I’ve kind of enjoyed being a little flexible on my Mid-Week Buzzes recently and this week there are a few specific players I really want to talk about. From Myrtle Beach all the way up to Chicago, there have been players that have warranted some words here on this website so let’s dig into it!
Prospects that find themselves on the Major League roster often hit a bit of a gray area for prospect writers like us. They are still technically prospects as they haven’t exceeded rookie limits, but they don’t call the farm system home (at least for now).
But it would be ridiculous if I didn’t talk about the performance from the most recent call-ups yesterday. First of all, The Christopher Morel Experience.
Morel hitting a 111 mph home run in his first big league at-bat is absurdly on-brand. I’ve stayed as consistent with the human electric factory as possible with my long-term projection. He is going to be the most fun bench bat you’ve ever seen play. But because of his flexibility, playing three infield and three outfield positions, he is going to still be able to start a significant number of games over the course of a year.
Big tools, big personality, big fun. But limit your expectations a bit. He is a Lite version of Javy Baez, not a Pro version.
That brings us to Brandon Hughes, the guy who actually had the more impressive debut last night. The lefty recorded five outs and every single one was a punch out. Here at NSB, Greg Zumach teamed up with Steven Pappas to dig into how Hughes’ fastball and slider combine with his release point to make him quite possibly the lefty version of Scott Effross (Leftross, anyone?).
As a former guest and current back-up co-host of the Growing Cubs Pod, the former outfielder gets a little extra love from me, but it really is almost miraculous the stretch this guy is on. As my fellow-writer Todd Johnson pointed out, Hughes entered 2019 Spring Training as an outfielder! He didn’t start pitching in games until halfway through that year. Then he couldn’t pitch in games because of the pandemic. Now he’s a Chicago Cub. Unreal.
What we feared has now come true. The 2020 first round pick is out for the season with a hip injury. Silk was really looking good in South Bend after another ultra-aggressive promotion to begin the year. While his slash line is simply okay, I can tell you by watching his plate appearances, he looked way better than last season. He was controlling the zone, spitting on sliders out of the zone, and hunting his pitches.
Howard’s strikeout rate dropped nearly 10 full percentage points from 2021 to 2022, going from 30.1% in Myrtle Beach to 20.4% in South Bend. At the same time, he nearly doubled his walk rate from a measly 5.5% to a nearly league-average 9.7%.
Now he’s going to miss an important and extended period of developmental time. Quite simply, it blows. Here’s to hoping for a successful recovery and that we see him back in South Bend early in the season in 2023!
So this dude is way better than what he was supposed to be this soon. Not only is the 19-year-old putting up good numbers across the board, *puts on my scout hat* he looks GREAT doing it.
Alcántara is taking outside pitches over the right-center and right field fence. He is turning on baseballs off the plate inside. He looks more than comfortable in both center field and right field. I’m not quite ready to push the promotion talk out there, but it’s looking like the tools are already advancing nicely.
Now, we just watch him continue to master his skills in Low-A and then hope he puts more muscle on that lanky frame over next offseason. It’s gonna be one heck of an argument whether Alcántara, Pete Crow-Armstrong, or Cristian Hernández deserve to be the second ranked prospect in the system.
Don’t look now but I think it’s time for Robel to come back up to the Cubs. We need a sequel to the feel-good story of 2019. He is putting up arguably the best offensive production in the entire farm system, slashing .311/.422/.700, good for a 1.122 OPS and a system-leading 9 bombs.
Over his last 17 games, he’s popped all 9 of his homers and has put together a seemingly fake wRC+ of 253. He has reached base in all but one of those games. I typically try to throw in some analysis when I spit numbers at you, but I feel like that stats speak for themselves with Robel. Is he a Major League player? I don’t know. But I do know he’s way too good for Triple-A baseball.