Brendon Little

The Weekly – Pitching Dominates the Week and Some Draft Tidbits

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By Todd Johnson

It was an interesting week in the minors. Everyday saw a great pitching performance or two. On Sunday, Erich Uelmen went six scoreless while Jen-Ho Tseng had the first of two good starts on the week going 7 innings with 9 Ks and 2 runs. On Monday, Michael Rucker went 6 innings with 8 Ks while allowing 2 runs. Javier Assad struck out 7 on Tuesday.

Photo by John Conover

Wednesday was the big day as Brendon Little went 7 scoreless while fellow first rounder Alex Lange went six scoreless with 10 Ks. Duane Underwood also did well on Wednesday along with Trevor Clifton, whose start was cut short due to rain.

On Thursday, the pitching parade continued as Matt Swarmer went 6 scoreless with 7 Ks before leaving in the 7th with a tired arm. He should not miss a start. On Friday, Bailey Clark went from piggyback starter to a full-fledged rotation piece at Myrtle Beach with 4 innings of 1 run ball. That same night, Cory Abbott went 6 strong with 5 Ks and 1 run.

Last night, all four starters were magnificent as well. Keegan Thompson got things started off with 6 scoreless and 8 Ks for Myrtle Beach. South Bend’s Erich Uelmen went 5 scoreless and 8 Ks, too. The only difference between the two was that Thompson gave up just one hit while Uelmen allowed three. Alec Mills continued the night with 6 innings of 1 run ball. Oscar de la Cruz looked very strong for Tennessee, even taking a liner off his knee and staying in the game. He went 7 innings with no runs allowed while striking out 7 and scattering 5 hits.

As the temperature warms up, so has some hitting. 

Christian Donahue is an infielder who currently plays for South Bend. After coming off the DL on the 16th, Donahue’s bat has taken off with steady playing time. He’s hitting .400 for the month. He seems to be a doubles machine as he has a .964 OPS despite not having a home run. But what I like the most is Donahue’s hustle. He plays the game hard. Being an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State might have something to do with that. I will flesh out his bio a little later this week.

Some Good News

Ryan Williams returned to action for the first time in 2 years yesterday. The “Big Lumberjack” threw 46 pitches (3.2 IP) yesterday in an EXST game. He didn’t light up the radar gun, but he was effective the first two innings. In addition, Erling Moreno came on in relief throwing harder than usual at 96-98. Arizona Phil of The Cub Reporter wondered if Erling is being transitioned into a reliever.

Roster Changes

Victor Caratini is back in Iowa while Chris Gimenez is now in Chicago. Victor really needs to play everyday. I am sure the experience was good, but Victor’s future is not as a backup to Willson, Victor, more than likely, will be his own catcher at some point. Efren Navarro of iowa, who was on track to make this month’s All-Star team at 1B, was designated for assignment yesterday.

Jim Callis Draft Interview

On Saturday, Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline was on 670 The Score’s “Inside the Clubhouse” talking about the draft. Callis said the Cubs have to let the draft come to them picking at #24. Callis talked about how the Cubs may have a strategy of looking for a college bat, but players drop or fall for various reasons. Callis used Alex Lange dropping last year as an example. Callis brought up some college arms who could fall to the Cubs including lefty Shane McClanahan of Central Florida, Logan Gilbert of Stetson, and Jackson Kowar of Florida as guys who could be bypassed earlier in the draft in favor of college bats.

One interesting name that came up as possible bats at that position, aside from Callis’ pick of Trevor Larnach, was Indiana high school outfielder Nick Schnell. The Louisville commit has a nice 6’2” 180 lb. frame and bats left while throwing right. Callis called him an all-around player.

Another player I hear gaining traction, and not just for the Cubs, is Georgia prep catcher Anthony Seigler. Though decent behind the plate, his bat is his true calling card. He also has the experience of playing USA Baseball, a box that scouting director Jason McLeod like to check. If he shoots into the first round, he could mess up a lot of draft boards.

Around the System
Iowa – 5-2 (18-29)
Tennessee – 3-3 (25-23)
Myrtle Beach – 4-4 (21-28)
South Bend – 4-3 (21-26)

Players of the Week



Card of the Week

Coming Up Next Week on Cubs Central
Monday – Draft Questions
Tuesday – Christian Donahue
Wednesday – Pitching in the MiLB
Thursday – ???
Friday – May MiLB All-Star Team
Saturday – May Cards of the Month
Sunday – The Weekly
Monday the 4th – Draft Day #1

As for Me…

I wrapped up another year of teaching on Thursday afternoon. That, to me, means the beginning of summer. When I am not checking in on baseball the next few weeks, I am going to do a lot of little things around the house and yard while trying to figure whether I am going to South Bend or Des Moines for a trip the week of June 11th.



A Magical Night of Pitching from Iowa on Down to South Bend

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By Todd Johnson

In yesterday’s article, I talked about how the hitting was struggling at each affiliate.

Last night, the pitching took center stage and it was very impressive.

For Iowa, Duane Underwood went 6 innings and only gave up 1 run while striking out 6. he gave up 4 hits and lowered his season ERA to 3.35. This month Underwood still has a bit of that good start/bad start thing going on. More starts like Wednesday’s will fix that.

Down in Pensacola, Trevor Clifton continued his very good season for AA Tennessee. Clifton’s ERA for May is 3.05 after throwing 4 scoreless with 3 Ks. Except for a couple bad innings this season, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the system. Unfortunately, Trevor’s outing yesterday was cut short by rain and the game will be finished today. His ERA for the season is 3.55.

The highlight, or should I say highlights, of the evening actually involved last year’s two first round picks.

Brendon Little’s May ERA is now down to 3.75 and he is throwing with a lot of assertiveness. Last night Little threw 7 scoreless innings with 5 Ks and did not allow a run on 82 pitches. Little attacked with his fastball-curve combo and an occasional changeup. Rather than nibble like he did in April, he’s going right after hitters, challenging them, and moving the ball all around the zone. Little has become must-see MiLB.TV and he looks like first round material the Cubs envisioned. Some fans were a little concerned about his early troubles in Eugene in 2017 and in April this year.

Be concerned no more.

Meanwhile, down in Myrtle Beach…

Alex Lange of the Pelicans had his best start as a Cubs prospect. Lange went 6 strong, allowed 6 hits without any runs while striking out an amazing 10 batters. While his fastball location was iffy, his use of a changeup seems to be helping his curves because hitters were flailing at his 2 curves all night long. He was devastating against lefties as his curve broke down and in. They stood no chance. It was one of the most impressive starts and pitches of any prospect this season.

Tonight, more of the Cubs top pitchers are back at it. Duncan Robinson goes for Tennessee, April Pitcher of the Month Matt Swarmer goes for Myrtle Beach, and one of my faves, Rollie Lacy, goes for South Bend.

In other news, pitcher Erick Leal will be returning to Myrtle Beach after missing all of 2017. Pelicans’ pitchers Kyle Miller and Elvis Diaz were released while Jose Paulino, also of Myrtle Beach, was placed on the DL.

2017 Draft Class 1 Year Later – It Could Be McLeod’s Deepest Group in Time

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By Todd Johnson

Even after just one year, it’s sometimes hard to get a good feel for a draft class until you’ve seen them play for at least a couple of years. Last year, the Cubs selected 41 players and signed 29 of them. A couple of young pitchers have yet to debut this year while 3 prospects are all the way up to high A Myrtle Beach. A large portion of the draftees are at South Bend (13) and the rest will likely play for Eugene this summer or fill in at South Bend within the next month.

While the Cubs did take a majority of pitchers last year in the draft (including two in the first round), it has been the hitters who are currently my focus on a daily basis this spring in Austin Filiere, Jared Young, and Nelson Velazquez. In addition, there are some pitchers trying to figure out whether they are going to start or relieve. Those decisions might be ongoing for a couple of years.

Next year’s grade will be more interesting and indicative of this class’ potential.

Photo by John Conover

The Big Pitching Guns

It’s a bit hit and miss so far.

Alex Lange, Keegan Thompson, and Cory Abbott have been up and down. Brendon Little is improving every start. Tyler Thomas was very good in April but seems to be inconsistent to begin May. And Brendan King is just getting to South Bend in a relief role and doing well. Rollie Lacy just made his first starts of the year for South Bend. It’ll be much easier to evaluate a year from now when these arms have 25 to 30 starts under their belt rather than five or six.

If the last few days are any indication, there’s a lot of promise. 2nd round selection Cory Abbott struck out 11 on Saturday night and 18 for the week while 3rd round pick Erich Uelmen went 12 scoreless on the week with 9 Ks.

Some Surprises

The Cubs did pick a few hitters who I really liked last year. Austin Filiere seems to have improved the most as he is hitting for average as well as drawing walks. I thought he would hit a lot more home runs but it hasn’t really heated up yet in the Midwest League. Jared Young is another impressive bat who really came on strong in August. He is one of my favorite hitters to watch in the organization because his approach is so good. The same is true of Austin Upshaw who did well at South Bend last summer. However, Upshaw is struggling in 2018 at Myrtle Beach. The approach is still there, but the results are not.

The Young Guns

Outfielder Nelson Velazquez tore it up last summer in Mesa. I thought he would begin 2018 in Eugene and I was really surprised to see him debut at South Bend the week of May 7. You can definitely see the tools and the skill set on display, but he seems to be struggling at the plate as I don’t think he has seen those types of curves or changeups before. Shortstop Luis Vazquez should also be a sight to see this summer in Eugene. He might be the best defensive shortstop in the system. If he can do anything with his bat, he should move pretty quickly with his skill set on defense. I’m looking forward to seeing Jeremiah Estrada pitch for Eugene this summer. He pitched a little bit last year in Mesa but not enough to get a good look at. This summer, seeing him on TV should be an eye-opener to see if the Cubs got a steal in the sixth round.

There are more than 10 other draft picks who make their 2018 debut later this year. That’s 1/3 of the draft class. Part of me says to give them a B and move on, but that is a lot of players who are still getting in the swing of things.

In trying to decide the grade, the one I really wanted to give was an incomplete. And that might be true for most drafts after their first year, honestly. There are many good things happening with this class and there are other picks who really haven’t even gotten going. I thought it would be unfair to the reader to get through this whole article and not even give a grade.

With that in mind, I’m going to throw out a B-. There’s no one who has gone out and consistently dominated. However, depending on how things go this year, the 2017 class could easily be an A at draft time a year from now if Little continues to improve, Lange and Thompson find some consistency, and Estrada flashes at Eugene to go along with the excellent hitting of Young, Filiere, Upshaw, and Velazquez, and the defense of Vazquez.

The Cubs took some chances in the 2017 draft and may hit on a few of them in due time. Just a year from now we’ll know a lot more. For right now, it’s a pretty promising class.

The Weekly: Big Time Pitching Fills Up the Week

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By Todd Johnson

Happy Mother’s Day!

It was a good week across the entire organization. The big league club looks like it’s beginning to put things together at the plate. Meanwhile, in the minor leagues, pitching dominated the week as three of the four affiliates had winning weeks.

It was a full week of games so several starters got in two starts. Duane Underwood dazzled in both starts. It seemed like every day someone was going six innings with several strikeouts. As a result, picking the pitcher of the week was a very hard choice.

The big news of the week came in South Bend in three parts.
1. Top 10 prospect Nelson Velazquez popped up in South Bend and immediately flashed his five tools. It is going to be a bit of adjustment for him as he probably has never seen the types of curveballs and offspeed stuff he is going to see in the Midwest League.

2. Pitcher Rollie Lacy made his first start of the year this week after dominating in the bullpen for five weeks. In fact, he made two starts. I really like watching him work as he just seems to pound the zone and keeps hitters off their toes by changing speeds. And he also misses a lot of bats (31 in 27.1 IP).

3. No sooner than I posted an article about Brendon Little did he have his best start of the year. He came out Friday night and just attacked, attacked, and attacked. While he did walk four, he struck out five as the Clinton hitters were stymied by his curve. Little only gave up two hits and looked very impressive doing so. As a result, I am excited to see how he does on Wednesday or Thursday next week – which should be his next start.

This Week’s Records
Iowa 5-2 (11-23)
Tennessee 5-2 (19-16)
Myrtle Beach 2-5 (14-22)
South Bend 4-3 (14-18)

Promotion Commotion

It is also hard to believe that the first half of the MiLB first half is now over on Tuesday the 15th. The minor league season goes by very, very quickly and we should start to see a few pitching promotions soon. I don’t expect anything major, and by major I mean a starting pitcher. It will probably be a reliever.

Dakota Mekkes is the one to watch for and the one that could impact the big league club the most. He’s just dominated the Southern League in six weeks. I don’t know what else he has left to prove. Yes, he could cut down on his walks but he can work on that at Iowa while getting that much closer to Chicago.

I don’t see a lot of player movement happening on the hitting side. 

Extended Spring Training
Cuban pitcher Raidel Orta, 22, is starting to get some more action. A little under the radar signing, he might be a bit of a break out prospect in the second half. I have yet to see him pitch, but I am looking forward to hopefully seeing him in Eugene with that talented roster. He comes in at 5’9″ and 180 lbs. Meanwhile, third baseman Christopher Morel keeps hitting dingers and shortstops Luis Diaz and Luis Vasquez keep impressing Arizona Phil in the daily updates at The Cub Reporter. Another name to keep in mind is catcher Jonathan Soto who seems to be coming up big at the most important times. Another name who could be interesting this summer is Kevn Moreno, a 3B from Cuba who sounds like he could stick in Mesa at 17-years-old.

Mock Drafts Coming In

Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline released full first round mock drafts in the past two weeks. BA had the Cubs taking a HS catcher from Georgia while MLB Pipeline had the Cubs going with Kumar Rocker, an elite athlete and quality HS pitcher. Here is what Jim Callis said of Rocker:

Chicago has pounded college pitching in each of the last two Drafts and still could use more arms, though this time the prep route might be more attractive in the first round. A hamstring injury has slowed Rocker down the stretch, giving the Cubs an unexpected shot at a guy who can bring mid-90s heat and a wipeout slider at his best. Rodriguez and Wilcox are two more comparable options.

While Rocker would be a good selection, the Cubs are most likely to pound college bats with their first four to five picks. In positions slotted behind Rocker were some appealing college bats like Seth Beer and Steele Walker, and Prep bat Connor Scott.

What’s Ahead Next Week at Cubs Central?
On Monday, I will be examining the draft classes of the past few years and re-grading them. I don’t really have much else planned for the week other than to keep an eye on Velazquez transitioning to South Bend. 

Players of the Week

Things I Wrote for Other Sites
BP Wrigleyville
April Wrap Up

Cubs Insider
Jose Albertos
Nelson Velazquez Debut
Matt Swarmer
Draft Primer

Baseball Card of the Week

Prospect Update: Brendon Little Is Starting to Get the Hang of It

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By Todd Johnson

I am kind of digging the Brendon Little experiment. Some of you may look at his stats and wondering what is there to dig? A 6.70 ERA? a WHIP of 1.67? A batting average against of .270? His first start was not something to hang your hat on as he threw 32 pitches in only one inning of work. Since then, he shown a lot of growth, even if it doesn’t show up in some of his stats. Over the course of last month, he looks to be a very fast learner.

Little was the Cubs number one draft pick in 2017. After throwing 85 innings in junior college, Little was limited on to what he could throw for the Eugene Emeralds last summer. Statistically, it did not go well in his 16.1 IP as his ERA was 9.37 and his velocity was down to 89-90 mph.

Heading into 2018, my hope was that the velocity would return once the season began and that Little could begin to fulfill the promise of a number one pick.

When I think of Brendon Little, I draw two lines. In between the lines is a big gap – that’s his development. To the left of the left line, that is who Brandon Little was when the Cubs drafted him – a left-handed pitcher who threw 91 to 94, occasionally topping out at 97. He’s also a pitcher who doesn’t have the experience of an average college coming out of the draft. Little only threw four innings for North Carolina his freshman year. He then transferred to State College of Florida, a junior college at  Manatee-Sarasota, where he put up 85 innings in what would be his sophomore year. Most college pitchers have three years of experience. Little basically has one with just 89 innings. I am OK in giving him some time to develop and adjust.

What Little is going to be doing the next two years is learning to tap into his talent and development at South Bend and Myrtle Beach. Maybe, if all goes well, he could even see Tennessee.  To be honest, there’s no rush to move him along. He’ll turn 22-years-old a couple of weeks before the end of the this season and 23 at the end of the 2019 season. He’s pretty young with a lot to learn.

Regardless of where he is in the Cubs system, it’s really all about fastball command. And for a Little, that has improved in every start this year. You can forget about his ERA, his FIP, his BAA, and his WHIP. Rather than look at the totals, you have to think of his stats more as line graph that shows the differences per game. A few stats I want to see Little improve over time include the number of pitches that he throws, the number of innings, and the number of fastballs he throws for strikes (which I would have to go back and watch).

Here’s what some of those stats were for his five appearances to date in 2018.

Pitches per outing – 35, 40, 79, 84, 92

Innings per outing – 0.2, 2, 4.2, 4.2, 6

Strikes per outing – 18, 21, 48, 52, 61

Add in the fact that batting average against has also improved each start along with his WHIP and Ks and things are getting better.

One thing I’ve always taken into consideration with Little is that there is a huge talent difference between junior college and professional baseball. He looks to be trusting his stuff more and attacking rather than nibbling. When I watched him pitch last Saturday in Peoria, I liked what I saw. He was more aggressive at times.

While he is getting stretched out and his numbers are improving, it is going to take some time to get the run totals down. Another month should do it. Now that he’s at 6 innings, he can work on getting down to 3-4 runs allowed, then down to 2, and down to 1 or zero. He’s not going to throw shutouts every night, but he has come a long way in a very short time.

Getting back to the line analogy: The line on the right is the kind of pitcher that he’s going to become. I don’t think that’s written in stone just yet. I love his curveball and if he can continue to improve each and every start. I don’t know what that third pitch is going to be just yet. It could be a change, a cutter, or even a slider. That is still to be determined and that could take years to figure out and master.

For this year, though, I think there’s gonna be a dramatic difference between the Brendon Little of April and the Brendon Little at the end of June. He seems to be learning and improving at a very quick pace. That’s a good sign.

The Midweek Report: Several Top Prospects Trying to Recoup from a Rough Start

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By Todd Johnson

It is not uncommon for a top prospect to have a rough stretch of baseball. At each level in the minors, there’s a new period of adjustment. Current Myrtle Beach Pelican Austin Upshaw put it best last year about the difference at each level: “Everyone’s just a little more polished.”

Some of the Cubs’ most elite prospects are having a rough time to start the year. Part of it could be physical. Part of it could be mental. And part of it might be they just need to be a little more polished themselves.

At AA Tennessee

Zack Short – Currently, he is hitting .155 and .086 in his last ten games. However, he is still walking a lot – close to 25%. The problem is 28 Ks in 16 games. As he adjusts, the K rate should shrink, his power should return, and he will continue to walk. He has never been a big average guy. Even .250 would be fine as much as he walks. He was moved down in the order this week so that should help to take some pressure off of him.

Oscar de la Cruz – He is not fooling anybody this year with a 9.82 ERA. He is leaving the ball up in the zone and has been getting hit hard with batting average against at .339. In 3 starts, he has been rocked. In one start, he was outstanding with 6 Ks and 0 runs in 6 innings. Adjusting to a 5 day routine is big for someone who has never pitched 100 innings in a single season. His May should be worth watching as he continues to adjust.

At Myrtle Beach

Austin Upshaw – It has not been a good start for one of my favorite prospects from last year’s draft. I am actually stunned. The 21-year-old infielder is currently batting .171. Then again, he is starting show some signs of life. In his last two games, he’s 3 for 6 with a HR and 3 RBI. He is back to playing 1B after spending several games at third where he made 3 errors in 6 games. His approach is too good to be down for too long.

At South Bend

Jose Albertos – He looks a little slimmed down from last season. He also doesn’t look like the same pitcher I watched last summer at Eugene. His windup, delivery, and even the ball coming out of his hand all look the same. But the results are not good. Albertos has made 3 starts. He has not been productive in any of them. His first start was a 1 inning affair where he threw 30 pitches in the first inning, with 15 for strikes. He struggled mightily with fastball command.

In his second start, he was looking good for two outs and was one pitch away from getting out of the inning and then the wheels fell off as he gave up 2 runs in 2 innings on 40 pitches, only 21 strikes. His third start was yesterday. His strike rate for the day was just 40% as he gave up 8 runs, 6 of them earned. He was pulled with no outs in the second after 51 pitches. That is just not sustainable.

I would not be surprised to him head back to Mesa and extended spring training to rebuild his release point on his fastball and to get his confidence back. Without his fastball, he has nothing to pitch off of. And right now, he has to get that back. He could stay in South Bend and try and work it out in the Midwest League. However, the bullpen is just getting worn out covering the rest of the games. Luckily, yesterday was a doubleheader that only required five more innings after he left in the top of the second with nobody out.

Brendon Little – Unlike everyone else, I think Little is closet to putting it together. Each outing has been better than the one before. He has a beautiful curve and a developing change. But, like Albertos, without fastball command, he is not going to be very good. Well, he is getting it. On Sunday, I really liked his performance as he went 4.2 innings in the longest outing of his Cubs career. One player ate him alive with 2 dingers. Other than that guy, he only gave up 2 other hits on the day and allowed just 1 other run. He will be fine in time. The more he pitches, the better he will improve. And, he could improve rapidly.

I would not panic about any of these guys.

Sometimes, it just takes time to get a little more polished.

Do the Cubs Have a Short-Term Lefty Shortage?

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By Todd Johnson

When minor league rosters were first announced, one of the strangest things I noticed was that the Tennessee Smokies did not have one single left-handed pitcher on the roster. That was pretty hard to miss. At the same time, South Bend mustered two lefty starters and one in a relief role who has already spent time on the 7-day DL last week. The lack of lefties in the minors does seem to be a bit strange considering their high value to the major league club.

At the major-league level, the Cubs have Jon Lester and Jose Quintana as left-handed starters and they have plenty of help in the bullpen with Justin Wilson, Brian Duensing, and Mike Montgomery. AAA Iowa currently has four lefties in starter Michael Roth and relievers Rob Zastryzny, Alberto Baldonado, and Randy Rosario.

In total, the Cubs have about 30 left-handed pitchers in the entire system. Myrtle Beach and Chicago account for 10 of the 30 left-handed pitchers which leaves almost 20 spread across the other 8 teams. The shortage of lefties might not be a big deal right now, but it could be if something happens at the big league level.

Who Could Help This Year If Needed?

While the Cubs did select lefty Brendon Little with the first pick in the 2017 Draft, Little is far from a polished prospect. Rather, he might be more of a project that pays off much later. His ability to get to Chicago depends on a few years of development.

If lefty help is going to come this year, Zastryzny will like more than likely be the first name called up for the bullpen. In Iowa, all Zastryzny has done is to come out of the pen and not allow a run in 5.1 IP this year and has struck out 5. That’s a good beginning for him.

I did find it surprising that Roth made Iowa’s starting rotation. So far, he’s made 2 starts and has not allowed a run over 9.2 innings while striking out 8.

As for Randy Rosario, he’s only 23, which I find to be amazing, and he could be a steal and a long term piece for the pen. The Cubs control Rosario through 2023, the same as Zastryzny. So far, Rosario has not allowed a run in 3 appearances for Iowa. He might be the most intriguing arm to watch. Then again, Rosario, who appeared in 2 MLB games last June, did so with disastrous results as he allowed 8 runs in 2.1 innings.

As for Baldanaldo at Iowa, … it’s not going well at Iowa.

Another lefty, Kyle Ryan, is in Arizona in extended spring training and will likely be assigned to Iowa at a later date. Ryan spent two full years being successful in the majors for the Tigers before struggling last year with an ERA over 7.

Ultimately, in the short term, the odds are not ideal for lefties in the system. On the other hand (pun intended), depending on the need and impact of a lefty needed at the major league level, the Cubs could go and get one via the trade market this summer. The aforementioned lefties from Iowa would be fine for a short DL stint or two. But if a loogy is needed for the season and the playoffs, expect the Cubs to go and get the players they need like they have done in the past.

As for the Future…

The odds for developing lefty pitchers are much better in the long-term. Here are a few names of some lefties, other than Little, who might be worth watching this summer. Bear in mind, none of the following names will not make it to Chicago this summer or even next year. 

Tyler Thomas – The 6’ and 175 pound lefty out of Fresno State has dazzled in his first two starts for South Bend this year, including throwing five innings of no-hit ball against Bowling Green. Armed with a low 90s fastball and a beautiful changeup, Thomas works at a quick pace keeping everyone on their toes. He was one of the top collegiate pitchers in 2016, but struggled a bit in the spring of 2017 at Fresno State. However when he came to Eugene, he was lights out in a relief role (24 Ks in 19.1 IP).

Brailyn Marquez – He just turned 19 in January, but at 6’5”, he is still growing into his frame and can throw in the mid 90s. He played last year at Mesa and struck out 52 batters in 44 innings. The issue was not that he walked just 12 guys all summer, rather it was that opponents hit .275 off him. His secondaries are a work in progress. Marquez should be at short season Eugene which starts play in the middle of June.

Bryan Hudson – His first start in 2018 didn’t go so well for Myrtle Beach but there’s plenty of time to recover. On Saturday, in his second start, he went 5 IP and struck out 4 but gave up 3 runs. The 6’8” 220 pound 20-year-old is improving gradually every year. He was a ground ball machine at South Bend in 2017. For his career, he has averaged 2.96 ground balls to 1 flyout. His curve/slider used to be his calling card, but now it’s his ability to get guys to beat the ball into the ground with his fastball as well.

And Don’t Forget…

Justin Steele – He had his best season as a Cub in 2017 with an ERA of 2.92 for Myrtle Beach. However, he wound up having Tommy John surgery in August. He’s not gonna come back to pitching as a starter this year, but hopefully he can be seen tossing the ball around in Mesa in August. I highly doubt if he gets in any games. He should be back on track to pitch at AA Tennessee in 2019.

What most impressed me about Steele last year before the injury was a new mental focus. Steele credited to the Cubs’ mental skills program that involved meditation for a lot of his success. Steele is an arm who could relieve, or he could also start. He is still just 22.