A lot of Cubs prospect notes to get into this afternoon, including a huge blow to the top of the draft crop …
• Big draft news today, as the “arm soreness” experienced by top pitching prospect Dylan Lesko turned out to be the really bad kind:
• That sucks. It sucks, primarily, for Lesko, who was getting helium as a top five pick (and who had previously been mocked to the Cubs several times). It also sucks for the teams drafting at the top – including the Cubs – because it removes (or severely diminishes) the possibility that Lesko is justifiable as a top seven pick. Yes, many pitchers come back from Tommy John surgery as good as ever, but if that success rate is in the 85-90% range, and if you couple that with the huge risks that are ALWAYS there for high school pitchers in the draft, I have a really hard time seeing how you could justify picking Lesko at the top. Even if you tried to make it an under slot situation, I’m not so sure he’d be willing to go way under slot, and I’m also not sure the trade off would be worth it in a draft that is so loaded in positional prospects at the top.
• In any case, all the best to Lesko in his rehab. He’ll still be drafted in the first round, and probably in the top half. If he recovers well, he could still be a top 100 prospect in baseball by next offseason, and a club will have gotten a steal in the middle of the first round. We’ve seen it before.
• With Alfonso Rivas officially graduating from prospect-dom, the Cubs have a new entrant in the top 30 over at MLB Pipeline:
With Alfonso Rivas graduating, right-handed pitcher Riley Thompson joins the #Cubs' Top 30 Prospects list.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 26, 2022
• There were probably a handful of guys who could’ve gotten that look to slide in (and note, these aren’t re-ranks, so sliding in at 30 is the only possible spot for a guy who wasn’t ranked preseason). Thompson feels like the right choice, though, as a guy who was a top 15 type two years ago, who then missed out on two years of action (pandemic year, shoulder issue in 2021), and who then returned two levels higher with eye-popping stuff. From Pipeline:
When he’s 100 percent, Thompson can work at 92-97 mph with his fastball as a starter and reach triple digits in shorter stints. He owns one of the best curveballs in the system, an 82-86 mph bender with high spin rates and so much depth that he can’t always land it for strikes. He uses a splitter/changeup as his third pitch and can fall in love with it too much at times.
The Cubs have helped Thompson clean up his delivery and he has done a better job of throwing strikes as a pro, averaging 2.9 walks per nine innings in first two seasons compared to 6.3 per nine in three years of college. He has the upside of a mid-rotation starter, though he also opened 2022 as a 25-year-old who had yet to pitch above Single-A. His lack of durability could land him in the bullpen, where he’d have the potential to advance to the big leagues much more quickly.
• Here’s hoping there were no after-effects:
Scary moment as Kevin Alcántara takes one off the hand but bounces right back. He appears to have inherited Anthony Rizzo’s bones of steal. Trainer seemed unconcerned. pic.twitter.com/oK7z1WBAsU
— Brad (@ballskwok) April 24, 2022
• Note that Alcántara did not play the next day (Sunday), and the Pelicans haven’t played since because of the Monday off-day and a rainout yesterday. So we’ll see if he’s back in there today.
• Meanwhile, Kevin Made will not be in there for Myrtle Beach – after a delayed start to the season because of injury issues, Made is headed back to the injured list today. No word yet on the injury, and hopefully it isn’t serious. (The fact that the Pelicans IL’d Made today and did not IL Alcántara, by the way, is further suggestion that Alcántara is OK.)
• Some schedule news on the lowest stateside level, via Arizona Phil at The Cub Reporter:
Phil speaketh some news pic.twitter.com/PNs80A491y
— Todd ⚾️🐻🦌 (@CubsCentral08) April 24, 2022
• [breathes in, deep exhale] None. I have none. I feel sick:
— Tennessee Smokies (@smokiesbaseball) April 27, 2022
• Funny thing about that picture and the tweet is that the guy Nelson Velazquez is looking at is Christopher Morel, who actually DID have several homers this past week. Morel, a utility prospect already on the 40-man roster, is hitting .259/.328/.483 (119 wRC+) with a 6.2% BB rate and 27.7% K rate. His glove will play at almost any spot in the medium term, I suspect, and the only question is whether he’ll hit enough against righties to justify a bench job in the years ahead. The tools are LOUD, though. Huge power. Huge arm. Great athleticism.
• Speaking of the Smokies and dingers, if you missed the big promotion news today, Nelson Maldonado is headed up to Triple-A Iowa.
Pete Crow-Armstrong got some love from BA’s Hot Sheet (Nelson Velazquez in there, too):
Why He’s Here: .417/.533/.833 (10-for-24), 6 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 4 BB, 3 SO, 3 SB, 1 CS.
The Scoop: Now 17 games into his pro career, Crow-Armstrong is sitting on a .500 career on-base percentage. Only once in his career has he failed to reach base at least one time in a game. He has gone hitless four times—but he usually figures out some way to reach base, and in one game he went 0-for-1 with four walks and a hit-by-pitch. Coming out of high school, there was plenty of confidence in his ability to play plus or better defense in center field. So far, he’s looking like an excellent table-setting lead-off hitter as well.
• A little visual on Cristian Hernández, who is currently playing in extended Spring Training games (more on the extended Spring Training roster here at Northside Bound):
Cristian Hernandez (#Cubs) slides safely at home to finish an inside-the-park HR in today's extended spring training game vs Angels. Hernandez hit a looping liner with the right fielder trying to make a diving catch and the ball rolled to the fence. pic.twitter.com/zX7xtEkDyT
— Bill Mitchell (@billazbbphotog) April 21, 2022