Cubs Prospect Notes: Player Development, Kilian, Big Offense, Relief-Only Prospects, Winning Streak, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Player Development, Kilian, Big Offense, Relief-Only Prospects, Winning Streak, More

Chicago Cubs

A variety of Cubs prospect notes for you to get into this afternoon before the game tonight …

⇒ I was glad to hear some thoughts from Craig Breslow, who wears multiple hats high up in the Cubs’ front office, serving as both an Assistant GM and the VP of Pitching. While he isn’t solely credited with the significant improvements on the pitching side throughout the system the last couple years, if you ask anyone around the organization how it’s happened, you’re going to hear Breslow’s name pretty quickly. Breslow at NBC, talking about how things have been going, and where the development doesn’t stop:

“The one thing that I will say — and this is not indicative of anything other than what we’ve seen with this big-league infrastructure — is that development is continuing to take place at the major-league level,” Breslow said. “Whereas five years ago, 10 years ago, you felt like you needed to introduce a finished product to the major-league clubhouse.” …

“Now it’s time to kind of see [the results] on the field,” Breslow said of the overhaul he and others say is showing a lot of promise.

“This season will be more important for us to evaluate if that process works, if we can focus on some of the raw materials and then turn those guys into people we can rely on to get outs during the course of the season,” he said. “We’re two months into the season, but I think we’re starting to see that this is playing out as we anticipated.”

⇒ Heavens please. If the Cubs could actually continue developing guys at the big league level – something they simply could not and did not do over the past decade – that would be an enormous shift (pitching side or positional side).

⇒ Hype is the jinx. No sooner than everyone was talking about how Caleb Kilian was dominating at Triple-A and was highly likely to come up to the big leagues for at least one of the double-header starts next week … he laid an egg today. His first real egg of the season, as he was giving up a lot of hard contact, not missing bats, and recording just one strikeout through five innings:

⇒ None of that is to say today’s outing changes the thinking on when he could/should come up. It was just unfortunate timing.

⇒ This is a robust list:

⇒ I remember in recent years when I would check this list, you’d see about 10-15 guys with a wRC+ above 100, and you were tugging at your collar going eek-that-doesn’t-seem-good. That is a LOT of guys who are hitting very well this year. And that’s on the heels of learning that the Cubs arguably have the best performing pitching in the minors, too.

⇒ Cubs outfield prospect Owen Caissie over the last two weeks (as a 19-year-old at High-A): .386/.438/.705/218 wRC+.

⇒ Sheldon Reed, 24, was one of the many undrafted free agent signings after the short 2020 draft who probably would’ve been drafted in the later rounds, and who knows where he might’ve ended up. But he signed with the Cubs, and this year at Low-A Myrtle Beach he posted a 57.5% strikeout rate (not a typo) over his first 11.2 innings, so he’s getting the bump to High-A South Bend.

⇒ Given his age and experience in college, and the fact that he’s a relief-only guy, these are more or less the kind of results you’d hope to see in order for Reed to stay on the radar (we’ve discussed before this in relation to a number of other guys in that vein). For example, Riley Martin was the last similarly-situated 24-year-old arm to get the bump from Myrtle Beach to South Bend after striking out more than half the batters he faced, and so far he has struggled a bit at South Bend. No matter the age or role or success in the lower levels, it gets harder and harder at every rung. And you always have to remember that the guys who are put into relief-only in the lower levels tend to be guys for whom starting didn’t work out, and the guys who are still starting could probably also be putting up big numbers in relief (and THOSE guys sometimes wind up the top relievers by Double-A/Triple-A … the road is just a lot harder for the relief-only guys at the lower-levels).

⇒ Among the other older relief-only prospects currently putting up enormous strikeout rates at A/A+: Jake Rendl, Bailey Horn, Bryan King, Nicholas Padilla (who recently got the bump to Double-A), Jeremiah Estrada, Hunter Bigge. They won’t all make an impact at Double-A, much less in MLB, but some will. And it can come quickly. Heck, Brandon Hughes was at High-A as recently as last year as a 25-year-old relief-only prospect.

⇒ Jordan Wicks is getting results at High-A, and the strikeouts are finally starting to come, too:

Some organizations are seeing – this year – challenges in player development related to the loss of the 2020 season:

The team with the best record in the entire minor leagues will go for 10 in a row tonight:

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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.