Five Stars of the Cubs Farm, 8/26/21: Vizcaino, Made and Howard, Hernandez, Vazquez, Caissie

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Five Stars of the Cubs Farm, 8/26/21: Vizcaino, Made and Howard, Hernandez, Vazquez, Caissie

Chicago Cubs

Jumping right into breaking down the day in the minors for Cubs prospects …

Honorable Mention: Bryce Ball hit his second home run in as many games yesterday, leaving him with a .235/.392/.506 batting line over the last month. I’ll be really interested how his BABIP changes next year moving to the no-shift Double-A (assuming they keep that rule), and to see if the Cubs start giving him a higher percentage of his starts at first base rather than DH. But boy is it good to have this kind of easy power around …

It’s been a weird season for Yeison Santana, who earned an Opening Day everyday job for Low-A Myrtle Beach, fell on his face during the May month where most Pelicans hitters fell on their face, and then was demoted back to Arizona. The strange thing is that his starts are so scattered and irregular there, partially the by-product of having only one Complex League team, making it impossible to find a groove. He hit his first home run of the season last night … The timing never quite aligned for Trayce Thompson to get the chance in Chicago that most of his Iowa Cubs peers received this year, but credit to him for continuing to be the force for the I-Cubs lineup. In his last 29: .260/.372/.552.

Five: Alexander Vizcaino

I watched all of this one, and you can find my inning-by-inning updates in this Twitter thread. But this, to me, was the best Vizcaino has looked in a Cubs uniform. I think we’re seeing four pitches now, as I’m convinced there are two different breaking balls to go with the fastball/changeup combination that was lauded upon his arrival. I’d like to see better command with the different pitches he throws with two strikes (he does that trying-to-be-perfect thing) and more dependable fastball command with three balls.

The question now is what the Cubs want to do with this guy moving forward, a 24-year-old who is already on the 40-man roster, but who has only reached High-A and has yet to reach four innings pitched this season. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that he could succeed in a big league bullpen right now, but I wouldn’t blame the Cubs if they have higher ambitions for him. There just aren’t a lot of people in the world that can throw this kind of right-on-right changeup a few pitches after dotting 98 mph.

Four: Kevin Made and Ed Howard

I don’t have much more to say about Howard than Brett did two days ago, but you do love to see the piling up of hits continue. That’s now a .387 average over his last nine games, and it looks like a more inside-out approach at the plate has helped. But I’m not going to make any grand declarations about the bat; we need more than nine games for that.

But with 25 games, you get some grand declarations, which brings us to Kevin Made. He’s now at .352 in his last 25 games, which is just pretty ridiculous for an 18-year-old playing his first professional baseball this season, and in full-season ball no less. I see some lower half swing changes for Made in the future, and plenty of weight room work to bring double-digit home run power, but to succeed with this raw a profile means you just have to elevate the ceiling. We’ll probably spend a couple years wondering out loud if he’s ever going to draw walks, and talking about how that limits your offensive upside, but that’s talk for a different day. What has been impressing me lately is how well Made succeeds against breaking balls at this level, recognizing spin early, waiting back on it and driving it. On top of everything else, he’s maintaining a 20.8 line drive percentage, which only increased last night.

And I didn’t even mention the glove, which is impressive.

It’s time to start having the “Is Kevin Made A Top Ten Cubs Prospect” conversation.

Three: Cristian Hernandez

It’s hard to say much without video, but yesterday Hernandez had two doubles, one single and one walk in his four plate appearances. It brings his wRC+ to an above-water 113, with a walk rate of 15.6%. The fact that he’s 10-for-10 on the basepaths only speaks to the baseball instincts that he possesses on top of the tools. The only thing holding back the numbers so far is the lack of power, which is also the skill that you probably feel the best about him growing into in two/three years (he’s 17). I’ll be planning a trip to Arizona to watch him play baseball in 2022.

Two: Luis Vazquez

He’s reached base in all 13 games since returning from hand surgery, with a .277/.393/.404 batting line over those games. He’s clearly embracing a more patient approach, though we need a longer sample to have confidence that he can be a double-digit walk rate guy moving forward. If so and you pair that with his elite defensive skills, you have a pretty exciting floor for the 21-year-old out of Puerto Rico.

I suspect he’ll get a full Winter League season worth of at-bats to help the Cubs process his assignment decision for next year, and it should also give us an idea if this up-tick in power in the last week is anything worth keeping an eye on. Last night’s go-ahead homer was a hanging breaking ball on the inner half, and Vazquez did a really nice job waiting back and getting under it, taking it over the left-field fence.

One: Owen Caissie

In just his third Low-A game, Caissie reached base four times, including his first two extra-base hits in a full-season league. He also, for what it’s worth, made the final out with a running catch on the warning track on a ball that would have tied the game.

Caissie now has four walks in 13 plate appearances with Myrtle Beach, and I’ve been so impressed with his feel for both the east-west and north-south parts of the strike zone. It’s struck me that Caissie lets the pitch get deeper than anyone else in the farm system, but has quick hands to still get the bat head around and rocket balls into right field. I’ll be really interested to see if the Cubs move that contact point more out in front, as they’ve done with some hitters (and as someone like Joey Votto has this season), or if Caissie’s natural raw power is enough that they don’t have to.

He’s a mammoth talent, though, and the leader in the clubhouse to be my second-ranked prospect the next time I do some rankings. He literally has me loading up Milb TV on my phone every time I see his spot in the order is coming up.

Author: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.