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Cubs Prospect Notes: Prospects Still Grinding, Three Hitters Who Are Just Different, Amaya, Pinango, Draft, More

Chicago Cubs

Major League Baseball has locked out the players in the MLB Players Association, which means all players on 40-man rosters and who were in the big leagues last year, but that does leave a very important group of professional baseball players able to continue their offseason work at team facilities: prospects.

⇒ Good to see Cubs prospects are still able to get after it and stay supported:

⇒ And while we’re at it, even prospects on the 40-man roster can keep doing things like this in other leagues:

⇒ That thing just TOOK OFF. I know I’m going to shock you, but Nelson Velazquez is raking in the early going in Puerto Rico: .250/.333/.625. Since he and the Cubs figured out his swing, it’s just been a rocketship of improvement.

⇒ As an aside, in the piece where the swing work was discussed, Sahadev Sharma also dropped some organizational love for a couple other Cubs prospects:

It took Velazquez time to really find a rhythm with his adjusted swing. He got early results, but according to Stone, that was because of his special exit velocity. Stone said that there are three hitters in the Cubs’ system who are productive hitters that hit the ball at a different speed than everyone else. One is Brennen Davis, the Cubs’ top prospect who’s widely considered one of the best position-player prospects in baseball. Another is Owen Caissie, who reportedly hits the ball as hard as any player in professional baseball. And then there’s Velazquez.

“It’s 111, 113 miles per hour and that puts you in a different category,” Stone said. “He was still mis-hitting balls at the beginning of the season. It was a slow build-up throughout the year. The swing plane was getting better, but he was still mis-hitting them and they were still 105, 108 mph and he was still productive. Guys like that, if you can get them to make contact more often, they hit the ball that hard and obviously the production will go up.”

⇒ We’d heard reports from Complex Ball that Caissie was hitting the ball in a fundamentally different way than other prospects, and now we have an eye-popping line on him. We knew Davis was special, and we knew Velazquez could really smoke the ball. But it turns out those two, plus Caissie, are in their own league in terms of max exit velo, which is the kind of trait that is surprisingly predictive of future success. You still have to do other things well in order to really make it in the big leagues – in particular, you have to be able to do it consistently! – but the guys who have it in them, at all, to hit the ball that hard are already way ahead of the curve.

⇒ Cubs catching prospect Miguel Amaya had successful Tommy John surgery this week:

⇒ If you were wondering about the likelihood of a full recovery (i.e., playing pro ball again), it’s lower for catchers than for other position players, though it’s looking above 90% in the last decade. Amaya’s bat being better than your typical minor league catcher bodes even better for a return in some form (i.e., he wouldn’t have to be QUITE as good behind the plate to justify a return), but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not as if it’s a lock that he’ll be the same catcher he was pre-surgery. We won’t get a look at him behind the plate before 2023, though. The Cubs will play it safe in the rehab, but I’m expecting we should see him doing some DH work at some point next season.

⇒ (It’s a bit odd that these write-ups looking at his timeline for a return are throwing out 2022 entirely when we know he’ll be able to hit by some point next season, with plenty of the year to go. Not sure why the Cubs wouldn’t want him getting those competitive at bats if it wouldn’t impact his throwing rehab. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic about the hitting based on other position players who’ve pulled it off, though, and actually hitting in game action is not something he’ll do. I will ratchet down my optimism on the hitting side for now.)

⇒ Love this impending connection between new 40-man Cubs pitcher Ethan Roberts, and new Cubs starter Marcus Stroman:

⇒ This is what it looks like when a young prospect with great contact ability is figuring out how to use his power:

⇒ Pinango is not a big guy, and isn’t projected to have much raw power. For guys like that to effectuate in-game power, they generally have to (1) be opportunistic in certain counts/game situations/against certain pitches and pitchers; and (2) maximize pull-side power. I didn’t realize Pinango had gotten slightly more pull-oriented as he progressed last year (his first stateside action, where freaking reached High-A as a 19-year-old), and that’s really encouraging as part of an overall all-fields approach. He was an above-average hitter, overall, in his 105 PAs to end the year at High-A South Bend, and figures to return there to open the 2022 season, given his age (he won’t even turn 20 until May). While power won’t necessarily be his calling card – he projects right now as more of a gap-to-gap line-drive machine – he’ll still need it to develop well enough to keep pitchers and defenses honest as he climbs the ladder, which will in turn keep his BABIP and BB% in reasonable enough ranges to prop up the overall results. Always keep that in mind when we talk about the importance of power. It’s not always about the power numbers, themselves (SLG/ISO). It impacts all of the production.

⇒ The one nice thing about your favorite team sucking in a given season is that you get to start looking ahead to the draft much earlier than usual, since the top prospects/mocks can actually involve a small enough group of players to mull:



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.