Five Stars of the Cubs Farm, 9/15/21: Fargas, Schlaffer, Abbott, Slaughter, More

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Five Stars of the Cubs Farm, 9/15/21: Fargas, Schlaffer, Abbott, Slaughter, More

Chicago Cubs

The Tennessee Smokies are in their final series of the year, on the road against the Biloxi Shuckers, but Tropical Storm Nicholas has had other ideas. The first two games of the series have been cancelled, and the weather report has rain in Biloxi for the next week. Such a bummer for a team that already missed quite a bit of time in the last month due to COVID issues.

Hopefully the Cubs can get those guys some make-up time in Arizona (or other countries) this winter – and please pay them for their time, for the love of – but it just is what it is. Just a reminder that while 2021 felt like a normal baseball season in a lot of ways, it just wasn’t quite normal.

Let’s break down the day in the minors for the Cubs…

 

Honorable Mention: Let’s run through Brennen Davis’ four at-bats in Iowa last night. In the second inning, with a lefty starter on the mound, Davis lined a 2-2 changeup off the pitcher’s backside and raced to first for the single. Shortened up and adjusted against a pitch he’d whiffed against earlier in the at-bat. In the fifth Brennen again worked the count to 2-2, which included back-to-back whiffs on a changeup/high-fastball mix, and ultimately lined a solid changeup over the shortstop’s glove for a single. He sits back on slow stuff so well. In the sixth, his third appearance against the southpaw, Brennen struck out on a full count high fastball. The Chasers starter struck out the side in order that inning. Davis got one more chance in the ninth, chopping a 2-2 low fastball into the pitcher’s glove for a sharp 1-3 groundout.

Five: Tyler Ladendorf and Levi Jordan

After that Davis groundout, the next batter was Tyler Ladendorf, who smoked a 2-2 breaking ball clear out of the stadium. It was an insurance run to give the I-Cubs a 6-4 lead, but proved essential when Omaha scored one in the ninth. Credit to Brendon Little, too, who worked a two-inning save as he continues his argument for a case on the 40-man roster. We’ll talk about that more in the weeks to come, but that case is right on the border for me, and these last few appearances will actually help inform that decision.

Levi Jordan went back-to-back with the guy at in the one spot in this Five Stars list for his eighth home run this season in 66 games. Overall Jordan is hitting .231/.302/.382 for the season, and worse in Triple-A, but it still feels like a breakout of sorts. Consider he had just one home run in each of 2018 and 2019, and let’s give credit to the 5-foot-8 twenty-ninth round pick that clearly made some changes during the lost 2020 season. Also worth noting: he’s hitting .327/.373/.636 against southpaws this season.

Four: Jake Slaughter

Hit an absolute nuke in South Bend’s 12-4 loss in Quad Cities. Like Jordan, Slaughter is sporting a useful-but-limiting massive platoon split this year, with a .989 OPS against lefties and .495 OPS against right-handers. After a very slow start, Slaughter has a .711 OPS — just about league average —  in his last 55 games. He doesn’t walk enough for his kind of offensive profile, but moves well for his size and has some pop in the bat. Earned a spot in the 2022 Tennessee roster competition; maybe you platoon him with Bryce Ball?

Three: Cory Abbott

Last three starts: 18 innings, 11 hits, 2.00 ERA, 7 walk, 23 strikeouts, just 1 home run allowed.

The biggest thing last night was that Abbott had his first zero-walk start of the season. It’s been a strange year for the 2019 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, with the walks and home runs spiking beyond the point of usefulness. From his July 8 appearance in the Majors until his September 3 start, Abbott uncharacteristically walked 34 batters in 41 innings.

So these three solid starts come at a really important time, and I think if he looks comfortable one more time in Iowa, why not let him get one of the last few starts of the year against Pittsburgh?

Two: Tyler Schlaffer

The big number in this one: 21 swinging strikes. That number in the twenties is rare air for Cubs pitching prospects, even strikeout artist D.J. Herz never got there with the Pelicans this season. Schlaffer did it mostly with a changeup that he had impeccable feel for, moving it to both sides of the plate, showing it to right-handed hitters, even trying a couple higher in the zone. The more I’ve seen it the more I feel comfortable calling it one of the best changeups in the organization and a firmly plus pitch.

Schlaffer finishes his season in Myrtle Beach with a 4.65 ERA over nine starts, with higher-than-normal BABIP and HR/FB rates inflating the ERA a bit. I think he deserves to be firmly in the mix for an Opening Day roster spot in the South Bend rotation next year, but some of that is going to depend on his productivity this winter, both with adding strength and some work on curveball consistency.

One: Jonny Fargas

Was a triple short of the cycle in this one, with his home run being a three-run shot that gave Iowa its first lead.

It was lost on me until I looked up his season, but Fargas has played with seven different teams this year, and still hasn’t spent three weeks with the same squad (he’s about to cross that point with Iowa). That he’s been able to keep his head above water offensively under this circumstances is so impressive, and I hope that his agents find him better stability for the 2022 season. He’s still just 26, hit more home runs this season in 34 minor league games than he hit in 127 in 2019, and is 14-for-15 on the basepaths. I’d welcome him back to Iowa if he’d have it.



Author: Bryan Smith

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