Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Moreno breezes through 7 innings; Cruz throws 5 shutout; Fennell contributes 3-hit night

Erling Moreno (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Erling Moreno (photo by Rikk Carlson)

A

South Bend 2, Lake County 1

Prospect Profile

Erling Moreno is one of the more difficult Cubs prospects to put a ranking on. At his best, he looks like a ground ball inducing dynamo with two average or better secondaries (curve, changeup) to complement his heavy low-to-mid-90s sinker (T97). The Colombian hurler has starter's size as well, and when he pitches with the efficiency he has of late, he looks like a top 20 guy.

But Moreno has also suffered through TJS and plenty of struggles with consistency. The team even held him back in extended spring training this year as they reworked his mechanics in an effort to get him more consistent command. Not a great athlete, there is enough concern in my mind that he will struggle to repeat his delivery and develop the necessary command to take full advantage of his skills as a starter. That doesn't mean that he wouldn't be an exciting reliever, with the potential to throw his sinker in the mid-90s or even higher out of the pen.

I currently have him rated around #30 in my rankings, but Moreno is the type of guy that can make that look foolish in a year or two. It is difficult to believe, since he has seemingly been around forever, but Moreno is still just 21-years old. He will be Rule 5 eligible this winter, and he does seem like the type of high upside arm that a team could take a chance on, let him throw out of the pen for a year in the bigs, and then return him to the Minors the following year to stretch him back out, so I am curious how this offseason unfolds. Moreno could be a guy the Cubs send to the AFL in order to see how his stuff plays facing top competition. It could be a deciding factor on whether or not they want to take the plunge and protect him on the 40-man roster.

Game Recap

Erling Moreno made it look easy. When he has command of his sinker, curve and change as he did in this game, he can buzzsaw through a Midwest League lineup. He went seven, allowing just one run and six base runners.

All that work would have gone for naught though had Miguel Amaya not lead off the 8th with a double. Austin Filiere followed with a single to put runners on the corners for Jimmy Herron. The 3rd rounder out of Duke delivered with a single to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead that would hold up thanks to some excellent late inning relief by Manuel Rodriguez.

Top Performers

  • Erling Moreno: 7 IP, 5 H, R, BB, 4 K (3.71)
  • Manuel Rodriguez: 2 IP, 4 K (W, 3-3, 7.53)
  • Austin Filiere: 2-3, BB (.264)
  • Jimmy Herron: 1-3, RBI, SB (1) (.236)
  • Chris Singleton: 1-3, R, SB (10) (.203)
  • Miguel Amaya: 1-4, 2B, R (.270)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

In a rare feat throughout the Cubs Minor League system, Erling Moreno has pitched into the 7th inning or beyond in 4 consecutive games, all while never breaking the 90 pitch barrier that is the organizational limit at that level. He's done it thanks to inducing early contact. His heavy fastball can now reach the mid-90s or higher (T97).

A-

Eugene 6, Everett 5 (10 Innings)

Game Recap

Fernando Kelli (photo by Jared Ravich at MiLB.com)

Fernando Kelli (photo by Jared Ravich at MiLB.com)

Pinch runner Fernando Kelli stole home [EDIT: on a throw from the catcher back to the pitcher] in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game at 4-4 and send it to extras. In the top of the 10th, Jake Slaughter singled in the inherited runner, then the Emeralds loaded the bases with one out for Luis Vazquez. The Ems made Joe Maddon proud as Vazquez laid down a bunt allowing Slaughter to score and give Eugene a two-run lead. They would need that extra insurance as Everett did bring home their inherited runner in the bottom of the frame but Mitch Stophel preserved the victory by holding them there.

Top Performers

  • Riley Thompson: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, 4 K (3.75)
  • Stephen Ridings: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 4 K (4.01)
  • Mitch Stophel: 3 IP, H, R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K (W, 1-2, 6.35)
  • Grant Fennell: 3-6, 2B, 2 RBI (.319)
  • D.J. Artis: 2-3, RBI, BB, SF, SB (1) (.333)
  • Caleb Knight: 1-3, BB, HBP (.167)
  • Jonathan Sierra: 1-4, 2B, R, BB (.250)
  • Luke Reynolds: 1-4, BB (.333)
  • Andy Weber: 1-5, R, BB (.370)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Grant Fennell (.335/.380/.557 in 42 G combined between R/A-) now has consecutive multi-hit games with 2 runs batted in each game.

Luke Reynolds (.333/.430/.513) has reached base twice in 4 consecutive games.

Andy Weber (.70/.471/.444) extended his hitting streak to 8 games.

D.J. Artis (.300/.483/.300 combined between R/A-) has reached base in all 8 games of his pro career and has swiped 4 bags in 5 tries already.

A sleeper to keep an eye on that just might be starting to figure things out is reliever Stephen Ridings. We talk about Bryan Hudson's size and how it can take a little extra time for a 6'8" guy get his mechanics sorted out. Well, Hudson isn't the only 6'8" 220 pound pitcher in the Cubs system. The Cubs used an 8th round selection in 2016 on Ridings. He did not make his debut until 2017, and struggled with his control when he did (22 IP, 17 H, 10 ER, 20 BB, 26 K), but he also missed some bats. The 23-year old opened this year in Eugene and has still had a few rough patches with his control (24.2 IP, 18 H, 11 ER, 12 BB, 33 K) but he has also been difficult to hit and is missing even more bats. I brought up Hudson, but the better example of the type of pitcher Ridings should emulate is Dakota Mekkes. Both are long, massive right handers that look to drive off the rubber to gain as much extension as possible and let their length work for them to create greater perceived velocity. Like Mekkes, Ridings pure velo and stuff doesn't blow you away, but if he gets his consistency sorted out, his pitches will play up.

AZL

Mariners 3, Cubs1 2

Top Performers

  • Bailey Clark: 2 IP, H, K (0.00)
  • Didier Vargas: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 ER, BB, 6 K (L, 2-4, 3.48)
  • Orian Nunez: 2-3, 2B (.281)
  • Yonathan Perlaza: 2-4, 2B (.313)

Cubs2 5, Royals 1

Top Performers

  • Yovanny Cruz: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 6 K (W, 4-2, 2.93)
  • Chris Allen: 3 IP, 2 H, R, 0 ER, BB, 2 K (1.08)
  • Henderson Perez: 2-4, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI (.262)
  • Drew Wharton: 2-2, 2 BB, CS (3) (.303)
  • Reivaj Garcia: 2-5, R (.303)
  • Cole Roederer: 2-4, RBI, CS (4) (.278)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Bailey Clark (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Bailey Clark (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Bailey Clark worked a second successful rehab appearance. I doubt they will attempt to stretch him back out as a starter at this point, so assuming he will be a reliever over the final month, Clark could find himself back with Myrtle Beach later this week assuming he feels good after this outing.

We've talked about 20th round pick Chris Allen being a potential sleeper out of the JUCO ranks in California. The 6'4" lefty has certainly gotten off to a strong start, with 8 K and just 2 walks in his first 8.1 pro innings. He has allowed just 1 earned run on 7 hits.

An arm I am anxious to get a look at is 18-year old Yovanny Cruz (40 IP, 33 H, 13 ER, 10 BB, 45 K). After putting together a solid year in the DSL in 2017 as a 17-year old (3-2, 3.51 ERA, 54/14 K/BB in 56.1 IP) he has moved up to the AZL and built upon that success. He has been great of late, with just 1 run allowed and 23 strikeouts over his last 3 starts (15 IP, 10 H, 3 BB). Cruz reportedly features a low-90s sinking fastball, a curve and plus changeup that dives out of the zone.

DSL

Cubs1 2, Rangers1 1

Rangers2 7, Cubs2 4

Comments

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  • Someone asked about late-season promotions in yesterday's article and I didn't get around to answering it.

    I haven't really thought too much about specific players, but the Cubs tend to prioritize getting their top guys postseason play. Now, the upper level clubs will not be competing in the POs this year, but both AZL, Eugene and South Bend are all fighting for spots. This may cause a bit of standstill if they all make it, or maybe a late transfer of a player or two if one team or another is eliminated from competition late in the regular season.\

    I'll try to come up with more specifics in the near future.

  • It was me, and thanks for the response!

  • Moreno sounds like a prospect with a high ceiling and he is still young. I would like to keep him. The stat you gave about him pitching into the 7th inning with less than 90 pitches for his last 4 starts sounds really good too. Maybe he can teach how to do that to our other pitchers.

  • I was at the Eugene-Everett game last night but left in the sixth inning when the Emeralds were up 3-0. I had no idea it got so exciting lol.

    DJ Artis got his first hit with a sharp drive back through the box and promptly stole second.

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