Cubs Prospect Notes: Canario’s Ranking, Brown’s Pitches, Alcántara’s Adjustments, Mervis’s Arrival, More
Some Chicago Cubs prospect notes for your Friday afternoon, while you wait on tonight’s game …
- The ZiPS top prospect list (ranking on the basis of minor league stats and player comps – no scouting) is going to make you sad, because outfield prospect Alexander Canario shows up at number 33. Massive crying face emoji. Especially because of the accidental report that floated this week about Canario already being back on the field doing baseball work (he’s not; still way too early for that).
- Canario, 22, was a breakout prospect last year, rocketing up from High-A to Triple-A, mashing along the way (and adjusting at each level). It was just about a perfect year. And then, while playing in the Dominican Winter League, an absolute freak accident at first base led to a fractured ankle and an injured shoulder, each of which required surgery. Terrible news for so many reasons, but the real kick to the groin (or ankle or shoulder) is that, because these weren’t minor injuries, you can’t assume Canario comes back without missing a beat *even if* the time away doesn’t cause him problems. Simply put, because of the injuries and the surgeries, we have no reasonable way to describe Canario as a prospect. He might be the guy he was. He might be a slightly degraded version. He might be toast. No way of knowing until he plays a whole lotta games, and we have to HOPE that that happens at some point this season.
- Other Cubs prospects on the ZiPS list: Pete Crow-Armstrong at 46, Kevin Alcántara at 67, and then another four unnamed prospects in the 101 to 200 range. Eight organizations had more top 200s than the Cubs.
- Cubs pitching prospect Ben Brown, who looked really good in a spring outing this past weekend, is working on his slider and his changeup this spring – looking for that third pitch (at least) to pair with his excellent curveball and fastball. Speaking of the latter (The Athletic):
As Brown said, the Cubs are mostly leaving the fastball alone, but the early results from camp suggest that the desire to “optimize” the pitch was successful. In live batting practice, Brown has impressed the coaches and executives who have watched him throw. According to those who have kept tabs on his live BPs, at one point earlier in February, his velocity was already touching the upper 90s. He credits that to the fact that he’s added some muscle and made very slight delivery tweaks, shortening his arm action with the help of minor-league pitching development coordinator Casey Jacobson.
- Brown has the frame and physicality to be a starting pitcher, and I don’t think anyone should count him out of the role even if the slider or changeup don’t ever become particularly useful (because the fastball and curveball are so good). This year might decide it, though, because if one of those other two pitches (or both!) starts playing, he’s going to be seen as having mid-rotation upside in the big leagues. I’ll comfortably make that call now. If that third pitch never comes, though, it’ll be pretty hard to start in the big leagues, and late-inning reliever might eventually become the focus. The good news is that Brown says he’s feeling very comfortable with the changeup, and its gotten some good marks already this spring. Brown, 23, figures to return to Double-A Tennessee to open the season, with a path to Triple-A by mid-year.
- Oh, and Brown got a mention recently at FanGraphs as a possible future top-100 guy. If the third pitch and/or fourth comes along this season, yeah, I could see him as a top-100 type later this year.
- Love hearing directly from a prospect on his adjustments at the plate, including the demonstration from Kevin Alcántara:
- Reducing that leg kick is something you often see as players get a little older and they want to give themselves a little more time to adjust to a pitch on the way (as Alcántara explained), though it can come with a tradeoff in quality of contact if you’re not otherwise using your levers properly (and it doesn’t hurt to be really strong). I like that Alcántara, 20, is already working through that version of his swing.
- Tommy Birch writes about 10 prospects who could/should/will appear at Triple-A Iowa this season:
- Holy crap, Luke Little, this pitch … just don’t break Ed Howard again:
- Matt Mervis getting the spotlight treatment in a couple ways, and we’ll be seeing him this year at Wrigley Field sooner or later:
“It happened fast, but this is what I expected,” Mervis said. “When I signed, this was the vision I had in my head — realistic or not, I didn’t know at the time. But I was expecting to be in Triple-A by the end of my second year and knocking on the door to the big leagues. That’s the position I put myself in and hopefully I just capitalize from here.”