Over the weekend I was able to catch a three game set of South Bend Cubs games, and here are my thoughts on the pitchers I saw. A similar piece but for the hitters will go up tomorrow. Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the arms I saw, and project at least a few major league arms out of these pitchers.
Oscar de La Cruz - After watching him go five innings while striking out nine, he solidified himself as the Cubs top pitching prospect in my eyes. I wrote him up fully here.
Scott Effross - Effross was drafted in the 15th round last year out of Indiana, and has pitched in the bullpen this year for the South Bend Cubs. His ERA sits at 2.77 on the year, and due to all of the recent promotions he has been closing out games for the Cubs. When I saw him on Friday night, he sat 91-93mph with his four-seamer, which did not contain very much movement. He also showed a 2 seam fastball in the 87-88 range with great tailing action. His breaking ball was a fringe slider with sweeping action but not a lot of tilt to it. I think he’ll continue to move up the ladder, but for me it’s tough to project him as a major leaguer due to the lack of a strong secondary. (Just promoted to the High-A Pelicans)
John Williamson - When he’s not pursuing his rapping career, Williamson is getting batters out in the back-end of the Cubs bullpen. Although his stuff doesn’t wow you, he has a hitch in his delivery that and hides the ball very well. He also comes at hitters with different arm slots, which makes it really tough picking the ball up out of his hand. He primarily uses a fastball in the 89-91 range and his breaking ball looks slurvey, with a good amount of horizontal movement. He’s very athletic off the mound, and he has to be to be able to pull of using all of the different arm slots effectively. Unless his stuff ticks up, it’s tough to imagine him having much of a career in the majors, but the uniqueness of his arm and him being a lefty certainly helps.
Justin Steele - If you just look at the numbers, Steele has had a rocky debut to full-season ball. In fact, he even suffered a demotion to Eugene to try and iron some things out. Back in South Bend, Steele was much better in my viewing. His fastball sat 88-92 with some late tail to it. He commanded the pitch very well to his glove side, and the pitch projects as an average offering. His big out pitch is a tight breaking curveball with a lot of depth to it. His best showed a 1-7 shape, and he wasn’t afraid to use the pitch at all, throwing it in any count. The pitch looked like it could develop into a plus offering, but it did have one huge weakness. Whenever he threw the curveball he used a shorter arm path and leg kick, telegraphing it for hitters. Another big problem Steele has is his lack of a third pitch, as he showed a few changeups that didn’t work well, and also a cutter that he’d try to throw to righties inside. Overall, Steele has a lot of refining to do, and we won’t see him in the majors for a while, if he even gets there at all. I could see him in a long-swing man role, but he is really going to have to hone in on using the same arm-slots to make both of his pitches play up.
Carson Sands - Sands came out of the bullpen for the second time this season in my viewing, and failed to record an out in the second inning he pitched, really struggling with command. At one point, he threw 8 straight balls, and could not command his fastball to his arm side. His stuff was a tick below from previous reports. He sat 87-90 with his fastball with moderate run to it. He also showed a curveball in the 79-80 range with good vertical movement to it. The pitch projects as a slightly above-average offering, but that was all he showed in my viewing. At the moment, I could see him as a LOOGY. Neither Steele nor Sands have taken a step forward this year.
Jose Paulino - One player that has, however, is the Dominican Jose Paulino. The Cubs have taken it slow with the lefty, as the 21-year old is just making it to full-season ball for the first time. However, he pitched very well in Eugene, and has for his first couple of starts in South Bend. Although I didn’t see him, Will Siskel from Baseball Prospectus was on hand at his most recent start.
Jose Paulino is a serious arm. Some mechanical things: cuts himself off, throwing across, falls to third. But advanced CH, good athleticism.
— Will Siskel (@willsiskel) August 9, 2016
LHP Jose Paulino: 90-92; CT/SL 87 hard; SL 82-85 biting w/hor.movement; advanced CH 84-86 w/ dive, depth, and fade. Falls to 3B side. #Cubs
— Will Siskel (@willsiskel) August 9, 2016
Expect Paulino to finish the year of strongly, and jump up Cubs prospects lists.
Although it hasn’t happened yet, Theo’s regime will produce a valuable back-end starter in a few years. Compared to recent years, this group really stuck out, and I was fortunate enough to see some major league quality arms with the Low-A Cubs.
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