Steele Matches Arrieta, Mervis Call-Up, Amaya, Kilian, and Other Cubs Bullets
Today is The Littlest Girl’s first Miracle League game of the year, so I’m really looking forward to that. If you’re unfamiliar, The Miracle League is all about providing opportunities for kiddos with disabilities to play baseball in a fun, safe, community-supported environment. It’s a pretty special thing, and I’d encourage you to check them out if you have any interest or curiosity about whether there’s a Miracle League in your area.
The Littlest Girl is still on the Mets, so you’ll have to excuse that one …
- A little roster move note here at the top: lefty Ryan Borucki, who was DFA’d earlier in the week after not actually making an appearance with the Cubs, has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Iowa. As someone who has been outrighted at least once before in his career, he will get three days to decide whether to accept the assignment or head back out into free agency.
- Justin Steele is outrageously good, and he did it again yesterday against the Marlins. His streak of games started allowing 2 ER or fewer is up to 14, tying Jake Arrieta’s legendary run from 2015 to 2016 (though, to be clear, Arrieta was more dominating within that run). Steele’s ERA is down to 1.45, by far the best in the National League, and trailing only Gerrit Cole and Sonny Gray in MLB.
- I am not going to compare Steele and Arrieta directly, mostly because I wouldn’t want to put that kind of pressure on Steele. I will say that some of their development trajectory and execution bits are really interesting. Both guys were good starters in the minor leagues with well-regarded stuff, but not necessarily dominant. Both guys started to show signs under the hood of having really unique pitch potential at age 26, and then saw big success in the Major Leagues at age 27. Both were guys who have strikeout-caliber stuff, but actually succeed more on the strength of limiting hard contact and not walking anyone. For Steele, he’s gotten to this point a little earlier than Arrieta did, who didn’t have run like this until he was 28 (and then was even better at 29).
- Again, it’s not a direct comparison because of the weight it implies, but there is nothing saying a pitcher cannot REALLY break out at age 27/28 and take things to an entirely different level (which, I mean, doesn’t it SEEM like that’s what Steele is doing?).
- The gloves showed up to support Steele, too, with a couple run-saving plays by Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner:
- Cubs President Jed Hoyer said that the Matt Mervis call up, yes, was slightly about the scuffling big league offense. But that doesn’t mean Mervis is being called up to change things fundamentally (Tribune): “Ultimately there’s no perfect answers to when a guy is ready,” Hoyer said Friday. “Certainly you want a guy to control the strike zone. That was something we talked to him about in spring training, looking for pitches, doing damage on those pitches, and obviously that was certainly impressive. I also don’t want to put too much pressure on him. Certainly it’s a lever to pull to bring him up to play a lot. But at the same time we’re not expecting to carry the lineup or do anything other than what he can do.”
- Matt Mervis is going to be surrounded by support as he adjusts to the big leagues:
- Meanwhile, the other called-up-youngster is showing out. Miguel Amaya leads all of baseball in average exit velocity (102.6 mph). Clearly, he is the hardest hitter in the league. (min. 5 batted balls, heh)
- I am kinda kidding about that being a factoid, but it does highlight how hard Amaya has hit the ball all five times he’s put it into play. Every single one has been above 100 mph, even though he doesn’t have a hit to show for any of them. Just keep doing that, Miguel, and you’ll be finnnnnnnnne. Looks good behind the plate, too, and clearly Justin Steele was not negatively impacted by having the rookie behind the dish. Obviously Amaya will head back to the minors when Yan Gomes returns, but I’m thinking there’s virtually no chance he doesn’t go to Iowa at this point, rather than Tennessee. So this whole process will still have been a promotion for him.
- It doesn’t prove anything, because that’s going to be a much longer process, but I gotta tell you, it was really encouraging to see Caleb Kilian pitch extremely well in his first Iowa start since the big league disaster. Maybe he was right when he said he felt like getting the two successful innings in after the nightmare first inning would set him on a good course. Last night for Iowa, he threw 5.0 innings on just 57(!) pitches, getting 10(!) whiffs on those pitches, and striking out 5. He allowed two hits and two walks and no earned runs. I don’t think we’ll see him back in the big leagues this year, barring a rash of injuries – David Ross said plainly that Kilian is “not ready” – but maybe this can be yet another valuable development experience.
- Meanwhile in that game, Jake Slaughter doubled and homered again:
- The 26-year-old utility man put up ridiculous numbers at Double-A last year, and now has ridiculous numbers at Triple-A this year. I think the strikeout rate concerns are legitimate (still over 30% this season), but as a good baserunner who can play all over and has that much power? You can see big league bench upside there. The problem for Slaughter is that the Cubs have a lot of guys like that right now, including guys who look like big league regulars who are going to be relegated to bench duties. So, for now, you just let it keep playing out and see what develops.
- The Cubs have the best offense in their top two minor leagues:
- This throw is QUITE impressive:
- When this young man gets one, it’s such a gorgeous sight:
- The Cardinals lost again last night, thanks in part to a Javy Báez homer and an Alex Lange save, so former Cubs are still doing their part. To put some context on just how bad this start to the season has been for the Cardinals:
- And not that you’re trying to make it ALL about Yadier Molina, but we DID wonder if they would hurt in surprising ways from having lost him. Turns out, they were literally never this bad in his almost 20 years:
- The rest of the NL Central also lost again last night, so they’re all on multiple game losing streaks except the Cubs. Such a bad division right now.
- This is both very sweet and very funny. Can this guy become a Cub in July:
- We knew healthy stuff was a risk with Carlos Rodon, but my word. First the arm, and now a “chronic” back issue:
- One of the best holidays in Major League Baseball:
Chicago Cubs Prospect Haydn McGeary Just Keeps Hitting: “Haydn’s Mishits Are Other Hitters’ Barrels”