Cubs Prospect Notes: Palencia, Pinango, Clarke, Herz, Bain, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Palencia, Pinango, Clarke, Herz, Bain, More

Chicago Cubs

On Valentine’s Day, let’s focus on the love: like a rose in bloom, the Chicago Cubs farm system is burgeoning! It is the white heat of a first date! The passion of a newlywed! It is the best piece of chocolate in the heart-shaped box assortment! All right. Great work, Brett. Great connections. You should definitely leave this intro here and not delete it.

While I linger in my shame, here’s some Cubs prospect bits for your afternoon …

⇒ In his latest, Sahadev Sharma imagines the things he WOULD be talking about this week if the MLB lockout weren’t persisting. One of the items, though, can still get plenty of discourse, because it’s about the Cubs prospects in Arizona! Among the prospects name-checked in the discussion, you’ll find many familiar names: Kevin Alcantara, Owen Caissie, Pete Crow-Armstrong, James Triantos, Cristian Hernandez, Reggie Preciado, Jordan Wicks, Kohl Franklin, Brailyn Marquez, D.J. Herz, and Drew Gray (third rounder last year, getting lots of helium). But two prospects who get a special call-out:

And baseball in general is filled with surprises. Sometimes prospects shoot up lists and open eyes after an offseason of work. Yohendrick Pinango has an innate feel for contact, had his numbers suppressed at notoriously pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach and could blossom should he find a way to get the ball in the air more and improve his quality of contact. Daniel Palencia flashes moments of brilliance with a big fastball, a solid knuckle-curve, feel for two other pitches and has reportedly really taken to the plan built out for him at the high-prospect camp.

⇒ Sharma doesn’t pull those names out of nowhere, especially since he mentions at the top that he isn’t able to be in Arizona right now. That means he’s heard very good things about those two young prospects from folks inside and/or outside of the organization, and he wanted to give them a nod. In other words, they have probably had very good offseasons. Insert eyes emoji.

⇒ (Note, by the way, that Pinango’s injury/surgery early in the offseason doesn’t seem to be coming up as a limiting factor for the season ahead. We already had a pretty good idea that the surgery was in the hand/wrist area, and he’s now two and a half months clear of it with nobody really discussing it publicly. So I’m hopeful that means it was relatively minor, and he’s going to be full go – or close to it – for Spring Training.)

⇒ The Northside Bound crew spoke with five Cubs pitching prospects (Chris Clarke, Joe Nahas, Tyler Schlaffer, Luke Little, and D.J. Herz) about their offseason work and what lies ahead for them, and I am loving this stuff. It’s great to hear how good Clarke is feeling after the pandemic year and then an abbreviated 2021 season, because the huge (6’7″) righty was getting a lot of love just after the 2019 draft when the Cubs took him in the 4th round. We’ve had very little chance to see what he can do since then, and this year it’s possible he’ll climb the ladder rapidly.

⇒ I imagine you’ll also appreciate hearing much more from the Cubs’ 2021 minor league pitcher of the year, D.J. Herz (who says he wants to be the first Cubs minor leaguer to win the award two years in a row):

In order to reach that lofty goal, Herz knows there are plenty of steps along the way. He wants to keep his ERA below three and keep his strikeout rate above 14 K/9. He also knows control and command will be the biggest ticket to help him as he moves up the levels. His 4.85 BB/9 in 2021 is tolerable with his stuff, but he’ll need to tighten it up against more advanced competition. Herz is also looking to gain more consistency with his spike-curve that showed flashes of being a dominant pitch. He’s made significant progress this offseason. “I did three [pitch] labs all just focusing on the curveball to get the spin efficiency back in the 80s. We were successful with it and we were able to figure out what was going on [with the curveball in 2021],” Herz said. “I just needed to hold my palm as long as I could to the first base side instead of pronating my hand too early.” Armed with potentially a bulldog attitude on and off the mound, mid-90s fastball, plus-plus changeup, and a resurgent curveball, Herz is ready to reach his lofty goals this season.

⇒ If the curveball becomes a plus pitch, too, then Herz is just gonna keep absolutely dominating minor league hitters. The changeup is ridiculous, the fastball is stellar, and his crossfire delivery just makes it so hard on hitters. I really think the only questions on Herz are going to be whether he can maintain his mechanics, consistently, through 5-6 innings at a time, and whether he stays healthy (always a question for all young pitching prospects – it’s not really particular to Herz). If he does those two things, that’s a mid-to-front rotation starter down the road. The stuff is that good.

⇒ Two high school second rounders from the 2018 draft, whose paths have been really different since then, back together again:

⇒ Max Bain is ready to get hyped:


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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.