Owen Caissie – Picture by Todd Johnson
For the most part, the minor league season is done tomorrow. The Arizona Fall League will begin taking place next week for the next six weeks and we will cover that. In addition, fall instructs are taking place in Arizona as we speak. Today is really all about taking stock of the Cubs minor league system. Over the next three days, we will look at the strength of the system and what it needs to improve. You’re going to like a lot of things I have to say and you may disagree with a few things.
On the surface, three of the Cubs’ affiliates made the playoffs this year in Tennessee, South Bend, and Myrtle Beach. Iowa did not, but they did produce a lot of players quickly for the major leagues. The Arizona Rookie League and Dominican Summer League teams all flashed a little bit when it came to hitting, but not so much when it came to pitching. The Cubs took a pitcher in Cade Horton in the first round of the 2022 draft and they signed Adan Sanchez on the opening day for international free agency back in January. They did not have a big selloff as expected this summer. Still, they did acquire Hayden Wesneski and Ben Brown in trades along with Saul Gonzalez. And they were able to sign 19 of their 20 draft picks this year and they also added one nondrafted free agent.
But today is all about the hitters.
And hitting is all good to go for 2023!
Hitting was a little touch and go in April, but when May rolled around, the hitting started to take off in the system and it didn’t stop hitting until the season ended. We got to see Chris Morel, Nelson Velazquez, P.J. Higgins and Jared Young all in Chicago. We got to see the breakout of Alexander Canario in July and August at Tennessee. There was the absolute and utter surprise of Matt Mervis and Jake Slaughter just obliterating baseballs at multiple levels. We also got to see the sheer brilliance of Pete Crow-Armstrong in the field and his continued maturation at the plate. In the rookie leagues, Adan Sanchez and Pedro Ramirez were the leading hitters for both levels.
To be quite frank, I could just talk about hitters all day long as the strength in the system. From Brennen Davis to BJ Murray to Owen Caissie to Moises Ballesteros to Chase Strumpf to Luis Verdugo to Jordan Nwogu to Parker Chavers to James Triantos to Kevin Alcantara to Yonathan Perlaza to even Cole Roederer, there is what seems to be an endless supply of bats. And that’s really the biggest strength in and of itself is that the Cubs have an immense amount of depth. Whether they can get that depth to get to a higher ceiling is going to be the key as those players move up to system.
The strange thing about this summer is that in the draft and at the trade deadline, the Cubs really didn’t focus on adding hitters. They added two-way player Nazier Mule, infielder Chris Paciolla, utility player Haydn McGeary, outfielder Andy Garriola, and outfielder Ke’Shun Collier. And of those guys, only McGeary saw some exposure and that was at Myrtle Beach for 12 games. In order to pretty much go all-in on pitchers in the draft, the Cubs had to feel pretty good about being able to develop hitters in Arizona that could play at Myrtle Beach next year. As well, they had to feel good that they had enough guys to fill the team in Mesa next summer. They could make up any difference in an international free agency in the Dominican, But their draft process showed how they feel internally about where things are going with their hitters.
There is some concern about the production down in the Dominican this summer. Still, those kids are in no rush to get stateside. Let them take a couple of years to get ready to succeed in Mesa.
Looking ahead, the Cubs can go one of two ways this winter and that’s probably going to affect the strength of the organization. They can use some of that depth to go out and get players that they can use for the major-league club. They could also use players from the major league club to build up some more depth. But I think the worm has turned the other way. I am not so sure the Cubs are ready to deal anybody just yet. Next summer, if they are in contention, they have all the capital they need to go out and get somebody at the deadline. A blockbuster would be more likely next summer than this winter. Then again, that would most likely be for a rental.
In between, the Cubs will have some international free agents to add in January. They have been linked to a couple of shortstop and more will be coming. SS Derniche Valdez is currently ranked 11 on BA’s most recent list and fellow middle infielder Lundwing Espinoza is ranked 20th.
As we ride off into the sunset for the off-season, seeing Brennen Davis get back in the swing of things as he plays in the Arizona Fall League will be a story to watch along with Owen Caissie, BJ Murray, and Matt Mervis. Hopefully, Miguel Amaya will be healthy enough to play with them. It’ll be interesting to see how Mervis cranks it up in the dry heat where the ball tends to fly a little more.
It’s not going to be dull.
And that’s really been the hitting theme of 2022. It was not dull as there were bashers, smashers, and mashers up and down the system.