Five Stars of the Cubs Farm, 4/19/22: Lots of Strikeouts from the Pitchers, Lots of Dingers from the Bats

Today is my son’s first Little League practice of 2022, but slightly more notable as it’s the first Little League practice where yours truly is in charge. If any of you have some great practice drills/games for 7 year olds, drop them in the comments!

Let’s break down the day in the minors for the Cubs …

Honorable Mention: Nelson Velazquez had a double and triple in Tennessee’s 4-1 loss, and with no strikeouts, got the K% back under 50. He’s a hot-or-cold type of hitter, so maybe this will turn the tide … Robert Gsellman really deserved a spot on this list, with four shutout innings in a start for Iowa, keeping his season ERA at 0.00 … Another two-hit game for Fabian Pertuz, who has a OPS that doubles more than half of his teammates.

Five: Eric Stout

If we add up his work in the Cactus League with his first three appearances for Iowa season, we end up with quite the line: 13.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 8 BB, 20 K. Not bad for a Glen Ellyn-born player signed in early March from indy ball!

The story of Stout’s season so far, and it was certainly true in this outing, is that he has the most horizontal slider in the Cubs farm system. It’s a 77-80 mph offering that he’s succeeding with against both right- and left-handed hitters, showing potential to command the pitch to both sides of the plate. Stout stands towards the first base side of the rubber and features a cross-fire delivery, getting some deception from hiding the ball behind his body for much of his motion. The 90-93 mph fastball he’s shown isn’t spectacular, but he commands it well and can sneak it by hitters that are sitting on the slider.

Stout has been the best lefty on an Iowa team loaded with them — including one that was gifted a 40-man roster spot over the weekend — and could absolutely pitch himself to the big leagues if this success continues.

Four: Homers from Davis, Rivas, Hearn and PCA

Brett already touched on the PCA home run, and I’ll just add that it’s fun if you watch the tweet embedded in there that PCA makes it around the bases in 16 seconds while still strolling into home. He’s fast!

The other three players mentioned all had oppo shots, with Hearn and Rivas going to left-center and Davis going to right field. That’s not a surprising result for Rivas or Davis, who have both specialized in such hits over the years, but that’s not something we’ve typically seen from Hearn. The former sixth rounder is off to a slow start, but perhaps this muscle-job to the deepest part of the Delmarva stadium will help right the ship.

Three: Clarke, Bain & Bigge

A two-hit shutout from the South Bend squad. Here are my notes on each of these three:

Clarke: All four strikeouts came with breaking balls, three of the front door variety to left-handed hitters. But I thought the best pitches Clarke made all day, the ones you’d definitively grade as plus, were four changeups that he mixed in. The pitch plays really nicely off his sinker and he’s comfortable throwing it against right-handed hitters.

Bain: After two walks early in the outing, Bain retired the final seven batters he faced. The story of his young season is the emergence of his sweeper slider as the preferred secondary offering. And the best evidence you’ll see of that is the at-bat below, where he strikes out a right-handed hitter on three straight sliders.

Bigge: I want to note that I saw a pitch that looked an awful lot like a nasty cutter, which would be new, but Bigge was largely just successful with the fastball in this one. Doing a nice job this year staying really simple and in line with a short-arm delivery. He’s logged four hitless innings to start the year.

Two: Jared Young

There have been very few offensive performances to talk about on the farm system, so indulge me while I overreact to Jared Young’s two home runs last night, which give him an organization-leading five so far this season. The two were both pulled to near-identical spots in right field, though one was a line drive with topspin and another was a higher one with backspin.

We need to watch this potential power breakout closely, because Young has never had a 200 ISO in his career, and getting well over that mark would change the way we need to think about him. Young is not due to be a minor league free agent until after the 2023 season, so I expect a pronounced Triple-A look at everything he has to offer. Or he’ll keep doing stuff like last night, and force a trip down I-80.

One: Riley Martin

Pelicans starter Luis Devers was removed from the game after logging just two outs last night, turning things over to Martin in the first inning with the bases crowded. Martin allowed a double to the first batter he saw, with Delmarva extending their lead to 7-0. Martin then struck out 10 of the next 15 batters he faced, and in doing so, continues to prove that Low-A is simply not the right level for him.

The filled-out lefty features a slight amount of cross-fire in his delivery, and while the arm speed is below average, can get the fastball up around 93 thanks to a good leg block. The CF camera wasn’t working in Delmarva until the end of his outing, but I’m pretty certain he showed a full four-pitch mix in this outing, mixing in a more horizontal slider with the slow curve that’s always been a feature of his. And the execution has been fabulous out of the gate.

Martin was a below-slot draft pick designed to allow for the bonuses to James Triantos and Drew Gray, so if he proves himself to be a legit prospect, we’ll have to give the R&D team that highlighted Martin’s pitch characteristics a big shout out.

written by

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.

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