I have wildly itchy bug bites on my left shoulder and my right hip. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a bug bite on either one of those spots, individually, much less at the same time. Gotta do less summer skinny dipping, I guess. (IS HE KIDDING OR IS HE SERIOUS.)
• Extremely fun fact from yesterday’s game? Michael Hermosillo, who homered in his first Cubs start, had just one other career big league homer before that. The pitcher off of whom he hit the homer? Adrian Sampson … the pitcher making his first Cubs start yesterday.
• Good fill-in outing for Sampson, who doesn’t have a lot in his background with the Rangers or in the KBO or at Triple-A to suggest he could become a longer-term starting pitcher for the Cubs, but you never want to unequivocally rule it out. Through four innings, Sampson allowed just one run on five hits and no walks, striking out two. He’s a control/contact guy with extreme low spin rates, aiming to get crummy contact, which he mostly did yesterday. With Keegan Thompson coming up to start on Saturday, it’s TBD whether Sampson stays up and in the rotation as the sixth starter, at least until Adbert Alzolay (hamstring) is ready to return. I hope he does, if only to spread around the workload late in the year. I suspect he will not survive the offseason on the 40-man roster, though, for what it’s worth.
• Oh, also, immediately dinged in my mind for making me think about the godawful last two seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’:
Adrian Sampson on opportunity with Cubs:
“Right now, it’s almost Game of Thrones-esque. We’re being asked what kind of role we want to play in this organization going forward. It’s ours for the taking. If you want it, you gotta go get it. … I really want this job.”
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) August 18, 2021
• Something to keep an eye on? Rowan Wick’s velocity yesterday was waaaaaay down. You would expect a little down since it was him pitching in a day game right after a night game, but not 3-ish MPH on the fastball. I mention it with him, specifically, because I remember part of the issue it took him so long to come back from the oblique injury is that the Cubs indicated he was having trouble recovering the next day after pitching. You can’t have a relief pitcher out there who can never pitch on consecutive days without have the stuff degrade so badly on the second day. Maybe yesterday was a fluke, but it was a concerning fluke.
• Meanwhile, Trevor Megill was dominant for his second straight outing – easily the best he’s looked with the Cubs these last couple outings. Given his huge size and over-the-top delivery, it wouldn’t surprise me if he is a streaky guy, who gets locked into his mechanics for a stretch and is absurdly dominant … and then falls out of it for a stretch. I’m only speculating, mind you.
• Frank Schwindel, who has now has an extra-base hit in seven straight games, showed up second on the MLB rookie hot sheet, behind only the dude who threw a no-hitter for the Diamondbacks: “An 18th-round pick out of St. John’s back in 2013, Schwindel, 29, is finally getting his first shot at regular playing time in the Majors after the Cubs traded Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees. Claimed off waivers from the Athletics in mid-July, he has batted .400/.434/.760 with four homers and 14 RBIs over the past two weeks.”
• Schwindel is up to 63 PAs with the Cubs, hitting .390/.429/.729 (205 wRC+). The quality of contact is excellent, but not quite .442 BABIP or .339 ISO excellent, so those are gonna come down. But the part that is really giving me trouble? A mere 19.0% K rate. When I say “trouble” I mean … trouble not declaring that Schwindel is a stud who just hasn’t gotten a chance. It is extremely difficult to make the kind of consistently hard, elevated contact he’s making while also striking out way below league average. The sample is small enough that I can just say the league hasn’t found the holes yet, and they will. But man. This isn’t quite the same thing as it was with Patrick Wisdom, who hit(s) the ball harder than Schwindel, but has an extreme amount of swing-and-miss in his game. Wisdom has more power and has the much more valuable defensive ability, but I think Schwindel might have the better overall bat. (Again, subject to the caveat that the league could yet find the hole in his swing or approach, and the adjustment period could be rough!)
Who is Frank Schwindel?
Here’s who ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/DkUbOfqYtO
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) August 18, 2021
• Quite a developmental trajectory for Ryan Jensen, who was the Cubs’ first round pick in 2019, and was just promoted to Double-A Tennessee. Because of the timing of his entry into the pro baseball world and the pandemic, he had barely any pro experience when he took the ball at High-A South Bend earlier this year, despite being two years away from being drafted. Your concern there, of course, is that it’s just too much interruption at too critical of a time for a player to come through it well. But, to my eye, Jensen has done exactly what you’d want at South Bend: working on his pitches, working on his stamina, struggling through tough outings and then bouncing back, etc. The pitches are nasty, the velocity is premium, and at times, the results are just absurd. So now the Cubs’ minor league pitcher of the month for July gets the late-season bump to Double-A, where he’s likely to open the 2022 season, putting himself on the big league radar as soon as mid-next-year. Crazy how fast he climbed given how little experience he had.
• Oh, and I’m gonna call it early: Jensen is going to be a guy who gets his first big league exposure in relief, a la Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson, and then the Cubs will make a call about stretching him back out to start. I am guessing that not only based on Jensen’s ability, but also because I suspect this is going to become a pretty regular path for the Cubs as they finally have a wave of pitching prospects arriving. I really like the way it gives the pitchers a taste of facing big league hitters, allows them to learn and develop (and contribute!) in a more controlled way, and then they can take what they learned into their starting development. Whenever Brailyn Marquez gets healthy next year, you might see it for him, too.
• Anthony Rizzo (COVID) returned to the Yankees lineup last night with an RBI single. Good to see that he’s able to get right back out there after a case of the illness that sounds like it made him pretty sick. Apparently Rizzo’s return is going to cause an issue for Luke Voit, though, who has dealt with his own injury issues and hasn’t been able to duplicate his huge 2020 breakout. Voit has been heating up lately, and he isn’t shy about pleading his case: “I finally feel like I’m hitting my stride after getting a week’s worth of games under me,” Voit said, per Yankees.com. “I’ve been a great player for this organization for the last three years. I’m not going down. I want to play. Obviously, I know it’s going to be tougher because of Rizzo. I deserve to play just as much as he does. … The injury bug is the reason he’s here, because of me, but I hope Boonie can do whatever he can to get me some consistent at-bats.” The problem for Voit is that the Yankees are not going to sit Rizzo at first base in favor of Voit, and since that’s the only position he can pay, it’ll have to be DH. Except that is where Giancarlo Stanton needs to get most of his at bats. So basically Voit can play when Rizzo gets a day off or when Stanton plays in the outfield (a rarity), but it’s gonna be something the Yankees have to figure out how to coordinate. You just don’t often hear a player say out loud that he deserves to play as much as a specific other teammate.
• I don’t know what else you can say about Shohei Ohtani. I’m just in awe of what he’s doing:
4⃣0⃣ FOR SHOHEI OHTANI. pic.twitter.com/pADVlnTLMO
— MLB (@MLB) August 19, 2021
My shots of Shohei Ohtani’s 40th home run swing. Ball goes 430 feet on the same night he throws 8 innings on one hit ball. Just an amazing player. Game was totally worth the trip up from Chicago. #MLB @Angels #Ohtani @BleacherNation @realcubsinsider #Cubs https://t.co/yB1J5viy7Z pic.twitter.com/H5knoG2edQ
— MBDChicago (@MBDChicago) August 19, 2021
Shohei Ohtani ALSO struck out 8 and lowered his ERA to 2.79. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/b7hbMhwnNb
— MLB (@MLB) August 19, 2021
• The news on A’s righty Chris Bassitt looks to be as good as you could possibly hope when a pitcher gets hit in the face with a line drive:
News is encouraging on A’s ace Chris Bassitt. After being hit in the face with a liner last night he sustained a fractured cheekbone and maxilla (upper jawbone). Surgery will be in 3-5 days after swelling subsides. All other scans are clean. Most vitally: Vision is 20-20.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 18, 2021