DJ Herz picture by Todd Johnson
And here we thought that Prospect List season was over. Well, Marquee Sports Network’s Lance Bozdowski drops a banger of a list this morning. It is a deep dive into a deep world of Cub prospects.
In a shocker, Brennen Davis came in first. What happens next is a cavalcade of young prospects that has a few surprises.
The top five of Davis, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Kevin Alcantara, Owen Caissie, and Jordan Wicks is pretty standard fare. Then the selections of Cristian Hernandez and James Triantos come in at 6 and 7. Nothing too surprising.
At 8, the first surprise of the list drops as DJ Herz comes in like a hurricane. Most lists this winter had DJ in the 10-15 range except for most of us here at North Side Bound where we have him tied for sixth. I really got into the mechanics of how Lance describe what works for DJ. Lance said:
This is essentially a fancy nerd way to say that Herz does something different. It shows up in the data and it shows up in the results […] His changeup is funky and fits in the elite category of changeups that drop more than 10 inches more and is 10 mph slower than the pitcher’s fastball. His curveball’s shape is in between a slider and curveball based on its movement profile. This isn’t a bad thing, especially given the pitch possessed the highest swing-and-miss rate in his repertoire, but it creates an interesting situation where the possibility of two breaking balls could be created from one pitch to stymie hitters at higher levels. Or Herz could align himself with modern thinking and lean more towards a slider shape, generating a pitch that sweeps a bit more across the zone at a higher velocity.
I liked that.
I am sure Greg Zumach came out of his shoes on that one.
Caleb Kilian and Alexander Cnario (both acquired in the same trade) came in at 9 and 10.
From 11 to 15, we only get 1 surprise and that is Miguel Amaya at #12. Lance explains why Amaya is still well thought of.
Teams may have a tendency to punt framing and other nuances of the position in favor of adding an offensive edge to their lineup. But one of the unknown elements of the catching position is how setting a target affects a given pitcher’s command. So much so that taking a good hitter and thrower who has minimal ability to give a pitcher confidence on the mound or manage a game from a pitch calling standpoint may be a net positive move. A player like Amaya — great on-base skills combined with good game management — may be preferred.
That concept gave me something to think about as some of us tend to focus on the bat. But the catcher might be the most important defender on the field.
Most of the players in this list were acquired last year and a half, 14 in fact. That’s a lot of new talent. Some old standard prospects are still here. Marquez is at 21, Jensen at 17, Chris Morel at 14 (I am still very high on Morel as well) and, my guy, Kohl Franklin is at 11.
I like that Christian Franklin is at 20 and that Ben Leeper got some love at 25.
The big surprise of the whole list is Drew Gray at 23 especially considering that Gray just underwent TJS a couple of months ago. We are not going to see Gray for a while and maybe not until 2023. Still, Gray has an immense ceiling that hopefully will not be derailed by his recent procedure.
I would like to have seen Jordan Nwogu or Pablo Aliendo pop on a list this big, but we can’t have everything. However, this list does show that Cubs do have a lot of potential including Daniel Palencia who is ranked 22 on this list. After tonight’s start at South Bend, we might all have to begin thinking about where Palencia is going to fit on any later list based on how he does this summer. While everyone knows about Palencia’s heater, Lance describes Palencia’s lesser known offerings. I liked that kind of detail.
Although he used his curveball most behind his four-seamer last year, the shape of the pitch is in between a slider and curveball, similar to how Vizcaíno is throwing two sliders rather than a true slider and curveball. But Palencia’s lesser-used pitch that is most intriguing in his repertoire is a cutter that sits 88 mph and has a ton of ride, similar to how David Robertson throws his cutter, just at a lower velocity.
I am excited to see how all prospect lists are going to change this summer. We all might have Palencia too low, to be quite frank. Then again, we could say that about a lot of Cubs based on the depth of this list and their system.