The Positives of April, Steele’s Streak, Rehabbing Pitchers, Prospect Strikeouts, and Other Cubs Bullets
Hey, happy “It’s gonna be may” stuck in your head all day Day. (IT’S GONNA BE MAY!)
- Since this morning’s post was kind of a bummer overall, I want to reiterate something from the end of that piece if you didn’t read it, as it tracks to the whole wrapping-up-April thing: By both the pythagorean standings and BaseRuns, the Cubs (-4 wins) have been the unluckiest team in baseball over the first month of the season. They are 14-13, but their underlying performance indicates they “should” be 18-9. You could be annoyed by that (I am), and you could also be encouraged by that (I am). There were a lot of good things from a month with a tough schedule, and the Cubs will have to do it again in May, because the schedule doesn’t get any easier. (Well, after this four-gamer in Washington … where the Cubs really need to take at least three.)
- I also want to note something positive about the first month of the season: things down on the farm for the Cubs have gone as well as you realistically could have hoped in this opening month. Almost too many early success stories to even recount. And, not that it’s a perfect reflection of prospect talent, it’s nice to see that all four Cubs minor league affiliates finished April with a winning record.
- Justin Steele’s streak of starts allowing 2 ER or fewer is now up to 13 straight. One more and he ties that stretch from Jake Arrieta back in 2015. The dominance hasn’t QUITE been at Arrieta’s level, which was historic, but I do think it puts into context just how consistently excellent Steele has been over the last calendar year.
- The Cubs are planning a high-intensity bullpen for Jameson Taillon (groin) tomorrow, which could go a long way toward determining when he returns (Tribune). In theory, a bullpen on Tuesday would set him up for a start on Thursday, which is when the Cubs next need a fifth starter.
- Kyle Hendricks makes his next minor league rehab start on Tuesday. From the sound of things from Tommy Hottovy at the Tribune, the Cubs would ideally like to see some good results this time (last time out, nobody cared about the results because it was just about throwing 50+ pitches and seeing how he felt the next day).
- Nice to see Javier Assad almost reach the five inning mark yesterday at Iowa, and I’d say he’s just about fully stretched out now. Good results in that one, too: 4.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 6 K.
- Cubs reliever Codi Heuer made his first game appearance this weekend in an extended Spring Training game, striking out the three batters he faced, all swinging (TCR). I guess the youngsters weren’t ready for him, but hey, that’s a good sign of where things stand for Heuer. Don’t get too excited about a rapid return to the big league bullpen, though: not only will the Cubs want to rehab him slowly from here, but Heuer is not eligible to return from the 60-day IL until May 30.
- Because the Cubs have had a down week+, and because the Pirates and Brewers were cooking in April, it was a little harder to enjoy this:
- The Cardinals were swept by the Dodgers this weekend, and they have mostly earned their rough start. The offense, which is supposed to carry them, has been above average this year, but only just so (108 wRC+). And their pitching (4.56 ERA) has been in the bottom half of the league.
- Ooof. Cubs tried and failed to land Jose Abreu this offseason. And he might be cooked:
- We’ll see if Abreu rebounds from his .235/.267/.270/47 wRC+ line. If he doesn’t, the Cubs don’t get credit for missing on him, but they get partial credit for drawing the line at two years (and not getting him for that reason).
- A good write-up in The Athletic about the pre-tacked baseballs they are using in the Southern League this year (that’s where the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate Tennessee Smokies play), and how difficult it has made things for Angels prospects. It’ll be worth keeping in mind when evaluating player performance at that level, especially gaudy strikeout totals for pitchers or hitters, or uncharacteristic wildness from pitchers.
- Hey, speaking of which, Owen Caissie finally had his first strikeout-free game! The 20-year-old outfield prospect has been destroying the ball when he hasn’t struck out, but was carrying a strikeout rate over 50% in the early going – an impossibly high number, that definitely has me wondering if he was seeing spin and movement that was crazy to him. Over his last six games, that strikeout rate is barely over 20%, by the way, and the overall numbers are still excellent.
- Since that weather-induced five-day break a couple weeks ago, Brennen Davis has been hitting well at Iowa … but weird! .316/.435/.447/138 wRC+, 8.7% BB, 6.5% K, with a .324 BABIP. Line-drive singles guy who is impossible to strike out? OK, sure. (I suspect the power comes next.)
- Maybe some extended spring training or ACL action for this guy in June if everything goes really well:
- Time travel feels like the objectively correct answer here: