By Todd Johnson
Even though there are now eight minor league games a day, it doesn’t seem like much is happening. The draft is complete, the second half began, and all the rookie and short season leagues are in high gear. Yet, here I sit wondering what to write about for the next week. There are, however, good things happening throughout the Cubs system. Here are 14 of them.
1. Trent Giambrone is on fire. He’s hitting .361 with 4 HRs and 8 RBI over his last ten games.
2. Thomas Hatch has allowed one earned run all month. That calculates to a 0.33 ERA.
3. Isaac Paredes, all of 18-years-old, has figured it out at South Bend. He’s hitting .316 and slugging .526 as a shortstop this month.
4. Catcher Alberto Mineo looks to have mastered South Bend. He’s hitting at .323 clip this month.
5. I thought Vimael Machin was going to be a utility/organizational player this year. He has proved me wrong. He is hitting .311 in June and .289 on the year.
6. Justin Steele’s ERA for just May was 1.63. In June, it is 1.62.
7. Charcer Burks is the most unheralded Cub prospect going. He’s hitting .353 for the month and .309 on the year. And, he is a gold glove defender.
8. Victor Caratini’s monthly averages this year are .312, .366, and .333.
9. Bijan Radmacher is on a tear this month. He’s hitting .375 with a .455 OBP
10. Eugene’s Gustavo Polanco has everyone beat in his first 9 games. He’s crushing it at a .486 clip. His OPS is a staggering 1.311.
11. Joe Martarano might be better than I thought. After missing most of 2 years while focusing on football, he’s going at it. He has a .385 average and a .455 OBP. I really like his at-bats. Even when he makes an out, he works counts and lays off stuff out of the zone.
12. Yapson Gomez is the bomb out of the pen for Eugene. He threw 6.1 IP this week and struckout 8.
13. I watched Alex Lange pitch for LSU on Friday. He’s the real deal. He’s not a MLB #1 starter, but he and his curve will do just fine.
14. Carson Sands made his first start of the year in Mesa last night. He had elbow surgery in the off-season to remove elbow splints. He went three scoreless with 6 GB outs.
Draft Signings: 17 to date
The MLB Draft was moved back a bit this year. As a result, draft picks who had normally signed and started playing short season ball are just now getting their physicals. It looks like the Cubs could sign as many as 28-30 players this year.
Rounds 1-10: LHP Brendon Little, RHP Cory Abbott, RHP Keegan Thompson, RHP Erich Uelmen, LHP Ricky Tyler Thomas, 3B/1B/OF Austin Filiere, OF Chris Carrier, and RHP Brian Glowicki
Rounds 11-20: RHP Casey Ryan, RHP Brendan King, RHP Peyton Remy,
Rounds 21-30: RHP Sean Barry, RHP Mitch Stophel, RHP Jake Steffens, RHP Braxton Light, and 2B Cam Balego
Rounds 31-40: IF Ramsey Romano
They should game begin action later this week, most likely in Mesa. The more advanced college players will go to Eugene. There are a few others rumored to be signed, but their physicals must be completed before the signing becomes official. The deadline day to sign is July 15 at 4 PM, CDST.
Daniel Spingola made his way to Tennessee this week. Conor Myers is back with Myrtle Beach after being with Eugene for the past week.
Around the Minors
Iowa: 3-3; 32-43 – This starting pitching thing will hopefully straighten itself out in the next couple of weeks. Zach Hedges was much better in his second start. He will adjust.
Tennessee: 0-3; 0-3 – The second half got off to a rough start with a tropical storm and then losing both ends of a double header. Trevor Clifton was roughed up in his worst start of the year.
Myrtle Beach: 1-2; 1-2 – Going into Friday’s start, all five starting pitchers had ERAs under 3.18 for the month. Then Ryan Kellogg was uncharacteristically shelled by Down East. Michael Rucker was dominant last night in 5 IP before a rain delay ended his start after only 56 pitches.
South Bend: 1-2; 1-2 – First game back and Zack Short hit a HR. Manny Rondon thn had his best start of the year Thursday and Jose Paulino moved to the bullpen this half. I will have to keep an eye on that rotation. Bryan Hudson was excellent last night. Dylan Cease should be coming up.
Eugene – 3-3; 5-5 – Gustavo Polanco es en fuego and Yapson Gomez has been money in the pen. And who is Jhon Romero (Yes, that’s how he spells it)? 2B Rafael Narea seems to have taken off since he was moved to the leadoff spot. He went 3 for 4 with 2 BBs last night. He’s batting .344 with a .488 OBP.
Mesa: 1-0; 1-0 – Opening day went very well except for that one part where they batted out of order. However, Delvin Zinn did well (2-5) as did Rafael Mejia (3-4, HR). Carson Sands had 1 K in his 3 innings.
DSL 1: 1-4; 5-13 – It was a rough week. Let’s leave it at that.
DSL 2: 2-3; 8-10 – This team has some serious starting pitching but can’t score a lot of runs.
Players of the Week
Card of the Week
My Other Cubs Articles on the Web from this Week
BP Wrigleyville: Thomas Hatch
Cubs Insider: Alex Lange
By Todd Johnson
About a year ago, I sat down and watched recent Cubs draft pick Thomas Hatch of Oklahoma State throw in the College World Series. Today, I did the same with Alex Lange. The Cubs selected Lange with the 30th selection in the 2017 MLB Draft. The 6’3” 197 lb. right hander from Louisiana State University (LSU) faced off against Oregon State, the number one team in the nation. For LSU, it was win or go home. For Lange, he did not disappoint.
In 7.1 IP, Lange looked dominant at times, frustrated, and even vulnerable at one point. He struck out 8, allowed one run, but walked 4 (3 in one inning) while only giving up only 2 doubles on the day. He needed 115 pitches to get it done as his team came away with a 3-1 victory. I came away impressed, extremely impressed in fact, with Lange.
Extra plus curve (MLB ready)
Repeats delivery well
Hitters were 0-20 with the bases loaded against him
Areas of Concern
Effort in Delivery
Pitching from the stretch
From a technical standpoint, he does have some effort in his delivery. He has a medium leg kick that brings his knee and thigh perpendicular to his waist. He comes right over the top at about a 7/8 arm slot. The effort comes on his extension of his arm as it comes forward. He did pitch fairly quickly and did not waste time in between pitches. He just gets the ball, nods his head, and throws. He sat 91 most of the day, topping out at 93 a few times. On his 112th pitch, he reached back and got it up to 93 for his 8th K of the day.
For the first two innings, he looked extremely sharp. Using only 23 pitches, he moved the ball around the zone quite a bit. A pop up here, a ground out there, and 2 Ks later, the third inning awaited.
I think rough best describes Lange’s performance in the third inning. He threw a changeup for the first time. It was not pretty. Otherwise, he looked normal as he was sitting 93 to begin the inning. After a strikeout to start the inning, he gave up a double and three walks. Luckily, Lange was able to pitch around his walks, but he did so giving up one run.
The troubles started after a double and Lange was forced to go to the stretch. He did not look prepared to do so. He fell behind the first hitter 2-0. He was throwing high, then wide. It was almost as if his release point was way off. To me, he appeared to be flying open. His arm was not keeping up with the rest of his body in the delivery and the ball sailed. It took him 31 pitches to survive the inning.
Lange sat at 56 pitches after three innings. I don’t know who that pitcher was in the third, but he did not show up the rest of the day. The next four innings looked like it was a man against boys. From the windup, he shut down the vaunted #1 team in the nation.
Oregon State never did pull a ball for a hit all day. In fact, both hits were from the left and sliced down the left field line. If anybody did pull the ball, it was a ground out.
Two things impressed me a lot in Lange’s 4.1 inning run.
1. He began to paint the outside corner with fastball after fastball. It was pinpoint command and if a hitter tried to go get it, they could not do much with it.
2. His curved reminded me of Josh Beckett’s. It has that classic 12-6 roll of the table look. I don’t know how a hitter can get to it as the break is down and deep. All they could do is to pound it into the dirt as the angle of descent is steep.
And I was not the only one impressed on the day. Baseball America’s Michael Lananna echoed my sentiments on Lange’s performance.
Alex Lange is looking really locked out there right now. Putting the ball where he wants it, some life on his fastball, working quickly.
— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) June 23, 2017
After 7 innings, Lange had thrown 112 pitches. I was not surprised he came back out in the 8th, but I was cringing the whole time. He got the first batter to ground out and he was lifted. I was quite relieved.
Overall, I think once he signs, he will not pitch the rest of the year. He’s over 120 IP now. Lange will probably do the “Hatch” thing and travel around with the team as a non-playing member of the team to get acclimated to the MiLB lifestyle.
As for next year, I am sure the Cubs will make a few adjustments to his delivery and they could even include a slide step as he does have a bit of a leg kick even in the stretch. He won’t be much different. I don’t think it should take him long next year to move either. He’s likely to be a #3 or #4 type starter very quickly. His curve is a thing of beauty. The Cubs got a good one in Lange.
By Todd Johnson
Now that there is some distance between me searching for basic information on draft picks the day of the draft and finding out detailed information, I am beginning to like, for the most part, what the Cubs did on draft day. Overall, it was a good draft haul that is built on ascending players, some established arms, and a couple of high risk players.
Here is who I like best from the three days and a brief statement why I like them.
Brendon Little – P – Manatee – 97 from the left. Any questions?
Alex Lange – P – LSU – I think the Cubs got a steal when he dropped to them. He is one of the top college arms who with a little pro coaching could really take off. He already has a plus curve.
Keegan Thompson – SP – Auburn – Experience, Experience, Experience
Nelson Velazquez – OF – Puerto Rico – He has tools that could develop into a top flight outfielder with power and speed
Austin Filiere – 3B – MIT – Track record of power and he went to MIT
Chris Carrier – OF – Memphis – Sculpted body who might have lurking power in his body somewhere waiting for the Cubs coaches to draw it out.
Brian Glowicki – RP – Minnesota – Experience closing in a power conference
Luis Vazquez – SS – Puerto Rico – Like Velazquez, he’s young, moldable, and has a lot of raw tools.
Jared Young – 2B – Old Dominion – He comes from a good baseball school. The more I read, the more I like about him.
Brandon Hughes – OF- Michigan State – The Cubs can take his swing and adjust it. He hit for average and he has the body to hit for power and natural speed.
Casey Ryan – RP – Hawaii – He’s a big man with a power arm at the back of the pen.
Brendan King – SP – Holy Cross – Those Ivy League guys seem to do well for the Cubs.
Darius Vines – SP – Oxnard – He’s a toolsy player but the Cubs like his pitching more than his hitting. Hopefully the Cubs can sign him.
I am sure there will be some prospects who surprise everyone, too. The Cubs scouts have shown that they can find some gems in later rounds.
Now comes the hard part – signing them. The Cubs should be able to sign between 25-28 out of the 41 picks from my calculations. You need to be following @Savermetrics on Twitter, he has a pretty good collection of tweets, hometown articles, and quotes about what the players’ intentions are.
Here is what I think will happen between now and the final day to sign on July 15 (I have also heard July 7).
Brendon Little, Alex Lange, Cory Abbott, Keegan Thompson, Erich Uelmen, Nelson Velazquez, Ricky Tyler Thomas, Austin Filiere, Chris Carrier, Brian Glowicki, Rollie Lacy, Austin Upshaw, Jared Young, Brandon Hughes, Casey Ryan, Chris Singleton, Brendan KIng, Sean Barry, Brady Miller, Mitch Stophel, Jacob Steffens, Ramsay Romano, Cam Balego, and Jeffrey Passantino
Luis Vazquez and Peyton Remy
Ben Hecht and Braxton Light,
Jeremy Estrada, Skyler Messinger, Darius Vines, and Kier Meredith
Bryce Bonin, Hunter Ruth, Joe Donavan, Ben Ramirez, Tanner Allen, Alex Cornwell, Russell Smith, Cooper Coldiron
I will keep you posted on who signs and when they debut. Eugene should get the most players while South Bend will get a few. It is rare that draft pick goes to Myrtle Beach, but it does happen occasionally the first year. The last time it happened was Dave Berg.
By Todd Johnson
Jason McLeod said the Cubs would focus on pitching and he wasn’t kidding. The Cubs usd the 27th pick to select lefty Brendon Little and the 30th pick to select righty Alex Lange. Both players have pitched significant innings this year with Little at 85 and Lange at 111 so far. Little could pitch some in relief this year in either Eugene or South Bend, while Lange will probably be shut down after the College World Series, much like Thomas Hatch was in 2016.
I really like both selections. I think both have some serious upside, but they also need some work. Lange, to me, is a steal. A known perfectionist, he is not going to take long. I think with the coaches the Cubs have in the system, he could improve greatly. As a result, the Cubs may have gotten a top ten talent at #30.
Here are some brief profiles and stats. Click on the link for previous articles about them.
Brendon Little – State JC of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota
Earlier Post on Him
6’2” and 195 pounds
He can bring it at 97
Did I mention a 97 mph fastball?
Tight curve with projection
Areas of Concern
Starter or Reliever?
Here is what MLB.com said of Little
Little pitched very well in the Cape Cod League this summer and has continued to show premium velocity in junior college this spring. He was touching 97 mph in fall ball and has kept that up during the regular season in Florida. He complements it with a true 12-to-6 power curve which flashes plus on occasion, and he’ll also show some feel for his changeup, though it’s behind the other two pitches. While he has a very quick and clean arm delivery, his command comes and goes and his fastball can be flat at times, though that hasn’t kept him from missing a ton of bats this spring.
The lack of track record, as well as the inconsistency with his delivery and command, might concern some, with scouts wondering if he’s a starter or a reliever long term. This kind of arm strength from the left side is hard to find, so teams won’t too long to take him off the board.
Alex Lange – Louisiana State University
Earlier Post on Him
6’3″ and 198 pounds
Areas of Concern
End of the Year Dropoff
Here is what MLB.com said of the right hander.
Lange has two plus pitches in a fastball that usually ranged from 92-96 mph and a power curveball that stood out as the best on the U.S. college national team last summer. He has a strong build and repeatedly has demonstrated the ability to maintain his stuff into the later innings. Lange is showing better feel for his changeup after emphasizing the development of the pitch during his time with Team USA.
Lange sometimes gets himself in trouble by overthrowing and not staying online to the plate. Both of those bad habits cost him control, which along with some effort in his delivery has some scouts wondering if he might wind up as a reliever in the long run. Lange’s track record as a successful starter means he’ll get every opportunity to make it as a mid-rotation option.
More information will be forthcoming in the next few days about each prospect including thoughts from Jason McLeod.
By Todd Johnson
Seven days are left until the 2017 MLB Draft. In the early years of the Theo Epstein regime, the draft played a major role in acquiring some of the talent that helped the Cubs win the World Series. This year, the Cubs have two first round picks at number 27 and number 30. These first two picks will go a long way to refurbishing the Cubs in 2020 and 2021.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of movement about where players are ranked and where they have been taken in mock drafts. To be honest, I don’t think that movement is over during the next week. Performance, projection, and signability are the three main factors for a player of rising or falling. Here are six more brief previews of players who the Cubs could possibly pick next Monday night.
Heliot Ramos – OF – The 6’2” and 195 lb. outfielder is a physical specimen. At this point, there is still a lot of projection to his game. He was the star of the Under Armour game last year at Wrigley. He is from Puerto Rico and struggles in batting practice, but shines like a star in games .
Blayne Enlow – P – The 6’4” and 180 pound right-hander had a decrease and then an uptick in his velocity this spring. He is known to have a plus curveball. He declared to go to LSU, but it might take more money to get him to forgo that commitment in order to sign. Then again, he is rising in most rankings.
Mike Mercado – P – At 6’6″ tall, he appears to be all arms and legs and has a lot of physical projection left. This spring, he’s been throwing in the mid 90s which gathered a lot of attention for the young man from San Diego. I think he is the type of player of the Cubs like to take. Here’s a great article from Baseball America about his training regimen.
Matt Sauer – P – At 6’5″, Sauer is still growing. The young man from Santa Maria, California is moving up most draft lists pretty quickly. He tends to touch 94 or 95 with his fastball most games. He has a plus slider and a deceptive delivery. He might be an easier sign than Enlow, but he does have a commitment to the University of Arizona.
Couple of Fallers
Alex Lange – P – LSU – I briefly talked about him yesterday in The Weekly. He has a lot to offer and he could become a back-end starter quickly. While he may be a number one starter in college, he does not project to that in the pros. I think if the Cubs are going to take him, it would be in conjunction with them taking a higher projectable pitcher at number 27. Like the Phillies Aaron Nola, Lange would probably not spend a lot of time in the minors.
Trevor Rogers – P – I don’t know why this kid has slipped into the bottom of the first round. Part of it might be that others have risen, but there is nothing wrong physically with Rogers. He is already 19, which is old for a high school senior, but the 6’6″ lefty has a fastball that can sit in the mid 90s. At 195 lbs., there is still some physical projection left to this kid from New Mexico.
The odds of these players staying where they’re at now is slim. I think Ramos is on the way up much more than any of these prospects. Once area scouts and GMs get in and start talking money with these kids, I think that determines, more or less, where they are going to be selected. Players like Enlow and Sauer could price themselves right out of the first round.
By Todd Johnson
There are 108 games left in the Cubs’ season. They are currently 1 game out of first place. That’s a lot of time to make up 1 game. Even if this was July 1 or August 1, I still would be OK with where they are at. Even being 1 GB on September 1st would still be fine. For me, the ultimate goal is to get back to October by October.
The past two days have been pretty sweet, though. With two victories against the Cardinals, the atmosphere is beginning to feel a lot like last year and 2015. The Cubs have a chance to sweep tonight and I like those chances with Kyle Hendricks on the mound.
More Mock Drafts
Yesterday, I read a two round mock draft from John Sickels who had a community of baseball executives select picks. The person representing the Cubs selected #27 Alex Lange – LSU Pitcher; #30 Logan Warmoth – SS North Carolina; and #67 high school pitcher Steven Jennings. I liked the pic of Lange a lot. He has a bit higher floor than other pitchers and I think with some professional coaching he could be a quick riser in the system. I would slide him in the top 10 prospects almost immediately. Like Hatch, Lange would not pitch until next year as he has already pitched a full season for LSU.
No heavy hitting Chad Spanberger of Arkansas was anywhere to be seen in the two rounds. I will have more information tomorrow about six players rising and falling.
Minor League Happenings
There are now exactly two weeks left in the first half of the minor league season. Tennessee, Myrtle Beach, and South Bend are all in the hunt for a spot. It’s hard to believe that half the season is almost over. For Tennessee, they are the only team that holds their destiny in their own hands as the only 1st place Cubs affiliate.
Iowa: 2-4; 24-30
Seth Frankoff is starting to make a name for himself at Iowa. After two solid starts this week, his ERA has dropped all the way down to 2.79. Should there be a need for a spot starter, he would get the call. Also, Stephen Bruno and Taylor Davis are two of the hottest hitters in the Cubs’ system. While Davis did make last month’s All-Star team, I wonder how long he and Bruno will stay much past this year. Both are 26 and have not gotten a shot in Chicago.
Tennessee: 1-5; 30-25
Despite losing five of six this week, they are still in first place by ½ a game over Chattanooga and Montgomery. They ran into some bad luck this week and had some bad pitching themselves. To finish the first half, they have three five-game sets against Jackson, who are a game and a half out, Chattanooga who are one-half a games out, and Birmingham, who are not in contention in the other division. The only good news this week was Trevor Clifton’s six inning start. On the other hand Zack Hedges, Preston Morrison, and Duane Underwood all gave up more than seven runs apiece. I think they’re happy to forget about last week.
Myrtle Beach: 4-2; 31-25
Thomas Hatch looks like he has finally arrived. He had two starts in the past week. In the first one he went 5 and 2/3 innings pitched and struck out 13. Last night he went 6 and 1/3 while striking out 5. He has put together three really good starts in a row. Matt Rose hit two home runs this week, and Eloy finished the week strong after and 0-9 skump.
South Bend: 4-3; 32-21
Duncan Robinson head two seven-innings starts and struck out a combined 15 batters. Luis Ayala continues to terrorize baseballs had over a .400 to clip the past two weeks. Along with new South Bend Cub Roberto Caro, the two have made a formidable bottom of the order. The problem for the Cubs is getting some consistent starting pitching from Tyson Miller, Jose Paulino, and Manny Rondon. They are four games out of first place and one behind Dayton for the wild-card position. Last year the playoff race came down to the final game of the first half before the Cubs clinched a playoff spot. It’s déjà vu all over again.
DSL 2: 0-1; 0-1
Extended Spring Training per “The Cub Reporter”
Trey Martin’s rehab is going exceedingly well as he has been bashing the ball around a lot. Two names are emerging as possible breakout candidates, too. Shortstop Rafael Narea is putting himself into the SS competition with his daily hitting performance. His glove may not be as good as Aramis Ademan’s, but Narea’s hitting sure is. Rafael Mejia is another hitter who has been hitting well lately. The catcher/first baseman also has a bit of power.
I am pretty sure the next week will be consumed with two things: the draft and pitching prospects. While the draft is eight days away, there is a lot of volatility as players move up and down the list, some based on performance, some based on projections, and some based on signability. I am sure there will be a profile of a prospect and maybe an update on a pitcher or two.
My Posts on Other Sites This Week
Oscar de la Cruz