I am solo with the kiddos this morning – one of them is literally pulling on my leg as I type this sentence – so apologies on any brevity in here.
• Keegan Thompson went four innings yesterday in his first start coming back up to the bigs. He allowed five hits, two walks, and two runs, while striking out just one. A good write-up here from Sahadev Sharma on Thompson’s start yesterday, which featured a first inning that ground him down, and striking lack of whiffs:
Keegan Thomspon bounced back from a long first to give the Cubs four solid innings. It’s a solid first start since being stretched out in Iowa. Next up, more bat-missing, with a harder curve possibly being key. https://t.co/ns2S36idqj
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) August 22, 2021
• The long, long first inning kinda set Thompson’s day sideways right from the jump (The Athletic):
Add in that it was a typically muggy Chicago afternoon (86 degrees at first pitch, but feeling significantly hotter) and it’s understandable that Thompson looked a little off.
Ross pointed out that after the first, Thompson’s fastball seemed flat and didn’t have the same velocity he was displaying in his starts at Triple A. He was sitting at 92.5 mph on the day (he touched as high as 95.1), but apparently was a tick or so higher in Iowa, sitting 94-96 in his final (and longest) outing there.
According to Baseball Savant, Thompson garnered just four swings-and-misses over his 73 pitches on the day, two each on his four-seamer and cutter. Thompson leaned on his four-seamer, something he seemed to be pleased with since it led to balls in play and outs over the final three innings, throwing it 40 times overall.
• The good news is that Thompson has already showed that he can get big league hitters out in a variety of ways (including a huge uptick in whiffs as his time in the bullpen went on). Now it’s about balancing how much you can attack early on, while still saving some to let yourself go 5, 6, 7 innings and three times through the order. Nothing that happened yesterday changed my thinking that Thompson could be a big league starter, but I also don’t think we can lock him into the 2022 rotation yet or anything. Ditto Justin Steele, by the way, though both are locks to contribute – probably quite well! – to the big league team next year, whatever their role.
• Nico Hoerner (oblique) is hitting up South Bend today for a rehab game, and then will go to Iowa on Tuesday to continue the rehab stint (Sharma). Monday is an off-day in the minors, so he is once again making a side trip to South Bend just to get in an extra game and try to return sooner. If all goes well, he could be back with the big league team and starting almost every day at shortstop by next weekend.
• The Cubs lost out on a great outfield relay/play at the plate yesterday because of the rule about not blocking the plate:
• Whatever you think about the rule, itself, that was the correct application. The rule is relatively simple: the catcher cannot completely block the plate without the ball. If he has the ball, he can block the plate. Or if he’s in the act of receiving a throw and that takes him into a blocking position, that’s fine, too. But otherwise, you cannot just camp out in front of the plate while you wait for the throw, even if you’re about to get the guy by a few steps. You have to leave a lane, and then you can slide over, which is not what Robinson Chirinos did. That left Andrew Benintendi with no reasonable option to even start his slide – is he supposed to run/slide directly into Chirinos? That’s precisely what the rule is designed to prevent – and Benintendi was right to gripe. Again: you can beef about the rule if you want, but since it is the rule, that situation was a correct application.
• Random: Benintendi, who has suddenly become a contact guy this year (but with below-average-overall production), is a non-tender candidate this year. If that happens, I wonder if the Cubs would give him a look as a reclamation positional guy, given the obvious talent and the fact that the Cubs really liked him in the draft back in the day. Still only 27.
• Rough day overall for Chirinos. He had that play, let a wild pitch go by to score a run, threw one away into the outfield, and also got stolen on multiple times. He’s obviously still been way more positive than negative, and he’s being asked to carry a much larger load than expected with Willson Contreras out, but I suppose it’s a reminder that, at 37, we should be cautious about assuming he could definitely return as the Cubs’ primary back-up next year.
• Ooh, Shark vacuums are among the Deals of the Day at Amazon. We use ’em and like ’em. #ad
• There’s a chance Javy Báez could be back today for the Mets, on the same day Francisco Lindor returns from his long stay on the IL. Whatever your fandom, that’s a middle infield that I think could be very fun to watch.
• Very notable promotions are coming, I suspect, because this could be part of a chain of events:
I have heard from team sources that Owen Caissie is, indeed, heading to Myrtle Beach. Very excited to see Owen with @Pelicanbaseball.
— Ivy Futures (@IvyFutures) August 22, 2021
• Even if that’s just a one-off, it’s still really dang exciting. Any time a high school draft pick reaches full-season ball in his first pro season is a big feather in the cap, but it’s even moreso for Caissie, whose first partial year was basically nothing because of the pandemic, and for whom the end of his amateur career was also interrupted. Caissie, one of the prospects acquired in the Yu Darvish trade, had been one of the best hitters in the Arizona Complex League, hitting .345/.474/.591 with a 174 wRC+. The recently-turned-19-year-old will now get a chance to face much more advanced pitchers, and learn some things in advance of the offseason and instructional ball. I love it. I wonder if there’s any chance that Reggie Preciado (also Darvish trade, also hitting quite well in the ACL) or Kevin Alcantara (Anthony Rizzo trade, also raking in the ACL) will get a chance to see Myrtle Beach before the season is up.
• Don’t miss Bryan’s write-up on D.J. Herz, the Cubs lefty pitching prospect who now has the highest strikeout rate for any A-ball pitcher over the last 15 years.
• Oh, also? Alexander Canario has an ARM:
Throw was offline, but Canario showed off the arm here: pic.twitter.com/Jcmcz4Rs4k
— Brad (@ballskwok) August 21, 2021