Looming Infield Options, Ortega’s Nice Run, Rehab Assignments, and Other Cubs Bullets
Mets closer Edwin Diaz blew his third straight save opportunity last night. I am mentioning it here at the top of these Bullets for no particular reason at all.
• Last night’s loss pushed the Cubs to 9.5 games back of the Brewers, tied for their largest deficit of the season (they reached it during the Phillies series, and then briefly bounced back). The Brewers open a two-gamer with the Royals today, while the Cubs FIGHT to get back into a third-place tie with the Cardinals. Not what we would’ve hoped this late July rivalry series would be.
• Gotta give some more love to Rafael Ortega, who continues to hit against righties (.290/.343/.452, 117 wRC+), and plays solid defense anywhere in the outfield. He made a great catch early in last night’s game:
Rafael Ortega, meet the center field wall. pic.twitter.com/aWIv8Ptf13
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) July 20, 2021
• Having just turned 30, Ortega is not a prospect or a guy you could realistically bet on as a “future piece,” but like we discussed when he was signed to a minor league deal, he’s one of those guys who has been too good for Triple-A for four years now. It was worth giving him a shot, in a new org, to see what could happen, and maybe it’s all come together for him to be a solid bench piece for a few years now? It does happen, especially if your hopes/expectations are reasonable. The challenge is going to be his lack of minor league options, but I wouldn’t hate seeing him get more starts in the second half to see if there’s actually some evolution here. The sample is still very small (he has 80 successful PAs this year, compared with 447 unsuccessful big league PAs spread across multiple seasons before this year).
• The flip-side there is that if Ortega is one of those guys that a team wants to pick up in the coming week, knowing they can no longer pick up complementary pieces in August (no more waiver trade period), you might let him go in a very modest trade because there’s at least a 50/50 shot you weren’t going to want to keep him on the 40-man all offseason anyway.
• When Nico Hoerner got double-switched out of Sunday’s game, and then didn’t get the start last night, you wondered if something was up. It wasn’t that long ago that he returned from a serious hamstring injury, and maybe he felt a little something and the Cubs are playing it safe? If that’s the case, I haven’t heard anything about it. And Hoerner was interviewed before yesterday’s game, but it was just a normal interview about playing through a stretch like this on a team not winning. Of course, if he is fine, then why was he double-switched out and sat in favor of Eric Sogard the last 1.5 games? Surely the Cubs aren’t trying to showcase Sogard for the purposes of some team picking him up in trade as a bench guy, right? I was pretty easily sold on Sogard as a minor league contract guy before the season and a possible bench player, but he’s hitting .230/.281/.294 (57 wRC+) in his last 119 games (this season and last season). The defense has mostly been solid, last night’s error notwithstanding, but there’s just no bat there whatsoever. I don’t really see the point in sitting Hoerner in favor of Sogard at any time right now.
• Speaking of that position, David Bote’s rehab assignment continues at Iowa, where he’ll presumably play again tonight. He’s playing alongside Matt Duffy, who is expected to be activated on Thursday. Bote is probably not far behind, and maybe that’s part of the reason Sogard is getting a little more run? Because the Cubs know he might get DFA’d in a few days, so they want him to play just a bit more before that happens, and then they try to move him out during the week of the DFA (which would also be the week running up to the deadline)? Seems like a stretch to me, but in any case, with Duffy and Bote due back very soon, the composition of the infield and roster will change, and I suspect the Cubs will want both of those guys making starts right away juuuuuuust in case a team comes calling on July 30.
• Throw in Patrick Wisdom and Kris Bryant and Javy Báez, and it’s going to be a very full infield of guys you want starting. Well, unless, you know. Things happen.
• For Hoerner, the importance of starting is just about the development for 2022 and beyond:
Big difference for Nico Hoerner this yr versus last: performance against 4-seam fastballs.
2021: .417 average / .453 wOBA
2020: .147 average / .248 wOBA
Here are Savant visualizations by season. What a difference it’s made to embrace his instinct to go inside-out vs velocity. pic.twitter.com/MXDF7Jxykr
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) July 19, 2021
• Last night’s game (the season?) in a couple images:
2021 Chicago Cubs Baseball pic.twitter.com/E88sGUBBQf
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 20, 2021
Final: Cardinals 8, Cubs 3. pic.twitter.com/mxEMuZdzXV
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 20, 2021
• Obviously you take the double, right? I was surprised by the responses:
You have a homer, a triple, and a double in your first three at bats. It’s a blowout. In your 4th at bat, you HAMMER one to the right center gap, and you know it’s reaching the wall. Do you
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 19, 2021
• Great shot of the Darvish Prospects (which, very soon, we’ll stop referencing them that way, especially given how much Caissie and Preciado are exploding in the ACL):
Once affectionately referred to as the Mesadres, the young prospects @ReginaldPrecia4 Yeison Santana Ismael Mena and @owen_caissie can now officially be called #Cubs 07-19-2021. pic.twitter.com/kkIjXugRWX
— John Antonoff (@baseballinfocus) July 20, 2021
• Bryan is the best. I’m gonna join him in this. So hit all the dingers today, dudes:
I’ll be donating $10 for every 💣 hit by a Cubs minor leaguer today to Make-A-Wish on behalf of the Blogathon, and $25 per Brennen bomb. Would love for some people to join me at whatever $ amount is comfortable for you. Blogathon remains the best thing about BN. https://t.co/k2FXNY91xJ
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) July 20, 2021
• Make sure to check out the BN Blogathon details here!