11 Cubs Pitching Prospects Taking Off in July

As I mentioned last week, the Cubs farm system has shifted from bats to arms. The past few days have proven that, with some serious games thrown across all levels. Here are 11 pitchers who have been tossing darts this month.

Duncan Robinson

In his third start at high-A Myrtle Beach, Robinson put his excellent command to good use by going 5 innings with five K’s while only allowing a single hit. This was clearly his best start since being promoted and it lowered his ERA for the month to 3.27 and for the year to 2.28.

Manny Rondon

He got off to a rough start to begin 2017, which I found surprising from the 2016 Northwest League pitcher of the year. On Monday afternoon, however, the lefty went 6.2 IP and gave up only one run while striking out three. It was one of his best starts of the year. After a 3.60 ERA in June, things are beginning to look up.

Jose Albertos

The 18-year-old top prospect has put up a 2.70 ERA so far at short-season Eugene. He has a really good fastball in the mid-90s that he can command most days. His curve is a work in progress and I wish he would use his change more, as that could be his most devastating pitch.

Justin Steele

He has quietly put up one of the best seasons of any pitcher in the Cubs’ system in 2017. He credits a new mental focus that includes stir-fry and meditation before every game. His major-league arsenal is looking very good. On Sunday, in a rain shortened game, he only gave up one run in 4 innings, which is about the norm for him this year.

Thomas Hatch

The Cubs’ 2016 third-round pick put up a 0.98 ERA in June. He got roughed up in one start this month but still sports a 3.21 ERA in July. With improved command of a “new” four-seam fastball in his pocket, he has been changing eye levels all summer.

Jen-Ho Tseng

He might have the most underrated story in the system this summer. After a rebirth that made one think of his 2014 summer at Kane County, Tseng put up a 2.99 ERA at AA Tennessee. Most impressive among his statistics were the 83 K’s in 90.1 IP. In his second start at AAA Iowa Monday night, Tseng went 7 inings with eight strikeoutss and did not allow a run.

Michael Rucker

His transformation has been stunning this year. As a reliever for South Bend, he was a strikeout machine. He was promoted in early June and was doing the same for Myrtle Beach. All he does is attack the zone. It’s a simple plan that he can execute. The 2016 11th round pick out of BYU took over the injured Oscar de la Cruz’s spot in Myrtle Beach’s starting rotation and has never looked back. Check out this line from Monday night: 8 IP, 10 K’s, 2 hits, and 0 runs.

Preston Morrison

He’s had an up and down year. A 1.88 ERA in May ballooned to over 6.00 in June, but he is killing it in July with a 1.50 mark. I enjoyed watching him last year at South Bend where he used what I call a “wiffleball repertoire” to confound hitters. His last two starts saw him go 6 IP apiece and only give up one run in each.

Adbert Alzolay

He was promoted from Myrtle Beach to Tennessee two weeks ago and proceeded to strike out 10 in his AA debut (5 IP). So far, he has a 2.70 ERA in two AA starts. With a fastball that he can maintain deep into games, he bears a lot of watching.

Jesus Camargo

He’s a sneaky pitcher who I love to watch pitch. Currently at short-season Eugene, he is having a good season after missing all of 2016. The success comes from mixing upper 80’s/low 90’s heat with a mid-70’s curve and a changeup that is just plain filthy and that he can add and subtract mph from. It is really a devastating pitch. The 21-year-old righty has a 1.73 ERA in six appearances and has struck out 31 in 26 IP.

Jose Paulino

His last two starts saw him throw 12 scoreless innings with 12 K’s and his ERA for July is 0.55. Just six weeks ago, he was taken out of the rotation and placed in the bullpen, but the young lefty has returned with a vengeance.

There should be even more great performances coming on a nightly basis throughout the rest of the summer. If all goes well, Oscar de la Cruz will return to action along with Jake Stinnett, who made a rehab appearance this week down in Mesa. Clifton will look to bounce back in his next start and Bryan Hudson is hoping to recapture his ground-ball magic.

Even Bailey Clark has shown signs that he was a good gamble, striking out eight in 5 IP his last time out. He struck out 9 a couple of weeks ago. The moral of the story is that the system is getting deep when it comes  starting pitching. And keep in mind that we only looked at 11 starters.

I will be covering some of the relievers over the next few days.

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