There was something about the South Bend Cubs win yesterday that gave me the urge to write an update on the prospects the Cubs acquired at the trade deadline. Maybe it was Bailey Horn’s near-quality start. Or Alexander Canario’s home run. Or Bryce Ball knocking in Canario for the game-winning run. There was a lotta good stuff from recently-acquired prospects in that game, and it just stood out to me! So the topic was on my mind.
So, let’s do it. Let’s dig into the nine prospects the Cubs acquired in July, who have since played for a Cubs minor league affiliate. The results are generally not what you want to see on the numbers side of things, but that isn’t necessarily the only focus when you’re talking about still-developing prospects that you’ve targeted to incorporate into your system and work on X, Y, and Z.
Stats since the trade: .325/.404/.623 in 77 AB with in the Arizona Complex League.
Something that’s surprised since the post-trade scouting report: The in-game power! The potential for power was pretty obvious when watching videos from the Yankees system, but I would not have thought that Alcantara would double the number of home runs he hit in the New York organization in his first 16 games with the ACL Cubs. Looking forward to see what a winter of muscle development does to the power profile moving forward.
The likely plan for 2022: I expect Alcantara to be earmarked for a full season – from Opening Day until September – in the Myrtle Beach Pelicans lineup. There’s no urgency to this development for a guy who only just turned 19.
Stats since the trade: .213/.364/.413 in 160 AB with High-A South Bend.
Something that’s surprised since the post-trade scouting report: I think because Ball’s power comes naturally, he doesn’t hunt for it quite like I would expect. He’s hit balls to the pull side less than 36% of the time with South Bend. What this tells me is the gap between his Current Power and his Future Possible Power grades is actually a little more pronounced than I first anticipated.
The likely plan for 2022: He’ll share first base and DH duties in Double-A Tennessee next year. The future status of the Designated Hitter in the National League will uniquely impact his standing in the organization. Would be eligible for the 2022 Rule 5 Draft and need protection on the 40-man roster following next season, so it’s a big season to imprint his name on future plans. He needs more of that in-game power to show up if he’s going to live being a 15% BB, 30% K guy.
Stats since the trade: .236/.284/.444 in 144 AB with High-A South Bend.
Something that’s surprised since the post-trade scouting report: First, Canario has played a really good outfield in the Cubs organization. If his defense was even talked about upon his acquisition, it was generally referred to as a minus, and I haven’t seen that at all. I think Canario has looked fine in center field and I think profiles as an above-average right fielder. Offensively, I wonder if that hot power streak Canario went on during his first two weeks in the organization led to a little bit of over-aggressiveness in his plate approach. I expect a little more polish in that department next year.
The likely plan for 2022: His Opening Day assignment – be it a push to Double-A or a return to South Bend – will be one of the more interesting storylines at the end of minor league Spring Training next year. If Canario gets on the field in winter league this year – he was a first-round pick last week – that performance will surely help inform the Cubs decisions.
Stats since the trade: .232/.296/.414 in 99 AB with Triple-A Iowa. Also was 4-for-23 in his MLB cup of coffee.
Something that’s surprised since the post-trade scouting report: The numbers are so stark, I feel confident in suggesting the Cubs went to Deichmann upon his acquisition and preached more aggression early in counts. The walk rate is down from 19% to 9%, with a corresponding reduction in pitches seen and an increase in swing rate. This is being done to help Deichmann get into his power a little more often (Brett: reminds me of what Ian Happ is pretty clearly trying to do at the big league level lately), and it’s noteworthy that he does have 8 extra-base hits in his last 15 games. The correct balance will definitely allow for more walks, but it’s too early to begin judging results, as the outfielder is right in the middle of a significant adjustment.
The likely plan for 2022: He’ll start in Triple-A Iowa and serve as injury insurance for the Cubs in the corner outfield. Deichmann has numerous option seasons remaining, so this will be a familiar refrain for his standing in the organization unless a breakout occurs.
Stats since the trade: In High-A South Bend: 16 IP, 10 H, 5.06 ERA, 11 BB, 27 K, 1 HR-A. In Double-A Tennessee: 9.2 IP, 8 H, 1.86 ERA, 5 BB, 10 K, 0 HR-A.
Something that’s surprised since the post-trade scouting report: I touched on Espinoza’s first Double-A start last week, but really, it was largely a re-hash of what I thought of Espinoza when the Cubs acquired him. If there’s one thing I’d point to, it’s more optimism that the curveball can get to a plus pitch with the Cubs pitching infrastructure.
The likely plan for 2022: According to Arizona Phil at The Cub Reporter, Espinoza likely will have option seasons available to the Cubs in 2022 and 2023. So I expect the Cubs will give Espinoza at least another half-season as a starting pitcher before beginning to consider a move to the bullpen. I expect he’ll find himself in the Tennessee rotation out of the gate next season, and given his spot on the 40-man, it’s even possible he gets a spot start or two in Chicago next year if he’s pitching well and stays healthy.
Stats since the trade: With High-A South Bend: 17.2 IP, 19 H, 5.60 ERA, 10 BB, 20 K, 4 HR-A.
Something that’s surprised since the post-trade scouting report: I would expect more success against left-handed hitters, which I think signals the slider isn’t where it needs to be yet.
The likely plan for 2022: The Double-A rotation is going to have so much competition next year that my guess would be Horn begins the season in the bullpen. But if this season taught us anything it’s the inevitability of injuries, and eventually I imagine we’ll be seeing Horn make some starts. I don’t think a permanent move to the bullpen would be discussed until 2023.
Stats since the trade: With Double-A Tennessee: 15.2 IP, 15 H, 4.02 ERA, 4 BB, 16 K, 3 HR-A. One of the Smokies many players who went on the COVID-IL in late August.
Something that’s surprised since the post-trade scouting report: I was very optimistic in Kilian’s report on what I saw in the Giants organization, and I still think the cutter is an underrated offering and the fastball velocity is more than you’d expect. But I think maybe I slept on the fact that Kilian’s stuff still doesn’t offer an obvious out pitch in the Majors. Right now he’s four-seam heavy with two strikes; does that work in the Majors?
The likely plan for 2022: Is Triple-A out of the gate a possibility? It would probably take a convincing performance in camp next year, and perhaps depends on how aggressive the Cubs are for veterans in minor league free agency. But whether he starts there or not, he’ll be there eventually. Chicago is not out of the question for later 2022, but as noted, it’ll take some development.
Stats since the trade: With Low-A Myrtle Beach: 22 IP, 16 H, 4.50 ERA, 17 BB, 31 K, 2 HR-A.
Something that’s surprised since the post-trade scouting report: Well, the velocity is even more elite than we otherwise thought. Palencia seems to be in the high-90s in pretty much every start, with 100 in the middle innings still a possibility. It’s coming with a little less command than when he was more 94-97 with Oakland.
The likely plan for 2022: This one is simple: he’s locked into the South Bend rotation. Where he goes from there will depend on how things are going with fastball control.
Stats since the trade: With High-A South Bend: 13.2 IP, 8 H, 5.27 ERA, 9 BB, 19 K, 1 HR-A. Currently on 7-day Injured List.
Something that’s surprised since the post-trade scouting report: Is flashing two different breaking balls, and had starts with South Bend where he was more comfortable with the slider than his more-acclaimed changeup. But if Vizcaino is going to reach his ceiling, he has to achieve better execution late in counts. He’s a different pitcher early in counts pitching free than when trying to be perfect later in the count … that discrepancy needs to go.
The likely plan for 2022: What would I do? I’d bring Vizcaino (assuming health) to Major League Spring Training and give him a chance to earn a bullpen spot, which would mean a jump straight from High-A to the Majors. The stuff is that good, and I think given the injury history, you should be wary of wasting too many bullets on a slow development plan, dreaming on him sticking in the rotation. However, I suspect the Cubs will have Vizcaino in a piggyback role with Double-A, potentially even with Brailyn Marquez.