Ezequiel Pagan – Picture by Todd Johnson
There is no doubt that Ezequiel Pagan is one of my favorite players in the system. None. what. so. ever.
For one, that dude is all hustle all the time. And two, he’s got a smooth stroke at the plate. It also includes some sneaky power as we saw last year at Myrtle Beach.
After finishing his rehab on a knee injury to start 2023, Pagan is now with South Bend and is one of the hottest hitters in the system this month. He is hitting .367 with a .446 OBP and a wRC+ of 166, which is tops for active players in the system. I was really thrilled to get to see him in person over the past week.
I am excited to see how his career unfolds this summer.
The Cubs took Pagan in the 13th round of the 2018 MLB Draft out of the Puerto Rican Pro Baseball Academy. He began his career in 2018 in the Arizona Rookie League. He hit just .217 in 38 games and it was clear that he needed to gain some more strength. As a 17-year-old, he was a little over matched.
In 2019, things went a lot better in Arizona. In 50 games, he hit .283 and atole 19 bases. The power was yet to come.
After the pandemic, Major League Baseball changed things up quite a bit. There was no more Eugene to provide that transition between Rookie ball and A-ball. Pagan had a good enough spring that he actually came up to South Bend for a couple of games where I saw him against Beloit at the old Pohlman field. He didn’t stay long as he went to Myrtle Beach for a little bit before heading back down to Arizona. As I talked about last week, that’s going to be a common thing. But it was in Arizona that the Pagan really took off hitting .336 in addition to six home runs and was an Arizona Complex League All-Star.
In 2022 at Myrtle Beach, Pagan would hit .292 with 11 home runs and drive in over 60. Pretty sure no one saw that power coming but he was driving the ball all over the ballpark. He’s a very good situational hitter and he’s not afraid to go with a pitch to the opposite field. His .869 OPS was bellied by the fact that he can drive the ball into the gaps. He had 15 doubles and five triples to give him a .463 slugging percentage to go along with his OBP over 400.
In seeing him this year, one thing is clear. He knows what a strike is. He knows to layoff pitches out of the zone and he is not afraid of a walk. He never misses the cutoff man in the field and he never over throws. He’s pretty well-founded!
How he does in June is going to be a fun follow up to watch.