Daily Cubs Minors Recap: De La Cruz and Albertos continue to stumble out of the gate but Abbott and Clark still thriving

Cory Abbott (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Cory Abbott (photo by Rikk Carlson)

AA

Jacksonville 5, Tennessee 4

Prospect Profile

I'll give Oscar De La Cruz (L, 1-3, 9.82) this, he is almost always noteworthy. It is just the negative notes are beginning to outweigh by the positive. If it isn't a nagging injury, velocity fluctuations, or as has been the case in the early going of 2018, an unexpected lack of control and command. Those trends are sometimes precursors to arm injuries. De La Cruz has avoided the knife so far in his career, but I have to say, the concern is growing in my mind.

Oscar De La Cruz (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Oscar De La Cruz (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

If try to find a sliver of hope amidst his early season struggles it is that lack of control has never really been much of an issue so there is a good chance that this is a temporary blip. In the one start where he threw quality strikes he pitched six shutout innings. He has also continued to miss bats at a decent clip (14 K in 14.2 IP).

Game Recap

Zach Hedges came to the rescue of De La Cruz (2.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 BB, 4 K) after the latter was lifted in the 3rd inning. He extended his shutout streak at AA to 9.2 innings with a 4.1 inning effort to keep the Smokies in the game. The offense made a valiant effort at a comeback attempt behind homers by Jason Vosler and Eddy Martinez but ultimately came up a run short as they squared off against a rehabbing Dan Straily.

Top Performers

  • Jason Vosler: 2-4, 2B, HR (4), 2 R, RBI
  • Eddy Martinez: 2-4, HR (2), R, 3 RBI
  • Jeffrey Baez: 1-3, 3B, BB, SB (5)
  • Zach Hedges: 4.2 IP, 2 H, 2 K
  • Scott Effross: 2 IP, H, BB, 2 K

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

The career line for Zach Hedges at AA is now 13-12 with a 3.05 ERA spread across parts of the past 3 seasons. Unfortunately he has not been able to translate that success to AAA (0-3 with a 10.48 ERA) in his five games there, including a fill in start earlier this season.

Another day, another extra base hit for Jeffrey Baez (371/.436/.829). That's 8 in his past 6 games. He also swiped his 5th bag in 6 tries.

Jason Vosler (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Jason Vosler (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Despite his 4 home runs already, it has been tough sledding in the early going for Jason Vosler (.175/.333/.404) as he has struggled to make consistent contact. Things have been looking up a bit recently though as he is a modest 4-for-13 with just 2 strikeouts in his last 4 games.

It was the first multi-hit game for Eddy Martinez (.245/.355/.396) in over two weeks. Both He and Vosler have remained OBP threats throughout their slumps however.

Advanced A

Myrtle Beach PPD

A

Bowling Green 2, South Bend 1 - Game 1 (8 Innings)

Bowling Green 9, South Bend 2 - Game 2 (7 Innings)

Game Recaps

The doubleheader was not televised so I can't get into too many specifics, but the opener featured a masterful performance by starter Cory Abbott. A solo homer in the 5th was the only blemish. His fastball was up to 93 and his slider inducing plenty of swings-and-misses along with mixing in his curve and changeup. Despite his seven-inning outing being a career-high and the longest outing by a South Bend starter this season the offense only provided a single run of support. The game went to extras and the Cubs were unable to score in the top of the 8th, but Brian Glowicki was not able to prevent the runner from second in the bottom half.

Jose Albertos (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Jose Albertos (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

The second game was a bit of a bummer. Jose Albertos (1+ IP, 4 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 2 K) struggled badly with his control once again. Walks, wild pitches and several more balls in the dirt as well as over the heart of the plate led to a third consecutive outing in which he failed to pitch beyond two innings. There has to be a mechanical issue cropping up that is leading to so many balls spiked in front of the plate. It is happening with all of his pitches, not just his offspeed stuff. The issue would crop up occasionally last season, but would usually pass after a couple of batters.

The Cubs would receive excellent relief work from Enrique De Los Rios and Bailey Clark after Albertos exited. But the damage had been done.

Top Performers

  • Cory Abbott: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (78 P / 54 S)
  • Enrique De Los Rios: 2 IP, 2 K
  • Bailey Clark: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
  • Austin Filiere: 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI, HBP
  • Tyler Payne: 2-6, RBI
  • Roberto Caro: 2-4, R, SB (2)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Bailey Clark (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Bailey Clark (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Stretching back to the final inning of his first start of the year, Cory Abbott (1-0, 2.12 ERA, .169 BAA, 0.71 WHIP) has allowed just 1 run on 3 hits and 1 walk over his past 13 innings. The lone run came on a solo homer in Tuesday's game. He has walked just 5 batters in 31 career innings while striking out 34.

The turnaround by Bailey Clark so far this season has been all I could have hoped for and more. He has walked just 3 batters in 14.1 innings while punching out 19. He looks confident on the mound and his pitches look crisp. The talent has always been there and now free from nagging injury and with a full offseason devoted entirely to baseball Clark has emerged as the legitimate late inning relief prospect projected of him.

Comments

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  • Given the college experience do you see Abbott & Clark having the ability to move up this a level this year; assuming spots become available.

  • In reply to Gator:

    Yes, I see both getting a promotion, perhaps as soon as the end of May.

  • After Alzolay, our pitching is really thin—for starters. With Alberto’s and DLC not close to putting anything together, we have 0 TOR talent.

    This is the fickle nature of pitching and why we see Theo spend FA money against guys with proven MLB track records of getting their starts in.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    It is thin even if those two were pitching well. Both have injury histories that are concerning. Alzolay is really the only "safe" bet in the system to be a significant impact starter. And of course there is no such thing as a safe pitching prospect.

    I feel good about the Cubs pitching depth. I think they will have no issue filling out BOR and right handed relief roles in the near future. But if Alzolay fails it could be a while before another potential impact starter is ready.

  • Michael to continue a conversation I started with you on twitter.
    The Cardinals have had a huge advantage over the Cubs when it comes to the MLB Draft.

    Since 2012:
    Cardinals average wins a season 90 – Cubs 82
    Cardinals Draft picks number 1-100 (23) – Cubs (16)

    The Cardinals have averaged almost 4 picks in the draft in the top 100 versus the Cubs 2.5 picks pre year in the top 100 picks over that same 6 year span. The competitive balance they have been given by MLB is truly a big advantage to a team that scouts and develops prospects as well as the Cardinal organization has done.

    This has definitely helped the RedBirds stay very competitive without having to tap into free agency. Looking back on those picks the majority have been used on pitching which they seem to have an endless supply in their system.

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    That is what the competitive balance picks they receive are for: to keep them competitive against a bigger market that could previously outspend them in UFA and IFA. Now that IFA spending is capped I wonder if the comp pick formula will be revisited at some point.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Sort of silly they are viewed as a small market team. They draw huge numbers every year and are a regional team for TV purposes.

  • In reply to Dave Sampsell:

    They are a small market. They just maximize their revenue and fan support, thanks in part to their consistent level of success. They are the example that other small markets should strive to be. Just because they do not waste the small helping hand they get in draft/IFA like other teams do is not a reason to take it away from them. In fact, I would argue the opposite.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I think the Cardinals are a large revenue team in a small market. They have it figured out. The A's on the other hand are a large market team with small revenues because they are poorly run on the business side.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    St Louis is smaller than you think with a population just over 300,000. They are outside the top 50 cities in the US.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Oakland is the 45th largest city with a little over 400,000 people and another team located nearby.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Oakland is in the bay area. It is probably the 4th largest market for the MLB. The Giants have one of the highest payrolls in the MLB. Oakland should be right up there with them if they knew how to run a business. It is actually easier to get to an A's Game then a Giants game.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Going by the population of a teams city is not how you rank it's market size. There are usually other cities right next to them.

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    I don't know much about Abbott. What's his ceiling?

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    I really like Abbott. That is not to say that I think he will turn into a TOR guy, but I think there is a high probability BOR starter with the possibility of more.

    He commands four pitches pretty well. His FB/CV/CU are average or a tick below but mixes them well and he can always lean on his plus cutter (or slider depending on how you want to classify it). Whether it is changing speeds and locations, as well as some late movement, he rarely allows hitters to barrel him up.

    He also... just looks the part. Not a tremendous athlete but a rock solid pitcher's frame (6'2" 210). Goes about his business, doesn't get phased, short memory.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Abbott is my favorite from the 2017 draft class. Little has more upside. Lange and Thompson are more experienced. Uelmen has untapped potential. I haven't seen Estrada yet though. Thompson and Uelmen are relievers in my eye.

    I like what I have seen from Lange so far this year. Feel more comfortable with him now than i did last year. He has made strides in two different areas that concerned me. His changeup flashes as a solid pitch now after barely showing it last year. Just as important he improved his pace between pitches his last time out. Buddy Bailey and Anderson Tavarez called him out (and the MB staff in general) in regards to how slow they were between pitches. I still have command concerns as his delivery is still a bit high-effort for my taste and it could limit him to bullpen.

    Little is very raw, but there is MOR and LIR potential, if they can ever get him to throw strikes.

    Estrada apparently has good upside as a starter, but still a teenager so long way to go with him.

    Uelmen and Thompson are more likely relievers than starters in my book.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thanks for the thumbnails! When I can't see video for a pitcher, I tend to look at whip, so/bb ratio, so/9 innings, and his physical size. Abbott looks pretty solid across the board.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    I have video:
    https://twitter.com/mj_ernst/status/978401593266769922

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Nice! Thank you. Looks like he doesn't maximize his legs in his delivery. Then again, there is no perfect form.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    Yeah, I tend to stay away from commenting on specific mechanical issues unless there is a clear inconsistency.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    He is absolutely using his lower half from looking at that photo. If you don't use your lower half you cannot get your chest out over your landing foot knee. If he didn't he would be way more upright at the point of release. And his use of his back leg with his knee getting near the ground points to solid execution of the lower half.

  • Michael, your herculean efforts on these summaries is exceptional and greatly appreciated by me and I am sure everyone here. Even when I watch the games you generally find things I missed.

    You mentioned Bailey Clark as a late-inning relief prospect. While that is likely (and last year looked like his only hope), do you think he could be a starter? Obviously the current data has SSS issues, but if this performance is sustained (and with his repertoire of pitches), I'd expect he'd be in our top 5 SP prospects.

  • In reply to springs:

    Thank you. I appreciate it.

    Given his issues with consistency and command over the years I think bullpen is much better fit. There he can run his fastball up to 95-99 and concentrate mostly on his breaking ball, while mixing in occasional change. Not ready to completely close the book on him as a starter, but I'd prefer to see him used as he has this season, as a multi-inning reliever. They can always stretch him back out later if needed.

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    Baez and Martinez, Clark and Maples--they seem to be continuing to improve where others have stumbled. This is encouraging. thanks for the recap Michael.

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