Sunday marked the end of the minor league season for the A-ball affiliated teams — High-A South Bend and Low-A Myrtle Beach — but Cubs fans are turning out to get some extra baseball.
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans and South Bend Cubs find themselves in a best 3-match streak to win their divisional crown, which will take them to the league series if they move on. The Pelicans will travel to face the Charleston River Dogs tomorrow night, while South Bend will host Cedar Rapids Kernels.
I had a few thoughts this morning as I was perusing the final regular season numbers for Myrtle Beach and South Bend…
- I hope Jordan Nojo ends up winning the MVP award in September, because he deserves some credit for the amazing race he’s had. It’s not just the 1,130 OPS in the nine games this month, though it’s the entire second half: .299/ .373/ .611 since the minors made a brief hiatus at the MLB All-Star Weekend. I’ll ask if something has changed with the Nwogu, but I think it’s been a case of results catching up with an improved process throughout the season. Nwogu is one of the best players in the organization at staying true to his board approach, and the Cubs’ swing changes since he was drafted have helped him lift the ball more consistently. Nwogu finished the season with the 19th best in WRC+ (at least 300 PA at the level).
- One particular point of excitement with Nwogu: In his last 13 matches, spanning across 53 board appearances, he’s only achieved three times. If it gets above average in the connection shaft, given how much damage it can do to a baseball, it’s going to get interesting, and real fast.
- I’m not sure people will be able to guess the Cubs farm system leader in percentage over base in 2022 (minimum 300 PA). It’s BJ Murray. The previous 15th round ended the season with a hot streak of its own, with a season-ending slash of .286/.410/.429 split evenly between High- and Low-A. Listed 6-0, 205, Murray is a substitution cornerback and will turn 23 per season. If you follow the Five Stars this year, you’ll find occasional pleas for the Cubs to try Murray at second base, as I’m not sure he would develop the strength required to serve as a corner player. However, I think the Cubs will help him make better use of his strength in the board, and his swing decisions are among the best in the system. Great year, and a really smart project choice by Kantrovitz Crew in 2021.
- in more than Baseball America Jeff Pontes wrote about five amazing fastball shooters, but relatively small sequences. You will see My Mid-Season Possible Number 12 I wrote about it there, and it’s no surprise how many times Daniel Palencia has touched triple digits this season. The BA staff gets good Trackman data, so this is especially notable: “He runs above average and runs on a fast ball at spin rates between 2,300 and 2,400 rpm, and the flat vertical approach angle on the board makes it tough for hitters to Good luck if they can time his overspeed.” I think if the Cubs can play a meaningful baseball game over the course of next season, we’ll see Valencia come in as a dynamic home to help, but given a very strong five-court mix, I’m still highly considering the starting bowler.
- After a rough start to the final regular season, here’s how Kohl Franklin’s regular season numbers end: 69.1 IP, 72 H, 6.88 ERA, 41 BB, 75 K. I’ll note that Franklin had the 10-lowest LOB% in all minor league baseball, which is the stat Which usually falls back to Medium which reflects how often you race with runners at the base. From the close, Franklin carried the hitters to a 0.607 OPS, but outside the extension, it swelled to 1.072. I expect there are nasty and noteworthy reasons contributing to that giant gap, and you can bet the Cubs will explore whether and why Franklin’s stuff might flatten out on the stretch. He’s still a top 30 candidate and a good candidate for Breakthrough 2023, even if I can’t make an argument that he should be added to the 40-man list in November.
- Here’s a fun stat: Left underdog Riley Martin has led all of the minor league bowlers who have been in eight or fewer batting games this year. Martin started just one game! A great mix of broken balls is responsible for 120 strokes in 82.2 runs, and Martin has definitely done enough to put himself in the Double-A mix for next year. I bet the Cubs put Martin on another round of speed training, trying to squeeze a little higher score into the fastball, but this ever-happening conversation suggests a positive value on his $1,000 signature bonus has already been made.
- Hayden McGearry, the Cubs’ 15th round with video game numbers in college, really helped the Pelicans along for the stretch. He looks the part from his 6-foot-5 roster, but there has to be some extra muscle to add in the weight room. He hits the ball with the force you’re looking for, and his all-field approach helps him avoid some of the hits you’d expect from a player with his profile. Cubs will definitely work with McGeary to make some changes (simplifying his pre-swing routine, using his legs more efficiently, maybe even steepening the vertical bat angle), but there’s a fun foundation.
- One note is not the ball. in A small preview of Hayden Wesneski’s debutshe wrote that recent trips have been “leaving me with some concern that a higher-than-average home run is doomed in the short term.” We saw this on our second outingAnd I thought it’s worth following up with some thoughts on how Wesneski’s development can fix these issues. And the good news: Here’s what we saw from Justin Steele last year!
- How did Steele fix his home run problems in 2021? we will We know he changed the shape of the fastball Some, we know, has worked to drive better, and its initial elements have just been purposefully improved. This is the Wesinsky Road. His four-tailor drifts quite a bit far into the “dead zone”, sometimes throwing only mid-and-mid sliders to move forward, and the cutter and shift still needs consistency improvements. Small tweaks in each category will help, and I think the show crew’s ability to use Steele’s Leap as an alternative would be really helpful.