You may have missed it while wallowing in the Cubs’ second straight shutout, but minor league rosters were announced Monday. No big surprises, though it’s always good to see how the organization has decided to set up its young talent. And given the renewed focus on pitching development, it’s particularly interesting to see where the arms are distributed.
South Bend is particularly loaded, with a staff highlighted by teen phenom Jose Albertos and former top draft pick Brendon Little. The low-A affiliate will also be home to Javier Assad, Cory Abbot, and Jesus Camargo, among others.
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans have a few top pitching prospects of their own, namely Alex Lange, Keegan Thompson, and Bryan Hudson (who we’ll focus on in just a bit). Shortstop Aramis Ademan headlines the roster and will have his work cut out for him as a 19-year-old playing against players who are a couple years older on average.
Double-A Tennessee will be home to Oscar De La Cruz, Thomas Hatch, Trevor Clifton, and several other familiar pitchers. Position players Ian Rice, Yasiel Baleguert, and Charcer Burks got a little exposure at big league spring training, while outfielder Eddy Martinez looks to put it all together for the first time as a Cubs prospect.
One relatively unheralded prospect I’ll be paying attention to is righty Scott Effross, an Indiana University product with whom I had the pleasure of speaking this past offseason.
The Iowa Cubs are stacked with a boatload of guys fans are familiar with from either cups of coffee in Chicago or significant playing time in Mesa this spring. As such, I’m not going to get into much detail on this particular squad, though we’re sure to hear more about several of them as needs arise with the big league squad.
Among the names missing from any of the rosters above were Corey Black and Adbert Alzolay, a pair of pitchers who’ve shown a good deal of potential. Black is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery and only began throwing breaking balls in February, so he’ll spend time in Mesa at extended spring training to build strength. Don’t be surprised if he really takes off later this year, as his mental game has gotten much stronger as well.
Alzolay isn’t dealing with anything nearly as significant as Black, but the Cubs are taking it easy with him and he’s about two weeks behind schedule. It’s possible the highly touted righty starts out with the AA Smokies, but Iowa’s rotation has room for him as well. Even if he doesn’t head straight to Des Moines, he should end up there in short order.
These rosters will surely realize significant shifts as the season goes along and both injuries and performance influence decisions. That latter factor can cut both ways, as some prospects will have trouble treading water at new levels while others may find their groove and really take off. According to MLB Pipeline, Hudson is the Cubs prospect most likely to do just that. Break out, that is.
Standing 6-foot-8, the lanky lefty is very literally the Cubs’ biggest breakout prospect and he conjures images of Randy Johnson, although such a comparison would be incredibly unfair to Hudson at this point. Or at any point, for that matter. That height makes for an imposing figure on the mound and Hudson is able to generate some pretty crazy angles that make him an extreme groundball pitcher.
The key to his improvement last season and to his future success will be a repeatable delivery, something that takes time for a pitcher of his height to develop. Stamina and strength are issues as well, but it’s clear from his increasing velocity that Hudson has made strides in those areas. After working exclusively in the upper 80’s at the outset of his pro career, he’s now getting more into the low 90’s and can touch 94 on occasion.
Hudson can really spin the curveball and it’s a dangerous weapon when he stays on top of it. Maintaining that consistent delivery and continuing to improve his command will help as well, especially if he can take the velo up another notch or two.
Myrtle Beach is known as a haven for pitchers, so Hudson should have some additional factors working in his favor to start the season. He wouldn’t be the first Pelican to use his time at high-A as a springboard to bigger things, something we saw with Dillon Maples last season. And while Hudson isn’t likely to make it all the way to Chicago this season, it’s easy to see how he could make some real noise in the system.