Offseason Prospect Overview: Erich Uelmen

Erich Uelmen (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Erich Uelmen (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Season Review

erichuelmen

The fourth of ffour collegiate right-handers the Cubs took in the top four rounds of the 2017 draft, Erich Uelmen was the most raw of the group but has as much talent as any of them. He features an unorthodox delivery and 3/4 arm slot. It helps him generate plenty of movement on his pitches but also concern as to whether he can consistently repeat it. It could also leave him susceptible against advanced left-handed batters.

After a rough start to the year in South Bend, Uelmen quickly recovered to dominate (amassing a 20-inning scoreless streak at one point) prior to his promotion to Myrtle Beach. Over a stretch of 8 starts between the two levels from 5/14-6/30, Uelmen pitched to a 6-1 record with a 1.13 ERA (2.53 FIP) in 47.2 IP. Opponents managed just a .205 average against and 6.0 BB% as he posted a 24.7 K% and 0.97 WHIP. Some injuries slow him down in the 2nd half but it must still be considered a successful first professional season.

Positives

On his best days Uelmen makes it tough for hitters to get anything in the air off his pitches. His sinker is heavy, with plenty of arm side run. He doesn't generate the same type of downward plane as others in the system given his arm slot, but I'm not sure any of the Cubs other pitching prospects can match the sink he creates.

His slider will have depth and can also dart out of the zone horizontally. His changeup will show impressive sink and fade against lefties at times but he has the least command of it among his offerings. It is certainly an array of pitches with MLB quality.

Negatives

Command and consistency are both issues. He has only had a couple of month stretch where he had all three of his pitches locked in. Uelmen will also need to prove himself against left-handed hitters at every level as his delivery and arm slot leave his effectiveness against them in doubt.

Summation

I'm still not sure what to make of Uelmen at this point, even a year and a half into his pro career. But that shouldn't be taken as a way of saying I do not believe in him as a potential Major League pitcher because that is not the case. Some of his starts I come away thinking his power sinker will generate ground balls against anyone and his slider and changeup will develop enough consistency to overcome any platoon concerns I have about him as a starting pitcher. Other times I see a guy that looks like a reliever, albeit a potentially good one.

It all comes down to consistency for him. Uelmen has drawn Derek Lowe comps at times, which I guess makes sense as he was a pitcher that came up as a starter but his early MLB success all came as a reliever. Eventually he moved back to the rotation where he carved out a long, solid career. I can envision a similar path for Uelmen, even if his ceiling is probably not quite as high as the Lowe who went from closer to a MOR starter. Uelmen is more likely to top out as a setup man and/or BOR option.

2019 Outlook

Uelmen will return to Myrtle Beach and figures to be a big part of their rotation this season. It is going to be tough to break into the AA rotation in the 2nd half without a couple of injuries. If he gets on a roll the way he did last May, Uelmen is capable of forcing his way up to Tennessee.

Comments

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    Thanks again. An interesting prospect. We have so many of those that we can only hope that one or more gets more consistent and breaks through.

  • Hope for the future. Love it!

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    Obviously MOR and TOR starters are more valuable. But even a solid BOR player making league minimum will spare their club from having to pay $5-15M on the open market for a BOR starter.

  • Michael, thank you for the hard work and insight into players we should be watching in the minor leagues. This is one of the reasons I read Cubs Den everyday. Keep up the great work.

  • In reply to 1945AD:

    You're welcome. Glad you enjoy reading them because I enjoy writing them.

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    Michael: Great series on articles! on a side note, any chance of Cubs signing Matt Wieters on a small make good contract? He is getting close to 10 years of service time which all players covet.

  • In reply to From the burg:

    Thank you.

    I don't see them signing Weiters. Not only have they said they don't have nay money left in the budget, but I think they believe in Caratini, at least to the point where they plan to see how he develops in the 1st half. If he is struggling come the AS break then I think they'll pursue a replacement, but not before.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thanks, John would be proud of your efforts!

  • Really like the series, Ill try to make it to Fitch for a few days, I wrote a guest post some years back and may try it again with photos

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