Jeremiah Estrada – Pic by Todd Johnson
In looking back at last night’s action in the minor leagues, most people are probably go to focusing on the Tennessee Smokies for throwing the second no-hitter in the Cubs’ system in 10 days. That would probably be what most people would focus on from last night as the appropriate thing to hone in on and rightfully so.
But not me.
I looked at the action that happened yesterday as a clear signal that Jeremiah Estrada is ready to move up. There is no doubt that he has all the tools necessary to succeed at Tennessee and his dominance of High-A over the last five weeks is more than enough to show me that he does not really need to stay in South Bend.
When the Cubs took the Estrada in the 2017 draft, a lot of people’s heads turned because he was seen as pretty much a lock the summer before to be a first round pick. But velocity dips caused concerns and he tumbled a bit. The Cubs took him in the sixth round of the 2017 draft and they did sign him to an overslot deal tp pry him away from college. He pitched a little in 2017 as most new prospects do and then his roller coaster career began.
He would miss all of 2018 with forearm issues (no surgery) and returned in 2019 to Eugene as a 20-year-old. His first outing back was an immaculate inning that was the biggest present for a massive amount of us throughout Cubs late night Twitter back then. He threw in a few more games and he was back on the shelf . He would miss the rest of 2019 before undergoing Tommy John surgery that fall.
The best thing that might’ve happened to Estrada was the pandemic. It allowed him to actually miss time and to do his rehab but not miss time. When he returned to action last summer in Myrtle Beach, he looked fantastic as the Cubs kept him on a strict innings and pitch counts after her basically had thrown just 17 innings over his first four professional seasons.
Last summer, Estrada was dynamite in Myrtle Beach as he had a 1.57 ERA in 11 games. He through 23 innings and struck out 38 batters. That’s an insane ratio! He looked great throwing 95-97 most nights flashing a great curve and a nice changeup.
When the 2022 season began, I was extremely excited to meet him and I did in Davenport a couple weeks ago. We talked for about eight or 10 minutes and he is all healthy and good to go. He said that he was feeling hot (throwing with high velocity) despite the cold weather that was happening that week in Davenport.
In getting to see him pitch in person it’s amazing to get to feel for how much of a competitor he is on the mound. In a relief role, he seems to have taken to it like a duck to water. He just is all fired up to win the game. He wants that moment and it’s almost as if he needs that moment. In Davenport, he sat mostly 94-95 on a day where it barely got to 50°.
Last Sunday, he had a little bit of a rough outing but pitched his way through it despite not having his best stuff which is also kind of a watershed moment as he learns how to get by on those types of days.
He also looks to have added either a cutter or late breaking slider to his repertoire that dives into lefties and away from righties. He will throw any pitch in any count and I love the fact that he uses his fastball with 2 strikes just as much as his offspeed stuff.
However, last night was his most impressive outing of this year. He came in the game with two men on and one out in the bottom of the eighth and shut down Fort Wayne. He did walk a guy in the ninth, but he struck out 3 over 1.2 innings. He has yet to allow a run this month in four appearances. In fact, he’s only allowed one run on the year.
2022’s been a pretty good stretch for Estrada and I would not be surprised to see him get the bump any day. The problem is that “any day” could be next week or it could be next month.
How much the Cubs are willing to challenge Estrada remains to be seen. How much he’ll benefit from dominating Midwest League hitters for another week or two is also up in the air.
It’s time to send him to the Southern League.