Jake Reindl – Picture by Matt Cashore/South Bend Tribune

Over the past five years, we’ve seen the Cubs move some relievers along at a rapid pace. Whether that’s Jeremiah Estrada or Dillon Maples, or even Brandon Hughes, moving three levels in one season is something that’s within reach for a few guys in 2023.

Unfortunately, that eliminates anybody that’s currently in Tennessee or South Bend. To meet the requirements, they would have to be starting out next season at South Bend. They could’ve also finished this year at Myrtle Beach.

Unfortunately, the Pelicans’ bullpen at the end of the year was in a little bit of disarray as most of the top relievers ended up in South Bend by early August. That left Chase Watkins, Luis Rodriguez, and Johzan Oquendo to do most of the heavy lifting. Out of those three, Oquendo has a lot of talent and he just needs to refine it to be able to control it. Whether he can do that next summer remains to be seen, but he’s also still pretty young. Still, he does have the first requirement – an extremely live arm.

But if you’re a betting type of person, the best bets are probably guys from the South Bend bullpen who more than likely could end up going from Tennessee to Iowa to Chicago. Who knows, they may even start out at South Bend for a few weeks.

At the top of the list is Jake Reindl who missed most of May through August before showing back up in time for the playoffs at South Bend. His wiffleball slider is just nasty and I like the fact that they were having him throw more fastballs in September because hitters were starting to lay off the frisbee looking pitch. If he adds one more thing, whether it’s a cutter or a change up, he’s your guy right there. I could have sworn I saw him throw a curve to end the Division Championship Series last Friday.

I could also see Michael McAvene making it through three levels now that he’s healthy. A 2019 draft pick out of Louisville, McAvene was firmly entrenched in the back in the bullpen and stayed healthy since the end of May. That has to build some confidence up for him heading into next year. He’s a bulldog out there who can throw in the upper 90s but how his secondary pitches play is what’s going to determine his success.

Riley Martin, who now has a slider to offset his curve, is another arm who misses a ton of bats. Depending on where he starts, he could move quickly if he’s given an opportinity.

Sheldon Reed started the year very strong in Myrtle Beach and finished it strong in South Bend. It got a little bumpy in June and early July in South Bend before he put it all back together. He is a guy who would benefit from one more pitch to add to his upper 90s fastball and upper 80s slider.

Yovanny Cruz and Brad Deppermann are two high powered arms that have had trouble staying healthy the past couple years and it’s unclear if they can put it together. They have the arms to throw in the upper 90s but can they prove that they can stay off the injured list to dominate at three levels? We shall find out next summer.

The wild card here is Alfredo Zarraga who was dominant for Myrtle Beach in the middle of the summer and got promoted to South Bend where he pitched one game before he broke a finger and needed surgery after an “unfortunate” incident. If he comes back healthy, he might be the best bet because he has the best control out of anyone. He just lacks the experience of facing advanced competition.

The Super Longshots

If we’re talking about guys who were down in Mesa this summer, reliever Oliver Roque finished up the year at Myrtle Beach for a couple weeks but he’s a dude who also has extremely live arm but also needs to make some extreme adjustments to be able to control upper 90s heat and just nasty breaking stuff. It looks like he has no idea where it’s going to go and that might be true. The one player who actually did fairly well in Mesa is Tomy Sanchez (not a typo) who is not a flamethrower, but he is able to put the ball where he wants it and that’s a big thing if you’re going to go from Myrtle Beach to South Bend to Tennessee. 

2019 draft pick Elian Almanzar is another guy who really came on last year out of the bullpen. The former junior college draft pick started to put things together last year. He also can throw in the upper 90s. He might be the best bet of guys coming out of Mesa because he’s been throwing upper 90s for years. It has just been a matter of controlling it and throwing something else with it.


Oliver Roque, Tomy Sanchez – 100 to 1

Elian Almanzar – 40 to 1

Chase Watkins, Luis Rodriguez, Yovanny Cruz, Brad Deppermann – 30 to 1

Johzan Oquendo, Alfredo Zarraga – 20 to 1

Riley Martin – 7 to 1

Sheldon Reed – 5 to 1

Michael McAvene – 3 to 1

Jake Reindl – 2 to 1