The Cubs’ Low-A affiliate Myrtle Beach Pelicans need to win tonight to stay alive in the playoffs. They dropped the opener of their division series 2-1 on Tuesday in Charleston. Game Two is tonight at 6:05pm CT.
This was the Tennessee Smokies’ lineup last night, and yowsa-yowsa-yowsa that’s just pure prospect status:
You really can pick any player in the Tennessee Smokies lineup and talk up their status as a legit prospect, including the guys who were just called up from Double-A. But a guy who probably gets the least talk relative to his potential is corner infielder B.J. Murray Jr. The switch-hitter has had a great week, and has hit .286/.397/.500/140 wRC+ (14.6% BB, 23.1% K) over the last two months. He’s 23 and in only his second full pro season, and I think he just kinda gets lost in the shuffle of the loaded farm system and his loaded team. Is he among the Cubs’ ten best position prospects? Probably not. But is he going to be on the big league radar by midseason next year if there’s a need and he’s playing well at Triple-A? Absolutely.
Cade Horton returned yesterday in that Smokies game, by the way, throwing another 4.0 scoreless innings. He allowed three hits and three walks, though gameday had one of those walks as what should have been a strikeout. The development list stint, it turns out, wasn’t about ending his season, it was just about limiting innings in advance of the playoffs. Now he’s lined up to start the Smokies’ postseason opener next week (which will push him over 90 innings on the year, which is great for 2024 stretch-out purposes).
Oh, and the outing dropped Horton’s Double-A ERA to just 1.33. The only pitcher in the Southern League to reach 20+ innings with a lower ERA is Horton’s org-mate, Ben Brown. Also, this is his professional debut season. Also, he just turned 22. Also, he barely pitched in college.
Matt Mervis just keeps on doing his thing at Iowa, and he might just have to keep patiently waiting for another shot in 2024:
Luis Vazquez, who has become a no-brainer 40-man addition after the season (otherwise you lose him to minor league free agency), had a perfect day at the plate today for Iowa, going 3-3 with a double, a walk, and a sac fly. Stole a base, too, just to fill up the stat sheet.
Not to be confused with fellow infielder Luis Verdugo, who struggled to start the year in his first shot at Double-A, and then raked in a return to High-A:
I suspect Verdugo’s monster second half, albeit at a lower level than initially expected for him, will keep the 22-year-old in the organization for another year (he’s Rule 5 eligible, but I don’t think he is a realistic 40-man add). He’ll need to show he can hit at Double-A in the first half next year, though, because he doesn’t have the same middle-infield glove that Vazquez does, which is what bought everyone a little more patience with Vazquez until he broke out at the plate this year. It can happen, though – it’s easy to forget that Vazquez, who is one year older than Verdugo, absolutely did not hit a lick last year. Then, boom, big breakout this season.
Verdugo also got some love in the BA Hot Sheet, as did recently-promoted teammates Kevin Alcántara and Christian Franklin:
I cannot tell you how good it is to see some games with really hard contact from Brennen Davis the last couple weeks. Results, obviously you want them. But given his last two years and core injuries, the real thing you wanted to see by the end of the year was that he was still capable of hitting the ball really hard. Seems to be checking that box.
I’m not saying strikeouts aren’t something Owen Caissie has to work on, but I do think – especially given what we know about the pre-tacked ball in the first half – you almost have to completely ignore Caissie’s initial strikeout rate this year:
The Instructional League is kind of like a spring-training-type environment for the younger prospects/guys who’ve missed time after their regular season has ended. It’s a way to get in some more reps and hone some skills before a winter break. Arizona Phil has this year’s roster:
Meanwhile, the Arizona Fall League begins October 2, and the only Cubs prospect we’ve yet heard will be included is Alexander Canario. The Pipeline crew discusses a prospect from each org they’d like to see in the AFL this year, and it’s top draft pick Matt Shaw for the Cubs: “Shaw had a decorated college career before the Cubs drafted him 13th overall this July, winning the Cape Cod League batting title (.360) and MVP award in 2022 before setting Maryland’s career home run record (53) en route to Big Ten Conference Player of the Year accolades this spring. He combines aggressiveness and discipline at the plate and has raced to Double-A while slashing .366/.418/.642 with seven homers and 13 steals in his first 33 pro games.”
I think Shaw’s performance this year indicates he would definitely not be outmatched in the AFL, even though he only just made his pro debut. I think the question is going to be more about rest, readiness, and how quickly the Cubs see him moving next year. If they do send him to the AFL, you can speculate about him starting the 2024 season at Iowa, and being on the radar for a midseason call-up to the big leagues, as crazy as that is.
Nice plaudit for a nice place to go:
Alcántara closed his 2023 season on a high note in the Midwest League’s year-end series against Quad Cities. Over the course of the week, he smacked his 12th home run of the season and added 15th stolen base. In doing so he became one of just 15 minor leaguers 21 years old or younger with 25 or more doubles, a dozen or more home runs and 15 or more stolen bags. The feat becomes more impressive when you realize he accomplished it in 414 at-bats, which was 67 fewer at-bats than anyone else on the list ….
Going back to his days at Arkansas, Franklin has always known how to draw a walk, but he’s also faced concerns about his passive approach. The craziest stat of Franklin’s season may be that his three-hit game this week is his first of the season. Franklin has six games this year where he’s reached base four times in a game, but every one of them has had as many hit-by-pitches and walks as hits. Franklin has been moved to left and right field full-time in the past month, but his ability to play all three outfield spots as well as that lofty OBP is his path to the big leagues.”