While 2018 will go down as a disappointment for the club's two of the most talented young arms (Adbert Alzolay and Jose Albertos) in the system, we are beginning to see positive signs from both of the team's 1st round picks from last season, and a young lefty is starting to emerge as a power arm to keep an eye on in the future.
I had major worries entering the season that Alex Lange would eventually end up in the pen, but the tremendous strides he has made with his changeup this season has greatly eased that concern. It is unlikely he will ever post high strikeout rates in the Majors, or even the upper levels of the Minors, because hitters will be able to put his fastball in play, but as long as he keeps it out of the middle of the plate his two good secondaries should keep hitters off balance enough to help induce weak contact.
Brendon Little struggled with control earlier this season as he made adjustments to his delivery, and then missed a couple of weeks due to a minor injury, but he has made a number of encouraging starts this year as well. He has allowed 1 or 0 earned runs in 8 of his 14 games this season. Consistency is still an issue, especially with his changeup, but his fastball command is coming around and he is holding his velocity better than we saw at the end of last season.
Last season Brailyn Marquez was topping out around 94-95 but this season he is regularly hitting 97 with late life at Eugene. There are not many lefties with that type of velocity and it gives the 19-year old a tremendous building block for the future. His control is currently ahead of his command, but given his age and velo bump it is actually encouraging he is around the plate as often as he is. I have yet to see much of note in terms of his secondaries but the season, and his career, are still young. At the very least he appears to be emerging as power bullpen arm, something the Cubs don't have a ton of, especially from the left side.
I've mentioned many times this season that the Cubs have an abundance of 22-24 year old right-handed arms that are beginning to percolate to the upper levels of the Minor League system. The team invested a lot of capital in this type of player in the 2016 and 2017 drafts and the results have been solid so far. This group is unlikely to produce many impact arms as most project as back-of-the-rotation or middle relievers, but there are couple of intriguing power arms in the bunch that could emerge as something more. One of the few left-handers in this group, Justin Steele, has returned from August 2017 Tommy John Surgery with impressive early results in his rehab outings.
Below is a group of fringe prospects, mostly left-handed relievers, and I decided to add a couple of MLB veterans who are pitching well in Iowa that could potentially receive a call to Chicago if the need for further depth arises.
We are still in the realm of very small sample sizes for the 2018 draft class and the same also goes for the young arms that began the year on the AZL squads. Early returns on Paul Richan, Zach Mort and Derek Casey line up with the draft reports of them throwing a lot of strikes.