Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Little and Lange combine for 15 K (0 BB) over 13 shutout innings; Amaya and Bote with GW homers

Brendon Little (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Brendon Little (photo by Rikk Carlson)

The big league club may not have performed up to expectations on Wednesday, but the Minor League affiliates certainly did, especially the club's two first round picks from last year. In four total games, well 3.5 actually as the Tennessee game was suspended by rain, the four pitching staffs allowed only one run. Yes, one. Two shutouts, along with a half-a-shutout and a 2-1 victory. Not bad.

AAA

Iowa 2, Round Rock 1

Game Recap

Duane Underwood

Duane Underwood

First up on the list is the one guy that dared to actually give up a run. He wasn't ultra-efficient, requiring 100 pitches to get through six innings, but Duane Underwood, Jr. was certainly effective as he held Round Rock to just four hits and two walks. Still, the outlook appeared grim as Express starter Tyler Wagner was even better, allowing one hit through the first six shutout innings.

In the 7th, Mark Zagunis led off with a hard luck out on a line drive to left. Efren Navarro followed with a walk, which was enough to force Wagner from the game. David Bote greeted the new Express hurler by launching a two-run homer that proved to be the game winner as Iowa relief aces Randy Rosario and Cory Mazzoni preserved the one-run lead over the final three innings.

Top Performers

  • Duane Underwood, Jr.: 6 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 6 K (W, 3-4, 3.35)
  • Randy Rosario: 2 IP, BB, K (0.47 ERA)
  • Cory Mazzoni: IP, H, 2 BB, K (S, 2, 1.37)
  • David Bote: 1-4, HR (6), R, 2 RBI
  • Jacob Hannemann: 1-3, 3B, HBP, CS (3)
  • Lane Adams: 1-3, HBP, CS (2)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

David Bote (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

David Bote (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

His game-winning home run snapped an 0-for-17 string for David Bote (.280/.345/.530) since his return from Chicago.

This was a nice bounce back game for Duane Underwood, Jr. coming off his season-worst 6 runs on 11 hits in his last start.

Including his two shutout innings of work with Chicago, Randy Rosario has allowed just one earned run all season, and none over his past 10.1 innings. During this recent span the lefty has given up just two hits and two walks while striking out nine.

AA

Tennessee 3, Pensacola 0 - 4 Innings (SUSP)

Game Recap

A two-run homer by Yasiel Balaguert and four shutout innings by Trevor Clifton were the highlights before the rains came in the 4th. Clifton even helped himself at the plate with a RBI double in the 3rd to kick off the scoring.

Advanced A

Myrtle Beach 5, Lynchburg 0

Game Recap

Alex Lange (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Alex Lange (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Alex Lange doubled his previous career-high with a 10-strikeout performance on Wednesday. He used his two secondary pitches to great effect. His hard curve has been a weapon for years and was rated among the best in the 2017 draft. The changeup Lange has flashed at times this season is the noteworthy development. It is not a consistent offering throughout every start like his curve tends to be, but on this night it often showed as a potential second plus pitch for Lange to lean on moving forward.

The changeup development will go a long way toward determining Lange's ceiling as a Major League pitcher. His low-90s fastball is only a fringe-average offering but if he can compliment it with two plus secondaries that can allow him to pitch backwards to both righties and lefties when necessary it opens the door for Lange to become a solid MLB starter. Here is another good example of Lange relying changeup and curve from the 2nd inning:

Back to the game action, Kevonte Mitchell homered and collected three hits on night in support of Lange. With the Pelicans bullpen on shaky footing after a couple of extremely short recent outings from the starting staff, Ryan Kellogg came through with a valuable three-inning effort to close out the game. Not only did he keep the shutout intact, but the gave the rest of the tired pen a much-needed night off.

Top Performers

  • Alex Lange: 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K (W, 2-2, 3.64)
  • Ryan Kellogg: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, K (S, 1, 5.04)
  • Kevonte Mitchell: 3-4, 2B, HR (2), R, RBI, CS (3)
  • Jhonny Pereda: 1-3, 2 RBI, BB, CS (1)
  • Andruw Monasterio: 2-4, R, SB (4)
  • P.J. Higgins: 1-3, 2B, R, BB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

The 10 strikeout, no walk performance by Alex Lange improved his K-to-BB ratio to 4.5-to-1.

Kevonte Mitchell (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Kevonte Mitchell (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

It was a strange April for Kevonte Mitchell. he made decent contact, flashed decent plate discipline, but failed to hit the ball with any kind of authority, finishing the month with just one extra base hit. The first week or so of May began similarly, but he has picked up the pace in recent weeks. His AVG and OBP have remained relatively stable but he has added two doubles, a triple and now two home runs in recent games. Mitchell is one of the premier athletes in the Cubs system and possesses the physical potential to become a breakout player some day if he can more consistently put his plus tools to work in game action.

A

South Bend 1, Lansing 0

Game Recap

Miguel Amaya (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Miguel Amaya (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Not to be outdone by his fellow 2017 1st rounder, Brendon Little silenced a strong Lansing Lugnuts offense for seven innings. He may have struck out half the number of batters that Lange managed, but he also gave up half as many hits and compiled an impressive 12-3 ground out to fly out ratio over one additional inning of work.

Little features a similar arsenal: low-90s FB, plus curve and changeup that flashes an additional out pitch. His curve is more of a traditional slow curve than Lange's harder offering. There is a slightly higher ceiling with Lange due to his left handedness and also getting better downward plane on his fastball (and the potential for more velocity which has flashed in mid-90s on occasion).

The lack of offense from South Bend forced Little to pitch under pressure all night as he and Lugnuts start Zach Logue traded zeroes through seven innings. In fact, Little would not even earn the victory despite his efforts. The tie was not broken until Miguel Amaya led off the bottom of the 8th with a home run to win it.

Top Performers

  • Brendon Little: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K (4.50 ERA)
  • Ben Hecht: IP, 0 H, 0 R (W, 2-0, 3.07)
  • Brian Glowicki: IP, H, BB, 2 K (S, 5, 1.66)
  • Miguel Amaya: 1-3, HR (6), R, RBI
  • Chris Singleton: 1-2, 2B

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Brendon Little (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Brendon Little (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

This was the second consecutive start in which Brendon Little (2-3, 4.50) did not walk a single batter. You couldn't ask for a more positive development after the lefty struggled with fastball command in 2017 and in the early part of 2018. He has simplified his delivery, no longer taking his hands above his head, and instead keeping them at his waist throughout and the effect has been profound.

He tossed 5 shutout innings on May 11th, then followed up with 5 more shutout innings in his last outing before tiring and allowing 5 runs in the 6th inning. Wednesday he got back to his shutout ways and also pitched into the 7th inning for the first time in his career. Little is certainly trending in the right direction and beginning to show why he was the club's top pick last season.

Comments

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  • 4 really good starts. Very encouraging. It would be great to see Underwood, Clifton, Lange, and Little build on this 4 days from now.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Definitely. Underwood has had a tendency to get knocked around every few starts. You'd like to see him avoid having those starts turn bad and instead battle through for 4-5 innings and just a few runs.

    Clifton has had some tough babip luck early on. His curve ball seems to be regaining its 2016 form so I am hopeful he can continuing to right the ship.

    For Lange it is about working in his changeup and finding greater consistency with it along with not falling into predictable fastball counts.

    For Little it is all about fastball command. If he can work that pitch both up and down in the zone it really sets up his curve and change nicely for whiffs and weak contact.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Will Underwood remain a starter, or is bullpen in his future? Would his stuff play well in a ML pen role?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    In a different org I could see Underwood getting a chance as a starter, but given the Cubs veteran rotation and Alzolay in front of him in the pecking order, Underwood is going to end up in the pen. I think that is his best place anyway though. His fastball can get a little flat, and I think he will have better success when he can run it up in the mid-90s out of pen instead of low-90s as a starter.

    The nice thing is he has 3 usable secondaries. None are plus, but his slider, slow curve and change can all steal strikes. The one concern I have, besides the fastball, as a starter is that Underwood doesn't really have a chase pitch. His slider is hard and more of a cutter. His slow curve is more of a in-the-zone to freeze a hitter pitch, and the floor doesn't drop out on his change so everything he throws needs to be on the corners or just off so he is always going to be vulnerable to being BABIPed to death. He doesn't have a pitch that guys will expand the zone against.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I hate to say this. Right now i am wondering if underwood will be traded with a veteran for a consistant on base hitter.

    Besides Almora, Bryant, Zobrist, Contreras and a normal Rizzo they need dont have any on base guys.

    One of Baez(not likely baez is going anywhere) but Happ, Russell or Schwarber are so inconsistent they may have to make a move.

    Then Hayward, for what ever reason, he simply cant hit. Not much you can do with him unless you eat most of his salary.

    They dont consistantly get on against good pitching.

  • Little seems to have shown improvement in each of his starts this season. Pitcher deeper into ball games throwing more strikes/pitches and more importantly giving up fewer walks. Nice to see the adjustments are paying off for him. Great day for the pitchers.
    Thanks again Michael love reading the Minors Recap.

  • Here is a YouTube link of Little last night the one thing I notice is how smooth Amaya looks catching him and a nice laser throw to nab a runner. Enjoy.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=44&v=lqaXUS0J6iU

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    Miguel Amaya showing impressive power for a 19-year old in full season ball. He and Ademan probably best position player prospects in system, I imagine

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yes. Velazquez has the best pure tools and ceiling, but he is super raw right now. Amaya and Ademan far more polished. All three are 19.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Good one....though as a good defensive catcher, Amaya doesn't have as much pressure on the bat. Nelson probably needs bat to be carry tool

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Absolutely. As a right handed OF that probably ends up in a corner once he is done growing (although he can still handle CF a little right now), Velazquez needs to hit. And he needs to hit enough to become a starter. Teams don't carry RH COF on the bench anymore unless they are just an absolute lefty killer.

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    Michael, I LOVE the embedded video of Lange and Little's pitch sequences edited together. Really helpful visual to share with us what these pitchers - and individual pitches - look like. Thanks for going the extra mile, would love to see more of that going forward. What a great night for the affiliates!
    P.S. Article request: I remember reading about a pitching guru - Jim Benedict, perhaps? - getting wooed from Miami? in the offseason, would like to read any update/analysis you can provide on his impact both on the major and minor league developments. Thanks, God bless!

  • In reply to Tyson Wirth:

    Thanks Tyson. I did a bunch of video this offseason and planned to do it more throughout this season, but MiLB.TV converted over to the same software that MLB uses for its app, which means that it blocks screen recording on my iPhone. My phone had previously enabled me to quickly upload video and get it out to twitter.

    Now, with the new software, I am forced to use my laptop, which I obviously do not always have on me and the whole process becomes more time consuming and cumbersome. I've been telling myself I need to get back into the habit and include it more moving forward as I had originally planned.

  • In reply to Tyson Wirth:

    I'd love to do an article on Benedict, but I don't have access to Cubs personnel. Anything I came up with would be guesses or secondhand info. I'm assuming Mooney or Sharma will do an article about him at some point for the Athletic, if you have access to that.

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    Really enjoy the write ups and finally some good news from minors. Thanks for the info

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    A great day for our minor league pitching. When you describe Lange and Little with their low 90's FB but 2 plus secondary pitches you could be describing Jon Lester--I am not comparing the ability to locate and mental makeup of Lester, but his FB is that fast and he relies on his other pitches and locations for success. We've seen plenty of mid to high 90's FB go out of the park really quickly, so unless it's that fast with movement and secondary (which is very rare) I'll take plus curve ball and change up or sliders.
    Thanks again Michael.

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    oh, and since Welington Castillo is banned for 80 games and the Sox are looking for veteran help, maybe we can trade Gimenez to them for Dylan Cease, or at least one of their lower A pitchers? Probably not.

  • You're really getting the hang of this Michael and thanks for keeping cubs dens tradition of posting the best minor league updates anywhere I think most of us feel like we know more about the system then any other fans with these daily updates and thank you for your time and effort.

    What a nice day to see Little and Lange have nice games it's good to get good news from the minor leagues after an ugly week at the ML level

  • Do you think Kyle Ryan will/should get a chance to start?

  • Definitely a good day for the arms. Lange & Little are their cream of the 2017, so it’s good to see. Abbott doing well is bonus. It’s all a process, but I’m feeling a little better about the Cubs OA organizational pitching than I have in a while. Even the AAA depth I feel is way better than last year’s by leaps.

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