Luis Verdugo – Picture by Todd Johnson
This year was really a fun year to cover of the Cubs system. We saw a lot of guys pop that we didn’t see coming in like Matt Mervis and Jake slaughter. We also saw the rise of Pete Crow-Armstrong. Brennen Davis came back after missing most of the year following back surgery. We also saw a lot of home runs from Alexander Canario and Yonathan Plaza as well as Chase Strumpf.
There were a lot of underreported stories as well. We may have talked about some of these stories but we really didn’t takeoff a big bite for you to chew on. Let’s take a look at a few storylines when it comes to hitting that deserved more attention than we gave them.
Click the arrow to access comments about each player.
I feel like I have talked about Louis Verdugo quite a bit because he made every All-Star team except the month of May. I’ve just loved watching him hit in person. He really barrels up the ball and drives it. He’s got a pretty good frame that he can add on muscle to this winter and turn some of those doubles into home runs. In addition, Verdugo is one of the best infield defenders in the system and I’m looking forward to seeing him at Tennessee next year where he will still be relatively young at 22, about three years younger than average in that league. And, he’ll be that age all season long.
I just love his swing. One of the highlights of the past few weeks has been watching him take ABs every night. What I love about him is he hits and it just all seems so effortless. It does not look like he’s exerting much force and he’s driving the ball deep into the night in Myrtle Beach. I almost had him in my top 10 on the mid season rankings. I’m pretty sure he’s a top 10 hitting prospect now because there’s nobody like him in the system. As gaga as I was about Canario last fall, winter, and spring, I feel the same about Ballesteros but he’s going to hit for a much better average than Canario ever did at this stage in his career.
Not only is he one of the nicest and personable players in the system, the kid can play. He knows how to manage a pitching staff. It took him a little while to get going at at South Bend this year but he’s really turned it on at the plate in the second half of the year. I don’t think many people are talking about him as a top catcher when they should be. I’m hoping to see him add some muscle this off-season because he’s going to need it at Tennessee.
Every Cubs executive has raved about the defense and makeup of Ethan Hearn. Not too many people are raving about his bat. Let me be the first. In the last 6 to 7 weeks, we’ve seen Hearn begin to show some consistency about hitting for average and power. He made the August All-Star team and I am wondering how much he’s going to will his team to win in the postseason because that’s really what he loves. I’m looking forward to seeing him next year at South Bend and getting to see his intensity on a daily basis up close and personal.
I don’t think you can be anything but pleased with the progression of BJ Murray this year. He’s shown some pop, he’s shown that he can hit for average, and he’s shown him that he knows how the strike zone works at two levels. It took him a while to adjust to South Bend, but he’s been tearing it up the past two months. I’m pretty excited to see what he’s going to be like next year and where he’s going to do it. He could start back at South Bend in 2023. If he does he won’t be there for long.
Like Verdugo above, Pagan has been on almost every All-Star team this year. He’s hit for average and he can hit for power from his tiny frame. And, like Hearn, he has an intense desire to win. The Cubs took Pagan as a 17-year-old out of high school in 2018. He will still be 22 next year to start the season where he should be patrolling the outfield at South Bend. He’s earned a spot there with his spectacular season for the Pelicans.
I know my friend John and I just love his swing. His injury bug has been a couple year kind of thing and now that he’s back playing for Myrtle Beach, we can see why he was so highly thought of before his final season at Coastal Carolina. He returned this year in the second half. First, he played some in Arizona and then he moved up to Myrtle Beach where he’s taking some time to get in a groove this year. It probably won’t take long next year if he’s healthy and ready to go on opening day. Chavers could shake things up because he’s got four very loud tools in his toolbox. All he’s missing is superspeed.
The Cubs fourth round pick in the 2021 draft missed all of the 2022 season. When you talk about depth of the Cubs’ system, nobody talked about Franklin this year. I think that’s going to be a mistake because he could set the world on fire next summer as long as he’s healthy.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at some underreported starting pitching storylines we didn’t cover as much as we should.