Michael: Of COURSE the Cubs have a minor league signing to report today. These deals are almost always good ideas, because the risk is virtually nonexistent, but the timing is just so (depressingly) funny. Angst is at an all-time high, and these deals are hardly taken well even in the best of times. Okay, take it away, Bryan. What’s this guy all about?
During the Cubs successful era of last decade, one staple in the front office’s roster building was a super-fast center fielder, usually with a great glove to match. There was Quintin Berry, Leonys Martin, and of course, Terrance Gore.
The 2022 Cubs have added another name to that list — and this one can swing pretty decently too! — in announcing the signing of Ben DeLuzio to a 2023 minor league contract. DeLuzio, 28, received a cup of coffee with his hometown St. Louis Cardinals last year, managing positive value despite a .492 OPS thanks to some good (small sample) defensive numbers.
And before I paint with too broad a brush, DeLuzio has a solid history of hitting the ball enough in the minor leagues. He’s a career .292/.361/.462 hitter at the Triple-A level, and could factor as a soft-side platoon guy if needed, given that his OPS versus lefties was .838 in 2022, .878 in 2021 and 1.009 in 2019. Given that he has three consecutive years with a line drive percentage in the twenties, the Cubs could absolutely be intrigued by the potential in optimizing his offense in a peak age season (like they did with Narciso Crook last year).
However, I’m also confident that the foundational run tool, and how it aids in providing plus-to-better CF defense, is the main intriguing factor here. DeLuzio ranked in the 99th percentile in Sprint Speed according to Baseball Savant, with his 30.2 feet per second number coming in seventh overall in baseball. He stole 30 bases last year in 37 attempts, his second highest number in a season; perhaps the player type most positively impacted by the pitch clock and large base rule changes.
The glove also comes with very high marks, both in terms of small statistical sample size (+2 DRS, +2 OAA, +1.6 UZR in 65 innings!) and in highlight catches. A few:
DeLuzio is likely to start the year in Triple-A Iowa, where he’d share outfield duty with a prospect-y group of names: Brennen Davis, Yonathan Perlaza, Darius Hill, maybe even Nelson Velazquez. The team in Chicago could probably do worse in CF than a Hill/DeLuzio platoon, actually, but we hope it doesn’t come to that in Plans A, B or C.
This is simply good depth in Iowa, with the tools to also be good depth at the very back of a Major League roster.