Five Stars of the Cub Farm, 7/2/21: 6-0 Night on Farm as Ed Howard, Christopher Morel Post Career Nights

I’m finishing this up as I head out the door to get a quick nine holes in: let’s break down the day in the minors for the Cubs.

Honorable Mention: I sent out the Five Stars tweet before the ACL game in Arizona finished, so I’ll acknowledge the stars of that 8-2 win here. Good stuff across the board for the Darvish Haul Trio. Reggie Preciado continued his fantastic start with two singles and two steals while playing shortstop. Ismael Mena moved to the leadoff spot and reached base three times. Owen Caissie walked twice. And a nice 4-inning, 1-run, 4-strikeout start from lefty Joel Machado in his professional debut. We’ll wait for reports on Machado’s stuff, but last I’d heard (pre-2021, when he was 17-18) he was high 80s with a solid breaking ball.

Five and Four: Many Home Runs

Let’s bullet point (all but one of) the guys who did it!

•   Chase Strumpf. Finished June on a really rough note, 6-for-49 with 18 strikeouts in his final 14 games of the month. The home run tonight was an opposite field shot, which reminds me of all the excitement from the Cubs front office last October when Strumpf showed power to right field. If that starts showing up, watch out.

•   Tim Susnara. The organizational catcher shortage is going to create more opportunity for guys like Susnara, so kudos to him for taking advantage.

•   Nelson Velazquez. Gets one off 2020 first round pick Tanner Burns, and now Velazquez is hot again, with hits in 8 of his last 10.

•   Alfonso Rivas. Let this be the start of a hot streak, as he’s one of the few hitters in Triple-A that could offer multi-year value to the Major League Cubs.

•   Tony Wolters. Trying to make sure he’s, again, the next man up in case of injury.

•   Jared Young. Tennessee won both games of their doubleheader, and Young had two doubles in the first one and a home run in the second. The latter being off first-round lefty Reid Detmers (noteworthy as Young entered night with just 3 career HR in 294 PA against LHP). Since returning from injury: 5-for-9, four extra-base hits, two walks, zero strikeouts.

Three: Many Quality-ish Starts!

Back to bullet points!

•   Trevor Williams. Made it through five innings throwing just 58 pitches in what should be his final start before re-joining the Major League team. Whose spot does he take?

•   Javier Assad. Six shutout innings. Quietly in his last 4 GS: 22 IP, 17 H, 1.64 ERA, 5 BB, 16 K. I like the Ruben Quevado comp with Assad.

•   Dakota Chalmers. Still getting stretched out since Cubs claimed him from Twins, but stuff looked sharp in a 2.2 inning “start”. A really worthy gamble by the front office.

•   Derek Casey. One of the better reverse platoon split guys in the farm system, thanks in part to a changeup that has looked very solid on video. All his secondaries (two breaking balls, change) have. Move him up!

•   Manny Espinoza. One strikeout, but also just one unearned run, over five innings. Last 5 GS: 24.1 IP, 20 H, 2.59 ERA, 9 BB, 22 K. Executes.

Two: Many Ed Howard Hits!

A return to the bullets to break down each of Ed Howard’s five plate appearances. And just 4 strikeouts in his last 23 plate appearances.

First inning, vs RHP, first pitch: Fastball tailing to middle of plate, fly out down RF line.

Third inning, vs RHP, 2-2 count: Swinging bunt, beat out easily

Fourth inning, vs RHP, first pitch: Middle-low fastball, grounder down 3B line, single, home-to-first in 4.3 seconds.

Sixth inning, vs RHP, 1-2 count: Middle-low fastball, inside-out liner down RF line, double.

Eighth inning, vs RHP, 2-2 count: down the middle, fly ball over CF head, triple, home-to-third in 11.2 seconds.

One: Many Christopher Morel Home Runs!

Hmm, what format should we use to discuss the home runs?

Game 1, Third inning, vs RHP Kyle Tyler, 1-2 count: Smacks hanging 83 mph breaking ball to left field. This guy’s got bat speed.

Game 1, Fourth inning, vs RHP Kyle Tyler, 3-1 count: Middle-away fastball, high fly ball just over the fence in right-center.

Game 2, First inning, vs LHP Reid Detmers, 0-1 count: Middle-in fastball, 95 mph, Morel sent it 428 feet out (at 108 mph exit velocity) off the left field scoreboard.

Morel is now a firmly above-average hitter in Double-A as a guy that turned 22 just nine days ago, and never even played at High-A. He has four home runs off lefties in less than 50 PA. And if we use some arbitrary endpoints, this is a four figure OPS guy in his last 20 games. It’s is a big story for a farm system that really needed a breakout from that 5-15 part of the system. It looks like they have one, and now we can begin to dream about the ideal ways to integrate the very versatile Morel into a Major League roster in 2022/2023. Because they’re sure not trading him, or any prospect, away from the organization at this point.

written by

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

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