The Double-A Tennessee Smokies kicked off their Southern League Championship series with a win, beating the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Marlins) 4-1.
- Yonathan Perlaza, Cole Roederer, and Nelson Maldonado drove the offense, with the pitching racking up the strikeouts along the way:
- That was Bailey Horn shutting things down with four strikeouts over his two scoreless innings. He got REALLY hot to end the year and through the playoffs, and soon he’ll head out to Arizona for the AFL. Horn, 24, is going to be on the big league radar next year if his second-half progress continues.
- Fellow 24-year-old lefty Riley Martin also had a scoreless appearance in the game, after being brought up from the South Bend Cubs and their championship – he could get two rings in one year! Martin will also head to the AFL after this season and will also have the chance to put himself on the big league radar next year.
- D.J. Herz’s wildness at Double-A has been a quietly unnerving story in the second half (20.9% BB with Tennessee), but it tracks with some of the concerns about what he’d face at the higher levels: fewer and fewer hitters chasing to give him extra strikes, and a complex crossfire delivery that can rob you of command at any given moment. Hence why he was still striking a lot of guys out at Double-A (for example, 5 last night in just 3.1 IP), but also walking a lot of guys (4 last night), and not really giving up many hits (3). It’ll be wholly appropriate for him to return to Double-A to open the 2023 season, and it could be a pretty big moment in determining whether he’s going to be able to keep starting as he eventually reaches Triple-A. You want that massive upside to stay in a starter’s role if at all possible.
- Game Two of the Southern League Championship Series is tomorrow night at 6:15pm CT. If the Smokies win, the title is theirs. The starting pitcher for now is TBA.
- Elsewhere, the Iowa Cubs have three games left before their season wraps later this week. Three more games for Alexander Canario and Matt Mervis to break their 35-home-run tie …
- Down in Arizona, Instructional League is underway, with some of the younger/newer prospects getting in work for now in intrasquad games. Arizona Phil has writeups here and here on the most recent couple games, where you will notice, among other things, that 4th round pick Nazier Mule has been DH’ing. Recall, he was a two-way player in high school and the Cubs were expected to be drafting him primarily as a pitcher. But they didn’t close the door on letting him also play in the field and/or hit, so maybe this is part of that evaluation process.
- Some photos from Rich from down in Arizona:
- The sample is still small, even on a pitch-by-pitch basis, but it’s pretty hard not to be excited when you see where Hayden Wesneski’s pitches rate by the Stuff+ metric:
(Note that Lance is just talking about the opponents helping the results, not the Stuff+, which is entirely independent of opponents or results – it’s just evaluating the movement and location of pitches.)