The Cubs minor league season is only a week old, but there are already storylines that deserve some attention.
Theo Epstein famously wrote “find pitching” on a whiteboard in the Cubs front offices, it hasn’t been an easy path, but the pitchers are coming. From both the pen and the starting pitching that is ramping up, the stuff has led the Cubs system in performance. These pitchers are commanding everyone to pay attention.
Howard had a rough adjustment to professional ball in 2021. After being thrown into the fire jumping all the way to Low-A Myrtle Beach, the young shortstop produced a ghastly 39 wRC+ (100 is league average production) through August 19th. The .190 batting average and 31.2% K-rate wouldn’t make up for stellar defense. But Howard is widely regarded for his makeup and rose to the challenge the last month of the season. From August 20th through September 19th, Howard slashed .321/.371/.481 (.852 OPS) good for a 130 wRC+ (30% better than his league average) while cutting his K-rate down to 27%. The true question came as to how he’d come out in 2022.
So far, the early results are promising. Howard was promoted to Hi-A South Bend to begin the year and he’s responded to the level of trust shown in the prospect. He has a .412 OBP coupled with only one strikeout in 17 plate appearances (3 walks in that span. Howard’s defense provides an enormous floor but showing off on-base and low strikeout potential would only enhance his future projections.
Hitters at the Lower Levels
Both James Triantos and Owen Caissie are experiencing some expected growing pains in the early going. Don’t hit the panic button too early as each have the skills to rebound quickly. North Side Bound ranked both in our Top 10 prospects (Triantos tied for 6th and Caissie 9th).
Jordan Wicks looks to build off a strong spring in camp when he debuts on Thursday. He’s throwing four pitches and the Cubs are incredibly excited about the progress he’s made with his fastball (focusing on his four-seam) as well his new curveball and slider. Wicks already threw one of the best changeups in professional ball. It’s an exceptional profile.