Pete Crow-Armstrong – Picture by Todd Johnson
The dog days of August are upon us and you can tell that the season is coming to a close. Both Myrtle Beach and South Bend have just four weeks left in their seasons. And you can start to see some of the players are starting to wear down both physically and mentally from playing over 100 games and knowing they have 24 to go.
But this time of year is also a good time to take a look at a few surprises that look like their performance is the real deal and are probably the most underreported storylines out there.
Walker Powell is one of my favorite stories of the year. The non-drafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi started out the year in Myrtle Beach in relief. He was a piggyback and spot starter and he made his way to South Bend fairly quickly where he did the same. But it’s in Tennessee that he’s really caught my attention.
There are some guys that go through the system and produce and perform well. But when they get to Double-A, sometimes their game gets exposed. Not with Powell. He’s actually pitching better at Tennessee than he did at both Myrtle Beach and South Bend. Part of that is he’s really into the routine of being a minor leaguer. He’s improved his strength and stamina. He’s increased his velocity on his fastball by a couple miles an hour. And he puts the ball in the strike zone and gets guys to swing at pitches they should not swing at. When you get ahead in the count, it’s a whole different world and Powell has done that with regularity. I am excited that he’s going to get a shot at Triple-A next year where he will be of average age at 27. I’m pulling for him to do well.
Chris Clarke – He has been sneaky good and I talked about him on Friday.
Luis Verdugo is tearing it up again this month. He is having a really good season, almost a breakthrough season. April was outstanding, May was not. June was amazing in July was decent. In, August he’s hitting well over .300 and and he regularly plays amazing defense at third. I think I can only recall one or two games this year where he wasn’t in third base when I was there.
PCA’s Maturity – For most of the past 10 weeks, it’s been a pleasure to watch Pete mature. Not from a baseball standpoint, just that he’s growing up. I think that rarely gets talked about how important maturity can be to a player’s development. I’ve noticed a lot of change seeing him play in person, watching him in practice and now he prepares, and how he just loves to talk about the game. It helps that he is playing with older players and that could have rubbed off on him. There’s no doubt in my mind that if he starts off 2023 in Tennessee, he will do really well there. It’s been fun having a front row to seat to him growing up.
Hunter Bigge’s Resurgence – This has been another quiet story this summer. In 2019, Hunter Bigge was the man shortly after being drafted by the Cubs. He was assigned to Eugene where he was throwing in the upper 90s. Then the pandemic came. In 2021, he missed the first half of the year and it was a huge jump in competition going from short season to High-A. He struggled. This year, he started off great in April, had a few rough outings in May and June, but has been devastating since. That resulted in him getting promoted to Tennessee earlier this month and he does not seem to be having any problems adjusting.
Picture of the Week
It was taken by Dylan Heuer, the Iowa Cubs photographer. I just love the moon hanging there.
Prospect Team of the Week
Two Cubs pitchers made MLB Pipeline’s Team of the Week on Monday. Benn Leeper and Jordan Wicks both made the squad as both were dominant for that week prior.
Perlaza Player of the Week
Last Monday, Yonathan Perlaza was our Player of the Week and he was also named the Southern League Player of the Week later that afternoon.
Late Season Call Up
In addition, MLB Pipeline put out an article about what one player would be a good late season call up for each club. For the Cubs they picked Hayden Wesneski who was recently acquired from the Yankees for Scott Effross. Here’s what they had to say about why Pipeline picked him:
Though he got shelled in his first Triple-A start after coming over from the Yankees in the Scott Effross trade, Wesneski has little left to prove at that level after recording a 4.24 ERA and 85/30 K/BB ratio in 91 1/3 innings. He throws strikes with a four-pitch mix highlighted by a 92-94 mph sinker, a four-seam fastball that peaks at 98 and a sweeping low-80s slider.
Coming up Next Week on North Side Bound
Rookie League Recap is out at noon today with a look at Pedro Ramirez, who got all kinds of love this week. The Breakdown will be back again tomorrow looking at the playoff chases and some hitters that are putting up a good first half of the month. On Tuesday, the Tennessee Smokies will have an affiliate update and I’ll do my best to keep you updated on any transactions that take place. It will give me something to do during institute. On Wednesday, Mason McGwire gets a draft pick profile. As for Thursday, the yearly position rankings come out.
Jam of the Week
Jeff Beck you say? Jeff Beck jamming with Stevie Wonder? On “Superstition?” Count me in!
FYI – The original song has the greatest horn arrangement ever – This version is amazing too! Jeff Beck is such a treasure. Then again, Stevie is too!