Probably the most fun collection of names we’ve had in a Five Stars all season.
Let’s jump right into the day in the minors for the Cubs …
Five Stars of Cub Farm, 9/16. Good day.
HM 💣 squad: Altuve, Ballesteros, Canario, Perlaza, Avelino, Ladendorf.
HM, other: Espinoza, Kobos, K. Alcantara.
5. Ryan Jensen.
4. Brennen Davis.
3. Nelson Velazquez.
2. DJ Herz.
1. James Triantos. Reaches *6* times.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) September 17, 2021
Honorable Mention: Let’s start with the home runs. Shouts to Moises Ballesteros for his second consecutive game with a home run, and his fellow teenage bonus baby Brayan Altuve for adding his fifth. Altuve is no longer a catcher like he was when he first signed, but I do think the Cubs have some hope the bat can develop into worthy of a corner spot … The Cubs did so well with minor league offensive free agents in the last year, and while he didn’t get the Major League opportunity as some of his peers, Abiatal Avelino can now take his over-100 Triple-A wRC+ back into free agency and market himself to the team with the least middle infield depth … Yonathan Perlaza now has a .364/.383/.659 slash line in September, with just six strikeouts in 47 plate appearances. He proved everything he could at High-A … I’ll let the video speak for Mister Canario’s work:
Happy to report that Alex Canario hit one to Navy Pier tonight.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) September 17, 2021
Special shout out to Scott Kobos, who is absolutely the Cubs Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year, lowering his ERA to 0.29 (oh-twenty-nine) with his sixth save of the season last night. Every number you post for him is going to be ridiculous, but the most important might be the line that right–handed hitters have put up: .114/.186/.139. He’s a lefty. Bananas.
Five: Ryan Jensen
Seven groundouts against just one fly out in this one. It signals the same thing that his last outing did, which is that the sinker is absolutely able to play at this level.
I think it’s a bit under-the-radar how good Jensen has been in the second half of the season. In his last 11 starts, these are the numbers: 48.1 innings, 30 hits, 2.23 ERA, 15 walks, 52 strikeouts. He allowed more than one earned run in just two of those 11 outings. The big number there is a sub-8% walk rate. I’m going to end the suspense now and tell you that these final couple months absolutely put Jensen back into my top ten (you’ll recall I was the high man on him last winter).
We’re probably looking at a return to Tennessee out of the gate next season, though perhaps Jensen can pitch his way into the Triple-A rotation with a good Spring Training. With good health, I think there’s a second half doubleheader in 2022 with his MLB debut start written all over it.
Four: Brennen Davis
You can see video of the home run here. In this space, let’s do the same thing we did yesterday, and add some context to each of Davis’ at-bats:
- First inning: Attacked a 2-0 fastball from the lefty starter, but couldn’t get under it, chopping it to third base for an easy groundout.
- Third inning: Similar to first AB, attacking a 1-0 outer half fastball, grounding it to the left side, but this one went to the 5.5 hole for a RBI single.
- Fifth inning: Swung and missed at a good first-pitch breaker in the dirt, watched a changeup away, and then a lazy fly out to right field on a high-away fastball.
- Seventh inning: Righty reliever. Lays off a fastball away. Then crushes a middle-away fastball over the center field fence.
- Ninth inning: Seven-pitch walk against a funky, flame throwing reliever. Was down 1-2 after swinging and missing at two good sliders. Then he watched 100 mph fastball just above the zone, fouled off a slider in the zone, then watched a fastball and slider off the plate go by. You love the home runs, but this was one of his best plate appearances at the level.
Three: Nelly Velazquez
After a home run last night, officially now the fourth 20-HR, 15-SB season in the Cubs system since 2006. Brad Snyder (2010), Javy Baez (2014) and Trent Giambrone (2019) represent the others. Velazquez has done about all he can do to state his case for the 40-man roster this November (he’s Rule 5 eligible), and even has a pretty decent argument to start next year in Triple-A: he has the fourth highest wRC+ for any Double-A hitter with at least 120 PA this season.
What a fitting spot for Velazquez to find himself in Five Stars: sandwiched between the Player and Pitcher of the Year, as he is absolutely the next guy deserving of recognition.
Two: D.J. Herz
The season numbers: 81.2 innings, 42 hits (lol), 3.31 ERA, 44 BB, 131 K (lol), 7 HR-A. And if we play the game where we pretend his one bad start didn’t happen, the ERA drops to 2.39. I’ve told you before how it’s an incredible, even historic, season. And I’ll have more on it soon.
What’s interesting to me is to consider where Herz should begin next season. September offered just a three-start cup of coffee in High-A, but in those outings he showed the same 40% strikeout rate that made him a force in Low-A. The hitter swings are still awkward, and the struggles are still mostly self-induced. I think Herz should probably pitch with the Double-A team in Spring Training next March, and you give him the opportunity to pitch himself to the Smokies.
In the meantime, this offseason will be centered around continued strength development. Maybe you send him home with a slider or cutter grip to mess around with, but the most important thing is building the stamina, and set 100 innings as a 2022 goal.
DJ Herz was brilliant in his final start of the season 🤯
5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB & 9 K’s 🔥
— Cubs Zone ™️ (@CubsZone) September 17, 2021
One: James Triantos
Two doubles, two singles and two walks. He reached base six times, raising his season OBP thirty-nine points in the process. Let’s check the last 20 games for the Cubs second rounder: .337 AVG / .375 OBP / .578 SLG, 14.8 K%. Triantos’ overall wRC+ is kind of right in line with the complex debuts of high prep picks in the past (Roederer, Davis, Almora). The walks last night felt especially noteworthy, as he was willing to draw them after starting the game with four consecutive hits, and they represent his first base on balls since August 30.
So while we’ll be left hoping the patience develops as he ages, I think we can take a lot of excitement into 2022 with the line drive contact that Triantos produces. His build screams second base to me, and I think we’re going to be looking at a really nice contact/power blend as he grows. I don’t know that I walked away from the draft thinking Triantos was necessarily the second-best prospect the Cubs drafted, but now I think we’ll spend the offseason wondering if he might not be the best.