By Todd Johnson
An injury is never an easy thing to deal with. For some players, they deal with little nagging injuries all year long and others have their seasons ended. There’s no easy fix and you never know how a prospect is going to respond as every case is different.
This year, Justin Steele pitched in a game 11 months after having Tommy John surgery. 2018 also saw Ryan Williams come back and begin to strengthen his shoulder for a return trip to Iowa in 2019. In addition, Will Remillard made it all the way to AAA after missing the better part of 2.5 years. You just never know.
In 2019, there will be several Cub prospects who will be attempting to come back from injury. Some are more severe than others and some injuries are going to either make or break that prospect’s career.
Adbert Alzolay tweeted out some pictures of himself putting on cleats as if he was ready to pitch again. He should be just fine and, if he remains healthy, he can compete for a spot on the 25 man roster in the spring. The Cubs will probably give him a long look as a fifth starter.
Gioskar Amaya has now missed two full seasons after suffering a shoulder injury. The former second baseman turned catcher now likely turned second baseman can only hope that his shoulder is strong enough for him to be able to participate and throw at a high-level in 2019. I’m still pulling for him to make it as I liked his bat when he was last an infielder at Daytona before he moved to catching.
Carlos Sepulveda has also missed almost two straight years, although he did have a short rehab stint in Mesa during August of 2017. The former top 10 prospect with elite bat to ball skills quickly faded from consciousness the moment he was injured in the spring of 2017. If he can get it back together, it’s an elite bat the Cubs could probably start out at Myrtle Beach next year. He still fairly young at 21 considering that he’s missed two full seasons.
Jhonny Bethencourt’s season ended due to a hand injury at South Bend in early June. While Bethencourt does have some defensive issues, his offense does not. The ball just seems to hop off his bat and I look forward to seeing if there’s any residual effects next year when he begins play. Along with Adbert, Bethencourt is the most likely to return to normal action.
I briefly messaged Chad Hockin about a month ago to see how his rehab from Tommy John Surgery was going. He said that he is slated to start throwing in October and that he should be more than ready to go when the season begins. He had his surgery done in LA and was extremely excited with the results. I really like Chad. He’s one of the great talkers in the Cub system. He should be able to recoup some of his velocity (mid 90s) that seemed to be missing his first couple years as a Cub. I thought he was making some steps towards improvement last August in South Bend (2017) and was throwing in the low to mid 90s at Myrtle Beach before the blow up in just his third game. I’m really pulling for this guy to come out the other side and be a quality bullpen piece next year at Myrtle Beach and Tennessee.
Two other recovering arms from lower in the system should be exciting to watch next year. Danis Correa was set to debut in short season ball after touching the upper 90s in 2017 but did not make it out of spring training before TJS. The same is true of 2017 draft pick Jeremiah Estrada who was scheduled to end up in Eugene. I hope both of the young 19-year-olds make it back in 2019.
While there are no sure things from coming back from an injury, the technology and techniques used today far outpace those from just 20 years ago. At times, it’s inconceivable, but some of these prospects will look back, hopefully, at their injury as just a blip in the road and something that made them stronger.