The entertainment factor in Chicago is basically at zero right now. The stars of the team are gone, fans aren’t showing up for August baseball games like we have grown accustomed to over the past several years, and we can only rely on Rafael Ortega and Patrick Wisdom to bring so much excitement on a nightly basis.
Fortunately, there are 180 minor leaguers in the system taking the field every day and that means 180 dudes with different skillsets, personalities, and quirks. Of course you are going to tune in to watch the top prospects in the system to get a little glimpse at Chicago’s future. But what if you just want to watch the sport you love and be entertained by fun baseball players?
These five guys catch my eye because of their style of play, particular talents, and flash on both sides of the ball.
Delvin Zinn – UT, Tennessee
It’s only appropriate to lead off this list with the guy who spurred the idea to begin with. Tuning in each night to watch Zinn play is an absolute joy. He plays the game with a smile on his face, seems to be every player’s favorite teammate and every fan’s favorite player, and is spoken highly of by media everywhere.
In previous seasons, Zinn played all over the diamond, lining up at three different infield spots in addition to his outfield work. This year he took over the primary shortstop responsibilities for High-A South Bend and showed off terrific range in addition to his smooth actions. At Double-A Tennessee, he has already played four different positions: three on the dirt and then out in left field.
The batter was called safe, but man is Delvin Zinn playing some really impressive defensive shortstop right now pic.twitter.com/HLZWnI4dLm
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) May 27, 2021
At the plate, he strikes out at better than league average rates (120 K%+) and his ability to put the ball in play allows him to showcase his elite speed. Speaking of speed, he has plenty to burn. He is aggressive, yet incredibly smart and oh, by the way, leads the world with 43 stolen bases this year. Credit the High-A Central League’s new pickoff rules all you want, but the guy simply knows how to swipe a bag.
DJ Herz – LHP, Myrtle Beach
The reason Davidjohn gets the feature comes down to one very simple reason: When he pitches, it is appointment television. In his first taste of full-season ball, he has soared up prospect lists thanks to an absurd 40.8% strikeout rate as a lefty starting pitcher. He is the frontrunner for Cubs MiLB Pitcher of the Year, but he catches my eye for more reasons than just the stats he puts up.
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) May 21, 2021
Herz is Rob Manfred’s favorite player, working fast as hell on the mound. He often finds himself staring down the batter, waiting for him to get in the box so the umpire can allow him to throw the ball. That exciting-yet-intimidating approach makes him entertaining as all get-out to watch every five days. Heck, I think he deserves a spot on this list just based on the fact that he has a whole day named after him. Be sure you tune in for each Herzday, y’all.
Tyler Durna – 1B, South Bend
Typically, first basemen catch your eye for hitting moonshots and maybe doing something out of the ordinary as they circle the bases. But Durna cracks this list because of his grinding plate appearances and his defensive chops.
At the dish, I’m pretty sure every one of his plate appearances runs to at least a three-ball count. His contact-oriented approach has led to the sixth lowest strikeout rate in the system (min. 150 PA) and he is one of only eight hitters in the system with numbers at least league average in K%+ and BB%+.
While his frame (6-0, 205 lbs) doesn’t shout first baseman, his glove is constantly bailing out his fellow infielders from throwing errors and he has a very strong arm when he gets the chance to use it. He also has the best range of a true first baseman I’ve seen in the Cubs’ system in years. First basemen can be fun, too.
He didn’t catch it but if you want an idea of Tyler Durna’s defensive skills, this will paint you a pretty good picture pic.twitter.com/PZYu7iOOvv
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) July 15, 2021
Cam Sanders – RHP, Tennessee
When people use the phrase, “Let the kids play,” one of the kids they are talking about is Sanders. He became popular all of the social media world early in the season thanks to his various shimmies and shakes after dropping slow curveballs and diving changeups on sword-waving batters. The entertainment factor is through the roof and it is exactly why you should tune in on nights that he pitches.
— Caleb Webb (@calebgwebb) May 22, 2021
After dominating Double-A hitters early in the year, Sanders has come back down to earth a bit due to the longball. But don’t get too bogged down by his elevated ERA. The rest of his numbers still look very impressive, just check out his 1.28 WHIP, the fact that he is holding batters to a .206 clip, or his 28.2% strikeout rate that is good for the fifth-best mark in the system among starting pitchers.
Christopher Morel – UT, Tennessee
I mean, you guys had to know this was coming, right? I have long said that the way Morel plays the game reminds me a ton of one Ednel Javier Baez. It’s his incredibly fast hands and big swing, ability to get to ground balls destined to be gobbled up by the hole, and the cannon strapped to his right arm. Every time he takes the field, he makes you say “Wow!”
And this year’s version of Morel is proving to be an even more well-rounded player than we have seen in the past. His 12 home runs rank second in the system, his 10 stolen bases rank tenth and he is walking at a league-average rate, a skill that he did not have in past years. He has played six different positions (2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF) and even recorded a couple outfield assists.
You simply never know what Morel is going to do on a baseball field on any given day, so you better tune in so you don’t miss out!
Here’s a little taste of the Chris Morel Experience ™️. The kid just has so much Javy Baez in him. These highlights were just from one (1) game.
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) January 7, 2020