Cubs Prospect Notes: Herz, Murray, Mervis, Espinoza, Prospect Rankings, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Herz, Murray, Mervis, Espinoza, Prospect Rankings, More

Chicago Cubs

So much Cubs prospect goodness to get into this afternoon if you’re in the mood …

⇒ I am very happy to see Cubs pitching prospect DJ Herz getting some love from Baseball America for his overwhelmingly dominant outing this past week, but I will GNASH MY TEETH AND BEAT MY CHEST that he wasn’t the top overall performer in this week’s Hot Sheet. A trio of position prospects with big weeks top Herz, and I say booooooo to that, but yay to Herz:

It’s rather easy to label Herz the best lefty this season in the Midwest League as his 1.45 ERA is fourth on the circuit among pitchers with a minimum 30 innings, ranking just behind righthanders Joe Boyle, Gordon Graceffo and Gavin Williams. On Wednesday, Herz went six scoreless innings while allowing just a single hit, with no walks and 12 strikeouts. He sat 93-94 mph, touching 96 mph during the outing while mixing in his easy plus changeup and low-80s curveball with two-plane break. Herz is one of the Cubs top prospects and the rare lefthanded starting pitching prospect with above-average velocity and three average or better pitches.

⇒ Bonus in that Hot Sheet? Corner infield prospect B.J. Murray finally got a little attention for his absurd performance so far this year at Low-A Myrtle Beach: “A 15th-round pick in 2021 out of Florida Atlantic, Murray is a native of the Bahamas. While his power production is not typical of a corner infield prospect, he shows advanced plate discipline, above-average bat-to-ball skills and a knack for well-struck line drives and enough fly balls to avoid the groundball hitter, contact-first label. He’s split time between first and third base this season, but is truly a bat-first prospect. Murray currently leads the Carolina League in on-base percentage at .464—he’s walked in 16.4% of his plate appearances. Murray is an older college hitter in Low-A, but he is producing at such an advanced level that it’s worth taking notice.”

⇒ You’ve gotta believe the bump to High-A South Bend is coming sooner rather than later for Murray, 22, whose numbers the last two weeks in particular are just comical: .452/.591/.677/244 wRC+, 22.7% BB rate(!), 11.4% K rate(!). It looks like there should be a decent volume of corner infield starts available for Murray when the Cubs are ready to give him the bump.

⇒ That’s partly because Matt Mervis got the bump to Double-A Tennessee three weeks ago, and just in case you were curious, yes, he’s still raaaaaaking at Double-A: .328/.395/.716/178 wRC+, 10.5% BB, 22.4% K rate. He is arguably hitting better at Double-A than he was at High-A earlier this year. Because he’s already 24, you might start to wonder whether the Cubs will just go ahead and challenge him with Triple-A sometime this year, but the bat-only first-base types are getting squeezed up there already (with Alfonso Rivas likely coming back down, you’ll have Rivas, Jared Young, and Nelson Maldonado all getting those starts, PLUS you have Bryce Ball at Double-A pushing for a promotion at some point, too). Given that Mervis doesn’t become Rule 5 eligible until after next season, the Cubs might give him a much longer run at Double-A to see if the struggles appear.

⇒ If you’re looking for a pitching name to follow in the Dominican Summer League, Freylin Silverio is apparently your guy, per BA:

Bleacher Report crafted a top 100 prospect update at the two-month mark in the minor leagues, and the three Cubs prospects you’d expect to make the top 100 do (Brennen Davis (13), Pete Crow-Armstrong (64), and Cristian Hernández (76)), and there are three more Cubs prospects in the group of 50 honorable mentions: Christopher Morel, Caleb Kilian, and DJ Herz.

⇒ Ed Howard is on the mend after his serious hip injury and subsequent surgery, and he got some visitors:

⇒ Funny thing is, I knew who the picture was going to be in the Northside Bound piece even before I’d clicked through (it’s Caleb Kilian):

⇒ Bryan is right, though – the article is something of a must-read if you’re at all into pitch design. I felt like I had noticed an increasing number of Cubs pitchers/pitching prospects who featured a four-seamer with some cut (or at least the appearance of cut, since they don’t move quite as much arm-side as you would expect), and it sounds like there is some design to it. There’s also a big section in the article on slider variations, including the increasingly-discussed bullet slider (or gyro, if you prefer), and the sweeper. Cubs are big into both.

⇒ Haven’t given much attention to Manny Espinoza recently (you may recall that he is the pitching prospect who had so much success in Mexico a couple years ago at just 19), but I should remedy that quickly:

⇒ Espinoza, 21, has seen an explosion in his peripherals at High-A South Bend this year, including a microscopic home run rate, a 7.1% BB rate, and a 28.6% K rate. Previously, he was not a strikeout guy, though maybe that was more a product of him being so young. Fun fact: although Espinoza already has a silly small 1.47 ERA this year, much of it is from his first outing. After that game, the ERA is just 1.12.

⇒ Kevin Made’s bat is improving in every single way you’d want to see this year:

⇒ Who can get enough Cristian Hernández:

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.