Written by Michael Ernst and Todd Johnson
John Arguello passed away in the summer of 2017 and it was a very sad day for the online Cubs community he built at Cubs Den and in person in Arizona. John was the eyes and ears for many of us out in Arizona his last few years. He also influenced and inspired us to get involved in talking and writing about prospects.
It’s easy to remember John as an advocate for many young players including Willson Contreras, who had just converted to catching when John took an interest in him, and Adbert Alzolay, whose work ethic John loved. Those were two of his favorites. John liked different players for different reasons. He didn’t really have a type, but he did appreciate certain skill sets and attributes.
I thought a fun way to remember John this summer would be to try and figure out which players from today’s system that John would appreciate, love, and fawn over. To do that, I could not do it myself. That would be way too presumptuous. So, I reached out to Michael Ernst, who wrote with John and ran Cubs Den for five years after John’s passing,
Here are several guys Michael and I came up with and the reasons why John would have an interest in them.
Sometimes it is hard to put into words just exactly what John would’ve loved about Pete Crow Armstrong because he does so many things well. Pete is one of those players that you love when he’s on your team and you hate him when he’s on somebody else’s. John would’ve loved the enthusiasm for how Pete plays the game. I could see John waxing poetic about the helmet flying off on the base paths. John would’ve loved how Pete celebrates after a run or a stolen base, or even a double. And he would’ve loved the effort that Pete gives out in the field as he makes some of the most spectacular plays. John would’ve loved that “joie de vivre” that is PCA.
Kevin has this boyish charm and smile about him that draws people towards him. But Kevin is also a 5 tool beast. He has power, speed, a very good arm, and is learning to hit for average in a league where he is still fairly young. John would have loved the flair with which Kevin gallops across the gaps to get to balls as well as Kevin giving himself his own nickname: The Jaguar.
If you ever met Owen Caissie, you would easily remember it because he talks about hitting and the science of it all the time. He’s able to break down his own swing into parts that he has taken from the great hitters of the game. John would have loved that about Owen. John loved to talk about every aspect of a player’s swing from the load to the staying in the zone to adjusting to pitches in the middle of a swing. John loved the physics of hitting and so does Owen. And, of course, there are the dingers, too. Who doesn’t love dingers?
I mean, really, who doesn’t love Pablo Aliendo? He is the most infectious player on any team he is on. He always has a kind word and a smile for everyone and takes an interest in how someone is doing every day and encourages them to have a good day or one that can get better. I love that about him! John likely would have been touched by Pablo’s personality, too. As well, Pablo is a beast behind the plate. He has the fundamentals down that John loved like blocking pitches, framing, calling a game, controlling the basepaths, back picks, and managing pitchers. John just loved dominant personalities behind the plate and Pablo is most definitely one of those.
John also loved guys who knew what a strike was. He thought it as one of the great skills of hitting was to know which pitches to hit and which pitches to not. For BJ Murray, that has pretty much been his gig and calling card since being drafted in 2021. Yes, he can hit home runs, but it all starts with his approach and ability to manage the strike zone. John would’ve loved BJ’s discipline at the plate, as he can take pitches a couple inches off the outside edge and not even flinch.
One thing James Triantos does is hit in a variety of ways. Triantos can hit for power, hey can spray the ball all over the field, he’s a good situational hitter, and he can recognize and hit an offspeed pitch at just 20-years-old. John would’ve gone gaga over seeing Triantos being able to recognize a breaking ball and to sit on it and then pull it over the shortstop’s head. He would’ve appreciated the subtle hitting skills that Triantos has.
Horton is just nasty. He’s got the fastball to fall back on anytime he needs it, but also the feel for his other secondaries continues to grow. He learned the slider late in his college career yet it immediately became integral, reminiscent of Steele/Alzolay in that regard. He’s also just a super athlete so sticking as a starter seems reasonable.
John would have appreciated the way Wicks has continued to refine his pitch mix despite being labeled the “polished” lefty from his draft class. He’s worked to round everything out while also adding a bit of velocity, putting the low ceiling label to rest.
It takes hard work and coachability to make a position switch. Arias has taken to pitching quickly, a sign he has what it takes to make it. I think we would have received exciting reports about Arias out of Mesa from John last season.
The Cubs never really had left handed relievers with exciting stuff while John was covering the system so it is difficult to be sure, but I believe John would have been highly intrigued by Bailey Horn, Riley Martin, Luke Little, and DJ Herz (if he fails to stick as a starter). They all miss bats and show multi-inning ability as well. He probably would have been concerned about the lack of command they all show, but would also have been hopeful at least one eventually takes the final step.
Thanks to Michael for stepping up and stepping in and we hope you enjoyed us picking some guys John might like in today’s system.