You Could Say DJ Herz Wasn't Quite Perfect, But He Can't Stop Dominating at High-A

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You Could Say DJ Herz Wasn’t Quite Perfect, But He Can’t Stop Dominating at High-A

Chicago Cubs

DJ Herz was not particularly sharp last night. Oh, but DJ Herz threw four no-hit innings last night.

This is where we are right now with my number five Cubs prospect, who just seems to exist with a larger margin for error than other professional baseball players. I watched the DJ start back this morning, with the knowledge of his “perfect” box score line in my head (4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K), and honestly came away pretty surprised. I’d never seen so many hitters foul balls off against Herz, and in fact, it was the second-worst start in his full-season career at generating whiffs. His control of the stuff was some of the best I’ve seen it, but the stuff itself wasn’t popping like a usual outing (as we know, all pitchers ebb and flow in that department).

Given the disconnect between how he looked and the results, though, I think it’s possible that High-A just isn’t the right challenge for the 21-year-old from Fayetteville. Across 2021-2022, Herz has now had six starts with the South Bend Cubs, yielding these numbers: 27 IP, 12 H, 2.00 ERA , 8 BB, 40 K. The numbers are particularly laughable in the three pitch-count-limited outings this year, where hitters are just 2-for-34, with a 37.8 strikeout rate that’s actually right in line with his career number (37.2).

We’re seeing that Herz has been able this season to get by with in-the-zone fastballs when behind in the count, with an occasionally-too-loopy changeup, or without great feel for the curveball. I think because his release point is so unique, hitters at the A-ball level just can’t square up the baseball. It’s diagonally rising, likely in a way that their eyes have never seen before.

You’d think from looking at it, that Herz would particularly be a nightmare for left-handed hitters, but he’s actually trended to being a reverse platoon guy. We talked about it in his hometown start last season, which Max Thoma reminded me of on the broadcast yesterday, where he struck out all 10 right-handed hitters he faced. In 2022, we’ve seen the same thing. Check out the splits:

2022 vs RHH: 0-for-21, 1 BB, 13 K.

2022 vs LHH: 2-for-13, 1 BB, 1 K.

That very last number – the one strikeout in 15 left-handed batters – shocked me, and when combined with the .100 BABIP he’s allowed, does make me wonder if advocating for Herz’ promotion to Double-A is an overreaction after just 162 pitches this season. Baseball will humble you eventually, and like last year, maybe the Cubs are waiting for that teaching moment that comes with the inevitable bad outing.

On the other hand, maybe he’s just better than the competition in the Midwest League, and maybe the teaching moment(s) won’t come at that level? And maybe, at this point, it’s worth just moving him to where the challenges will come each outing.

I vote for the fun option.

Author: Bryan Smith

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