The open of the 2022 IFA period is just four days away on Saturday, and with it will come a group of new Cubs prospects (minor league transactions are not subject to the lockout). The headlining trio include the top prospect in Panama (Adan Sanchez), Cristian Hernandez’s younger brother (Alexis), and Dominican shortstop Jefferson Rojas. There will be more signings on the 15th, but also some signings that trickle in throughout the year.
As a refresher, organizations have a hard-capped bonus pool to work with in each period, and the only way to expand it is to trade for additional pool money (you can increase your original pool by up to 50%). Because of their market size, the Cubs are always in the group with the smallest pool (about $5.18 million this year; the top pools get $6.26 million).
Most of that pool figures to be used up on commitments already made to Sanchez, Hernandez, and Rojas (all are expected to get at least $1 million), but there will be some other maybe six-figure signees on Saturday. Stay tuned.
Elsewhere in Cubs prospecting …
⇒ A big profile on breakout lefty D.J. Herz here at Cubs.com, for which he provided some quotes from Arizona – the Cubs are having a prospect camp there as we speak. Remember, their activities, including Spring Training, are not impacted by the lockout. We knew Herz must’ve killed it during the pandemic shutdown given how much his velocity and stuff had popped in 2021, but you get a good sense of how hard he was working. He also picked up his changeup during the shutdown. Impressive stuff from the Cubs’ minor league pitcher of the year.
⇒ Speaking of lefty pitcher development, top pick Jordan Wicks has been adding a curveball this offseason:
There was chatter that Jordan Wicks had picked up a curveball and here’s the proof he’s adopted one from Wicks’ IG. At draft time, @OutOfTheVines, @NelliganJimmy, and I talked about what adding a curve to Wicks’ profile could do for him. Can’t wait to see what he does in 2022! pic.twitter.com/sfKqV2lgXv
— Greg Zumach (@IvyFutures) January 8, 2022
⇒ That raw spin rate is huge (would be top 50 in MLB), and it’s just a matter of whether he can get the grip/mechanics/etc. into a position to improve the spin efficiency a little bit (i.e., the amount of spin that contributes to pitch movement). Eyeballing the leaderboards and it looks like the curveballs we think of as the best in the game are in the 80+% spin efficiency range, with average spin in the 2600 to 3000 RPM range. So, if that’s merely a developing pitch for Wicks, that’s some impressive data right there.
⇒ Wicks, thanks to his polish, command, and plus-plus changeup, is probably going to have to climb the ladder quickly in 2022 to get to the right level to challenge him. A Double-A assignment out of the gate isn’t *necessary,* but it wouldn’t be shocking.
⇒ It’s a small sample, but so was a lot of the success, so it’s fair to note this about Nelson Velazquez’s year:
Worth noting that after his insane AFL season, Nelson Velazquez really struggled in winter ball in Puerto Rico: 167/247/318 in 73 plate appearances.
Nothing too alarming, just signals the kind of hot-and-cold hitter he is.
Combined AFL+PRWL stats: 300/393/559, 27.6 K% in 196 PA
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 7, 2022
⇒ There’s a reason why, despite his herculean performance in the AFL (and late in the year at Double-A), Velazquez doesn’t show up on top ten Cubs prospect lists. The question is how his new swing will translate against more polished pitching, when he won’t have as many mistakes to punish.