Cubs Prospect Notes: Amaya, Brown, Aliendo, McGeary, Birdsell, Little, PCA, Herz, IFA Signing, More
A whole lotta Chicago Cubs prospect notes to get out to you today, but I wanted to start with the prospect getting a taste of the big leagues …
- I really hope we get to see a Miguel Amaya start tonight:
- Even if Amaya doesn’t start tonight, and even if Yan Gomes is ready to come back tomorrow, this will still have been a beneficial development experience for Amaya. The Cubs have a keen interest on getting him more and more exposed to the big league staff, since this is his last minor league option year. To that end, I’d like to see him sent not to Double-A Tennessee when he’s optioned back out, but instead to Triple-A Iowa. He’s raking at Tennessee, as he always has, so not much more to do there offensively. It’s time to get him started working with more of the pitchers he could be catching in the years ahead, and also seeing more polished pitchers at the plate at Triple-A.
- We’ve talked about the pre-tacked baseballs being tried out in the Southern League, where the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate Tennessee Smokies play, and Baseball America has more on what has become a pretty controversial topic in the league:
- As noted by BA, offense is down in the league and strikeouts (and walks) are way up. Among the underlying impacts of the pre-tacked ball is an RPM increase on fastballs of 100 or more for almost half of the pitchers who’ve thrown at least 30 four-seamers. That’s basically what we saw with sticky stuff. Immediately, I wonder about Ben Brown’s extreme success this year, especially being that he is a guy who relies heavily on a riding four-seamer and a hammer curveball, each of which would benefit greatly from more spin. Brown, however, does not get mentioned by name as among the pitchers in the Southern League getting significantly more carry on their fastballs this year as compared to last year. So maybe he wasn’t benefiting from it TOO much? He’s quite good in any case.
- The reason I mention all this is because Brown will make his first start at Triple-A Iowa this week, using a very different baseball apparently. That kinda sucks, and it’ll mean we could see him have an adjustment period for both the hitters AND the ball. His obscene Double-A numbers (39.0% K, 7.8% BB among them) may not carry over right away. I also wonder, now that Brown is on the 40-man, whether the Cubs were eager to get him out of the Southern League so that he didn’t start to adjust his game to a ball he wouldn’t be using in the future. Messy situation.
- Note, though, that it makes the many excellent Tennessee Smokies offensive performances all the more impressive this year!
- Speaking of which, Pablo Aliendo’s hot start to his Double-A career just keeps on keeping on.
- The 21-year-old catching prospect is hitting .306/.395/.611/169 wRC+ in the early going, and looks more physical this year than he did last year at South Bend. The .306 ISO is still probably way too high for his true talent level, but the fact that he’s doing it at all for even a short period – again, as a 21-year-old catcher at Double-A – is very impressive. Aliendo is just about a consensus top 30 prospect for the Cubs at this point, and if he keeps doing this, it’s going to get even better. (I wonder if he’ll now start getting even more starts now that Miguel Amaya is with the big league team, and thereafter could be with Triple-A Iowa. I expect Aliendo to stay with the Smokies all year, barring something crazy.)
- Speaking of which, part two. It didn’t even take 15th rounder Haydn McGeary a full month in his first full professional season to get a promotion. The guy played a little bit after the draft last year, and then got an opening assignment this season to High-A South Bend. It was quite clear almost immediately that the level was inappropriate for his ability at the plate, so he got the bump to Double-A this week. And he wasted no time in showcasing his power:
- The 23-year-old slugging first baseman/DH/very-rare-catcher hit a whopping .368/.467/.592/201 wRC+ at South Bend, together with pristine peripherals. You’d expect some adjustment at Double-A, given his limited pro experience, but I guess we’ll see.
- Owen Caissie joined McGeary in homering already today:
- The Cubs are still working the IFA market, signing 17-year-old righty Nestor Pirela. I’m not seeing his name on any of the pre-IFA lists, though that’s not uncommon with pitching prospects. They are frequently scouted and signed later than positional guys, so it’s rarer that even the best of the bunch are written up extensively before their pro debut.
- As we’ve discussed before, this kind of thing is not a perfect proxy for future big league talent in a given organization, but the Cubs are mostly doing this on the backs of true prospects up and down the system:
- Greg nails this, because if you just watch the video, all you see is Pete Crow-Armstrong making a relatively routine catch. But it’s routine only because of his incredible jump and route and speed:
- Lefty DJ Herz is up to four innings in Arizona – dominant ones at that – so I expect he’ll probably be ready to head out to the Tennessee Smokies soon enough. The stuff is inarguably great, but the delivery is complex and the control is spotty. If he wants to stay a starting pitcher, he’ll have to be able to repeat his mechanics deep into outings and work more efficiently (without getting blown up). I like him to have a big league future one way or another, but the Cubs figure to let him keep starting as long as he can.
- Speaking of which, the Cubs just moved Luke Little into the bullpen at South Bend. It was a very interesting move, given that Little is a whole lot like Herz (a lefty with a complicated but imposing delivery, nasty stuff, and spotty control). Either the Cubs are very aggressively trying to limit Little’s innings, or, more likely, they are thinking about the possibility of him rocketing up the system this year in relief. These High-A bats are simply not going to be able to hit Little, so maybe relief was the only route to getting him up to Double-A for more of a challenge, sooner rather than later.
- Brandon Birdsell, the Cubs’ 2022 5th rounder, dominated again for South Bend today (5.0 scoreless innings, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K), and I wonder if Double-A is also in his future sooner rather than later. It’s kind of nuts to think about for a 2022 drafted pitcher to reach Double-A after just a handful of starts in his pro debut, but it’s hard think about much else when he’s just cruising every single start. How about Jordan Wicks joins Ben Brown up to Triple-A, Brandon Birdsell heads up to Double-A, and Cade Horton comes up to High-A?
- A little Tommy John recovery action:
- Jefferson Rojas will be among the big names to watch in the ACL this year:
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