Feature photo of DJ Herz by Rebecca Snyder (@becsnyder)
I looked up and it was already Wednesday. I’m coming off a weekend where I was in Indianapolis for a wedding and going into a weekend where I’ll be in Chicago for a wedding. Meanwhile, I’ve been busy throughout the week doing plenty of prep for my own wedding in the fall.
So you can see why this week’s Mid-Week Buzz snuck up on me a bit. I’ll be going with my “other” version of this post where I’m not linking a ton of tweets and instead simply writing a few lines about things that have especially caught my eye over the last seven days or so. Enjoy this word vomit of things that are rattling around in my head!
The Draft is Coming
Talk about things sneaking up on us! This week would actually have been MLB Draft week in years past, but this season we know the draft is being completed during the All-Star Break. I’m not even going to act like I know as much as our fabulous other writers, Greg Zumach and Todd Johnson, when it comes to the draft. Instead, I’ll point out a couple things that have caught my eye.
While it’s got me all sorts of hype that the Cubs select 7th this year, it’s also worth pointing out that they have a much larger pool of money to sign players with (thanks to that higher pick). It’s more opportunity for Kantrovitz & Co. to load up on signing high-bonus-receiving high schoolers while being cost conscious for some senior signs. More money means more wiggle room and it’ll be interesting to see how the front office uses it.
As for that first pick, I’ve noticed a trend in names being mocked to the Cubs. They’ve been pretty heavily connected to a couple young hitters — Temarr Johnson, a high school second baseman, and Cam Collier, a JuCo (but 17-year-old) third baseman. Unless the Cubs go way off-script, it’s gonna be really hard to hate their selection at #7.
Prospects in the Majors
My prospect coverage has really bled into my Major League fandom this year. As the team continues to call on minor leaguers for reinforcements, it has felt like my worlds have collided a bit. But really, that’s why I cover the prospects the way I do, right? It’s all about following some of the best talent this system has to offer so that when they finally reach the bigs, I can say, “Player X does these things well and Player Y still needs to improve on these things.”
But in reality, sometimes I simply can’t predict what Major League coaching and the atmosphere in The Show does to guys. For example, there’s no way on God’s green earth that I would have told fans that you should expect Christopher Morel to get on base every game for the first month he’s up. I didn’t want to lead everyone astray when I said he would be chasing out of the zone less than Steven Kwan and Andrew McCutchen. Because that’s what it would have been — false hope. Instead, we can sit back and enjoy the magic Morel is putting out there into the world while also laughing at my waste of the last four years of covering him.
DJ Herz Isn’t Human
Okay, that headline isn’t entirely true because the High-A lefty went out on Tuesday night and laid his worst performance of the season. But I’m not here to talk about that. I want to talk about the show he put on last Wednesday night. I said it on our podcast this week and I repeated it when I went on the CHGO Cubs Show… that game by DJ was the best pitching performance I’ve seen since I began covering Cubs prospects nearly a decade ago.
He ended up going five full innings and after giving up a leadoff double, Herz just went into cruise control. By the time the night was done, he had piled up 12 strikeouts compared to no walks and a weak HBP. The hits column showed just that leadoff two-bagger. While a box score shows one thing, let’s dig a little further.
For a guy that throws more pitches per plate appearance than nearly every other pitcher in the system, it’s important to call out the fact that he recorded 12 punchies in only 75 total pitches. 57 of those were strikes which goes to show how dominant he was. Being in the zone so often while still racking up strikeouts is a skill that not many guys have. He generated a whopping 19 swinging strikes, a number that I’m assuming is a Cubs system-best this year (I’ll go back and verify that later). But there were also 14 times where he threw a strike that all the batter could do was just watch. That 44% CSW (Call Strikes + Whiffs) is elite.
I’ll invite you to go back and watch the entirety of that start if you’re able because there’s plenty of fun throughout but to give you a taste, here are all 12 strikeout pitches from Wednesday night.