Batters and I Are Still Mystified By Sampson, Velazquez's Rockets, Outfield, Herz, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Batters and I Are Still Mystified By Sampson, Velazquez’s Rockets, Outfield, Herz, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I feel like no one anywhere is eagerly anticipating the 4th season premier of ‘Westworld’ tonight (I can hear lots of you saying, ‘They’re doing another season of that?’). I guess I get it. The first season was incredible, but the second season pushed a lot of folks away (I loved it, but I know it wasn’t what a lot of people wanted from the show). And then the third season went WAAAAY different, and also didn’t execute it very well. But the idea of the show is still so dang good! I am really freaking pumped for the return, even if I’m the only one.

  • Nelson Velazquez had a 107.8 mph single yesterday, the hardest-hit ball in the game for the Cubs. It was the second time in three days that he’s had the hardest-hit ball in a game, and it’s a reminder that he very much has that part of the game secured: he can hit the absolute shit out of the ball. While I do think it’s important to remember how little time he has at Triple-A, and how he’s rocking a 35+ % strikeout rate between Double-A and Triple-A this year, I think it’s just as important to remember that he can do things with his contact quality that very few hitters can do (think Patrick Wisdom style). He can also play solid outfield defense creating a reasonable floor of value.
  • When Seiya Suzuki comes back, there won’t be regular starts for Velazquez anyway, and I’ll be fine with him starting every day at Iowa for most of the rest of this season – that’s not at all developmentally inappropriate. But I do love that the Cubs will have him as an option for the outfield mix in 2023+. There is absolutely breakout potential there.
  • (I’m letting myself get in that stupid zone where, while I want the Cubs to add a sure-fire bat in the outfield for next year, I also want to see what Velazquez and Brennen Davis and Darius Hill and Narciso Crook and Jared Young and Jackson Frazier can all do … )
  • One more on the outfield for now, an arbitrary endpoints check: since May 10, Rafael Ortega is hitting .304/.389/.446/136 wRC+. You know, to the extent there are any contenders out there looking for an inexpensive, versatile outfield bat against righties …
  • Adrian Sampson did it again yesterday, showing nasty stuff (where the hell did that come from?), getting tons of whiffs (where the hell did those come from?), striking out a bunch of guys (where the hell did those come from?), and generally looking not-at-all like the guy we saw last year or the guy who has been a command/control contact-manager at Iowa. Pitchers tend not to just flip a switch like this at age 30, especially in the middle of a season at the big league level, so I remain mystified.
  • It would be one thing to have a couple appearance where Sampson got good results – we saw that last year, but we also saw the hard contact, the lack of whiffs, etc., and it was easy to project regression. But it’s not the results that I’m looking at with him over these last 9.2 innings – it’s the stuff and the batters’ reactions. If we didn’t know his name was Adrian Sampson and he was a 30-year-old command/control reclamation type, we would be watching this guy and thinking, YO WHO IS THIS GUY!?!? Can that last? Is this real? I feel like it can’t be, because decades of watching baseball tells me this kind of switch-flip doesn’t happen. But I can also say I can’t remember the last time I saw something this extreme from a guy with a profile like this. It’s really, really weird. Like I said. Mystified. I don’t know what else to say.
  • If you’re wondering, the only changes I can immediately discern in these two outings: (1) he has really ditched the sinker in favor of the four-seamer (which has a little more velocity than it did previously); and (2) he’s started incorporating a cutter a little bit. It has to be more than that, though, right?
  • Stay tuned for discourse on Keegan Thompson’s now-sweeping slider, because wow:
  • D.J. Herz had another EXTREME D.J. HERZ MODE start last night, going (only) 4.2 scoreless, but striking out 10(!) in the process. The development plan for him has gotta be a little tricky, because on the one hand, it’s clear he cannot be challenged at High-A by the bats there. No one can hit him. But on the other hand, the lack of efficiency/ability to go even medium depth is still clearly something that needs work. And you might, all else equal, rather see him working on that at High-A rather than Double-A when he’s just 21. Herz is not Rule 5 eligible until after 2023.
  • Things have been wild for the ACL Cubs lately:
  • It’s a real shame the Astros had to go and throw a combined no-hitter in June. It means they now have to lose 11 games in a row. Hope it was worth it, guys. I kid, though they sure didn’t seem all that excited – oh, we’re supposed to celebrate? I guess we’re supposed to celebrate:
  • Speaking of the 11-game losing streak following the combined no-hitter last year for the Chicago Cubs, check out the team’s 162-game record since then:
  • I just don’t like it:
  • This one just looks special. Freaking obliterated:

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.