Cubs Prospect Notes: Canario Takes BP, Brown Dominates in Debut, PCA, Vazquez, Slaughter, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Canario Takes BP, Brown Dominates in Debut, PCA, Vazquez, Slaughter, More

Chicago Cubs

I hadn’t intended to start today off with prospect notes, but the news and performances were such that I had to get this stuff in front of you …

  • Arguably the most important bit of news – well, after the Matt Mervis promotion – is that outfield prospect Alexander Canario is taking batting practice:
  • Canario, 22, broke out nearly as much as Mervis did last year, and also reached Triple-A by the end of the season. Unfortunately he suffered a serious set of injures in winter ball in a fluke play at first base, badly breaking his ankle and hurting his shoulder. Both injuries required surgery, and we knew the recovery timeline would be lengthy. Now we’ve seen Canario running out in the grass and taking batting practice, so I’m loving the chances that he could get into game action by complex ball this summer and maybe then a month or two or three (if I’m being super greedy) at Iowa to finish the season. You couldn’t realistically expect him to come back to right where he was last year, but you’d love to see him get to a place where you have confidence that, come 2024, he’s fully back on track.
  • The next biggest big news was pitching prospect Ben Brown making his Triple-A debut (complete with the MLB baseball, rather than the pre-tacked one being used in the Southern League), and …. he was absolutely no worse for the wear:
  • Brown got 13 whiffs on his 85 pitches, mixing his four-seamer and curveball* with a cutter and a sinker, but I’m wondering if Statcast (which we now have for him, because it’s available at Triple-A) is misclassifying. They don’t call his curveball a curveball – they call it a slider because of it’s speed, I presume. It’s definitely unique among curveballs, but it FEELS like a curveball to me. That makes me wonder if the “cutter” is actually a slider, and I also wonder if the sinker is actually a sinker (we don’t have pitch movement metrics from the game). This labeling doesn’t REALLY matter, of course. What matters is if Brown is actually able to mix four distinct pitches successfully, his already-substantial ceiling goes up a notch.
  • To be clear: given that he’s at Triple-A, is already on the 40-man, and showed what he showed last night, I would say the chances we see Brown sometime this year with the big league team is quite a bit more than zero. I think he’s the best pitching prospect in the system right now, yes, even ahead of Cade Horton.
  • Speaking of prospects the Cubs got in a rental trade … I wish we had the distance on this Pete Crow-Armstrong homer because the crowd in right field was just watching it sail over their heads into the dark distance:
  • That came as part of a huge game for PCA and basically all of the Tennessee Smokies lineup:
  • Up and down the lineup, it was an enormous night, obviously, but the guy I want to call out specifically is shortstop Luis Vazquez. We’ve mentioned him a number of times in this space, but it really seems like the breakout might finally be coming for the 23-year-old who has flashed it previously before taking steps back. Understand: Vazquez is an exceptionally good defensive shortstop, so he doesn’t HAVE to be huge at the plate to be a future big leaguer. But this is a guy who is now hitting .329/.363/.589/154 wRC+ through his first 80 PAs, with 5 home runs already, and he’s been chosen to hit second in this absolutely loaded lineup. Physically, he has shown he CAN hit like this before, it’s just that he hasn’t been able to do it above High-A until now. If Vazquez keeps this up for a few more weeks, you’re going to see him getting a LOT of discussion from folks (outside Cubs prospect nerd circles) wondering where the heck he came from.
  • Jake Slaughter started out slow in his promotion to Triple-A Iowa, but dude is crushing it now. This was 430 feet:
  • Slaughter is up to .313/.403/.547/140 wRC+, after posting a nearly identical line last year at Tennessee. He’s striking out over 30% of the time, so there are certainly concerns there, but he’s one of those guys who hits the crap out of it when he makes contact. He’s got good speed and he can play all over defensively. There’s big league utility upside there, even as he’s an older guy (now 26).
  • If you missed Bryan’s write-up on the Matt Mervis promotion:
  • Or his deep dive on Haydn McGeary (aka, the next Matt Mervis?):

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.