Duane Underwood

Which Cub Prospect Would Be Worth Investing In Over the Next Year?

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By Todd Johnson

Last week, Baseball America released its new top 100 prospect list that included draft picks from the 2017 MLB Draft. There was not a Cub to be seen. There were three former Cubs, but no one who is currently in the system. Over the next year, I tend to believe that one or two Cubs prospects might make it onto either MLB.com’s Top 100 list or Baseball America’s Top 100. If I was to invest money into who those prospects might be, I would have a wide array of choices in which to invest.

The Cubs have a lot of prospects who are on their way up. By that I mean, they are ascending players as their skills and tools begin to improve. There are other prospects who have shown glimpses of immense talent but have not put it all together yet. They are still developing.

At first I tried to organize my investment choices into categories based on risk and reward. There were players who I thought were a high-risk vs. investing in others who were a low risk. I scrapped that idea pretty quickly. 

Categories

I narrowed the categories down to three. The first one would be long-term investments. These could be recent high school pics like Luis Vazquez and Nelson Velasquez to go along with several young international free agents who are currently in the Dominican Summer League or in Mesa. It’s going to take awhile for them to approach Top 100 status.

The second category is players who could take a couple years to develop before they hit the top 100. Miguel Amaya is one player whose defensive attributes garner attention but the bat still lags behind a little bit.  First-round pick Brendon Little is a perfect example of someone who is going to take a couple years to develop and a lot of that is because of his age and lack of experience. Then again, his curveball could accelerate his development.

The final category is players who I think have a decent shot at being included on a top 100 list by the middle of next summer. I call these these One Year Bets.

Jose Albertos – Currently at short season Eugene, I think the 18-year-old pitcher is the top prospect in the Cubs’ system. He should be a top 100 prospect by the middle of next year if he continues to pile up innings and gain experience. I think he’s getting that experience this year, but next year will really propel him up a list. If things go well the last month, he could make a list this winter.

Adbert Alzolay – I am extremely impressed that he has been able to maintain his velocity and health over the course of this year as a starter. He doesn’t have the biggest frame which makes his ability to sustain a 96/97 mile an hour fastball into the sixth and seventh innings that much more impressive.

Duane Underwood – Over the past month, something is happening for the 23-year-old right-hander. I don’t know what it is specifically. But I do know that he is able to command his pitches better, get more strikeouts, and work deep into games. Over the past month he has a 1.33 ERA in five starts. If he can do that at the beginning of next year for AAA Iowa, he may find himself in Chicago by the middle of the summer. He just turned 23.

Aramis Ademan – I think he has the most tools of any position player currently in the system. He’s yet to put everything together. We see have seen brief glimpses and runs of greatness as well as stretches of inconsistency. I think his bat is further along at this point then many people thought it would be and his defense has not peaked where others may have thought it should be.

Alex Lange – I really like what he brings to the table and I think once he gets going as a full-time pitcher next year, he is going to shoot up the rankings. Even though he was drafted behind Little, Lange’s experience in the SEC will move him along at a much faster rate. I would not be surprised to see him be on the list before anybody else.

The Longshots

Mark Zagunis – Right now, I don’t think there’s a better pure hitter and a better eye at the plate in the organization than Zagunis. He’s going to be close to a 20 home run pace this year in spite of starting the year somewhat injured. I don’t really know if he fits the mold is a top prospect, but his performance and his exceptional approach at the plate raise him high above any other prospects. The problem is not his floor, it’s his ceiling.

Kevonte Mitchell – We have seen glimpses of Kevonte busting out this season. Of the five months that make up the 2017 season, he’s had one good one, two mediocre ones, and two excellent ones. He’s been very impressive in the second half especially in August. I think if he comes into camp ready to go, he could take the Carolina League by storm next year. Physically gifted, he is an imposing figure as anyone in the Cubs system. It’s just a matter of him putting it together which he has started to do this year with better pitch recognition and approach.

Oscar de la Cruz – Injuries look they put his career in slow motion. It was a shoulder strain this season, forearm tightness last year. But when healthy, he throws 93-95 with ease. He can command a curve and a change along with his fastball. For him to make any list, he has to get healthy and put in some innings.

The Weekly: September Callups and the Playoff Push

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By Todd Johnson

There are just three weeks left in the MiLB season. With the Iowa Cubs out of the running, the Cubs will have some callups once September arrives and rosters expand. I would not expect too many players considering the Cubs are in the midst of a pennant race. Here are five players I think the Cubs will add for the final month. All but one are on the 40 man roster and a space will have to be made to add that one player.

Mark Zagunis – I think he is the only position player who gets added since Caratini arrived to replace Willson.

Jack Leathersich – A lefty, he’s been lights out at Iowa but I doubt he would pitch in Chicago except in a blowout.

Eddie Butler – I like adding him as a long man or backup starter.

Rob Zastryzny – He was just up for a day and should be up all September now that he is healthy.

Dillon Maples – He is the only one who is not on the 40 man roster. Then again, he could be added long before September comes the way he is pitching.

Outside shot of being added – Catcher Taylor Davis – I don’t think Manager Joe Maddon wants to go into the playoffs with a couple of run down catchers. Hopefully Willson will be back in a month. In the meantime, Davis would provide a day off for both catchers or an inning or two of relief in blowouts down the stretch to keep them fresh as well.


A month ago, I published an article about the Arizona Fall League and 40 man roster implications. At first, I thought about revisiting that post in the wake of the trades, but Eloy Jimenez was the only player affected from the post. Instead, the only possible outcome would be that there might be one more 40 man roster spot available. In the article, I predicted who the Cubs might protect from the Rule V Draft by adding them to the 40 man roster. I also suggested some possible prospects who could play in the AFL. The Cubs may want to save a spot for Willson Contreras to rehab considering how  well that worked for someone else last year to come back for the World Series.


In other news this week, Baseball America produced a new top 100 prospect list that includes this year’s draft picks. There are still no Cubs. I don’t think there will be until the middle of next year.


Coming up at Cubs Central.
School starts for me this week. After two days of institute on Wednesday and Thursday, the students arrive on Friday.  I have a couple of posts already in the queue ready to go. One is an interview with Myrtle Beach Pelicans pitcher Duncan Robinson. The other is a post about investing in Cubs prospects. I will also examine possible names of some DSL players who should be headed north for Fall Instructs. That could be the week after. You never know how news flows.


Saying Goodbye
Yesterday morning, my wife and I had to put down one of our dogs. Phoebe was a terrier mix who was almost 13. She lived a good life of walks, treats, and belly rubs. In the past year, she had lost her sight and most of her hearing. We miss her already.


Around the Minors:
Iowa – 4-3: Jen-Ho Tseng continues to roll and reliever David Garner was promoted to AAA.

Tennessee – 3-3: 3.5 GB of a playoff spot – Yasiel Balaguert was named Southern League Hitter of the Week while Duane Underwood might be named Pitcher of the Week tomorrow.

Myrtle Beach – 1-5: It is rough all around in South Carolina. Reliever Pedro Araujo was promoted to AA Tennessee. I hope to see some infusion of talent from South Bend to give the Pelicans a shot at winning back-to-back-to-back titles.

South Bend – 4-2: I am seeing some growth and development from DJ Wilson, Kevonte Mitchell, and Bryan Hudson that is extremely promising. In addition, pitcher Tyler Peyton is on a great streak of pitching well the past three weeks. He has put himself into contention to make the monthly all-star team. Tomorrow’s post will be about how South Bend can help Myrtle Beach win the Mills Cup.

Eugene – 2-5: 1 Defensive woes derailed their week but they are still just one game away from a playoff spot. Brandon Hughes is starting to warm up again.

Mesa – 2-3: The kids are getting experience even if it doesn’t show up in wins. Delvin Zinn seems to be back in a groove hitting over .300 this month.

DSL 1 – 3-4 – OF Luis Hidalgo got the call to Mesa this week.
DSL 2 – 2-4 

Baseball Card of the Week

Players of the Week

My Other Stuff on the Web From This Week
Cubs Insider:
Austin Upshaw Profile
MiLB Pitcher of the Year Discussion
Duane Underwood

Prospect Update: Duane Underwood Is Back on the Radar

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By Todd Johnson
   
One of the most underreported stories of the summer has been the somewhat resurgence of Duane Underwood. The 2012 draft pick has been healthy all season. And over his last 10 starts, he has compiled a 3.45 ERA. His last start saw him go 7 IP with 7 Ks and no BBs, a rarity for him. What I find most encouraging about the rebirth of Underwood is that he has done it pretty much unnoticed.

Here are six reasons why you could jump back on the “Duane Underwood Top Prospect” train.

1. He just turned 23. It seems like he’s been around forever. Nevertheless, when you are drafted into an organization devoid of pitching, as the Cubs were in 2012, your name moves to the top of the list. Add in his performances at Kane County and Myrtle Beach in 2014 and 2015 and bloggers, writers, and other evaluators were drooling over his potential. As a result, in a system bereft of pitching, writers drifted towards the blinking radar gun in 2014 that said, “Easy 95.”

2. His ability to throw hard has never gone away. In fact, I think the velocity has improved since he was in class A. I think he now throws 95 to 97 regularly and, on an odd occasion, he touches 98-100.

3. Injury Free – He hasn’t missed a start all year. He’s taken the ball every fifth day and pitches between 90 and 100 pitches most of the time. For the year, he has thrown 108 innings and 1776 pitches, 1088 of them for strikes.

4. Pure Stuff – I don’t think there’s anybody in the system that throws three better pitches than Duane Underwood. There are pitchers who have better command, which has been the issue the past two seasons. What I find odd is that he’s never really been a strikeout pitcher with the kind of pitches that he has. One would think that he could just wipe guys out left and right. I don’t know why that is not happening. In 2015 at Myrtle Beach, his last full year, he averaged 5.69 K/9. This year, he is up to 6.79.

5. Command – This has always been his kryptonite or Achilles heel.  In 58.2 IP at AA in 2016, his BB/9 rate was 4.76. This year it is 3.42 which is almost respectable. He needs to get that in the 2s if he is going to go beyond Iowa. In spite of his command, I feel pretty good about his chances to make it to Iowa in 2018. And I feel pretty good about his chances at being a starter at AAA next year.

6. Time to Develop – Sometimes it takes five to seven years to develop a high school pitcher, which was where Underwood was when the Cubs drafted him. Because of his young age, I’m not ready for him to be a reliever, and I’m not ready for the Cubs to give up on him as a starter when he’s only 23. If he was 25, I could see him transition to being a reliever. But here’s the thing: He’s still a young kid and there’s plenty of time to be a reliever later. I still think he’s got a couple years of starter development still in him and that’s fine. If he makes to it Chicago in two years with a 95-97 mph FB that he can command to go along with a plus curve and a change, that’s more than you could ask for in a starter.

Right now, he is improving every month and he’s healthy. That’s a huge improvement from the past two seasons. With just a little over three weeks left in the minor-league season, Underwood will probably make about five more starts. I don’t think there’s anything to look for or expect out of him in those starts other than to just stay healthy.

I think, as a whole, a lot of people of been impatient with him, including myself. But I also recognize that he is an extremely talented and athletic pitcher. The expectation to rush him to the majors has been there for three years. And that expectation hasn’t worked out too well. Maybe it’s time for different expectations. I think those early expectations placed on Underwood were more projections of people wanting him to be something much sooner than later.

I think if he can finish the season healthy, that will go along way towards his own confidence, and, maybe more importantly, the confidence of the Cubs in him.

Now That Jeimer Is Gone, Which Cubs Prospects Have “Next” in Chicago?

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By Todd Johnson

Eloy is gone.

Dylan Cease is gone.

Ian Happ is gone.

Albert Almora is gone.

Jeimer Candelario…gone.

Four months ago, they were the top five guys in the Cubs’ system. Two made it to Chicago while the other three were used in trades to obtain players that will hopefully bring another World Series trophy this year and/or next.

In looking at who might be the next group of players to make it to Chicago, one only need to look at AAA Iowa and AA Tennessee to see the next possible candidates who could arrive over the next year to help out.

I feel confident in saying that we can rule out any position players. No one in Chicago is going anywhere until at least after 2018. And that is not a even certainty.

So that leaves pitching.

The Cubs will have several openings in the bullpen and starting staff next year. I think the Cubs will use all avenues of talent acquisition to fill those spots. Still, here are five to seven prospects to watch the rest of August, fall instructs, and spring training as they could be in the discussion for a roster spot in 2018, or maybe even a bullpen spot this year.

Dillon Maples – It took a while, but he’s got it. In fact, he has always had “it.” Now he has confidence and a cutter to go with his upper 90s fastball and slider/curve “thingy” (That’s what Maples calls it). He has dominated two levels this year and is now working on a third. Based on his talent and ascension, he will get a precious 40 man spot this winter to escape being selected in the Rule V draft.

Jen-Ho Tseng – I loved him in 2014 as an 18-year-old at Kane County. The changeup fell off the table then. He will turn 23 this fall and should have a shot to compete for a starting spot at the back of the rotation in 2018. More than likely, he will probably be used as starting pitching depth for next season and be stored at Iowa. Still, I cannot wait to see him in camp next spring.

Craig Brooks – He is in Tennessee right now. In July, the right handed reliever did not allow a run and struck out 25 in 13.1 IP. It took him several months to figure it out at Myrtle Beach. It took him just 4 weeks at AA. I cannot wait to see what his mid to upper 90s heat will do at Iowa and in spring training.

Adbert Alzolay – Long term, I like his stuff better out of the pen. But for now, he’s starting and doing it very well throwing at 96 in the 6th and 7th innings. The secondaries still need some work. Hopefully, he can get those improved at AA before the spring. He is stretched out now in his second year of starting after being a reliever/piggyback starter in Eugene in 2015. He’s pretty healthy despite his small frame.

Matt Carasiti – He came over this summer in the Zac Rosscup trade from the Rockies. I have watched him pitched a couple of times. He throws in the middle 90s but doesn’t have that “out” pitch, but he does know how to pitch. You don’t get to be the closer in the All-Star game in a hitter’s league for nothing.

Long Shots – Duane Underwood and Trevor Clifton

They have both been around for a while. Underwood in his second season at AA and Clifton, his first. For Underwood, he still throws in the upper 90s that either he commands or he doesn’t command and that can change from inning to inning. He just turned 23 so don’t expect the Cubs to give up on him anytime soon.

As for Trevor, he was outstanding through the All-Star Break at AA. Since, he’s struggled in his six second half starts. I still believe in his talents. At times, he is humming right along and runs into the big inning or a big fly. His walk rate is up a bit after being way down last year. He’s a mentally tough kid. At just 22, he’s worked hard to get here. He will continue to do so. This might be just a bump in the road for him to go around.

 

Friday Six Pack – Starting Pitching Prospects for 2018 Getting a Little Clearer

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By Todd Johnson

On Monday, Cubs Central’s first monthly all-star team of the season will be published. So far, it’s been 3 and 1/2 weeks of interesting performances by some of the Cubs’ best prospects. Time is also growing near as the Cubs seem to be struggling with two starters in the rotation. On the horizon, two starting pitchers will most likely leave at the end of the season as free agents. So, the performances by several of the Cubs are an insight into who could be, and who could not be, possible starting pitchers in 2018.

My initial theory was that the Cubs would get one possible starter either this summer or at the trade deadline this summer or they could acquire one next winter. Then, the other pitcher could be one of their own prospects. Right now, the accruement of another pitcher is extremely likely. In addition, the Cubs could produce more than one pitcher on their own. The problem, though, is that there is no number one or two type starter among them. Still, the pitching prospects could all be functional on many levels.

Three likely to get a shot next spring

  1. Eddie Butler – Right now, he’s looking good. He is pitching well in a predominant hitting league. He is not striking out as many hitters as I thought he would/could, but he is getting them out in a timely manner with as few  pitches as possible. He’s not throwing straight gas, but is using all his pitches. His current ERA of 1.49 is the lowest in the Cubs system for starters with 4 starts.
  2. Duane Underwood – He’s having a bit of a renaissance season. He has a 3.00 ERA in 3 starts, one in which he struck out 8. I would like to see him go a bit deeper in each start. Currently, he’s gone 5 innings in each one.
  3. Alec Mills – He made two starts and then went on the DL. His second start was a bit of a gem. He went 6 IP with 3 hits and no runs allowed. It should be interesting to see how he does when he returns.

Three who could get a shot next next spring

  1. Trevor Clifton – I really like Trevor. He has two plus pitches and an improving changeup. Some call him workmanlike, but I don’t see that. He has a lot of talent. He can throw hard. Once he gets in a groove, he is almost unhittable. Even though his fastball comes in between 92-95, it has late action that occurs ten feet from the plate. His curve can be knee buckling while his change has some arm side run at times. He currently has a 2.66  ERA and all of the earned runs he’s allowed this year came on just two pitches until last night. He has improved on the little things a lot since South Bend and now has one of the best pick off moves in the system. I think he gets a shot in spring training and is likely added to the 40 man this fall.
  2. Jen-Ho Tseng – He’s a bit of an enigma. LIke Underwood, he’s having a bit of a resurgent year. So far, he’s had 4 starts with a 2.45 ERA. He’s struck out 14 in 22 IP. Yet, there are still the questions of dependability and consistency. In 2014, he was the Cubs MiLB Pitcher of the Year. Since then, he’s struggled to figure out what kind of pitcher he can be. It looks like he’s reverted to 2014 and it looks like it is working.
  3. Zach Hedges – I love watching this young man pitch. He’s a ground ball machine. His start on Tuesday saw him go 7 IP with only 1 hit. His current ERA is 2.38 and is likely headed down. He should be the first pitcher at AA Tennessee to get the call to AAA Iowa, whose staff is a bit distressed. Whether or not he can make it to Chicago really depends on his ability to keep the ball down in AAA Iowa when he gets there. He has a plus slider and throws mostly between 90-94 with his sinking fastball.

You are probably wondering why Dylan Cease is not on this list. Currently he is at low A South Bend. He will not be ready come next spring to attempt to compete for a spot in Chicago. He’s likely to be ready in 2019. Even if he makes it to AA Tennessee in August this year, he needs a lot of work on a changeup or a third pitch. If he’s going to be just a two pitch pitcher, then Cease will just be a reliever very, very quickly.

Tennessee Smokies Preview – Looking for an Elusive Title

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By Todd Johnson

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2016 in Review
Last year was a huge disappointment for the Tennessee Smokies. Their team was stacked with players who won back to back championships at Kane County and Myrtle Beach. Aside from a few individual performances, the Smokies and Manager Mark Johnson limped to a 58-81 record.

Infielder Chesney Young and outfielders Mark Zagunis and Bijan Radmacher were the highlights of the season. Zagunis and Rademacher both were promoted to Iowa in the middle of the year while Young stayed in Tennessee through the end of the season and competed for the Southern League batting title.

On the mound, injuries decimated the starting staff and a midseason trade of top pitcher Paul Blackburn to the Mariners did not help. However, there were a few things that went right that including the second halves of starter Zach Hedges and relievers James Faris and Jose Rosario.

2017 Preview
For Manager Mark Johnson, he has to be excited about the 2017 campaign. He is getting an influx of players coming off a championship of their own from Myrtle Beach. Combined with some holdovers, Tennessee could make a run at that championship that eluded them in 2016.

Pitching
Zach Hedges will start the year at Tennessee, but if he pitches like he did last year in the second half, he won’t be in Kodak very long. Trevor Clifton, whose home is only about 45 minutes away, could be taking over the ace role very quickly. Both pitchers improved exponentially in 2016. Clifton with his command, and Hedges with his velocity. The former South Bend and Myrtle Beach teammates could both be in contention for 2 starting spots next year in Chicago if they can get to Iowa by August this year.

Duane Underwood will be returning to Tennessee after an injury-riddled 2016. However, it is unclear if he will be a starter or a reliever. I am hoping for a starter. Erick Leal should build upon his excellent 2016 season and might be the breakout prospect for the team this year. It would not surprise me, either, to see Preston Morrison do well at Tennessee with his whiffle ball repertoire. For Jake Stinnett, he has yet to put it together but he still has a starting spot at AA. It is close to “make it or break it” because of his age (He will be 25 in April). The bullpen might be calling sooner rather than later.

Ryan McNeil, Jordan Minch, Daury Torrez, Tommy Thorpe, and James Pugliese lead an experienced bullpen that was a key to the Pelicans championship run.

Position Players
New to Tennessee will be a few of position players who are starting to come into their own. They are not necessarily elite prospects yet, but they are excellent baseball players who could play an important role in the Cubs’ system going forward.

All winter long I thought that Ian Happ would be in Tennessee at least to begin the year. That all changed on Monday night. For the group of position players coming to Tennessee, I think they are used to it. I think they will thrive with that opportunity to play.

During last year’s championship run for Myrtle Beach, Yasiel Balaguert and David Bote both put the fear of God into every baseball the last two months of the 2016 season. Balaguert hit 19 home runs for the Pelicans in a noted pitcher’s league. Bote hit over .400 in July and August leading the Pelicans down the stretch. Bote can play all four infield positions but is best suited for second base and third base.

2015 draftee Ian Rice showed he could hit for power and also have a high on-base percentage between South Bend and Myrtle Beach last year. This spring, Rice spent more time at honing his catching skills and hopefully his bat will produce more home runs in the Southern League. I think he will be the sleeper of the year for the Smokies. His bat has a lot of power as he hit 9 dingers for Myrtle Beach in 39 games and 15 for the year. I think his bat will play better in the Southern League. It would not surprise me to see him 20+ this summer.

Gold glove outfielder Trey Martin should be patrolling centerfield and will be an asset to any pitcher on the mound for the Smokies. Hopefully, he can improve his bat as he already has major league range and defense in the outfield. Charcer Burks struggled in the first half last year at Myrtle Beach and was very good in the second half from the leadoff spot. I expect to see him do better playing above sea level, too.

Overall, this is an experienced team that will use power and the ability to get on base to score runs. They are not going to overwhelm you with the ability to hit for average, rather they will capitalize on opportunities to get the job done by doing the little things…and sometimes big things.

The pitching, on the other hand, has the potential to be something special with Clifton, Hedges, Leal, and Morrison anchoring the rotation to go along with an experienced and disciplined bullpen. I think this year Smokies team has a lot of talent whose fruition began last year at Myrtle Beach.

Breakout prospect
Erick Leal – Last year, he had the quietest 10–4 season of any pitcher in the Cubs’ system. He had a 3.23 ERA and struck out 66 batters in a little over 90 innings pitched. He might never be a power picture, but he could be a ground ball machine, which I think he is now. Leal is able to keep hitters off-balance and he works quickly to do so. He might only throw in the low 90s, but he is also able to command the bottom of the zone well. I think this year at AA will be quite the task for him and he should succeed just on pitchability factors.

Probable Lineup
LF – Charcer Burks
CF – Trey Martin
RF – Jeffrey Baez
3B – Jason Vosler
SS – Flete, Ely
2B – Bote
1B – Balaguert
C – Rice, Alberto Mineo

I still think the Smokies are going to need some help on offense. Therefore, when his bone bruise is healed, I would not be surprised to see Eloy Jimenez arrive by the end of May.

First to Be Promoted – It’s going to be a pitcher. If I had to put money on it, I would go with Zach Hedges who already has a half in at AA. If I went with my heart, I would go with Trevor Clifton. Either way, the Iowa Cubs can’t lose.

Spring Training News and Notes- Week 5

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By Todd Johnson

It’s been a pretty busy week in the Cub universe. Minor-league teams started playing and the Cubs cut their roster down to 40. Eloy was assigned to the minor league camp, Duane Underwood saw some action with the big league, Kyle Schwarber entered another ball into outer space, and Eddie Butler stole the show for the week.

The week began last Sunday with the bullpen meltdown when the Cubs gave up 4 runs in two innings to lose to the A’s. William Perez gave up four runs and Rob Zastryzny gave up another to lose the game. As for the rest of the week, the Cubs consistently put up runs across the board. Ian Happ continues to hit well as does Matt Szczur.

The Cubs also trimmed the roster down to 40. Some of those on the 40 man roster were sent to minor league camp including Duane Underwood, who actually started on Friday and threw a scoreless inning giving up one hit and getting two ground ball outs and one flyball out to escape.

As for Eloy, the Cubs did not say to which team he had been assigned. Before spring training it was assumed he would be with Myrtle Beach. I don’t think that’s been determined and I still think you’re going to see him play with the big boys the next two weeks pending examination of a sore shoulder – hopefully, it is nothing. Ian Happ is part of the 40 players vying for 25 spots, but it’s more like 16 players for 2 spots – a relief pitcher and a utility guy.

The pitching star of the week was Eddie Butler who went 4 scoreless. He’s having a better spring than either Mike Montgomery or Brett Anderson. In fact, Anderson and Mark Montgomery both struggled in their appearances this week. If Butler continues his progression, he may not be down in Iowa very, very long. And the same could be true of Alec Mills, who also has had a pretty good spring.

As for the minor league camp…

Carlos Sepulveda went three for four in the first intrasquad game and then found himself up playing with the major league club in Friday’s win over Arizona. Like Eloy, Sepulveda has shown excellent bat to ball skills in camp, but also in their first season in South Bend. Whether that means he’s going to jump Myrtle Beach, I doubt it. However, he could move a little faster than a normal prospect. The fact that he hits left-handed is also a positive. and recently he gained a lot of praise in Keith Law’s second base rankings as one of the top 10 minor league second basemen.

Zack Short, Ian Rice, and Trent Giambrone also hit the ball all over and out of the park with 18-year-old Jonathan Sierra. The hitters clearly have a jump on the pitchers so far. Kyle Miller pitched the best while Wyatt Short gave up 3 runs in one appearance. That three more runs than he gave up all last year. Manny Rondon, who should be in South Bend in 2017, looked very good in his first appearance this spring.

Michael Rucker, lefty Colton Freeman, and Thomas Hatch also looked outstanding in their debuts. The player to watch for this spring looks to be Sepulveda followed by Giambrone, catcher Michael Cruz, and DJ Wilson.

As for me…
I finally finished my busy season this week. I coach the academic team at the school where I teach and the kids finished their season this week. They went undefeated in conference play and brought home a championship trophy below. Here is our awesome trophy!

Thankfully, the season finished just in time for baseball. As a result, expect to see more posts including Tuesday’s look at whether Ian Happ can make the roster. To be honest, It’s not that far-fetched.

Upcoming Posts
Draft Review
How Close is Ian Happ?