Just one more day to get through before “it’s June, and I can justify talking about trade season, since that’s clearly where this is all going” …
• If you missed Matt Swarmer’s debut yesterday, it was really solid. No other way to put it – he went far deeper and had more success than I would’ve expected for a guy who essentially threw just two pitches (a playable four-seamer, and a good slider). To me he looked like a guy who could have some run as a multi-inning reliever, but with Wade Miley hitting the IL and now with Drew Smyly going down, it’s highly likely Swarmer is just gonna stay in the big league rotation for a while. Here’s hoping whatever he figured out at Triple-A last year (sub-3 ERA since July of last year) was legit. That slider really is quite good. It is almost more like a knuckle-curve in terms of it’s straight down drop.
Solid debut today for Matt Swarmer!
6.0 IP / 6 K / 1 ER pic.twitter.com/FeD6ebGeKo
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) May 30, 2022
• Going forward, I would worry that teams will learn to identify the slider a little earlier, and will just sit on the fastball – don’t bother swinging at the slider until/unless you get to two strikes. The fastball (averaged 91mph yesterday) is gonna have to be located VERY well.
• During the pandemic year, Swarmer played in an adult baseball league – ages 18 to 40 – just to try to pitch to live hitters. A 19th round pick out of a DII college back in 2016, Swarmer has been grinding for a long time. Good for him.
• This factoid cracked me up, because I was absolutely thinking about Dallas Beeler’s debut while Swarmer was pitching:
Matt Swarmer's line: 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R/1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR, 92 (58). First Cubs pitcher to go 6+ IP with no more than 1 ER in an MLB debut since Dallas Beeler (June 28, 2014).
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 30, 2022
• I was thinking of Beeler not because the pitchers’ styles were similar, but instead because of the circumstances: it was a guy coming up out of necessity, who was long a borderline big leaguer, who may or may not have a longer-term future in the big leagues, and who was getting the shot because he was arriving at the front end of a theoretical prospect wave. (Beeler, for his part, got a couple more looks over the next year, but was out of the organization by the end of 2015, and then out of affiliated baseball by 2018. The stuff just never quite got to a big league quality. But I definitely enjoyed that debut outing.)
• As for the other pitcher debut yesterday, Anderson Espinoza probably won’t be staying up (he was the 27th man for the double-header), but I hope his success last night against big league bats gives him the confidence to know he can do it, even after all that he’s been through.
Anderson Espinoza records his first career strikeout! pic.twitter.com/3FgAeAbKvL
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) May 31, 2022
• That said, seeing his stuff last night only made me feel more interested in seeing him make the switch to the bullpen sooner rather than later. I think he could be very good there already – he touched 97 mph with his fastball last night in a “start,” and that slider is legit – and he’s on the 40-man roster at Double-A. The Cubs need to know if he’s at least an up-down guy for them next year before committing that 40-man spot to him this offseason. To me, that situation just screams “send him down to Triple-A Iowa to pitch in relief.” I could be wrong, and maybe Espinoza can keep starting, but the control just hasn’t been there.
It has been a long, emotional journey for Anderson Espinoza that included a pair of Tommy John surgeries and 4 lost seasons (from 2017-20).
On Monday, he finally made his MLB debut and saved the Cubs bullpen.https://t.co/bbIU3oxlL3
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) May 31, 2022
• More debuts to discuss! Just as you would’ve expected, monster slugger Nelson Velazquez notched two hits in his first day of big league action and … neither left the infield.
First big league hit for Nelson Velázquez!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 30, 2022
• While he’s up, and while Seiya Suzuki is out, I really hope the Cubs start Velazquez nearly every day in right field. Given Suzuki’s presence in the organization, it’s hard to see Velazquez becoming a near-term regular in that precise spot, of course, but there’s an opportunity right now to get him those reps, so do it. Figure out the rest later. He’s highly unlikely to cement himself in as a regular at the big league level right now anyway, which means he’ll have to head back down to Iowa soon enough – this approach gives him even more to work on when that inevitably comes.
• That is to say, I will be irked if Jason Heyward returns soon and is starting over Velazquez, if he sticks around (which he might not upon Heyward’s return anyway). Rafael Ortega I understand allowing to do more starting for at least two reasons: (1) it is at least conceivable that he could have some trade value at midseason as a cheap versatile outfield lefty bat; and (2) Ortega is actually hitting now. He’s up to a league-average 100 wRC+ at the moment, and is up to .272/.371/.407/122 wRC+ going all the way back to April 24.
• Velazquez, who calls Christopher Morel his “bestie,” was particularly pumped to get to join Morel for his big league debut. It’s pretty awesome to see two young guys who’ve been climbing the ladder together, who’ve become such good friends, arriving in something of a surprising fashion together.
From team historian Ed Hartig (via @wgnadal): Espinoza is the 24th player to make his Cubs debut this season. It's the fastest the team has reached that many debuts (48 games).
Except for, ya know, Game 1 in 1876.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 31, 2022
• Messenger bags, toiletry bags, stand-up paddleboards, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad
• Weird and random, but there is a little more youthful speed on the team right now than in recent years:
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) May 31, 2022
• Cubs first base coach Mike Napoli sports a look:
Mike Napoli looks like he has a job for you to pull off in Boca Raton, but you're gonna need a crew of six guys and some careful planning. https://t.co/litxhw6Gpt
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) May 30, 2022