After dominating at Low-A Myrtle Beach last year, D.J. Herz did not take a step back at High-A South Bend this year, and after a little more than a half-season, the Cubs have seen enough. Like his lefty rotation-mate, Jordan Wicks, Herz is headed to Double-A Tennessee!
An 8th rounder out of high school in North Carolina in 2019, Herz is already a scouting and development win for the new infrastructure (which started to take shape in 2019-20). It’s a virtual lock at this point that he reaches the big leagues and makes an impact; the question is whether he can make it as a starter or if his future is in multi-inning/high-leverage relief. Now that he’s at Double-A, we’re getting closer and closer to finding out. The rotation has to remain the presumption, though, for as long as he can keep getting outs.
As you probably already know by now, Herz’s numbers are ridiculous: 2.26 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 38.1% K rate, 0.42 HR/9. He was just too good for High-A. That’s not to say he wasn’t doing some important developing down there, but it was time.
The potential knocks are about Herz’s efficiency (just 63.2 IP over 17 starts), his control (14.2% BB rate), and whether he will be as dominant against more experienced hitters (at High-A, he could pretty much just throw his fastball and overpower guys at times). He definitely has things to work on, even as you can see how dominant the stuff and delivery can be.
I think this is going to be a very real challenge for Herz, who is a full year younger than Wicks, and I think it’s going to be a very good thing for his development to get this exposure to Double-A bats before the end of the year. I also love that the two are getting the bump together, because there’s almost certainly some nice “human” stuff to be gained from that, to say nothing of the work they can do together as they progress along a similar trajectory.
Bryan ranked Herz 8th in the Cubs’ farm system earlier today, just behind Wicks, writing, “My instinct is the continued proof that hitters can’t barrel up (or even make contact with) Herz makes him the best pitching prospect in the organization, but I’m taking the cautious approach with this ranking given the lack of efficiency development. Still feels like the current breaking balls haven’t approached their final iterations.”