wrote up what it’s like at the South Bend alternate site, and how the Cubs are trying to create “pressure” in their simulated games. Good read. He also included comments from the Cubs’ Director of Player Development Matt Dorey:
Who have been the biggest surprises? “Chris Morel and Brennen Davis, both being younger guys, stepping into this environment, have really stepped up to the challenge. I think both of them have made a lot of strides around these position players and really fit right in, both from a performance standpoint and just from a maturity standpoint. Those two guys have really turned a lot heads here. We all knew they were really good but they’re facing Triple-A type pitching or major league depth pitching every single day. That’s a huge step for them developmentally.”
Who has taken advantage of the time? “We’ve had a lot of pitchers that have really thrown the ball well. I think Justin Steele’s been doing really good, exciting things. Tyson Miller, who I know you guys had in Triple-A for a little bit last year and obviously got his major league debut. (Adbert) Alzolay has been really sharp. Some of the other guys that I think are really close are Michael Rucker and P.J. Higgins has been great. We all know of his defensive versatility but he’s been swinging the bat really well.”
• The Cubs are up to 22 international signings in this period, which was pushed through the end of this year:
— Brad (@ballskwok) August 26, 2020
• If your timeline is all discombobulated because of the pandemic, this is the current class (2019-20), and includes guys like Ronnier Quintero, Kevin Made, and Brayan Altuve. Normally, you’d have a 2020-21 class that opened up back in July, but that’s what got pushed to January. That’s the class that is expected to include stud shortstop prospect Cristian Hernandez.