Kilian Arrives, Stroman Struggles, Jordan Promoted, Tons of Prospect Talk, and Other Cubs Bullets

For the first time in years, I went bowling last night. It was a lot of fun. I used to be pretty good, but last night, I was mostly only good at drinking beer. And now I’m sore in places that absolutely should not have been impacted by the act of bowling.

•   Good vibes today for Caleb Kilian’s big league debut (Game Two against the Cardinals tonight). I am going to try SO HARD not to overreact in any direction, knowing that it’s all part of the development process. I just want to enjoy it. Really wish it wasn’t a national broadcast (FOX), because I’d much rather have Boog and JD calling this one.

•   The Cubs haven’t had a top 100 starting pitching prospect make a big league debut since … well, there are a lot of possible answers. You could say Jeff Samardzija (15 years ago!), but he debuted as a reliever. He didn’t become a starting pitcher until his 5th taste of the big leagues. Kyle Hendricks (8 years ago) was unreasonably never a top 100 prospect, so it’s not him either. Brailyn Marquez came up for that one inning relief taste in 2020, but for a whole lot of reasons that doesn’t seem to quite fit the mold, either. You had Adbert Alzolay come up in 2019 after he did get ranked on one top 100 in 2018, but he also appeared in relief initially. That’s probably the closest one? Anyway, yeah, it’s been a long time since the Cubs have had a debut quite like Kilian’s.

A couple of the pitchers who were with Kilian at Iowa shared thoughts at Cubs.com:

“It’ll be a special moment for him, too,” said (Matt) Swarmer, who will start Game 1 on Saturday. “He’s absolutely just dominating. Every time out, he was just competing his butt off and just throwing a lot of strikes, getting ahead in the count. He has a good mix of pitches.”

Cubs righty Alec Mills is also on the IL and could be returning soon after his next Minor League rehab start on Tuesday with Iowa. In his time at Triple-A, Mills was also impressed with Kilian’s pitch arsenal, adding that the young pitcher can be his hardest critic at times.

“I was telling someone the other day, he’s better than he thinks he is, I think,” Mills said. “I don’t know if that’s something he should probably know, but he’s hard on himself. But he’s always willing to learn. Super nice. Obviously, I’m super excited for him. It’s a big moment. It’ll be great for him.”

•   That was a fairly disastrous outing for Marcus Stroman, and an encapsulation of what has gone wrong for him this year when things have gone wrong. Although he got 12 whiffs and 7 strikeouts in just 4.0 innings pitched, he also got hit HARD in the air. Stroman’s strikeouts are up this year, but his groundball rate is way down, and the damage he’s giving up in the air is way up. The question is whether those things are related – is he doing something that allows him to get more strikeouts, but also makes him more susceptible to leaving belt-high pitches to get wrecked?

•   Frank Schwindel pitched the 9th yesterday, and although he gave up a couple dingers, he did get Harrison Bader to pop out on elevated 38 mph heat:

•   Harrison Bader just makes me so angry. Looking at him. He makes me feel anger.

•   Robert Gsellman cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment to Iowa, so he’s still in the organization, but is now off the 40-man roster.

•   The very same day that Bryan’s interview with Levi Jordan dropped, highlighting his explosion at Double-A this year (best month in the system in May), the 26-year-old utility prospect gets the bump back up to Triple-A. I don’t think Bryan had any inside knowledge on that one, other than the fact that Jordan has been raking to such an extreme extent that him staying at Double-A for much longer would’ve been silly (.353/.446/.671/185 wRC+, 11.9% BB, 10.9% K). It’s still TBD whether Jordan puts himself on the big league radar, but it’s not inconceivable (he’s Rule 5 eligible after this season, and it’s similarly not inconceivable, if he rakes at Triple-A, that a team would think of him as a cheap, versatile bench option and pluck him). It’s possible that the bat simply took a huge step forward the last year and a half, and this isn’t just an older/experienced guy crushing a lower level. I will be very interested to see how he hits at Iowa the rest of the way.

•   I expect Jordan’s promotion to Iowa is partly timed to David Bote’s return to the big league team soon (he’s eligible to return Monday). That’ll open up more starts for Jordan. Still, I wonder what happens with Robel Garcia, whose bat is too good for Triple-A, who may not be able to hit in the big leagues, who may not get a real shot on the big league roster, and who is in that prime age window where he either gets a shot somewhere soon or he’s gonna miss out. Usually, what we expect in those situations is a guy heading to Asia to make some bank, but I don’t know if that opportunity would arise for a guy like Garcia during the season.

•   The Tennessee Smokies went homer happy last night, with blasts from Chase Strumpf, Bryce Ball, and Matt Mervis (who simply WILL NOT STOP):

•   That Smokies game was just a litany of guys having great nights amidst a great stretch. One I don’t know that I’ve spotlighted is catching prospect Bryce Windham, who has a roughly league-average bat this year at Double-A, but who is at .327/.424/.469/138 wRC+ over the last month, and get this part: 15.0% BB, 10.0% K.

•   One more homer to highlight, since it was notable for two reasons:

•   Reason one, that’s a tie for the longest hitting streak in South Bend Cubs history, Reason two, power was really the only question about Yohendrick Pinango’s offensive game – he’s likely to be a corner outfield guy, at best, so the bat needs to be pretty special for him to make the big leagues. The line drive is there, the discipline is there, etc., but in-game power, we had been waiting. This year, it has really shown up (his ISO has more than DOUBLED, and stands at .202 right now). It’s possible Pinango is gonna reach Double-A this year, and he just turned 20 last month. He’s younger than Pete Crow-Armstrong!

•   Speaking of … the Cubs future star selected for MLB The Show is Pete Crow-Armstrong:

•   This is fascinating to me:

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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