Aliendo, Canario, Wesneski, Horton, Ramirez, Devers, McAvene, Verdugo, Murray, 40-Man Talk, More

Chicago Cubs prospect notes to talk about today, and I’d like to start with some great defensive play (the most fun way to start prospect notes!).

  • This relay is *chef kiss*:
  • Bonus note there? Wide receiver Pablo Aliendo is just 21, plays High-A and has been hitting .324/.368/.474/134 wRC+ since June 16. The wart, so to speak, is the .405 BABIP during this time, which is totally unsustainable, HOWEVER, I’m also cautious about producing poop immediately built on the minor league BABIP without further context (because sometimes you just kick the shit out of the ball, and minor league defenders can’t handle it consistently). ISO .150 isn’t too bad, and Aliendo is a line-drive machine. Even if you chip away at the BABIP considerably, you end up with a bat that could be league average at High-A, tied to a 21-year-old receiver. It’s quite encouraging!
  • Please be nothing, please be nothing, please be nothing:
  • It’s always been fairly unlikely that Alexander Canario will get a taste of the major leagues this year anyway, but as he’s already on the 40-man roster, there was a chance, had he postponed his dominance from Double-A to Triple-A. That hasn’t happened yet (only eight games), and now maybe he’s down. I think, realistically, let’s just hope he gets back on the court soon and finishes the year well at Triple-A. This will set him up to open 2023 at Triple-A as the type of guy who could come in and fill in when needed, and maybe even step into a semi-regular role (think Nelson Velazquez).
  • The night before, Hayden Wesneski pushed for five scoreless innings, showing people just how good his slider is:
  • Wesneski has a 2.37 ERA in his last four outings, a 29.6% K rate and an 8.5% BB rate. Whether or not he moves up the home stretch, he’ll make the 40-man roster in November, and he’ll compete for the big league rounds next season (any chance he gets the early Steele/Thompson treatment to be introduced to the major leagues next year, in doses, like a multi-inning reliever?).
  • The athletic duo of Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney have a bunch of prospect notes here. Something that catches the eye? Now that the dust has cleared on the MLB draft and you can get more honest information: “(T)here’s been indications that (number seven overall Cade) Horton wouldn’t have dropped over- beyond the top 10 picks.” You’ll recall, of course, that Horton was considered a first-round midfielder after his little late-season sample explosion at Oklahoma at the very end of the season. The Cubs’ pick, and subsequent signing under the slot (which allowed them to take first-round talent Jackson Ferris in the second round), seemed like a reach to many. But I trust Sharma and Mooney’s sources on that – if they now hear a confession after Horton didn’t fall into the top ten, then there you go. Obviously, Horton has yet to develop enough to justify the pick on his own merits, but it’s possible the Cubs really got a “top ten” talent for the slot savings that allowed them to double up.
  • The Cubs have previously indicated that Horton will not pitch with an affiliate this year. He will work with the club during the off-season and will make his professional debut next year.
  • Also in The athletic piece, some early thoughts on Pedro Ramirez, the infield prospect who raked the DSL last year (DSL Player of the Year for the Cubs), raked in the ACL at just 18 in his debut for the States States, and is already at Low- A Myrtle Beach. He performed so well at such a young age, it’s time to realize how legit he is as a prospect:

Speaking of batting skills, the Cubs have an interesting case in Myrtle Beach with Pedro Ramírez. Ramírez posted a 155 wRC+ in the Dominican Summer League last year and was nearly as good in the Arizona Complex League this summer, delivering a 153 wRC+ in 163 plate appearances. Ramírez is just 18, but he was called up late in the season to Low-A Myrtle Beach, where he managed 13 games, hitting .333.

Ramírez has shown pop in the complex league this year, but it’s unlikely to be his game going forward. At just 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, he will likely need to bulk up with help from the high-performance team as he continues to climb the ranks and take on pitchers with more powerful stuff. But if he continues to develop and fill out, he’s a quick hitter who could hit for average and play multiple infield positions.

  • Right-hander Luis Devers continues to post absurd numbers in South Bend, and while I understand scouting still has questions about whether the low bike and deceit will play at higher levels, he is nonetheless a pitcher whose the experience coming this year was almost exclusively rookie ball, doing this at Low-A/High-A:
  • …and that was BEFORE he went 5.0 innings last night, allowing 1 ER over 4 H, 0 BB and retiring 8. Yeah, there must be some good fortune in that so far at High-A, and you’ll need to see how he fare against more skilled hitters. But he’s likely to earn pitcher of the year honors in the system this season, and he’ll be there in the Double-A rotation next year.
  • (And on the 40-man roster, unless the Cubs want to risk losing Devers in the Rule 5 draft this year – yes, he’s one of the very many eligible young players … would a team try to bring him up of High-A in their big league bullpen? when you can only have eight in your pen? I say maybe, because they might think they can bring him to spring training, see what’s happening elsewhere on the roster, and maybe there’s a 20% chance that they have an OBVIOUS place to hide it for a while. Looks like it would be a huge risk to leave Devers unprotected.)
  • That Devers South Bend game was closed by right-handed reliever Michael McAvene, who had a long way to play his first real pro season after being selected in the third round of the 2019 draft. 25, was at high injury risk (which is why he was even available in the third round in the first place), but the advantage in the arm was substantial. So they rolled the dice, and sadly the injuries that followed – as well as the pandemic – mostly kept him from stepping onto the mound until June of this year. The results have been pretty good so far this season: 3.14 ERA and 3.60 FIP out of 28.2 IP (19 appearances). Of course, those numbers drop to 2.57 and 3.46, respectively, if you drop his very first appearance. His strikeout rate has increased over the year (it’s been well over 30% since early July at this point), and his walk rate has slipped (it’s now around 10% at this point). period, which is very playable if you’re removing more than 30%).
  • We know the double-edged sword of being a relief prospect only at the lower levels: success is hard to trust, because the competition is so young and inexperienced against a guy who goes for short bursts with only two of its locations. But it’s also possible that for the guys who really click, they can fly through the system very quickly. In other words, McAvene’s age (25) doesn’t really bother me from a High-A relief perspective; but to stay relevant, it will have to pretty much skyrocket to the Triple-A lineup next year.
  • I love that Bryan got into this, because I think Luis Verdugo is seriously underrated (by the industry) and still a little underrated (by people like me):
  • Verdugo is going to be another tough decision at 40 men after the season. Would any other team really pull a 21-year-old from High-A for their bench, if they believed in offensive advantages and defensive ground? It’s a maybe. Big maybe. I tend to think Verdugo is protected if the Cubs sneakily like him and expect a big breakout next year. Beyond that, they could roll the dice and hope no team can realistically hide it after such a big leap.
  • Speaking of sneaky great seasons at High-A, early season darling BJ Murray stopped getting a lot of mentions here after being promoted to High-A, but it turns out that was just him following the same track as so many Cubs prospects this year:
  • Cubs outfield prospect Darius Hill draws inspiration from his brother:
  • More from Bryan on the CHGO Cubs podcast:

Kimberly B. Nguyen