Five Unheralded Cubs Pitching Prospects to Monitor in 2017

After several years of turning out only position players, it’s getting to the point where the Cubs will soon be producing some starting pitching for the major leagues. In 2016, Rob Zastryzny became the first pitcher drafted in the Theo Epstein era to start in the big leagues. As we head into a new season, there are lots of storylines involving some recent additions to the Cubs’ stable of pitchers that are advancing through the system.

While I have waxed poetic about Zach Hedges, Dylan Cease, and Trevor Clifton over the past two years, let’s take a look at five relatively unheralded arms to watch for.

Tom Hatch – I was impressed that the Cubs shut him down after the College World Series, though he did show up and dazzle in fall instructs for a bit as if to tease us with his talent. Hatch already has a four-pitch mix, at least according to what I saw in the three games I watched him pitch in 2016. I would like to say that I know where he’s going to start 2017, but I honestly don’t. Logic dictates that South Bend would be the perfect landing place. However, Myrtle Beach might be the best spot. I thought that about Preston Morrison in 2016, but that didn’t happen. On the other hand, Hatch has a bit more zip on his stuff than Morrison does.

Jose Albertos – He only threw four innings this past season, yet he was the toast of spring training and extended spring training. Just a 17-year-old right-hander, Albertos was throwing in the mid-to-upper-90’s and impressing everyone who saw him. It’s too bad he only got to pitch in one game in the Arizona Rookie League. With his stuff, he might move a little faster if healthy.

Bailey Clark – One of my favorite players to watch last summer in Eugene, Clark’s fastball was anywhere from 92 to 98. I am really looking forward to watching him develop at South Bend. The key word here is “develop.” The Duke product could be quite the steal from last year’s draft. In 2015, as a sophomore, he drew rave reviews and was viewed as a possible first-round pick. Then he struggled mightily as a junior and was relieved of his starting duties. I think professional coaching is what Clark needed, as he looked almost unhittable at times with Eugene before he was shut down for the year after 5 starts.

Erling Moreno – The second most impressive pitcher on the Eugene Emeralds’ roster this year after Dylan Cease, Moreno has a plus 12-to-6 curveball that can freeze a lot of hitters when thrown in the right count. He missed nearly two years due to Tommy John surgery, so 2016 was really our first chance to watch him progress. At just 19 years old, he had a 0.72 ERA and opponents only hit .156 off him. Probably the most incredible of his stats was a WHIP of 0.68 while getting 2.2 ground balls to every fly ball. Moreno was just amazing and yet not many people are talking about him. They should. 

Kyle Twomey – He was filthy at times last year with his big breaker that mystified most hitters in the Midwest League. While he excelled in a relief role, I think it would be a good idea to stretch him as a starter this year so he can work on his overall pitches. That said, I still think Twomey’s long-term outlook is as a reliever. He also might be one of those swingmen like Mike Montgomery and Travis Wood who can both start and give you innings out of the pen. He should do very well for Myrtle Beach.

What’s impressive is that there are so many good, young arms in the system just waiting to develop. I think it’s also cool that there really is a lot of competition for spots from low-A all the way to Iowa for next year. Jed Hoyer once said that the Cubs wanted waves of pitching. They’re still building in the minors, but those waves are soon to be lapping the shores of Lake Michigan.

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