Five Stars of Cub Farm, 5/4/21, MiLB Opening Day: Biagini, Remy, Strumpf, Wilson, Zinn

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Five Stars of Cub Farm, 5/4/21, MiLB Opening Day: Biagini, Remy, Strumpf, Wilson, Zinn

Chicago Cubs

You all know how excited I’ve been for Minor League Opening Day, but would you believe it if I told you I chose to play tennis instead of watching the games live last night? And I’ll tell you why: I found out Monday that my favorite coach from growing up, Tony, had passed away recently. And I just needed to play, if that makes any sense.

Tony was my coach from ages 12-18, and while he did make me a whole lot better at the sport, I look back and realize he mostly taught me to have confidence. It’s been a long time since we last spoke, and while in these situations you always wish you’d had that one good last conversation, I also know that my relationship with him wasn’t unique. He impacted dozens of west suburban kids as much as he did me. RIP, Tone.

To bring it back to baseball here, we talk a lot about the investments the Cubs have made in their technology infrastructures as it relates to player development. I haven’t talked enough, I don’t think, about the investments the Cubs have made in finding the right coaches. Excited to hear the impact that those names have on guys as they finally again have the ability to provide in-person instruction. And any of us that have played sports know the difference the right coach can make on the field.

Okay, let’s talk our first Opening Day in a very long time.

Honorable Mention: Ed Howard’s Glove

Five: Joe Biagini

Somehow the Iowa roster was decimated before the first game even began yesterday, with two hitters out for personal reasons and a flurry of morning transactions at the Major League level. Enter 30-year-old Joe Biagini, signed this offseason to compete in the bullpen mix, who hadn’t started a game in nearly three years. He goes down with an Opening Day loss, as the I-Cubs offense was completely overwhelmed by Chase De Jong, but I had to give Biagini a spot here due to a ridiculous entry in the box score: 16 groundouts versus zero fly outs! This is a guy with an above-average career 51.2 GB%, but that’s not such an absurd number than you expect all those worm burners on day one. After hits to four of the first six hitters of the game, Biagini really settled in, and most importantly ate six innings for manager Marty Pevey.

Four: Peyton Remy

Remy wasn’t at his absolute sharpest with the fastball command (a good number of two seamers running to the middle of the plate), but generally hitters didn’t make him pay, and the changeup has really become the go-to secondary. It was average fade and plus sink and was responsible for at least half of the 12 swings and misses he earned. He’s still got the big, looping slow curveball (think Hendricks’ breaker) as a third pitch. I think the goal here is to see Remy earn the promotion to Double-A, and then see how the stuff works against hitters of that caliber. Because it’s worked against all the hitters the Cubs have put in front of him so far.

Three, Two, One: Chase Strumpf, D.J. Wilson, Delvin Zinn

The lone win in the farm system tonight came in South Bend, and it was the bats that led them there. I gave Delvin Zinn the nod for the top spot thanks to his work in the clutch, giving the SB Cubs a lead in the seventh inning with a sacrifice fly, and then notching the game-winning hit with an eighth-inning double. Delvin, soon 24, is a utility man who gets high marks from managers for the energy he brings to a club. He’s a really good contact hitter, a plus runner, and can play all over the field. I want that guy around.

D.J. Wilson goes down as the only Cubs minor leaguer with two extra-base hits on Opening Day, one a squib down the left field line and another a deep shot to right-center. Wilson, 24, has plenty of tools, but strikeouts and injuries have always held him back since he was an over-slot signing in 2015.

Let’s talk Chase Strumpf at-bats for a minute. First inning, Strumpf shows a willingness to go to the opposite field on a middle-out fastball that goes down as a fly out. In the fourth, Strumpf hammered a second-pitch meatball into the left field corner for a double. In the sixth he worked a beautiful six-pitch walk against a right-handed reliever. In the seventh, Strumpf smoked a low-middle fastball towards the right-center gap, but was held to a single. And finally in the eighth, Strumpf made his second out of the game against a funky Quad Cities reliever popping up a low-inside fastball into short right field. I guess what I’m saying is that as far as first impressions go, Strumpf’s was that he’s probably too good for this level. But fair warning: that might also be my own confirmation bias at play.

Box Scores

Iowa 0, Indianapolis 3

Tennessee: Postponed

South Bend 7, Quad City 4

Myrtle Beach 3, Charleston 6

Special shoutouts: Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele

Homegrown Cubs pitchers book-ending a Cubs win over the World Champs. Boy does that sound good to say.

We can talk about Keegan’s cutter and Steele’s backdoor curveball another time, I’d prefer to just let the emotion of the moment be the analysis for now:

[Meta: For those of you that have followed me on Twitter for a long time, you might remember I ranked the Five Stars of the Cubs farm system pretty much every night of the 2018 and 2019 minor league seasons. Given the heightened importance of the 2021 minor league season for the Cubs organization, and the feedback the BN readers gave in my 2019 coverage, my plan is to adopt that format for blog posts like this a few times a week. It’s no Luke Blaize Minor League Daily – I just don’t have that stamina! – but we think it’s a good middle ground. Thanks for reading.]

Author: Bryan Smith

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