Mancini is Hot, Swanson is Tough, Bullpen is Taking Shape, Prospect is Getting Healthy, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Mancini is Hot, Swanson is Tough, Bullpen is Taking Shape, Prospect is Getting Healthy, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I’m glad I don’t officially cover TV, because I would dread having to cover the just-announced writers strike. Covering the MLB lockout last year was, uh, not an enjoyable experience. Anyway, hopefully the studios come around and make a reasonable proposal to support the writers who create the things we enjoy watching … I don’t want to have a huge gap and not have shows to watch.

At least we have baseball!

  • Trey Mancini’s shot in the first inning was a foot short of being a homer, but would’ve left a few ballparks, including Wrigley Field:
  • Mancini’s overall season numbers are finally getting close to league average after his brutal start to the year. Over the last two weeks, Mancini is hitting .361/.425/.583/173 wRC+. Very good to see the bat coming back around.
  • Dansby Swanson is a hockey player:
  • The blood really was all the way down his face, thanks to a cut from his helmet as he slid into second base. “Third time in my career I’ve been attacked by my own helmet,” Swanson said, per “I’m 0-for-3 in terms of wins against the helmet.” Swanson doesn’t ever want to miss any games or any parts of games, so of course he just wanted the thing patched up.
  • Swanson homered in his next at bat, so clearly he was all right. His ISO still isn’t quite past the .100 mark, but his overall production this year remains outstanding: .301/.419/.398/132 wRC+. The BABIP is near .400 and is going to come down, but he’s running a career high walk rate, a career low strikeout rate, and an xwOBA that isn’t too far off from his actual wOBA.
  • The Cubs’ other home run came from Ian Happ, who didn’t start, but swapped in for Nelson Velazquez when lefty MacKenzie Gore departed. It worked out:
  • Although the game was a four-runner by the time the bottom of the 9th arrived, I think we can still surmise that it was Brad Boxberger who was going to come in for the “save” even if the insurance run hadn’t come. That isn’t to say he is the capital-c Closer, much in the same way Michael Fulmer was never the capital-c Closer. It’s just that, all else equal, Boxberger is the veteran David Ross trusts the most in the 9th inning. My guess is some days he’ll still pitch earlier than that (big spots where the game can turn before the 9th, for example), but if everyone is completely rested and it’s a traditional save spot, Boxberger will probably continue to be the guy.
  • All that said, it’s kinda funny how great Michael Fulmer has looked ever since he moved a bit on the rubber and stopped facing the Dodgers. He’s looked the last three outings exactly like the guy we expected. Maybe he sorted things out that quickly. Here’s hoping, because, as Sahadev Sharma discussed on our podcast yesterday, it’s not clear that Keegan Thompson is quite right at the moment with his mechanics/command.
  • At first I read this as “King of the Splitters,” and it still worked:
  • Leiter is still mostly a lefty match-up guy thanks to that splitter, but he has faced 15 righties now so far this year, and they haven’t really hit him either. You’d love to see him continue to evolve into a guy who is just straight up good against all batters across the board. It’ll probably take him having a little more success with his curveball.
  • One more bullpen note: I hope we see Jeremiah Estrada again soon. Given the mix, I don’t have a problem with him being reserved for lower-leverage spots at the moment, but he’s pitched just twice in the 11 days he’s been up. Game circumstances dictate usage at the big league level, but I want to see him get more work. I still really like his future.
  • If you missed the news last night, Cubs catching prospect Miguel Amaya is headed to DC to join the team and the roster *IF* Yan Gomes’ head injury requires an IL stint. Your hope is that Gomes is fine today for many obvious reasons. If he’s not, you can expect Tucker Barnhart to draw most of the starts in his absence, with Amaya mostly used in an emergency capacity (with maybe one planned start with a pitcher he can most easily work with). Calling up a fill-in catcher straight from Double-A is a tricky thing, because for as talented as Amaya is offensively and defensively, he doesn’t have experience working with the big league pitching staff or the big league run prevention group.
  • Cubs infield prospect James Triantos has been sidelined after knee surgery late in spring training, but he’s finally made an appearance in an extended spring training game. He looked good, according to Arizona Phil.
  • With both he and Ed Howard playing in games, you could imagine them being ready to head out to their full-season assignment in a couple weeks. Both would likely be ticketed for High-A South Bend, where the infield is going to get crowded quickly. At this point, Kevin Made’s playing time has to be prioritized because he is looking more and more legit. But you’ll want Howard getting lots of starts at shortstop, too; and Triantos needs development work at third and second. Fabian Pertuz is also there and playing well on the infield, and none of those four are likely going to be ready for a bump to Double-A any time soon. So it’ll just take a lot of rotating and creative work to make sure everyone is getting enough starts for development.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.