Now that the minor league regular season has ended, it’s time to sit back and reflect on just what went down this summer in the Cubs’ system. While we could probably list thousands of things we learned, we figured 10 would be sufficient to share for the time being.
Some of these are pleasant, others…not so much.
New baseballs meant changing our perceptions of pitching numbers
It was quite evident that changes were made to the baseball being used throughout the minors, and it really showed in the Pacific Coast League. Home runs were up nearly 60% across Triple-A as Major League Baseball took what was a normally high scoring league and made it even higher scoring. Iowa somehow managed to overcome the bouncy ball and win their division for the first time since 2008 with a team ERA of 4.61, which was third in the league.
Only Danny Hultzen had an ERA of under 3.00 for Iowa in the second half and Colin Rea was named PCL Pitcher of the Year with a 3.95 ERA in 26 starts. It’s all a bit too surreal considering they won their division basically wire-to-wire.
Brennen Davis is the real deal
When he wasn’t busy getting popped on the finger while attempting to bunt, the young 19-year-old outfielder from Arizona was just dazzling this year. He’s an incredible athlete with a quick, short stroke through the ball that generates immense power. By the middle of next summer, he should be a top 100 prospect on several lists. In fact, he could be on some as early as next spring.
Brennen Davis punishes baseballs. pic.twitter.com/xEQtU9b2II
— Itsacon (@thats_so_cub) July 6, 2019
Ethan Roberts can pitch
It’s one thing to go through two levels of baseball in a year, but to see such quick adaptation and domination from a 2018 4th round draft pick has been incredible. He went from a two-pitch closer at South Bend to a guy with a four-pitch repertoire at Myrtle Beach. He didn’t just add any old slider to his high-spin curve, he added a freaking nasty one.
Ethan and his slider pic.twitter.com/PI6tvNAR1H
— TheBullpen🐾 (@RealCubsAnalyst) August 25, 2019
Teenagers rule the world, or at least the lower levels of the system
Between South Bend and Eugene, the Cubs have plenty of teenagers who are going to be the stars of the system for the next three summers. From Davis to Chris Morel to Kohl Franklin to Cole Roederer, these guys are everywhere and it’s awesome to watch unfold.
Miguel Amaya’s stamina improved a good deal
Unlike in 2018, Amaya did not wear down over the last two months of the season due to the rigors of catching. In fact, he had his best month of the year in July and still did well in August despite catching almost every day. I’m excited to see him in the Southern League as it is more hitter-friendly than the Carolina League.
The Cubs are sending him to the Arizona Fall League, where he could actually get a jump start on 2020 by playing AA level competition.
June draft already producing promising pitchers
This year‘s draft class was heavy on pitchers, pretty much all of whom flashed in some fashion at short-season Eugene. Chris Clarke and Michael McAvene, both closers the Cubs are turning into starters as pros, looked filthy at times. Fifth round pick Josh Burgmann improved from week to week.
There’s a lot of promise there for next year when they get stretched out and I’m excited to see what they’ll be able to do at South Bend and Myrtle Beach. I didn’t talk even about Michael Jensen, who was shut down in mid-August when he met his innings limit for the year.
I am glad that Keegan Thompson will be in the Arizona Fall League. He got in a couple rehab starts in Arizona before the end of this year, but he could make up for some lost time by getting five or six more outings in Arizona. In addition, it looks as though Jeremiah Estrada is going to miss all of 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery recently.
Unless he has a miraculous comeback next year, he’ll still only be 21 years old when he returns in 2021. Other arms shut down for the year include Danis Correa, Duncan Robinson, Justin Steele, Luke Hagerty, Corey Black, Connor Lillis-White, Jose Albertos, and Eury Ramos.
Don’t sleep on Cory Abbott
While Brailyn Marquez was making all the headlines with his ascension the past six weeks, Cory Abbott posted a 0.98 ERA and struck out 50 guys in 36.1 innings. Those numbers are actually better than what Marquez put together. I’m pumped to see what Abbott can do next year because all he’s ever done as a Cub is to go out and perform.
He shows up every fifth day to take the ball and gives you six or seven innings, allows just a few hits, and strikes out seven to ten guys. That’s who he is. The Cubs should be very high on Abbot.
Robel Garcia was the right guy at the right time
He’s still working on some things, like cutting down his K rate, but you cannot deny that Garcia mashes baseballs. He was was easily the Cubs’ MiLB Player of the Year and it wasn’t even close. Hopefully the Cubs can fix some things with his approach this winter while also working on his defense.
He’s more exciting than any other hitters in Tennessee and Iowa and has to be in contention for an Opening Day spot in 2020. That bat just pops.
Robel Garcia hit this ball really far. pic.twitter.com/P4f4iw4hPX
— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) June 26, 2019
The system is deeper than lists and rankings tell you
Don’t let the popular rankings fool you, the Cubs have talent in their system and you’re going to see that status trending up soon. By the middle of next summer, the Cubs could very well have four top-100 prospects in Hoerner, Amaya, Davis, and Marquez. Then they’ll have Jensen, McAvene, Morel, Roederer, and others getting very close.
And it’s not just the big names you’ve seen here: Hunter Bigge has upper 90’s heat; Cam Sanders grew immensely this year and will be adding a slider this winter; Richard Gallardo pitched at Eugene at 17 years old. I could go on, but I’d better just stop there.