The Cubs have two games on tap this Memorial Day, which means there’s some roster maneuvering to discuss. With Jonathan Villar headed to the IL and a 27th roster spot opened for the double-header, the Cubs are calling up two prospects: Nelson Velázquez and Anderson Espinoza.
#Cubs roster moves:
– Selected RHP Matt Swarmer from @IowaCubs
– Transferred RHP Ethan Roberts to 60-day IL
– Recalled OF Nelson Velázquez from Iowa
– Placed INF Jonathan Villar on 10-day IL (retro to 5/27, mouth injury)
– Recalled RHP Anderson Espinoza from Iowa (27th man) pic.twitter.com/dMCNZWd4lZ
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 30, 2022
We discussed Velázquez’s call up in great detail earlier today, so be sure to check that one out for more on him. But Epsinoza, acquired from the Padres at the last trade deadline, is the latest surprise for your holiday Monday.
Espinoza, 24, has been starting at Double-A this year, registering a load of strikeouts, but walking far too many, hitting too many batters, and giving up too many dingers. It’s the on-paper profile of a guy who has fantastic stuff but doesn’t quite know where it’s going (and that matches the scouting profiles you see out there).
Thanks to multiple surgeries and a pandemic, Espinoza didn’t pitch in an affiliated league in 2017. Or 2018. Or 2019. Or 2020. The fact that he was even in a position to pitch at High-A/Double-A in 2021, and then be an emergency call-up to the big league team in 2022 is just incredible. That’s a story worth rooting for no matter what happens.
As for that part, Espinoza was on the 40-man for a reason – the Padres saw enough in him, despite the injuries, to want to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft; and the Cubs saw enough to want to acquire him for Jake Marisnick and use a 40-man spot on him for a couple years. But we’re getting close to the point where the Cubs need to know if he can actually be an up-down guy next year if they’re going to keep him on the 40-man this offseason (when it will be very, very crunched). This call-up won’t make that decision, but you would like to see them be more aggressive in evaluating him. For example, it’s pretty hard to see the starting thing working out at this point, but maybe it’s time to give him a look in relief? Maybe at Triple-A after he goes back down?
From Bryan, our prospect guy: Espinoza was 93-97 MPH in his last outing, fastball heavy usage. Slider is low to mid 80s, curve is high 70s. Doesn’t throw the changeup he was known for as much anymore (shook it off a bunch in that outing), it’s about 84-87 with arm-side fade.
Again, for more on Velazquez, check this out here:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) May 30, 2022
As for Villar’s mouth injury, apparently he was using an exercise band when it “snapped back into his mouth,” causing the injury and requiring significant dental work, according to Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune. That sounds painful and I have no idea how long that sort of injury takes to recover from. Not that anything else seemed likely at this point, but you can definitely expect Christopher Morel to stick around now and for Andrelton Simmons to get even more exposure at second base.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.