By Todd Johnson
The minor league season is now a week old. There have been plenty of fireworks from Ian Happ and Jeimer Candelario, but it has been the starting pitching at most levels that has garnered the most headlines. Dylan Cease, Eddie Butler, and Duane Underwood were outstanding along with several other arms including most of the South Bend’s rotation. The hitting, on the other hand, as usual, lags behind to start the year.
Here are six other players who are off to sizzling starts.
1. Justin Steele
Last year was a disappointing one for Justin. He struggled with his command and confidence. This year, he is back on the track that he began with Eugene. He is throwing with confidence. He is attacking hitters and not wasting pitches by nibbling on the outside edges of the zone. His ERA after two starts is now under one.
2. David Bote
For most of July and August of last year, David hit over .400 in leading Myrtle Beach to its second consecutive Mills Cup Championship. Now at AA Tennessee, Bote began this year where he ended last year. Except, this year, he is now entrenched at second base for the Smokies.
3. Isaac Paredes
At just 18 years old, Paredes is the new hitting wunderkind in the Cubs parade of shortstops. After going hitless in two of his first three games, Paredes has begun to turn it on. I think as the weather gets warmer his hitting will improve and that is even scarier thought. It currently stands at .357.
4. Charcer Burks
He saw some time with the big league club in spring training and hit a home run. That has carried over to a great start for the young AA outfielder. With a .310 average and a .394 OBP, Burks has been setting the table for the Smokies’ offense.
5. Tyson Miller
I first saw him last year at Eugene. It was not pretty at times. He struggled to command his pitches and to get out of innings. But then again, that was after playing a full season, taking a month off, and starting up again. This year, he is a totally different pitcher. He’s throwing his fastball about 96/97. The baseball is going exactly where he wants it. Although I did not get to see his first start for South Bend, I really enjoyed watching him work quickly in his second start. I think as it gets warmer he is going to be a name we hear moving up the prospect charts. I really enjoyed watching him pitch. He has good athleticism and his delivery is a little deceptive.
6. Manny Rondon
When he first came over to the Cubs, he was terrible in rookie ball. Then last year, he was dominant in Eugene and was named Northwest League Pitcher of the Year. I did not know if his 2016 season was a fluke or an aberration. After watching him pitch this year, I’m convinced that it was neither of those. Pitching in the Midwest League is a lot different than pitching in the Northwest League. Hitters are much more disciplined at low A ball than at short-season ball. Rondon uses three pitch mix to perfection to baffle hitters. His curveball is not where it should be just yet, but I think it is an effective pitch that will get him to the majors.
There are other players who could’ve made this list but I think these are the six that have really stood out and their games are heads and shoulders above everyone else after the first week.