It’s been a long time coming, but the Cubs may have some legitimate pitching prospects on their way. And they are not the cookie-cutter low-90’s fastball/slider/change, pitch-to-contact types that recently populated their minors. Strikeouts and upper 90’s fastballs have made a re-appearance. For this reason pitchers are at the forefront of this month’s top players.
The Cubs thought enough about the ability of Kohl Franklin to select him in the sixth round in 2018. Using the rest of that season to get acclimated to pro ball, Franklin then put in some good off-season conditioning.
Adding more muscle on his 6’4″, 190 lbs. frame aided Franklin in putting a few extra ticks on his fastball. The 19-year old now sits in the low-to-mid 90’s to go along with his slider and change-up. Accordingly, that translated in the box score, as Franklin was 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 1.18 WHIP for July. In addition, Franklin had 18 strikeouts in 17 innings, while holding batters to a .213 batting average.
When my Prospects1500 midseason Cubs Top 50 came out last month, some questioned Brailyn Marquez at number 3 on the list. The biggest knock against the 20-year old was not getting a lot of swings and misses in the strike zone. The lefty must have heard those rumblings. As a result Marquez had outings of 7, 14, and 8 strikeouts after the article was published.
That put the exclamation point on Marquez’s July, were he went 2-1 with 1.65 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 41 K’s in 27.1 innings. The cherry on top? Being promoted to Advanced-A Myrtle Beach, as Marquez was on August 6th.
So how do you follow up a month where you have a 0.95 ERA and 1.053 WHIP at Low-A South Bend? Getting promoted to Myrtle Beach, starting 5 games, and putting up a 0.00 ERA is a beginning.
However, that wasn’t all for Patterson. The left-hander went 2-0, struck out 24 in 23.2 innings, had a 0.676 WHIP, and held hitters to a .104 average. Patterson capped off his July with another promotion, to Double-A Tennessee.
Player of the Month: Nelson Maldonado
Selecting Maldonado in the 21st round, the Cubs got a high character player who was captain of the University of Florida team. After signing, the 22-year old played well in 8 rookie league games. Maldonado was promoted to Short Season Eugene after batting .278/.333/.500/.833 with a homer and 9 RBI.
Then Maldonado exploded in the Northwest League. In particular, Maldonado feasted on young pitching, hitting .414/.470/.534/1.004 with 4 doubles, a home run, and 11 RBI in 15 games. Capping off the month of July, Maldonado would hit .500 in two games with South Bend after being promoted.
For the most part, Maldonado has lined up at DH while playing some first base. However, Maldonado had an arm injury prior to this season. Previously, Maldonado had been used in left and right field, as well as third base. If Maldonado can recover, the Cubs may then have an interesting “four corners” prospect.
DSL Update: Transition Times
As the international signing period started in the beginning of July, the Cubs began to move prospects around. While new players moved in, some of the familiar names continued to produce.
Outfielder Yohendrick Pinango continued to stay hot, batting .300 for the month while driving in 18 and swiping 10 bases. Meanwhile, right-handed pitchers Kelvin Feliz and Luis Devers have moved into the league’s statistical categories. The 18-year old Feliz is one the tops in ERA at 1.95 to go with a 2-2 record, 1.283 WHIP and 54 strikeouts. On the other hand, 19-year old Devers sports a 1.091 WHIP to tie for tenth in the league. Devers is also 4-4 with a 2.45 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 55 innings.
AZL Update: More teams in transition
The reshuffling of the Cubs‘ minor league system has left the rookie league in the hands of what it is designed for, prospects under 20-years old.
Prospering are young hitters Fabian Pertuz, Ezequiel Pagan, and Ervis Marchan. The 18-year old has split time between third base and shortstop while racking up a .356/.390/.479/.869 line with 10 doubles, a triple, a home run, and 19 RBI in 36 games. The 19-year old Pagan fits the Cubs‘ mold of CF/lead-off hitter as he has batted .304/.369/.361/.730 with 6 doubles, a home run, 25 RBI, and 17 stolen bases in 37 games. Marchan is a 19-year old left-handed hitting first baseman that is batting .331/.391/.419/.810 with 6 doubles, a home run, and 20 RBI in 30 games.
Pitching is also in promising hands, as 20-year old Carlos Ocampo was 2-0 in July with 17 strikeouts in 18 innings and a 1.17 WHIP for Cubs-2. Twenty-year old Benjamin Rodriguez also showed improvement in July, going 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 21 strikeouts in 23 innings.
Tennessee Update: Still Scuffling
There still seems to be no hope for the Smokies, who posted a 8-21 record in July. One bright spot has been starting pitcher Cory Abbott. The 23-year old right-handed pitcher was able to bounce back from a pretty bad June. While Abbott went 0-3, he put up a 3.18 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 29 strikeouts in 28.1 innings. Abbott also held the opposition to a .132 batting average.
Iowa Update: Marking time
While the 1-Cubs hold a 10.5 game lead in their division, they scrapped by again in July at 16-15. This was their second straight month of finishing barely over .500. Pacing the Iowa attack has been outfielder Donnie Dewees. The 25-year old returned to the Cubs after being traded for RHP Alec Mills in 2017. In July, Dewees hit .282/.370/.507/.877 with 6 doubles, 2 triples, two home runs, and 14 RBI mostly from the lead-off position. Dewess has also pitched 2.2 innings in four games in order to give the bullpen a break.
Born and raised on Chicago's Northwest side, Tom is entering his tenth year covering the Cubs minor league system, writing for prestigious sites such as Chicago Cubs Online, Locked On Cubs, and Cubs Den. Over that period, Tom has published interviews with top prospects such as Aramis Ademan, Miguel Amaya, Willson Contreras, Jeimer Candelario, Dylan Cease, Ian Happ, Eloy Jimenez, Cole Roederer, and Gleyber Torres.
Known as "Tom U" across the internet, Tom also has a close working relationship with the front offices of all four of the Cubs' full season minor league teams. A frequent guest of the South Bend Cubs on WSBT radio, Tom has also written monthly articles for the South Bend Cubs' stadium program.