Behind the scenes, this was a fun topic to discuss. While it is technically called the most underrated prospect of the year, it really should be the guy we’re talking about that no one else is talking about.
There always seem to be some disconnect or a delayed reaction in the national press to players that are doing well in the Cubs’ system. That’s certainly understandable as we have guys who follow the system day in and day out and have contact with a lot of these prospects, some on a daily basis in the summer. That always gives us a little insider’s perspective about guys that are sort of playing in the shadows of other well-known prospects.
This year‘s list came down to three prospects – Ethan Hearn, Luis Verdugo, and BJ Murray.
For Ethan Hearn, his defensive acumen far out classed his bat in 2021. It looked to be staying that way this year until about halfway through the year when the bat began to click, for lack of a better phrase. But in August and September, it would be hard to pick a hitter who was more locked in than Hearn. He showed some power as well as the ability to hit for average down the stretch. His strikeout rate is always going to be a concern and, that might just be part of his package. The Cubs may overlook that considering the other tools he has in his toolbox. Hearn wound up coming in third place in the voting.
Luis Verdugo nabbed the number two spot as he put together five really good months of baseball. He spent all year at South Bend and was a key member of the championship club. He played mostly third base this year and was the team’s best defender in the first half of the year until Kevin Made arrived. Verdugo was probably the most consistent hitter from the middle of May to the end of September.
Here is what our own Todd Johnson liked about Verdugo:
“He brought a consistent effort every day. He still has plenty of room to add onto his frame as he’s getting kind of tall. He has his wide shoulders which makes me think he could add another five or 10 pounds and turn a lot of his doubles into home runs.”
Verdugo took a massive leap forward with the bat this year and that’s only going to bode well for him next summer in Tennessee where the ball flies a little bit better.
Our most underrated prospect award this year goes out to BJ Murray. The Cubs 15th round pick out of Florida Atlantic in 2021 began this year at Myrtle Beach but he did not stay there long. In June, he arrived in South Bend after hitting .305 with 3 home runs and 25 RBI in 36 games for the Pelicans. Upon his arrival at South Bend, it took a while for BJ to get in a groove. At first, he didn’t play that much and that sort of prolonged his struggles. He hit just .135 as a South Bend Cub in June.
But things started clicking in July and August. What our own Todd Johnson liked most about Murray was that, “He just loves to hit. He doesn’t strike out much but he’s able to generate lift at a pretty consistent pace and has been doing so in the Arizona Fall League, too.” Whether playing in Mesa this October will be enough to get him to Tennessee to start 2023 might be up in the air, but I would not be surprised to see him do so. As were seeing this fall, he still has some adjustments to make seeing more advanced players than what he’s seen in college, Myrtle Beach, and South Bend. It might take a little bit longer to develop the next couple of years. But the skill set and work ethic are there now to help him succeed.
Other players who received votes included Christian Franklin, Luke Little, Parker Chavers, Jordan Wicks, and Jordan Nwogu.
We have one more award to give out tomorrow and that’s our bounceback player of the year.