Five Stars of the Cubs Farm, 7/21/21: It’s Brennen Davis’s World and Chris Morel is Also Living in It
I began reading 2022 mock drafts and envisioning certain dudes in Cubbie Blue this week, if you were interested in a check-in on the state of my fandom. I’m telling you guys, we’re all going to be clamoring for Reggie Crawford in a year’s time.
Let’s break down the day in the minors for the Cubs, which I’ll tell you has a certain deja vu feel to it.
Five: Ethan Roberts
He’s just completely overqualified to be pitching in Double-A at this point, but I think the Cubs are waiting until the Trade Deadline passes for that promotion. Roberts is from Tennessee, mind you, so sticking around Kodak a little longer doesn’t seem like the worst thing. Either way, Roberts is really pitching his way to a 40-man spot this winter, and I believe more and more everyday that his unique profile is destined to work in the big leagues. Last night he coerced five swings and misses on just 11 pitches, mostly mixing in a fastball around 93-94 with cut and a 83 mph high-spin slider that he was commanding perfectly. He has more in the bag than just that combination, but the situation didn’t call for it, and when you command like he’s been lately, you might as well keep things simple.
Here’s one way to explain Roberts: the things that have given Dan Winkler some modest big league success, Roberts has more extreme versions of. And the thing that gives Winkler troubles, an occasional loss of control, is perhaps Roberts’ most dependable weapon. If Hottovy and Company can find utility for Winkler, I think they’re really going to like Ethan Roberts come 2022.
11 pitches for Roberts to shut it down. pic.twitter.com/H9301wVe6v
— Brad (@ballskwok) July 22, 2021
Four: Trayce Thompson and DJ Artis
Not much to say here, besides it’s been a nice 20-game stretch for DJ Artis, who moved from a part-time role in Tennessee down to a full-time one in South Bend: .225/.364/.535. There’s too many strikeouts for a player of his profile, but this bit of pop has been a nice new introduction to the game. Even if I might not look at him and project the Bigs, I still enjoy watching that dude play baseball.
Three: Burl Carraway
It was an unfair label that was put on Burl on Draft Day a year ago: guy that can help in the bigs right now. As a guy with a jerky-jerky motion, the margin for error is so high, and he’s been hugely out of sync this year: he’s walked as many batters in 19 professional outings as he did in 38 collegiate ones. But I’ll credit the Cubs here. They didn’t pull the rip cord on Carraway (as I might have) in June and send him to the Pitch Lab in Arizona to start things over from scratch. They were adamant that a) the raw stuff was still in good shape, and b) the mechanical issues were fixable and diagnosable by the South Bend coaching staff.
Last night was Carraway’s best outing yet in the Cubs organization. And I can see a difference in the way he’s moving directionally versus when he was struggling a few weeks ago: his body is centered more towards home as he delivers. I’m not here to pronounce Burl as Fixed, but I’m also someone to toot the horn of encouragement when the performance deserves it. Keep it up, kid.
The individual pitches are still otherworldly:
Burl Carraway, the @Cubs' 2020 second-rounder out of @DBU_Baseball, with his best outing as a pro: 5 Ks in 2 perfect innings.
More on the 22-year-old lefty: https://t.co/vGn40QXMww pic.twitter.com/enVPTc0Iwm
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 21, 2021
Two: Christopher Morel
It’s been a big struggle for Morel of late, who was 6-for-50 with 21 strikeouts in the 12 games that preceded last night. This guy needed a hit, and damn if it doesn’t feel like he enjoys following suit when his friend Brennen Davis begins a big night. Morel also hit two home runs last night, taking fastballs to similar places:
Chris Morel goes deep again! Hopefully Tori Hunter Jr. didn’t tear a muscle or something doing this. pic.twitter.com/27gXUIjYR6
— Brad (@ballskwok) July 22, 2021
I will say the second swing looks more comfortable, even against better velocity, as Morel is always going to prefer a southpaw. Frankly I’m a bit concerned by the gap of that platoon split, and Morel still has some development to do against those right-handed breaking balls. But the fastballs? Oh, he’s got it.
One: Brennen Davis
This is why I said Morel also hit two homers.
There’s something poetic about Davis putting a stamp on a day where he earned some (I’ll say it: overdue) hype from a national outlet. Like Brennen always has, you’re just blown away by the ability to turn modest struggles into substantial improvement in real short amounts of time. Brennen’s first home run last night was the perfect example of that, an 0-2 breaking ball on the outside corner where he allowed his strong wrists/hands to do the work:
And then in the very next at-bat, Davis is sitting dead-red and doesn’t miss his pitch. I want to know this exit velocity:
It was one of those performances that got me combing through the archives a little bit, as it was almost two years to the week of another big Davis game that had me writing a morning post. One reason I love the minor leagues are those times where a player shows you his potential, allows you to dream on it, and then begins to make the developmental steps necessary to fulfill that dream. We’re getting pretty far down that road with Brennen Davis, folks.
I say a lot of dumb things. But I just found this, and you have to indulge me sharing this one time 106 weeks ago where I said something not-so-dumb. https://t.co/0QRbuAKZnH
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) July 22, 2021