2019 is about experience for Jeff Passantino

Jeff Passantino (Photo by Rebecca Snyder)

Jeff Passantino (Photo by Rebecca Snyder)

Few players within the Cubs system have had a more interesting season than pitcher Jeff Passantino. The 5’9” righty was the very last player selected in the 2017 MLB draft. This year he has started at least one game with all four full-season teams, and has proved his worth at each level.

Passantino spent last year and the first half of this year with low-A South Bend before being promoted to high-A Myrtle Beach in June. He finished his time in low-A with a record of 2-1 and an ERA of 4.24 in 34.0 innings pitched.

Passantino has recently worked his way into the starting rotation again, but he is no stranger to the utility pitcher role from his college days. It is a role he loves it. “Last year out of camp, [the Cubs] wanted me to be a reliever, kind of a piggyback/long relief guy. When I went to South Bend, I was a three, four inning guy,” said Passantino. The organization later decided to transition the 24-year-old to a starting pitcher, and sent him to Eugene to work on his skills. He made seven starts before sending him back to South Bend to end the season as a starter.

The Pelicans originally placed Passantino in the bullpen when he was promoted in late June where he pitched two scoreless innings in his high-A debut, but he would be making another move through the Cubs’ farm system a few days later; this time to fill in a spot with Triple-A Iowa. He would go on to make two starts, pitching a total of nine innings between both games and allowed just one run in each start.

Expecting to be in the bullpen, instead Passantino made his first start of the season for the Iowa Cubs with Taylor Davis catching him behind the plate. The Florida native found his stint with Triple-A to be very beneficial due to the opportunity to listen and learn from more experienced players. “A lot of those guys have big league time for a reason,” Passantino said of his Iowa teammates.

Passantino found himself influenced by pitcher Colin Rea, not only on the mound, but how he handled himself as a professional off the field as well. “He was a true professional,” Passantino said.

Perhaps the teammate that made the biggest impression on Passantino was catcher Taylor Davis. “It’s a different bond between a pitcher and a catcher because you really have to figure each other out,” Passantino explained. “Even though it was Taylor Davis’s first two times ever catching me in pro ball, he was smart enough to know what I did well and what the hitters did bad. Having him behind the plate made my job a lot easier.”

After two starts in Triple-A Iowa and two starts in Double-A Tennessee, it appears that Passantino will remain in Myrtle Beach as part of the Pelicans’ starting rotation for the duration of the season. He now has a different level of maturity and a different outlook on the game after his moves through the organization this summer.

”Being in Triple-A, so close to the big leagues, you can kind of taste it,” Passantino explained. “It was like ‘oh my gosh, I’m right there’ all of the sudden.” He made two exceptional starts one level below the Majors, dominating many Triple-A hitters as well as big leaguers.

It may not have been a conventional climb to the top of the minor league system for Passantino, but his well-traveled summer experience gave him an eye-opening experience as to what he is capable of. “Going out there and competing against the best guys I’ve seen in my baseball career so far gave me a lot of satisfaction and privy that what I do well can play at the higher levels.”

With the 2019 season coming to a close, Passantino has his eyes set on his turn in Double-A and Triple-A in 2020, and maybe a shot at the majors in 2021, if not sooner. “I don’t know what the plan is going to be; My job right now is to go out, dominate and live in the moment, and right now it’s High-A,” he said of the future.

With less than a month left in the season, Passantino is happy to be settled down and rooted in Myrtle Beach, taking the mound every fifth day for the Pelicans and showing his talent. He has pitched 25.0 innings in five games for the Birds and currently has an ERA of 2.16. “[I want to] keep perfecting my craft because it’s not perfect; there’s still some things I need to work on and get better at” he said. Just because I had success at Triple-A doesn’t mean my next outing will be successful. I’ll have six or seven more starts, [this year] so I want to make them the best I can.

Comments

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  • Nice article. Great story being last man drafted but performing & pitching well where the org feels comfortable sending him to AAA to fill in.

    What are his main pitches & velos? I’ve seen his name before, but didn’t know/realize how well he’s been doing.

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    Thank you for this Michael. Not only do you give us a good description of Passantino but shows how much a catcher needs to know that affects the pitchers beyond the balls and strikes.
    I look forward to more of these.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    That's Stephanie who wrote this piece. We don't get to read her stuff very often, but it's awesome when we do. She's very thorough and does a great job telling us about the personality behind the player, too.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Michael is so prolific that I can't blame Jonathan for the mistake but absolutely agree with your assessment of her work Cliff. Hopefully we will get one more of these before the season ends but her contributions are very much valued regardless.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    I’m terrible with names but Danielle (sorry if I blew the spelling on these), Huvora and Stephanie have always put in good articles.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I don't think we have a bad writer (not going to make the self-deprecating joke here, not going to make the self-deprecating joke) on the staff. I am pretty proud of what has been produced on the site over the years that I have largely been along for the ride.

    Husnaa would be the only one I think you got wrong but your spelling is close to the user name she used that was her first initial and last name.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Lol.....yea....no disrespect on my part, just my ignorance on proper spelling.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Thanks, Wickdipper! I'm glad you enjoy reading all of our posts.

    Also, great article Stephanie -- hope to see Passantino up with the big league Cubs soon!

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    I'm so sorry Stephanie. Please forgive my not looking and giving credit where credit is do. I hope you write many more articles to educate us about who is in the minors.
    Thanks Cliff for pointing that out to me.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I think someone owes Stephanie Lynn a seat at the table!
    :)

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    In reply to DropThePuck:

    Absolutely.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    It was easy to miss. How many of those prospect articles AREN'T from Michael?

  • "Down goes Passantino.
    Down goes Passantino.
    Down goes Passantino."

    Sorry, just a little inside joke. Great interview and article, Stephanie.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Inside what?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Stephanie jokes that whenever she interviews a prospect they immediately hit the IL, often even before the article is published. It happened again with Passantino. She thinks she may be cursed.

    She is an aspiring photographer as well, so maybe when Brennen Davis comes through town she can share photos and skip the interview? :)

  • I'm too lazy to look it up, but how many *very last* picks have ever reached AAA? Jeffrey is an anomaly. The fact that the organization has been comfortable enough to move him up, even for roster filler, tells me a lot about his mental makeup and how they respect him.

    He sounds like a pitcher who is enjoying the ride, but got that little whiff of a dream and wants to work harder to get there. I'm pulling for him.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Mike Piazza was a 62nd round pick. There are only 40 rounds now a days. He did OK.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Nepotism and anabolic steroids be damned.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    He somehow got into the HoF. I think a few others who used did also.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Piazza did what he wanted to do. He made the HOF. Good for him. Doesn't mean I have to like what he did. Because I don't.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I feel the same way about Bagwell.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Based on what I read, he may have used PEDs but never used steroids. If accurate does that change your mind? Doubt it but over 80% of the writers voted him into the HOF with whatever info they had.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Several noted players were drafted in later rounds, Rizzo in the sixth, Albert Pulhos( spell check ) in the 12th or 13th. Ryne Sandberg in the later rounds.
    And like this kid who plays for the Yankees was a bust in Cleveland,Toronto, and now he blossoms for the hated Yankees. Who can figure when these kids will blossom !
    Did anyone notice one of the Reds players had a piece of his batting helmet missing when he was at the plate .

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    I am not sure what this has to do with me? But, OK thanks for sharing the information.

  • I am looking forward to the Cubs again having the very last pick in the 2020 MLB draft.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Aren't you concerned about all the complaints about the awful Cubs farm system?

    I'll take it!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    We could suck and get higher picks.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Yeah, I see a lot of farm dissing too. That farm got us Castellanos. That farm got us Phelps. That farm also still has a future ace/maybe Aroldis type closer. Also a couple 2-3 mid rotation types in Alzolay, Abbott, Tyson Miller. Who knows how good Riley Thompson, Ryan Jensen, Hunter Bigge & MacAvene will be as well. There’s some guys down there that could be stars in Davis, Hoerner, Amaya, Strumpf & who knows IFA yet to emerge. There’s depth, just not quite the elite depth yet...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I remember reading that 5 million fans attended the Cubs 2016 WS celebration and that crowd was the largest human gathering in U.S. history.

    I am STILL waiting to hear how many showed up to celebrate the Orioles getting the top pick in the 2019 MLB draft.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I'd like to see that too. LOL

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    Piazza should not be in the HOF.

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    In football the last player drafted is called Mr. Irrelevant. They invite him to some town and celebrate him and a number have played in the NFL.
    Baseball should do something like that. I cheering for Passinato.

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    John Smoltz was drafted in the 22nd round, Mark Grace in the 24th.

  • My favorite "last man picked" in Football is Roland Harper. I don't remember if he was the last pick in the draft, but he was the last pick of the Bears in that draft.

    I don't think there has been a Bears team since then for whom he would not be the starting fullback, when in his prime. He was truly amazing, although naturally Payton got all the headlines.

    He made the single best run-after-catch that I have ever seen in more than 65 years of watching football. He caught a screen pas on about the 35, and was hit just about every 5 yards by a new group of defenders before he finally pulled three of them into the end zone with him.

    And he was primarily a great blocking back.

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