There’s a lot of fun stuff to get to from the farm system, which has been building up on me in tabs. So here it all comes …
⇒ During a season, we obviously get lots and lots of new info on prospects, as they play in games and build up a data set and new scouting reports. But I also really like THIS time of year, because it’s when you start to see the synthesis of all that came during the season. That leads to discussion behind the scenes that goes into rankings and reporting, all of which you can observe from a distance and learn which guys the organization(s) really believe(s) are blowing up.
⇒ I mention that here because, just as we were seeing his breakout performance in the Arizona Complex League lead to a late promotion to Low-A in his first professional season, there was also increasing chatter late in the year about what a special hitter Owen Caissie could be. That has only been confirmed in this offseason period, not only with Caissie climbing the rankings, but with lots of extra love being slipped in here and there from pundits who’ve pretty clearly been hearing great things from the Cubs. We discussed Sahadev Sharma’s Caissie comments earlier this week, and Gordon Wittenmyer is getting in on it, too:
"I do carry a little bit of chip on my shoulder because it’s like, ‘I got traded for Darvish, and this is why.’ "
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) December 30, 2021
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) December 29, 2021
⇒ Great stuff on Caissie, who was probably underscouted coming out of high school because (1) Canada, and (2) pandemic. He let the initial reactions to the Yu Darvish trade fuel him further, and he’ll always want to prove to folks why he was part of that deal, rather than some no-name teenager. Also, don’t sleep on the possibility of significant defensive development:
Owen Caissie’s mom sounds awesome. haha.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) December 30, 2021
⇒ Some quick thoughts from Bryan here on the bat – good points, and it underscores the tricky balance for a guy with Caissie’s skill set:
It’s worth saying, too, that Caissie’s all-fields approach is also part of what makes him so intriguing as hitter. Most power prospects are almost ALL pull, and more advanced pitchers can work around their cheats. Caissie, like Brennen before him, is willing and able to go oppo.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) December 29, 2021
⇒ You never want to take away a guy’s natural all-fields ability if he has the raw power to support power production to all fields. But natural pull power always creates at least slightly more distance than opposite-field power, so you do want to take advantage of situations where you can pull with more authority. (I believe I read somewhere that the natural spin produced by an opposite field shot can decrease the distance, as compared to the same quality of pulled contact, by something like 10-15%; I only vaguely remember, so don’t hold me precisely to that!)
⇒ Great news (well, probably) on outfield prospect Yohendrick Pinango’s injury/surgery – the cast he’s wearing is of the wrist variety. So it definitely wasn’t Tommy John surgery, and although wrist/hand injuries that require surgery also aren’t good, they don’t come with year-long timelines. I would anticipate there’s a chance for an impact here in 2022 (hopefully it wasn’t a serious wrist injury, because Pinango’s power projection is already dicey), but he should be able to play plenty. Fingers still crossed and all that, and still don’t know a lot about the injury. But if you’re like me, you were waiting for any update whatsoever.
⇒ When FanGraphs released its top 33 Oakland A’s prospects list, I paid a little extra close attention. Not because I’m a secret A’s fan, but because I just had a curiosity: where would righty Daniel Palencia and outfielder Greg Deichmann HAVE RANKED in the A’s system at this moment if they’d not been traded to the Cubs mid-year for Andrew Chafin? (The A’s is the first list to come out from a midseason Cubs trading partner.) It doesn’t actually matter where Palencia and Deichmann would rank, obviously, but it was just something I wanted to know, since those two tend not to get much attention given the Cubs’ swell of prospect depth. Had they still been with the A’s at this moment, Deichmann (a 40+ in the middle of that group for the Cubs) would’ve been around number 9 in the A’s system, and Palencia (a 40+ in the bottom of that group for the Cubs) would’v’e been around number 13. For the Cubs, they are ranked 22 and 25, respectively.
⇒ It says a lot about the A’s system right now, but also a lot about the Cubs’ extreme depth. Consider that the just-released Brewers list sports 16 prospects who grade out as 40+. The Angels – the only other list released so far – has just nine. The Cubs have 25 of ’em.
⇒ If you didn’t read The Athletic piece about the Cubs’ farm system developmental changes on the pitching side, I highly encourage you to check it out. No one is sleeping on the reality that their injury rate for pitchers this year was kind of out of control. But the Cubs sure are optimistic about how they can develop pitchers now (emphasis added):
Although the injuries are easy to focus on, the jump in “stuff” is what makes the Cubs believe they’re headed in the right direction. There is a strong correlation between throwing harder and injury rates — the data has borne that out — but it doesn’t mean that increased velocity will lead to a pitcher getting hurt 100 percent of the time. That’s where the Cubs need to work with pitchers to make sure they’re working to improve their “stuff” responsibly. According to Cubs internal data, even with the injuries, the team was among the top half-dozen or so organizations to improve “stuff,” primarily velocity, in the minor leagues from 2019 to 2021. (2020 doesn’t have any usable minor-league data.) In their eyes, that’s a win.
⇒ Missed this earlier from Keith Law, but he mentioned the article in a recent chat, which got me to go back and find something he said about James Triantos: best pro debut after the draft was Reds outfield prospect Jay Allen (30th overall), but that was “just edging out” Triantos (who was taken 26 picks later). The Cubs didn’t just get a steal in Triantos, they may have landed one of the best prospects in the draft at pick 56. I know, I know, don’t get too ahead of yourself, Brett …
Cubs prospects continue to lift heavy things, James Triantos continues to hit baseballs hard, and we continue to be intrigued by Chase Strumpf’s stats! https://t.co/bvDVFpONf6
— North Side Bound (@NSideBound) December 22, 2021