Looking back at 2021, there were a lot of cool stories that happened over the course of the year. Let’s look at several of them that affected our consciousness. These are not in any order
The Hernandez Signing
The year began fairly quickly with the signing of Cristian Hernandez. He was ranked as one of the top international free agents in his class and he wound up debuting last summer in the Dominican summer league where he more than held his own at the age of 17. He would later become one of Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects before he even played a game.
MLB Downsizes Minors
Eugene was no longer a short season affiliate while South Bend was moved up to High-A. In addition, The minor league season would take place on Tuesday through Sunday and Mondays became a day off which made it easier to do transactions and move players around the system.
Injuries Early and Often
Pitching started getting injured early in the year as Ben Hecht and Jack Patterson went down in spring training. They were closely followed by Riley Thompson and Kohl Franklin. Cole Roederer only made it through a couple weeks of the season before he was injured. Occasional injuries would happen over the course of the year and that included Derek Casey getting injured at South Bend along with Sam Thoresen at Myrtle Beach.
The phrase was actually coined by Tim Huwe in a group chat and it came to stick every day for the Pelicans when pitcher DJ Herz got off to such a great start in Myrtle Beach. I got to see JD pitch for South Bend where he looked like a prospect who was pretty polished but still has room for improvement.
Seems like everywhere you looked last summer, the bullpens for each affiliate were just off the hook. With Ben Leeper, Cayne Ueckert, Ethan Roberts, Scott Kobos, Brandon Hughes, and Jeremiah Estrada, to mention a few, it was unreal what a leap forward, no pun intended, the pitching took in 2021.
Brennen Davis Explosion
After a rough couple of first weeks in Double-A, Davis began to take off and then exploded in the month of July with his play at Tennessee and his MVP turn at the Futures Game. All of a sudden, the Cubs had themselves a top 20 MLB prospect. He would get a cup of coffee at Iowa to end the year and will probably start there to begin 2022.
Jordan Wicks Cubs Top Pick
The lefty out of Kansas State was the consensus top southpaw in last year‘s draft class. The Cubs love his changeup and work ethic as well as his great intelligence. He’s going to be fun to watch starting fresh this spring.
The Trade Deadline Haul
With all the trades at the end of July, the Cubs brought in over a dozen new players to the organization. Only two of them debuted in Chicago but the Cubs really reshaped the strength of the system as the Cubs went heavy on young and toolsy players. Headlining that list were Pete Crow-Armstrong, Kevin Alcântara, Alexander Canario, Daniel Palencia, Greg Deichmann, Alexander Vizcaino, Caleb Kilian, Bryce Ball, and Anderson Espinoza.
Draft Day Steals
And just a few short weeks, James Triantos took over the Twitterverse. From the first time he was first mentioned by Greg Zumach on a Prospects Live mock draft show to actually getting taken by the Cubs in the second round to tearing up the Arizona Complex League after his first week, he’s going to be a top 10 prospect fairly quickly in the system, if not a MLB top 100 guy by the end of the year. In addition, it looks like the Cubs struck gold with Drew Gray in the third round, Christian Franklin in the fourth, as well as Zac Leigh in the 16th, and probably Frankie Scalzo in the 14th. This could be the class everyone talks about for years to come. And I didn’t even mention Parker Chavers.
Nelson Velazquez and Caleb Kilian dominated the Arizona Fall League. Velazquez did it at the plate and Kilian was dominant the last four weeks after making some grip changes to a couple of his pitches. In the championship game, he threw six perfect innings on TV and he could bolt his way onto a top 100 list fairly quickly. Chances are he’s not going to be on it long if those changes lead to him getting to Chicago faster.
I will be back in a day or two with my 10 top storyline predictions for 2022.