Javier Assad Was Outstanding, Homegrown Pitching, McKinstry Again, MiLB Playoffs, and Other Cubs Bullets

The playoffs start today! Minor league playoffs, that is. The South Bend Cubs open up their postseason series at 6:05pm CT at home against Cedar Rapids. Luis Devers gets the ball in game one, Porter Hodge in game two, and Daniel Palencia in game three, if necessary.

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans also open their series at 6:05pm CT tonight, and they’ll head to Charleston. Tonight’s starter has not yet been officially announced.

Go Cubs. Go Pelicans. Get some playoff experience. Get some hardware.

  • It’s not the first time this season we’ve seen homegrown Cubs pitchers playing key roles in a win, but I still want to highlight that last night we saw an entirely homegrown starting pitcher (an IFA signing, no less!) cruise for six innings in his first quality start, and then an entirely homegrown reliever come in for a multi-inning finish to the game. We went YEARSSSS without seeing that from the Cubs. I’m not going to take it for granted now, even if the Cubs are out of the race. This is enjoyable, and it’s another good sign for the updated player development program.
  • That starting pitcher, Javier Assad, had his best looking outing of the year, and he’s now appeared in almost as many big league games this season (5) as he did at Triple-A Iowa (8). I mention that because it’s easy to forget that Assad, 25, spent most of this season at Double-A before the rapid bumps up the ladder. That happened because he made huge developmental strikes before this season, and suddenly had back-of-the-rotation potential, before previously being more of a guy who was likely to stall out at Triple-A because of a lack of stuff. It makes me wonder if he could get even better with another offseason of work, now having had the experience of facing more polished batters at BOTH Triple-A and in MLB.
  • Assad was especially good against lefties last night, thanks to a nasty changeup and him really having the best version of his cutter. Look at what Mets manager Buck Showalter said (Cubs.com):

    “As advertised. Really good cutter. That was the pitch for him tonight,” Mets general manager Buck Showalter said. “He commanded that on both sides of the plate. He established both sides of the plate with all his pitches, and that makes it really tough.

    “It wasn’t as much something we didn’t do as something he did do. You could tell, he was staying down and working different planes in the strike zone. When you establish, you can throw the ball to both sides — especially the cutter. It was almost like a small slider, it had more depth on it than most cutters do, and that’s unusual. It’s a good pitch. We knew that coming in.”

  • In other words, last night’s outing had all the more look of a guy the Cubs have to keep on the 40-man roster through the offseason so that you can have him available as depth next year. I suspect part of the reason he was called up in the first place was to evaluate him precisely for this reason. He’s passing the test.
  • Speaking of those 40-man decisions, utility man Zach McKinstry sure is trying to make a run to ensure he keeps his job this offseason. After another big night last night, he’s now over league average since August 9, the end of his 0-fer to start his Cubs career. Not that you don’t count the 0-fer, of course. Anyway, over that past month, McKinstry is now hitting .256/.310/.423/104 wRC+. I would think that if he does that the rest of the way, when you consider his positional versatility and pre-arb status – plus whatever scouting the Cubs liked about him when first acquiring – the Cubs are almost certainly going to keep him on the 40-man and not risk losing him in minor league free agency.
  • I get that Jeff McNeil just hits. I’m not making fun of the results. I’m just saying, it looks really silly:
  • But hey, if it works to hit with a tetherball pole instead of a baseball bat, maybe some Cubs should try it.
  • Marcus Stroman, bobble-head-haver-and-enjoyer:
  • The announcement on the newest iteration of the Apple Watch means that last year’s iteration is now on a big discount at Amazon. #ad
  • Mike Trout has homered in SEVEN STRAIGHT GAMES:
  • Giants pitcher Zack Littell was clearly pissed at his manager Gabe Kapler for taking him out, but Kapler made sure not to respond in public, and then invited Littell back into the tunnel for a chat:
  • We get to see Jacob deGrom tonight. That’s fun, right?
  • Kind of a shocker from Sunday’s Bears win:
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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