Cubs Prospect Notes: Wesneski, Brown, Hernández, So Many Catchers, Herz, Wicks, Cruz, PCA, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Wesneski, Brown, Hernández, So Many Catchers, Herz, Wicks, Cruz, PCA, More

Chicago Cubs

The Arizona Fall League is coming October 3, and running through November 12. It’ll be a minute before we get rosters, but the Cubs are going to have some really big decisions to make on who to send, given the various injury returns in the system and the 40-man roster decisions to make. The Cubs will send seven prospects to the Mesa Solar Sox, joining the A’s, Marlins, Rays, and Yankees on that team.

Meanwhile, other notes from around the farm system …

  • Cubs VP of Pitching and AGM Craig Breslow spoke with Patrick Mooney here about the two starting pitching prospects added to the system at the deadline, Hayden Wesneski and Ben Brown. Among the comments on why the Cubs wanted Wesneski, and why they were willing to part with Scott Effross in the process:

“We targeted the starting profile,” Breslow said, “thoroughly platoon neutral, the ability to handle righties and lefties. The emergence of a cutter against lefties will be a useful weapon for him. The stuff has ticked up. The four-seam fastball has been a nice addition. The slider’s been wipe-out for a while now. (He should) handle righties particularly well. He was always a strike-thrower who kind of came into stuff, which fits some of the molds of guys that have been successful here.

“He’s also pretty close to being big-league-ready, right? There’s not a ton of development opportunities that punch you in the face, which is a credit to him and where he’s coming from. But we see a guy with maybe some tweaks we can make around the margins, and then we’ll take a close look at usage and recommendations.”

  • So, you could read that as the Cubs seeing Wesneski as a high-floor guy, where they didn’t target him because they thought they could BLOW HIM UP (pretty hard to get those guys from another org in the first place), but instead figured he was a very good bet to be a big league starting pitcher, even if at the back of a rotation. I would add that having big-league-capable starting pitching prospects at Triple-A, who can be optioned up and down as necessary while they develop (without killing you in those fill-in starts), is pretty darn important, and it’s not something the Cubs have had over the past decade. That was what I liked most about the acquisition.
  • As for Brown, who is further away and coming back from Tommy John, Breslow said it was about targeting a guy where the Cubs think they can add a lot of development:

Starter profile, big fastball, ability to miss bats with a fastball, which is a really good place to start,” Breslow said of Brown. “We have in front of us the goal of keeping him healthy, keeping him developing, but we also saw some development opportunities. We’re not going to be the first organization to say, ‘Hey, he would benefit from adding a changeup or separating the breaking balls.’ But I think we’ve demonstrated some success in those endeavors. Right now, we’re just spending some time getting to know him and understanding what he’s tried, what has worked, what hasn’t, what’s important to him. I think there are a number of different paths that we can go in terms of, say, can we give him another weapon vs. lefties?”

  • Bryan’s note yesterday got me thinking about some unheralded catchers in the Cubs farm system:
  • Windham, 25, is a crazy athlete who is walking WAAAAY more than he’s striking out, but he’s also not really hitting at all. You remember, though, that the bat sometimes comes much later for catchers, so he’s actually not all that “old” when talking about a potential MLB back-up if the bat comes along at all.
  • Amaya, 23, is only DH’ing this year because of the Tommy John surgery, and after all that lost time, you’d like to see him able to post, say, a league-average bat in his time at Double-A. So far, he’s shy of that by 11%, but at least he’s coming off a couple big games. I wonder if he’s going to play winter ball to make up some at bats. I’m sure the Cubs are hoping he can be ready for Triple-A next year, since he’s already on the 40-man roster and there is likely going to be big league starts behind the plate available for him to seize over the next couple years.
  • Meanwhile, at High-A, catcher Pablo Aliendo, 21, is really turning it on with the bat:
  • And one other catcher to mention, Ethan Hearn, 21, who was the big over-slot catching signing in the 2019 draft. The bat, indeed, comes later for a guy like Hearn who is apparently excellent behind the plate. He’s been just about league average at Myrtle Beach, where wRC+ is not park-adjusted (and that ballpark is extra hard on bats). He’s turned it on the last couple months, in particular, and if the glove/work with pitchers is as good as I’ve heard, then he should definitely be on the prospect radar heading into 2023, when he’ll probably head to High-A South Bend.
  • Big day in the ACL (three hits, including a triple) for Cristian Hernández has the 18-year-old shortstop prospect allllllmost back to league average by wRC+. You’d have loved if he broke out in the second half of the season after getting acclimated to the new stateside life and pitching, but instead it was more of a steadying out the performance. Not bad for his age, but also not eye-popping. The question now is whether he’ll be sent to Myrtle Beach next week when the ACL ends so that he can get in a little more high-level game action before instructional ball, or if that’ll be it for his season. Probably depends on what the Cubs see him needing to work on most – it’s not always the case, at that age, that game action is the best next move.
  • Unraveling in any start for any reason is not good, but it was a particularly weird situation this week for D.J. Herz, which preceded a seven-run inning:
  • In any case, Herz has struggled badly at Double-A so far after being simply too good for High-A (recall, he could just throw his fastball right down the middle and because of it’s unique properties, hitters at that level could do nothing). You don’t root for struggles, obviously, but you do recognize it as part of the process. Herz probably needed this if he was going to improve, and if he was going to answer questions about whether he could start long-term.
  • By contrast, fellow lefty starter Jordan Wicks has been stellar at Double-A this month over three starts: 19 K in 13.0 innings, 5 BB, 8 H, and a 0.69 ERA.
  • Big righty Yovanny Cruz is still so impressive when he’s healthy enough to pitch:
  • Cruz is probably a slight risk to be one of those shocking Rule 5 picks, just based on the raw ability. He hasn’t pitched above High-A, where he’s barely pitched at all. He’s thrown 13.2 innings total since 2019. But he’s a guy that some club might believe they can try to stash as a bullpen arm if they believe in the upside. I don’t see any realistic shot the Cubs can use a 40-man spot on him, though, so I think he’s just going to have to be among the many legit prospects who are exposed this year. Might be harder for teams to draft and stash relievers in the new 13-pitcher-limit system anyway.
  • Don’t sleep on Javier Assad as a depth starter for the big league team next year:
  • For a number of reasons, I feel like it’s been easy to miss how Pete Crow-Armstrong did the thing you love to see: got to a new level after destroying the last one, struggled for a couple weeks, adjusted, and exploded again. You are reminded that, additionally, he was playing through a hand injury initially, he’s super young for his level, and he’s elite defensive center fielder:

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.