Five Stars of the Cubs Farm, 4/6/23: The Return, PCA, Jensen, Morel, Davis, Velazquez, Mervis, More

Shorter one (by my standards) today, given that I sped through watching these after the BN event at HVAC in Wrigleyville. Great to meet some of you there, great to be with my BN colleagues for an evening, and great to return home and find good news from three of the Cubs’ top four prospects!

2023 – let’s go.

Honorable Mention: Two (familiar) Iowa relievers: Jeremiah Estrada and Manny Rodriguez. Estrada has had good results this year via stuff that is a little down from last year (we’ll keep monitoring that). Rodriguez, on the other hand, has shown electric stuff in two outings that is an immediate improvement on last season. The velocity has returned to the 97-99 range, some sliders back above 90, the four seam showing more ride, the sinker showing more run. Believe Iowa PBP man Alex Cohen when he says it’s the best he’s seen Manny, and let’s anticipate that his return to the 40-man roster is more a matter of “when” and not “if”.


The three here are Saul Gonzalez, Marino Santy, and Angel Gonzalez, who combined for this line in Myrtle Beach’s Opening Day 6-2 loss: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K. For the uninitiated, I thought I might just introduce each player with the quickest one-game scouting report possible:

  • Saul Gonzalez: Acquired for Mychal Givens, leaner than last year, gets into back leg, a bit of deception, over-the-top but still lower-than-expected release height.
  • Marino Santy: Delivery modeled off Aroldis Chapman, with a body almost the opposite: short and diminutive. Nice cutter/curve mix.
  • Angel Gonzalez: Was 98 and very rude above the zone to two hitters last night. Not a lot of nuance otherwise quite yet.

    Hits were hard to come by in the Smokies season debut, but PCA comes away responsible for two of the four. The first gets credit from his legs, with the home-to-first time somewhere in the 4.0-4.1 range, which is good for 65-or-so on the 20/80 scale for run times.

    The second is a nice piece of hitting, and something you weren’t always seeing from his last year, when he was a little more liable to cheat and look to pull any and every fastball.

    For completist sake, we’ll also note one walk and two strikeouts in this one, with the K’s coming via a 94 mph left-handed fastball and a lost at-bat where he had three whiffs against Alejandro Mateo.

    PCA also just missed chasing down a ball in right-center that went as a ground rule double against our next prospect, missing the catch on a slide that was almost the day’s most significant highlight.


    Admittedly, in hindsight, I should have had Ryan in the five spot here, given the line is just okay: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. But I watched this prior to posting Five Stars, and I really wanted to accentuate that Ryan was better than his line. His day was a series of opposite field singles, just-missed-highlights by his defense, and then succeeding in pressure-filled moments.

    Jensen was 96-97 pretty often in this one, according to the broadcast, and was having success pitching off the sinker. He gets credit from me for never letting the wheels fall off, be it with runners on base or behind in the count, which has been a bugaboo in the past. The curveball looked better in this outing than I remember — something I’ll be monitoring in future outings.

    (One defender that consistently helped Jensen: Chase Strumpf at second base. The ball kept finding him, and he showed good feet going to his left.)


    This is pretty much a four-game achievement award, as Morel has been a revelation as Iowa’s leadoff hitter so far. In total he’s 7-for-17 with four extra-base hits and three walks in 21 plate appearances, seeing more pitches than he ever has in the past. In this one he logged three balls with exit velocities above 102 mph, and a double on the one ball-in-play that was below that. It’s been a loud few games to really just scream “DON’T MAKE UP YOUR MIND ON ME QUITE YET” to the people in the back.


    Brett and I lamented last night that, though we were having a great time, our evening in Wrigleyville meant we weren’t live-experiencing the slugfest in St. Paul. Because what we were catching up on from afar was great news: home runs from Nelson Velázquez, Matt Mervis, and Brennen Davis.

    Velázquez has been a revelation in Iowa to begin the season; he’s 8-for-18 and hitting everything on the screws. Last night’s long ball to center was a bit wind-aided, but the exit velocities are supporting this early season success, with three more balls above 98 mph off his bat yesterday (peaking with a 108 mph single). Whether we’re saying in hindsight or you believed it before the year, I think it’s probably an okay time to admit that, yes, the Cubs front office made a mistake by not rostering Nelson while Seiya was hurt.

    Mervis was just 1-for-6, but the one was a 112.6 mph grand slam missile off a 78 mph left-handed breaking ball. He’s started the year with nice work in the department of disproving he’s a platoon hitter.

    Probably the best news was a really good night from Brennen Davis, who logs three hits including the 405-foot poke over the centerfield fence. We have to keep monitoring the strikeouts, but at least in this one he showed good adjustments in his second at-bats against two different pitchers. When Bailey Ober got him with a slider early, he came back with a hit against the fastball the second time. Then Brent Headrick got him with a well-placed fastball in the fifth, before Davis deposited a less-well-placed fastball over the fence in the seventh.

    written by

    Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.

    more cubs news

    Enhanced Box Score: Cubs 5, Cardinals 1 – June 15, 2024

    Although it looked like the Cubs were about to follow The Script once again today, they finally made some critical edits. They did get the great starting pitching performance that has frequently been available to them, with Shōta Imanaga pitching...

    Cubs Roster Move: Wicks to the IL, Thompson to the Bullpen

    As expected, lefty Jordan Wicks goes back on the Injured List today, this time with an oblique issue. It has to be frustrating for him to only have just returned from the forearm strain, and then go right back on...

    Pre-Gamin’: Cardinals at Cubs (1:20 CT) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

    CUBS LINEUP — The Cubs are now a season-low four games under .500 and a season-high 7.5 games out of first place. And it's mid-June. If the turnaround doesn't happen soon, it's probably not going to happen at all. But...

    Wicks Becomes Hendricks, Roberts and Roster Decisions, Wisdom Versus the Wind, and Other Cubs Bullets

    The Cubs should just start cheating at this point. I'm not 100% on the how, but just figure it out. Craig Counsell says Jordan Wicks will get imaging on his oblique today and is likely to be placed on the...

    Moises Ballesteros Hit For The Cycle!

    Starting the day with something positive, since so much of what else is going on is ... not. Chicago Cubs prospect Moises Ballesteros, for whom you could make a strong argument as the best hitting prospect in the org, had...

    Tennessee Walking Off At the Men’s College World Series Was Incredible! (I was there!)

    I mentioned earlier this week in my Blackhawks bullets that my middle son's travel baseball team is playing in the enormous "Slumpbuster" tournament in/around Omaha this week/weekend and we made a stop to see the beautiful Charles Schwab Field, the...

    Watch A Minor-League Sammy Sosa Hit an Inside the Park Homer Because You Deserve It

    Take it from someone who writes far too many words about the Chicago Bulls – sometimes you need to look into the past to feel any sort of happiness. As the Chicago Cubs continue their remarkably frustrating play, a clip...

    Enhanced Box Score: Cardinals 3, Cubs 0 – June 14, 2024

    The Cubs lost their starting pitcher, barely even threatened to score, wasted a brilliant bullpen day, and lost the game. It's not quite the same 'ole story, but it might as well be. Jordan Wicks injured his oblique in the...

    Jordan Wicks Just Had to Leave with the Athletic Trainer (UPDATE)

    Just two appearances into his return from the Injured List (forearm), and having just taken over the rotation spot vacated by Ben Brown (neck stress reaction), something's not right with Jordan Wicks. And he had to leave today's game after...

    Cubs Farm Report | June 14, 2024: A Day to Forget, Wiggins Solid Again, More

    Cubs Prospects — It was a day to forget for the Cubs affiliates as there wasn't a victory in the lot. Cubs Farm Report | June 14, 2024 Triple-A Iowa Cubs Prospects The Iowa Cubs lost to the Columbus Clippers...

    Latest News

    Pirates vs. Rockies Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Sunday, June 16, 2024

    The Colorado Rockies (25-45) and Hunter Goodman, coming off a four-hit game, are underdogs (+145) on the moneyline and will look to upset the Pittsburgh Pirates (33-37) on Sunday at 3:10 PM ET on COLR.Pittsburgh's Paul Skenes and Colorado's Dakota...

    Mariners vs. Rangers Probable Starting Pitchers – June 16

    The Seattle Mariners (42-31) take on the Texas Rangers (33-37) on Sunday at T-Mobile Park at 4:10 PM ET.The probable starters are Logan Gilbert (3-4) for the Mariners and Dane Dunning (4-5) for the Rangers.Mariners vs. Rangers Pitcher Matchup and...

    Giants vs. Angels Probable Starting Pitchers – June 16

    The Los Angeles Angels (28-42) and the San Francisco Giants (34-37) face off at Oracle Park on Sunday at 4:05 PM ET.The probable starters are Kyle Harrison (4-3) for the Giants and Ben Joyce for the Angels.Giants vs. Angels Pitcher...

    Diamondbacks vs. White Sox Probable Starting Pitchers – June 16

    The Chicago White Sox (19-53) play on Sunday in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks (34-37). First pitch is at 4:10 PM ET.The Diamondbacks will give the nod to Jordan Montgomery (4-4, 6.23 ERA), who is eyeing win No. 5 on...

    Dodgers vs. Royals Probable Starting Pitchers – June 16

    The Los Angeles Dodgers (43-29) host the Kansas City Royals (41-31) for a home game at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. First pitch is at 4:10 PM ET.The Dodgers will call on Tyler Glasnow (6-5) versus the Royals and Brady Singer...

    Pirates vs. Rockies: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 16

    On Sunday, the Colorado Rockies (25-45) are hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates (33-37), at 3:10 PM ET, in the final game of a three-game set.Curious about who's in and who's out for the Pirates and the Rockies? Read on to see...

    Diamondbacks vs. White Sox: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 16

    The Chicago White Sox (19-53) and Arizona Diamondbacks (34-37) will meet on Sunday at Chase Field, starting at 4:10 PM ET.Hoping to find out who's playing for the Diamondbacks and the White Sox? Continue scrolling for complete injury reports for...

    Dodgers vs. Royals: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 16

    In the final game of a three-game set at Dodger Stadium, the Kansas City Royals (41-31) play the Los Angeles Dodgers (43-29), Sunday at 4:10 PM ET.Hoping to find out who's playing for the Dodgers and the Royals? Continue reading...

    Nationals vs. Marlins Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Sunday, June 16, 2024

    The Washington Nationals (34-36) and Miami Marlins (23-47) meet Sunday at Nationals Park, with first pitch at 1:35 PM ET on BSFL. The Nationals are -120 moneyline favorites for the contest, however, the Marlins are favored against the spread of...

    Brewers vs. Reds Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Sunday, June 16, 2024

    The Milwaukee Brewers (41-29) host the Cincinnati Reds (34-36) Sunday to close out a three-game series. The Brewers are favored (-134) to win the rubber match, which starts at 2:10 PM ET from American Family Field.Milwaukee's Colin Rea and Cincinnati's...

    more cubs news