You couldn’t ask for better debuts from Brandon Hughes and Christopher Morel last night.
The Friendly Confines can't contain Christopher Morel. pic.twitter.com/GUh9loc1jo— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 18, 2022
Brandon Hughes of the @Cubs is the first pitcher in the modern era to get 5+ outs in his MLB debut with all of them coming via strikeout.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) May 18, 2022
Hughes showcased exactly what has made him a such a fast riser in the system since the start of last season. The converted outfielder has a deceptive four seam fastball that plays much higher than the velocity he throws it with (often 91-93, T95). Opposing hitters are often late or swing through it. The only thing outrageous in the movement profile of the pitch which indicates why it is so difficult to hit is a lot of arm side run, so there is likely an added element of deception created by the arm path and delivery Hughes utilizes. The slider doesn’t have crazy lateral or horizontal movement, but generates a ton of whiffs regardless. It must tunnel extremely well off his fastball and also benefit from the same arm path/delivery deception. The combo of good run on the fastball and solid sweep on the slider provide quite a bit of separation in break. Hughes also throws a changeup which has improved this season but can still get better as well. It’s still mostly a show me pitch against RHB.
To give you an idea of how freaky Hughes ascension as RP was. He was an OF in ST 2019. He started pitching that summer in Mesa and went through 3 levels in 1 year. No season in 2020, dominated SB and TN last year, TN and Iowa this year.— Todd (@CubsCentral08) May 17, 2022
Grand total of innings….91.2!!!!!!!
Readers here are likely pretty aware of Christopher Morel. I’ve longed preached about his defensive versatility, bat speed, and infectious energy. He began his career very raw offensively. He swung at everything during his disastrous stint with Eugene in 2018 (0 BB in 93 PAs) which got him sent back to Mesa. The physical skills were apparent though. The quick twitch athleticism, bat speed, and arm strength all showed through if you were willing to look past the ugly triple slash line.
I expected him to eventually break out, but was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it occurred. He spent the first month or so of 2019 in EXST, but then got jumped up to Low-A South Bend and immediately began to perform. He still wasn’t showing enough patience to draw many walks but he was showing enough to wait for better pitches to swing at, and thanks to getting a little bigger and stronger in the offseason was able to do damage when he got a good pitch to hit.
When Minor League play resumed last season Morel was aggressively pushed up the ladder by the Cubs once again, skipping High-A and instead finding himself assigned to AA Tennessee. There were some expected struggles, he hit just .223 with 134 Ks in 110 games between AA/AAA, but once again he made small strides with his plate discipline and pitch recognition. He also continued to hit for increasing power (18 homers) all while adding CF/RF to his defensive repertoire.
Morel returned to Tennessee to open this season, and it was no surprise to see him once again become a bit more patient and show a bit more power (.306/.380/.565 in 28 games). Morel generates exit velocities on par with any prospect in the Cubs system so if the 22 year old can continue to refine his approach he can definitely ascend to great heights.
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
Daniel Norris exited the game with a sore Achilles tendon.
- Robel García: 3-4, 2B, R, RBI (.311)
- Trent Giambrone: 1-1, 2B, RBI, BB (.185)
- Carlos Sepulveda: 1-1, RBI, BB (.250)
- Nelson Velázquez: 2-4 (.273)
- Nelson Maldonado: 1-4, 2B, R (.265)
- Jared Young: 1-4, 3B (.265)
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
Clint Frazier kicked off his rehab with an 0-4 night, but he did just a miss a homer in one at bat. He is coming back from an appendectomy a couple of weeks ago. It is expected that Frazier will remain in Iowa for the week before rejoining Chicago.
Any hope for a repeat of a no-hit performance by Peyton Remy was short lived. The righty struggled to throw strikes, walking one, hitting another, and giving up three hits without making it out of the 1st inning before being lifted for pitch count reasons. The bullpen tried to pick up the slack and the offense, led by Bryce Windham and Levi Jordan, even managed to claw their way to a lead in the middle innings. But more control issues, this time by Burl Carraway in the 8th, doomed the Smokies.
My guy, Bryce Windham, just destroyed a baseball. The Smokies were down 5 to 0 and now lead 7 to 6 pic.twitter.com/H3nnT1o01R— Todd (@CubsCentral08) May 18, 2022
- Bryce Windham: 2-3, HR (1), R, 3 RBI, BB (.233)
- Levi Jordan: 2-3, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB (.348)
- Bryce Ball: 2-4, R, BB (.323)
- Chase Strumpf: 0-2, 3 R, BB, 2 HBP (.219)
- Yonathan Perlaza: 1-4, R, RBI (.194)
- Wyatt Short: 3 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 2 K (1.29)
- Blake Whitney: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K (L, 2-1, 3.75)
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
One of South Bend’s hottest hitters, Matt Mervis, has received a well deserved promotion to Tennessee.
It took a bit for Bryce Windham to find his footing at the plate this year, but he’s now 8-for-23 in May.
Manuel Espinoza and Bailey Horn held Wisconsin at bay for seven innings, but the Cubs offense struggled to get runners on all night and eventually Jeremiah Estrada had an off night, giving up a homer in the 8th.
Espinoza doesn’t have overpowering stuff but he knows how to throw it for strikes and change speeds. He’s just 21 and getting good results in High-A, but I still struggle to project him as a noteworthy prospect. But it is also more difficult than ever to project pitchers. All of them tend to show up each spring with better velo or a new pitch, so who knows. Stay healthy and throw strikes and maybe additional stuff will come later.
- Manuel Espinoza: 4 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 3 K (1.88)
- Bailey Horn: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 3 K (0.00)
- Cole Roederer: 1-3, 2B, BB (.192)
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
It has been confirmed that Ed Howard will miss the remainder of the season with an unspecified hip injury. It is reported that he is expected to make a full recovery though.
Not sure what to say at this point. The Pelicans offense rarely goes more than a few days without lighting up the scoreboard and they did it again last night. All nine batters reached. Eight recorded a hit, six recorded at least two.
Ezequiel Pagan homered for the third time in five games. He maybe doesn’t have the highest upside, but he’s a guy who has hit whenever given consistent playing time, and I think there are fair odds he can make it into the upper levels of the system.
Ezequiel Pagan with his third home run in his last five games!— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) May 18, 2022
A solo shot gives the Pelicans a 9-4 lead in the top of the sixth. pic.twitter.com/8UFRWsdHYV
Ceiling is not an issue for fellow outfielder Kevin Alcantara though. He’s not even close to his full physical maturity but that doesn’t stop him from hitting lasers out to the opposite field.
Kevin Alcantara HAMMERS one to right and the Pelicans are on the board! Fourth home run of the season for Alcantara.— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) May 17, 2022
Fireflies 2, Pelicans 1 in the bottom of the second. pic.twitter.com/Fz9UqCkQHM
First James Triantos began to find his groove, and now in recent weeks Reginald Preciado has followed. He’s still not lifting the ball much and a future swing alteration seems likely but he’s now hitting well over .300 in May. Preciado went 3-for-4 last night with hits from both sides of the plate.
How is Reggie Preciado doing this month? Let’s take a look. This double puts them at .314 for May pic.twitter.com/byfoppy2Zp— Todd (@CubsCentral08) May 18, 2022
Reggie Preciado it is now three-for-four on the night including this single from the right hand side of the batter’s box. pic.twitter.com/jgBLdoLjkY— Todd (@CubsCentral08) May 18, 2022
We’re likely getting close to a promotion for 1B/3B B.J. Murray, Jr. (.311/.425/.525). The 22-year old was a late bloomer out of Florida Atlantic who the Cubs took in the 15th round last year. I haven’t done a deep dive on him yet, but the switch hitter is quiet at the plate and has been killing it for a few weeks in Myrtle Beach. There’s a spot opened up in South Bend with Matt Mervis heading to AA.
Here is one of the breakout hitters of the first half. His name is BJ Murray and he is just destroying baseballs in Myrtle Beach pic.twitter.com/68aTAtr7KK— Todd (@CubsCentral08) May 18, 2022
- Kevin Alcantara: 2-4, 2B, HR (4), 2 R, 2 RBI, BB (.261)
- Ezequiel Pagan: 2-5, HR (3), 2 R, 3 RBI (.211)
- Reginald Preciado: 3-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB (.218)
- B.J. Murray Jr.: 2-5, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB (.311)
- Juan Mora: 2-5, 2B, R, RBI, BB (.267)
- James Triantos: 2-6, 3B, 2 R, RBI (.276)
- Jacob Wetzel: 1-5, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI, HBP (.194)
- Pete Crow-Armstrong: 1-5, R, 2 RBI, BB, (.357)
- Richard Gallardo: 6 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 2 ER, BB, 7 K (W, 3-1, 2.67)
Filed under: Daily Cubs Minors Recap