Five Stars of the Cubs Farm, 4/27/22: Triantos and PCA Notch NINE HITS, Little Dominates, More

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Five Stars of the Cubs Farm, 4/27/22: Triantos and PCA Notch NINE HITS, Little Dominates, More

Chicago Cubs

Consider this my plug to keep up with the near-daily Extended Spring Training box scores that Arizona Phil is posting at The Cub Reporter.

Not only are they super helpful in keeping up with youngsters like Cristian Hernández, but with so many guys in Arizona rehabbing preseason injuries, you get a real sense for who is close to joining full-season teams soon. Just on Tuesday, for instance, we saw Luke Farrell, Bailey Horn, C.D. Pelham, Jake Slaughter and Carlos Sepulveda pop up. Fun thing for the craziest of us to follow, and something that I’m pretty sure not a single other fanbase has access to this kind of info from Extended Spring Training.

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

Honorable Mention: Caleb Kilian has a start that looked solid in the box score, but if you check my Twitter thread about it, I wasn’t blown away, and hopefully the velocity drop at the end was just tiring … D.J. Herz tied his career high in walks-plus-hits allowed in an outing, but only one run scored in three innings (Jose Miguel Gonzalez in three innings for Myrtle Beach was better) … Iowa lefty relievers Brandon Hughes and Eric Stout got the win and save in the I-Cubs. The Indianapolis Indians have a lefty heavy lineup, and Hughes and Stout’s sweeper sliders ate dudes up … Three-hit nights for Alex Canario (he’s heating up!) and Matt Mervis in a South Bend loss … Esteban Quiroz has really struggled since the preseason trade into the Cubs organization, but he hit a bomb yesterday in Iowa. Such a fun, weird player … Jeremiah Estrada now has 10 strikeouts against 24 High-A batters, which is just great news.

Five: Cam Sanders

Sanders threw 5.0 innings, allowing just one run on one hit and three walks, with six strikeouts.

I want to explore the platoon split we’ve seen this year. Updated for yesterday’s outing:

RHH vs Sanders: 2-for-29, a triple, 4 walks, 3 HBP, 17 strikeouts.

LHH vs Sanders: 7-for-24, two doubles, two homers, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts.

(And I’ll note the triple came on the second batter of tonight’s game, to first rounder Matt McLain, and then Sanders didn’t allow a hit the rest of the night.)

As we get deeper into this season, I’d love to see Sanders be tried out in the Keegan Thompson role — three innings, more max effort — which I think could be a real fit. But I do think, in the meantime, it’s good to let him see the maximum number of lefty batters as possible to further develop his approach against that side of the plate. He got a couple of ’em on nice pitches last night:

Four: Yohendrick Pinango

Pinango entered Wednesday’s contest — where he then singled, walked and homered — with a 101 wRC+, despite a sub-700 OPS (which really serves to tell you the Midwest League has been especially light-hitting so far this year). After the game, Pinango was up to .286/.355/.429 with a 124 wRC+. He hasn’t quite yet turned 20.

Pinango remains a supreme talent in things like hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills, and the only open question has been if he can start to tap into some of the power that his natural strength suggests he should have. We’ll see if it happens, but in clips like this, you see where it could go.

Three: Luke Little

Little impressed me a lot in his first start, which I watched, and then struggled a bit in his next two outings, which I didn’t. So maybe I’m the good luck? This one was a perfect 9-up, 9-down outing with six strikeouts. Let’s go through those 6:

1. First batter of game, 3-pitch K against a lefty, with well-placed high heat at 0-2 freezing the batter.

2. Little twice blows fastballs past the hitter, including 98 for the swing-and-miss strikeout.

3. After missing with 98 inside, Little leaves a batter helpless against a 82 mph sweeper.

4. Pretty sure we saw the whole arsenal in this at-bat, but the RHH goes down against a back foot breaking ball.

5. After three foul balls, Little wins a six-pitch war with a 97 mph high fastball.

6. Little goes up 0-2 against a LHH, then misses three times (slider in dirt, high fastball, low-away fastball) before the batter is called for an automatic strikeout (thanks, pitch clock).

I would have loved Little to be given the fourth inning, considering he threw less pitches than in either of his two previous outings, but I understand the decision to let him leave on a high. This was really impressive.

Two: Nelson Velázquez and Christopher Morel

Nelly, last 8 games: 12-for-29, 3 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 5 BB, 9 K.

More quietly, Morel has a six-game hit streak, and in his last 9: 11-for-36, 3 2B, 4 HR, 3 BB, 9 K.

A lot of the guys initially assigned to Double-A felt a level too low, including just-promoted Nelson Maldonado, but it’s these two guys that I think we most hoped would prove they were better than Double-A (both because of their ceilings and their 40-man roster spots).

One: Triantos and Crow-Armstrong

We’re this far in, why not just outline each of the hits for this duo?

1. First pitch of first game, Crow-Armstrong pops a bunt between the left-handed pitcher and second baseman.

2. Crow-Armstrong “singles to shortstop” against a curveball from the southpaw, though this one easily could have been deemed an error.

3. Triantos lines a 1-0 inside-corner fastball against the lefty starter into left field for a RBI single.

4. After whiffing on a high fastball in his third at-bat against the lefty starter, Crow-Armstrong stings a ground ball into right field on an inside-corner breaking ball.

5. Triantos faces a new right-handed reliever, and hits a soft grounder past the pitcher into no man’s land, and shortstop can’t field it cleanly on the do-or-die play. Good work battling back from 0-2 and getting wood on a 1-2 breaking ball here.

6. Triantos not fooled against a full count curveball, sits back nicely and hits a line drive single into left field.

7. In Game 2, Crow-Armstrong chops a 2-2 fastball between the pitcher and first base and beats it out. I timed this one a few times, and got about 4 seconds each time, which is a 70 run on the 20-80 scale.

8. Triantos chops a breaking ball into the ground, which bounces over the third baseman’s head for a single.

9. Another hit for Triantos against a breaking ball, this a bad hander that Triantos hits hard as a grounder down the 3B line and into left field.

The takeaways here: PCA is fast, Triantos can hit breaking stuff, and the BABIP gods finally decided to be nice to Triantos (and continued being nice to PCA).

Author: Bryan Smith

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