The long awaited return of the Daily Cubs Minors Recap!
It feels great to be bringing this feature back. The last time I had Minor League games to report on was back in September of 2019. And a lot has happened since, for the Cubs, their affiliates, their scouts, their development plans, but also for us as fans.
There will be many new faces to track this spring and summer. From the youngsters added in the Yu Dravish trade, to the entire draft and IFA classes from last season who had yet to play an affiliated professional game. We’ll also have plenty of surprises in store for us when it comes to familiar prospects. Given the amount of time since last we saw some of them expect plenty of guys with improved physiques, reworked swings, and/or remodeled repertoires.
Keegan Thompson made his first Major League start and made the most of it:
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 5, 2021
Justin Steele (IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 2 K, W 1-0, 3.68) bounced back from a rough outing against the Reds to earn the win in the 9th. As a reliever Steele has relied heavily on his 93-94 mph fastball elevated in the zone, coupled with a hard slider which he has developed since we last saw him in the Minors back in 2019. And he was pretty excited about his performance…
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 5, 2021
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
The Cubs placed Jake Arrieta (right thumb abrasion), Dan Winkler (right triceps tendinitis), and Nico Hoerner (left forearm strain) on the 10-day IL. Reinforcements came in the form of Thompson, Kyle Ryan and Ildemaro Vargas (who was re-added to the 40-man roster). The Cubs also added Kohl Stewart as the 27th man for the doubleheader, but he was not needed despite Game 2 heading into extra innings.
With Vargas and a handful of pitchers projected to play for Iowa summoned to Chicago as injury replacements, plus Tyson Miller still in COVID protocols, the I-Cubs are currently undermanned. Veteran MLB reliever Joe Biagini made his first start since 2018 and kept Iowa in it, but the offense came up dry in support of him. The bats threatened just once all night, in the bottom of the 6th, when they loaded the bases with no outs on a walk and their only two hits of the game. But the next three batters quickly struck out, ending the potential rally.
- Joe Biagini: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
- Jason Adam: 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, K
- Sergio Alcantara: 1-2, BB
Tennessee, Montgomery PPD
If you predicted D.J. Wilson as the first star of the system for Opening Day, I applaud you. I don’t actually believe you, but I’ll give you a courtesy clap for keeping a straight face.
This isn’t to take anything away from Wilson, who is still one of the better athletes in the system, but at 24 years old and returning to High-A for the third time, he’s become a bit of a forgotten man. It hasn’t helped that injuries have often kept him off the field. In his four full professional seasons, Wilson has never appeared in more than 91 games.
There is definitely still some juice in his legs on both the basepaths and in the outfield. The question has always been if there is enough juice in his bat. At least for one night, the answer was yes.
I wouldn’t label Wilson with the same prospect billing he once possessed, but for the first time in years he looks healthy and his swing is in better shape than I’ve ever seen it. His two doubles and a walk led the way for a potent Cubs attack which rallied from one down in the bottom of the 6th to take a short-lived lead and then again in the bottom of the 8th to break a 4-4 tie.
He wasn’t the only offensive star of the game however. Chase Strumpf delivered quality at bats all night, reaching base three times, while showing plate discipline, pitch recognition and bat control. I was quite surprised when the roster announcements were made that Strumpf was heading to South Bend. He strikes me as more advanced at the plate than a few guys slated for AA. Cam Balego, who reached twice and drove in the Cubs first run also fits that description. And frankly so could Delvin Zinn, who supplied the game winning hit. All three have a legit case for an early promotion to Tennessee.
The reports that he has improved his strength and can now go oppo with power are the other key. If true, he can move quick through the system.
— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) May 5, 2021
The Cubs used six relievers after Peyton Remy tired and was unable to complete the 5th inning. Remy looked sharp through the first four however, working effectively with an elevated fastball, while mixing in an okay curve, as well as a good looking changeup which ate up several lefties.
Of the relievers who appeared, the one to keep the closest eye on is Eury Ramos. Once a sleeper relief prospect with the potential for mid-90s velo and a solid slider to pair with it, Ramos has filled out beyond what I projected and is now capable of hitting the upper-90s. He didn’t show a great secondary offering in this one, and his delivery is very high effort, but he is definitely an arm well be tracking in these pages throughout the season.
- D.J. Wilson: 2-3, 2 2B, 2 R, BB
- Chase Strumpf: 2-4, 2B, R, BB
- Delvin Zinn: 1-3, 2B, R, 3 RBI, SB (1)
- Tyler Durna: 1-3, RBI, BB
- Cam Balego: 1-3, RBI, BB
- Cole Roederer: 1-4, 2 R, BB, SB (1)
- Peyton Remy: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, ER, BB, HBP, 6 K
- Cayne Ueckert: IP (S, 1)
There wasn’t much of note in terms of results in this game, but the Pelicans have the most exciting lineup among the affiliates in the early going of the season. The heart of the order, comprised of 2B Yeiler Santana, SS Ed Howard, OF Jordan Nwogu, OF Yohendrick Pinango and SS/3B Luis Verdugo all offer offensive upside.
Santana, the one non-teenage prospect received in the Darvish trade, was a bit over aggressive in this one, but he flashed very good bat control. There isn’t much power projection with him, so his success will be tied to his batting average, but he seems to have the tools to make that happen.
There are fewer concerns with Ed Howard. In fact, I have almost none right now. He is physically strong and possesses plenty of bat speed to drive the ball for extra bases to all parts of the park. He also happens to be considered an elite defender at short. And Howard flashed some of those skills on Opening Night. Not only did he make a nice leaping catch, but he showed off range and super slick hands on other plays.
First career hit and RBIhttps://t.co/PRIDv7sM8m— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) May 5, 2021
Nwogu is the type of powerful athlete the Cubs failed to secure in the draft or IFA for a few years, but have made a more concerted effort to add recently. His swing looks a little smoother than when we last saw him play in games for the University of Michigan.
This may have been my first viewing of 18-year old Yohendrick Pinango, but I’m already a believer in his bat. The kid is going to make contact. A lot of it. The swing is geared for line drives to the opposite field, so any future power will need to come via adjustments, but I expect he could make those changes if he chose to. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Cubs prospect he looks as “hitterish” as Pinango does.
— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) May 5, 2021
Verdugo has a frame similar to Chase Strumpf, but he is a better athlete, with more defensive upside. His swing is not as compact or polished though. It may take a couple of years, but I can envision 20 homer power.
- Darius Hill: 2-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI
- Edmond Americaan: 1-3, R, BB
- Pablo Aliendo: 1-4, 2B, R
- Ed Howard: 1-4, RBI
Filed under: Daily Cubs Minors Recap