Our family spends a lot of time in Northern Michigan, and though I’ve thought of doing it forever, it was only last night that I finally made it to a Northwoods League game.
The Traverse City Pit Spitters routed the Kokomo Jackrabbits in Game 1 of their series on a beautiful night at Turtle Creek Stadium. The game featured a good handful of D-1 players, but I promise I won’t begin pitching their credentials to you. It was just fun to wave a rally towel with the kids, drink some Short’s beer, get a fun new hat and watch silly games on the field between innings.
Which, hey, is something you can also say about minor league baseball! And let’s break down the day in the minors for the Cubs…
Five Stars of Cub Farm, 8/15.
HM. Many Iowa hitters.
5. Luis Vazquez.
4. Relievers of Cub farm. The whole dang lot of 'em.
3. That Pelicans offensive comeback. Down 6-1, win 9-6. Everyone got a hit!
2. Chase Strumpf.
1. Keegan Thompson.
Color tomorrow at BN.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) August 16, 2021
Honorable Mention: I promised many Iowa hitters, and that’s what you’re going to get as they’re the lost story in the 10-0 one-hitter victory. Initial shouts to Jared Young, who had a three-hit night in just his fifth game in Triple-A. Taylor Gushue had two doubles, Alfonso Rivas and Nick Martini (who have both been hot) reached base three times, and Michael Hermosillo scored another two runs … Down in Double-A, Christopher Morel hit a tank in garbage time, his first in what has been a down August so far.
Christopher Morel unloads on this one. pic.twitter.com/HgLBPKNSZT
— Brad (@ballskwok) August 15, 2021
Five: Luis Vazquez
I wanted to put him here, after a game where he reached three times, really just to call attention to the fact that he’s back. Vazquez missed almost three months after a hand/finger injury, and I love that he was inserted right into the South Bend leadoff spot upon returning. I’ve always been skeptical of the bat, but I can tell you there are people in the organization that really see a big leaguer in the 21-year-old defensive beast. I hope there’s a plan in place to get him a regular job for a winter league team to make up for the lost at-bats. (Side note: Alexander Canario with a beautiful opposite field double in this one, too.)
Four: All the Relievers
Let’s go level by level for this one:
Iowa: Dakota Mekkes and Dillon Maples kept a no-hitter going, and Maples looks probably ready to re-join the Major League Cubs bullpen again. If ever there was a time to try him in leveraged spots, the next six weeks are it. Matt Swarmer came in, and while he did allow Omaha’s first hit in the bottom of the ninth, he pitched three fantastic innings in what might just be his best ever Triple-A outing.
Tennessee: Four scoreless from Erich Uelmen, Eury Ramos, and Garrett Kelly. Let’s give some updated numbers on how Uelmen has done since moving to the bullpen: 16.2 innings, 10 hits, 2.16 ERA, 7 walks versus 23 strikeouts. I’m seeing a guy who is coming right at hitters, getting ahead in the count and doing a nice job balancing the two breaking ball variations with the two fastball variations.
South Bend: Fort Wayne knocked Anderson Espinoza out of the game after just 0.2 innings, so this was effectively a bullpen game for South Bend. Shouts to Jose Albertos for eating innings, Scott Kobos for his continued and absolute domination, and Burl Carraway for his continued improvements. But my eyes were on Eduarniel Nunez, who looked in command with a 97-99 mph fastball and good power curveball. Similar to what I’ve said about Danis Correa: the track record isn’t there where you can put him on the 40-man roster, but yeesh, someone is going to see how easy he throws 99 mph between now and the Rule 5 Draft.
Myrtle Beach: They kept the game in striking distance. Which, speaking of that…
Three: All the Pelicans Hitters
I mentioned the other day that Myrtle Beach was in a series against the juggernaut Charleston Riverdogs, and shouts to the Pels, splitting the six-gamer with a nice comeback win here. It was an all-in effort with everyone in the lineup getting at least one hit, but with these guys grabbing two: Jordan Nwogu, Jonathan Sierra, Pablo Aliendo, and Kevin Made. Nwogu is a .349 hitter over his last 16 games, while Made is at .333 in his last 16. I thought his ground-rule double last night was just about the best swing he’s put on a ball as a professional yet.
Cubs Kevin Made is continuing to impress. Takes this elevated pitch and drives it for a ground rule double. pic.twitter.com/cCLTMNwGuA
— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) August 16, 2021
Two: Chase Strumpf
I don’t want to sit here and wonder aloud if this is the game that signals if Strumpf is turning a corner in Double-A, mostly because it feels like I’ve done that like four other times already. But he walked, doubled, and homered yesterday, so just know that I’m thinking it might be the case.
Instead, let’s think about Strumpf’s last 25 games, which also are his last 100 PA: .226 AVG / .350 OBP / .405 SLG, 23 K%. The progress in the latter statistic is noteworthy, and it’s not high enough to be the chief blame on that low batting average. The thing is, I’m just not really sure what is. Too many lazy fly outs? I guess I find encouragement in Strumpf’s numbers because we’ve seen growth in power and contact, and the batted ball numbers are really right where you’d like them to be. It’s just not clicked into that one hot streak yet, which really takes us back to where we started in this paragraph.
Strumpf with a 2-run 2B down the line and gets to third on the error. He’s officially hot. pic.twitter.com/YmVyqEih3f
— Brad (@ballskwok) August 15, 2021
One: Keegan Thompson
Sliced through 13 batters without yielding anything, making it 14.2 scoreless innings as a Triple-A starting pitcher. He’s stretched out to 61 pitches now, so I’d think we’re looking at one or two more before he heads back to Chicago. And this was not only the most encouraging start because it was the longest, but also because it was his most dominant outing in strikeout-hunting in almost two months. Let’s just go through his seven strikeouts in detail here.
1. Four-pitch K, two swinging strikes and two foul balls. Gets strikeout on high-away breaking ball.
2. Bobby Witt Jr. Gets him on the high-away fastball tunneled off the previous curveball.
3. Full-count cutter to a lefty. You love it.
4. 8-pitch at-bat, Thompson dots 95 on the low-inside corner to a lefty.
5. Another full count, looks like he got whiff on two-seamer with plenty of run
6. Witt Jr. again. After bouncing a cutter, came back to it, yanked it a bit, but got him.
7. Pratto again. Down 3-1, Thompson throws what Pitching Ninja calls White Castle Specials (frontdoor cutters).
Long counts, some effective misses, but really just fantastic control with the cutter jumps out.