We’ve all heard the phrase “development isn’t linear” when it comes to prospects, and it’s repeated ad nauseam because it’s absolutely true. There are, however, certain inflection points over a player’s career that we can point to as signs that they are starting to get it. With all due allowance for the improved vision gained from increased hindsight, it appears as though Max Bain may have experienced such a point earlier in June.
During his seventh start of the season on June 11, Bain recorded an out in the 6th inning for the first time as a member of the Cubs organization. He also struck out 10 batters, something he hadn’t even accomplished in college.
“It’s been at least a few years,” he told CI at the time. “I did it in summer ball in New York but I can count on one hand how many times I’ve done that in my entire playing career.
“Probably the best I’ve ever thrown at any level.”
He followed that effort with a five-inning game that saw him throw a season-high 94 pitches to 24 batters, the most he’d faced with South Bend. Though the results weren’t as good as the previous outing, it was clear that Bain was growing more comfortable working deeper into the game. Then came Wednesday night against Fort Wayne, a start that set the bar higher.
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) June 24, 2021
Bain needed only 91 pitches, fewer than in any of his previous three starts, to complete a new season-high six innings against only 20 batters. Oh, those innings were both scoreless and hitless in case you’re interested in such things. That would be impressive enough on its own before factoring in three walks and two hit batters. Not that allowing five free baserunners isn’t necessarily impressive, but to prevent them from scoring and to generate the grounders necessary to eliminate those runners is a big deal.
What’s more, Bain got 25 looking strikes out of 51 total strikes on the evening and you can see from the clips above that hitters stood no chance. As if that wasn’t enough, the big righty knows he still has plenty of room to get better.
“I genuinely don’t think I had my best stuff last night,” Bain explained. “[Only] 51 strikes on 91 pitches isn’t where I want to be, but I will say I’m starting to get a little more chase which is extremely encouraging.”
Bain won’t turn 24 until the end of the season, he’s got the stamina to maintain high-90’s velocity into the later innings, and he’s only now getting his feet under him as a starter. Those of you who’d like to see him pitch in South Bend may want to get there soon because he might not be long for High-A if he keeps pitching like this.