The Depth Behind the Rotation Depth, Abbott, Ohtani, Seeing the World, and Other Cubs Bullets

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The Depth Behind the Rotation Depth, Abbott, Ohtani, Seeing the World, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The thing about the lockout is that I hate it. I’m glad the Cubs can at least make minor league signings like Mark Leiter Jr., but boy do I miss the flow of random rumors and transactions around the league in December. I just like seeing them and thinking about them and breaking them down, whether they touch on the Cubs or not.

•   Speaking of the Leiter signing, some of Bryan’s quick thoughts:

•   It’s not hard to see how the Cubs had ample opportunity – and need – for a starting pitcher who wanted to at least lock in Triple-A starts to open the 2022 season, aiming for a big league shot. I’m not even sure the Cubs couldn’t target another guy like Leiter from here – Caleb Kilian is arguably the only pitching prospect who is (1) a sure-fire starting pitcher candidate in MLB, and (2) moving up to Triple-A within the first few months of 2022. Anderson Espinoza, Ryan Jensen, Cam Sanders, and Brailyn Marquez are all only “maybes” to be in the Iowa rotation in the first half of the year for a variety of reasons.

•   Also of note: Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson have minor league options remaining, so it’s possible they’ll see time in the Iowa rotation next year, depending on how other things shake out (even if they do, they’ll DEFINITELY see a lot of big league time, too). Adbert Alzolay is out of options, so he’s on the big league roster from here.

•   None of that is to give up quite yet on Cory Abbott as a starting pitching prospect. Though he didn’t have success this past year as an up-down guy (and in and out of the bullpen), he’ll be back in the Iowa rotation to open the season and does enough to make you think he could still emerge as a depth starter in the bigs (if he isn’t converted fully to the bullpen eventually). In the recent FanGraphs prospect write-up, which ranked him 26th in the system:

He maintained impressive numbers as he’s worked his way up the minor league ladder, but his walk and home run rates both saw upticks this season as he spent June and July shuttling between the Triple-A rotation and the big league bullpen. He spent all of August and September in Iowa before being called upon for his first major league start in the Cubs’ last series of the season (5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K).

Abbott’s fastball averages 93 mph and he mixes it with a mid-80s curve, along with a slider and a changeup that both sit in the upper-80s. None of his pitches stand out much in terms of spin or movement. As a result, his fastball’s effectiveness depends largely on his ability to locate it in on righties’ hands, but it’s hittable enough everywhere else in the zone that when he misses, it’s often punished by more advanced bats. The increased number of walks can also be attributed to the higher level of hitting acumen he’s facing — he’s often aiming his fastball at spots just off the plate and not getting the futile swings he elicited in the lower levels of the minors. While his command remains impressive, Abbott’s stuff hasn’t blossomed the way some hoped it might in pro ball, so his projection as a low-variance fifth starter still holds true.

•   That all reminds me how much the Cubs need their pitching prospects to have a healthy developmental year in 2022. So many guys at the lower levels got hurt and missed the season (that was part of the risk of the philosophy change starting in 2018/19 to go for more high-ceiling, high-risk types).

•   When it comes to searching for player stats, Shohei Ohtani wins the Electoral College:

•   That includes Illinois, where I can only assume Cubs and White Sox players were more evenly distributed. Some of the most popular player and state combinations are kind of hilarious. I can conceive of reasons why Kyle Schwarber owns Maine (Red Sox) or Jacob deGrom owns South Dakota (he’s Jacob deGrom), but why in the world is Adalberto Mondesi the guy in Mississippi? Or Miguel Cabrera in New Mexico? Or Christian Yelich in Alaska?!?!

•   That graphic comes from Baseball-Reference, which wrapped up a little bit of the data from the year. The Cardinals team page was more viewed this past year than the Cubs, who finished second in the NL Central in that regard. I’m thinking there was probably a lot of reason for certain Cubs players to get a lot of national views before the Trade Deadline, but (1) not so much the team page, and (2) definitely not after the Trade Deadline.

•   Macs, body pillows, toys, and more are among your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

•   Jay Jaffe writes about the final Hall of Fame ballot years for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa, tracking their progress over the years, and breaking down why none of the four is likely to get the votes.

•   The Rays successfully fended off interest in GM Erik Neander by promoting him to president earlier this offseason, and now they’ve done the same by promoting VP of baseball development Peter Bendix to GM.

•   This is awesome, and I would totally watch a Cubs game in these places:

•   Michael was included in a Twitter competition – he’s pretty good on there – so if you want to slide over and give him a vote, I’m sure he’d thank you with a muffin basket or some other such thing:

•   It’s an early step, but a necessary one:

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.