Had to get into some Cubs prospect bits while I had a chance, because there was so much enjoyable stuff out there …
⇒ A great deep dive on the Cubs’ draft class from the guys at The Athletic:
The sell-off has begun and the focus is squarely on the future. A deeper look at potentially fast-moving first-rounder Jordan Wicks and the Cubs 2021 draft class. Story w/ @PJ_Mooney: https://t.co/1xmxZmniKY
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 16, 2021
⇒ There’s so much I could comment upon, but let me highlight Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz, who the Cubs are just going to love having in the system (emphasis added): “Rarely do you see a college catcher manage a game,” [Cubs VP of Scouting Dan] Kantrovitz said. “They essentially have a pro staff there at Arkansas with half the guys throwing 95-plus. Rarely do you see a college catcher have the ability and the cerebral skills to be able to do that. Usually, it’s the coach calling pitches. He’s calling his own game there. The coaches trust him, the pitchers trust him. That’s a position that’s really difficult to evaluate from a scouting standpoint normally. But when a player stands out defensively as much as Casey does, it gets us really excited. I don’t want to throw this around loosely, but it’s fairly agreeable to everyone who saw him that he was the best defensive catcher in the country. And when you pair that with somebody who has the intangibles, the instincts, the ability to call the game, it gets us excited for how Casey could develop and what he could become.”
⇒ Speaking of the Draft, Baseball America picked one underrated pick for each org:
Cubs: Parker Chavers, OF — Chavers was draft-eligible a year ago but an arm issue prevented him from playing in the shortened 2020 season and he made it back to Coastal Carolina, where he hit .318/.407/.477 and lowered his strikeout rate to 13%. Chavers is old for the class, but he has a handful of above-average or better tools in his defense, arm strength and raw power and has a chance to stick in center field.
⇒ I am loving the development we’re seeing from last year’s third round pick, Jordan Nwogu, who had a lot of work to do on his swing:
I don't know if it's actually happening this rapidly, but I swear each time I see his swing this year, it's improved. https://t.co/8kfTr4dMms
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 15, 2021
⇒ In July, Nwogu is hitting .260/.351/.520 with a 22.8% strikeout rate, which is still too high for a college bat in Low-A, but given that it’s coming down from 40%, we’re on the right track. And that power is very, very legit. I mean, how the heck did he hit that ball way out?
⇒ Baseball America named the prospect of the first half for each organization, and you will be wholly unsurprised to learn that the Cubs’ gent is Brennen Davis, who is just on so much fire:
This time Brennen cleared the RF wall. pic.twitter.com/NXpRZgZDy1
— Brad (@ballskwok) July 17, 2021
⇒ Davis’s prospect-mate Ryan Jensen was having some fun, but he did actually hint at what will soon be a very good point/issue:
Davis is hitting .333/.429/.619 (186 wRC+) over the past month, and .370/.463/.804 (237, LOL) over his last 13. And that DOESN'T EVEN INCLUDE HIS TWO-HOMER GAME IN THE FUTURES GAME.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 18, 2021
⇒ Reaching Triple-A this year was never entirely off the table for the 21-year-old Davis (with so little game experience before this year), but I won’t say I expected it. Now? It’s hard for me to see the Cubs letting him stay at Double-A and be completely unchallenged unless he hits a serious speed bump.
⇒ This is a fantastic read on how different players process information differently, particularly with how they translate it to their game:
Data vs. feel: Cubs pitching prospects Ryan Jensen and Max Bain are taking different approaches along their developmental path
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) July 16, 2021
⇒ There’s not necessarily a right or a wrong in your data approach, as long as the pitcher is getting what he – individually – needs, and can optimize his game. For Jensen, it means doing bullpen sessions with a fake left-handed batter in the box so he can practice getting his four-seamer in. For Bain, it means asking his spin efficiency in between pitches and working on adding a seam-shifted wake component to his slider.
⇒ Bain, for what it’s worth, is in a bit of a rough stretch, but you have to remember that this was a guy signed out of Driveline workout who is making his pro debut as a starting pitcher at High-A. It was supposed to be extremely challenging. Jensen, by contrast, is on an eye-popping heater, as Bryan recently discussed.
⇒ Speaking of guys on a heater, while we’re still waiting on full stats to be incorporated into the various outlets out there, we know from all the available box scores and anecdotes that this guy is just raking out in Arizona:
— John Antonoff (@baseballinfocus) July 16, 2021
⇒ The just-turned-19-year-old Caissie is not going to be playing in the Arizona Complex League for much longer, I expect. The available numbers suggest a guy who is just too good for the pitchers, because he’s swinging very rarely (hilariously large walk rate, high strikeout rate), but is obliterating the ball when he does swing. That isn’t necessarily a great combination for development.
⇒ The Cubs’ 2020 first rounder:
#Cubs 2020 1st-round draft pick Ed Howard is heating up this July. Howard said the difference has been the experience, "it was an adjustment for me, I'll be honest with you." @Pelicanbaseball @MiLB pic.twitter.com/yFtMk0MWro
— Candace Martino (@CandaceMartino) July 16, 2021
THE SNAG AND THE OUT!@ehowardIV do it kid!
Top 9, tied at 5 pic.twitter.com/ADchBPLAY9
— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) July 17, 2021
⇒ Joc Pederson homered in his first start with the Braves, but the prospect the Cubs got in return walked and doubled, so, it’s basically a tie:
Bryce Ball doubles to the wall for his first Cubs hit! pic.twitter.com/7OR1jdxhrk
— Brad (@ballskwok) July 18, 2021
⇒ Ben Leeper FINALLY gave up a hit at Iowa, but it is kinda necessary:
Cubs evaluator told me recently one of the things they wanted to see from Ben Leeper was how he responded after some struggles. This is as close as he’s come. And by the way he’s throwing, probably as close as he will come. https://t.co/MSIPweBH0M
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) July 18, 2021
⇒ Speaking of that win, Justin Steele dominated in another three-inning start:
In Justin Steele’s second start in Iowa, he pitched 3 innings, allowed 1 hit, walked 2 & struck out 5. 🔥
— Cubs Zone ™️ (@CubsZone) July 18, 2021
⇒ And Michael Hermosillo homered AGAIN, bringing his Triple-A Iowa slash line up to .312/.431/.552 (164 wRC+). The 26-year-old former Angels prospect has never really gotten a full shot in the big leagues yet, and you’d LOVE to have him get that look with the Cubs in the second half. His BABIP (.405) and strikeout rate (26.1%) definitely leave you with some concerns about how much of the production will translate to the big leagues, but it’s also just the case that he’s hitting the crap out of the ball. He deserves a look.
⇒ Maybe Hermosillo to Chicago after the deadline, and Davis to Triple-A?