Chicago Cubs prospect notes to get into today, and I’d like to start with a magnificent defensive play (the most fun way to start any prospect notes!).
- This relay is *chef kiss*:
- Bonus note there? Catcher Pablo Aliendo is just 21, playing at High-A, and hitting .324/.368/.474/134 wRC+ since June 16. The wart, as it were, is the .405 BABIP during that time, which is totally unsustainable, HOWEVER, I’m also cautious about immediately poo-poo’ing production built on minor league BABIP without more context (because sometimes you’re just hitting the shit out of the ball, and minor league defenders can’t handle it consistently). The .150 ISO is not too bad, and Aliendo is a line drive machine. Even if you chip away at the BABIP considerably, you’re left with a bat that might be league average at High-A, attached to a 21-year-old catcher. That’s quite encouraging!
- Please be nothing, please be nothing, please be nothing:
- It was always pretty unlikely that Alexander Canario would get a taste of the big leagues this year anyway, but since he’s already on the 40-man roster, there was a chance, if he’d carried over his dominance of Double-A to Triple-A. That hasn’t happened yet (only eight games), and now maybe he’s dinged up. I think, realistically, let’s just hope he gets back on the field soon and has a good finish to the year at Triple-A. That’ll set him up to open 2023 at Triple-A as the type of guy who could come up and fill in when necessary, and maybe even break out into a semi-regular role (think Nelson Velazquez).
- That I-Cubs game featured Matt Mervis and Michael Hermosillo hitting monster bombs, by the way.
- The night before, Hayden Wesneski shoved for five scoreless innings, showing folks just how good his slider is:
- Wesneski has a 2.37 ERA over his last four outings, a 29.6% K rate, and an 8.5% BB rate. Whether he comes up or not down the stretch, he’ll go on the 40-man roster in November, and he’ll compete for big league innings next season (any chance he gets the early-Steele/Thompson treatment of being introduced to the big leagues next year, in doses, as a multi-inning reliever?).
- The Athletic duo of Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney have a bunch of prospect notes here. One thing that jumps out? Now that the dust has cleared on the MLB Draft and you can get more honest information: “(T)here have since been indications that (number seven overall pick Cade) Horton wouldn’t have dropped beyond the top 10 picks.” You will remember, of course, that Horton was viewed as a mid-first rounder after his late-season, small sample explosion at Oklahoma at the very end of the season. The Cubs’ pick, and subsequent under-slot signing (which allowed them to take first round talent Jackson Ferris in the second round), felt to many like a reach. But I trust Sharma’s and Mooney’s sources on this stuff – if they’re now hearing admissions after the fact that Horton wasn’t falling out of the top ten, then there you go. Obviously Horton still has to develop enough to justify the pick on its own merits, but it’s possible the Cubs really did get a “top ten” talent for slot savings that allowed them to double-dip.
- The Cubs have already indicated that Horton would not pitch with an affiliate this year. He’ll work with the club over the offseason and make his pro debut next year.
- Also in The Athletic piece, some early thoughts on Pedro Ramirez, the switch-hitting infield prospect who raked in the DSL last year (DSL player of the year for the Cubs), raked in the ACL at just 18 in his stateside debut, and is already at Low-A Myrtle Beach. He’s been getting such great results at such a young age, it’s time to figure out just how legit he is as a prospect:
Speaking of bat-to-ball skills, the Cubs have an interesting case at Myrtle Beach with Pedro Ramírez. Ramírez posted a 155 wRC+ in the Dominican Summer League last year and was nearly as good in the Arizona Complex League this summer, delivering a 153 wRC+ over 163 plate appearances. Ramírez is just 18, but he earned a late-season call-up to Low-A Myrtle Beach, where he’s holding his own through 13 games, hitting .333.
Ramírez showed some pop in the complex league this year, but that’s likely not going to be his game going forward. At just 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, he’ll probably have to put on some bulk with the help of the high-performance team as he continues to rise up the ranks and face pitchers with more overpowering stuff. But if he continues to develop and fill out, there’s a speedy switch-hitter who could hit for average and play multiple positions on the infield.
- Righty Luis Devers continues to put up absurd numbers at South Bend, and while I understand that the scouting still has questions about whether the low-velo and deception will play at higher levels, he is nevertheless a pitcher whose experiencing coming into this year was almost exclusively in rookie ball, doing this at Low-A/High-A:
- … and that was BEFORE he went 5.0 innings last night, allowing 1 ER on 4 H, 0 BB, and striking out 8. Yes, there’s gotta be some good fortune baked in there so far at High-A, and you’ll need to see how he fares against more skilled batters. But he’s likely to win pitcher of the year honors in the system this season, and he’s going to be right there in the Double-A rotation next year.
- (And on the 40-man roster, unless the Cubs want to risk losing Devers in the Rule 5 Draft this year – yes, he’s among the many, many younger players who are eligible … would a team try to bring him all the way up from High-A into their big league bullpen? when you can have only eight in your bullpen? I say maybe, because they might figure they can bring him to Spring Training, see what happens elsewhere on the roster, and maybe there’s a 20% chance they have an OBVIOUS spot to stash him for a while. Feels like it would be a huge risk to leave Devers unprotected.)
- That Devers South Bend game was closed out by righty reliever Michael McAvene, who has had a longggg road to getting in his first real professional season after being selected in the third round of the 2019 draft. The Cubs knew McAvene, now 25, came with some big injury risks (which was why he was even available in the third round in the first place), but the upside in the arm was substantial. So, they rolled the dice, and unfortunately subsequent injuries – plus the pandemic – kept him mostly off the mound until June of this year. The results have been pretty good so far this season, though: 3.14 ERA and 3.60 FIP over 28.2 IP (19 appearances). Of course, those numbers drop to 2.57 and 3.46, respectively, if you ditch his very first appearance. His strikeout rate has been climbing as the year goes on (it’s well over 30% since early July at this point), and his walk rate has been retreating (it’s now right around 10% in that period, which is very playable if you’re striking out over 30%).
- We know double-edge sword of being a relief-only prospect at the lower levels: the success is hard to trust, because the competition is so young and inexperienced in facing a guy who is balling out for short bursts with only two-ish of his pitches. But it’s also possible that, for the guys who are really clicking, they can fly up the system very quickly. In other words, McAvene’s age (25) doesn’t really bother me in a relief prospect at High-A; but to stay relevant, he’ll pretty much have to rocket up to the Triple-A range next year.
- I love that Bryan got into this, because I do think Luis Verdugo is being seriously underrated (by the industry) and still-somewhat underrated (by people like me):
- Verdugo is going to be another tough 40-man decision after the season. Would another team really pluck a 21-year-old out of High-A for its bench, if it believed in the offensive upside and defensive floor? It’s a maybe. Big maybe. I tend to think Verdugo gets protected if the Cubs sneaky love him and expect a big breakout next year. Beyond that, they might roll the dice and just hope no team can realistically stash him after such a big leap.
- Speaking of sneaky great seasons at High-A, early-season darling B.J. Murray stopped getting a lot of mentions around here after he was promoted to High-A, but it turns out, that was just him following the same track as so many Cubs prospects this year:
- Cubs outfield prospect Darius Hill is inspired by his brother:
- More from Bryan on the CHGO Cubs podcast: