The first half is pretty clear-cut when it comes to prospects breaking out. The second half is not. There’s just so much movement and playing well in Mesa and Eugene is not a precursor for future success in the upper minors or the majors. With one short season team, four rookie league teams, and an influx of draft picks, there are a dozens of prospects to monitor.
When I started thinking about some lesser-known prospects making names for themselves, no one really popped out with that blinking neon sign that said “BREAKOUT!” That’s a change from the first half, when it was quite evident that Jared Young, Matt Swarmer, and Tyler Peyton were head and shoulders above everyone. But that doesn’t mean no one is performing well.
Here are some thoughts on a few young players who are in the running for potential breakout status.
Keegan Thompson got destroyed in his first two weeks at AA, but since then he might be the closest thing to a possible breakout starter. With a 1.46 ERA in July and a 0.82 in two August starts, the next level does not look that far away for him.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Tyson Miller has flashed his potential at times and he’s been rocked hard at others.He was outstanding in July, with an ERA of 2.49, but his first start in August was not something to write home about. There’s still time for him to make his mark in the second half.
Jared Young continues to just get better and better at high-A, but he can’t really be the breakout hitter of the second half if he already broke out in the first half, right? As for relievers, Manny Rondon has really taken off and has a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings of relief since the break.
South Bend Cubs
They’ve had a few guys go on streaks like Delvin Zinn and Christian Donahue, but nobody’s really put it together for a long stretch of time. The SB Cubs have lost two-thirds of their starting rotation from the beginning of the year and the bullpen is decent but no one is really dominating the opposition.
Reliever Garrett Kelly was close, allowing one run over 45 days before his promotion this past weekend to Myrtle Beach, and might have a short lead over Rondon. Kelly’s 0.33 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 27.1 innings with a .149 batting average against are stunning.
This is a topsy-turvy team, with half the roster turned over in the first 38 games. The Ems are now loaded with college players from the draft who are kinda, sorta on the verge of really starting to figure it out. Luke Reynolds and Grant Fennel seem to be taking the lead in the hitter category. In their last three weeks, they look to be running number one and two in that category. The question I have is whether they are going to hit for power.
Eugene has two starting pitchers who could put themselves on the radar. I really like Derek Casey, the recent draft pick out of Virginia. He has been outstanding for the Emeralds, but he only pitches 2-3 innings a night and has not appeared since late July. That kind of hampers him from breaking out, but it does set him up for next year.
The closest thing to a breakout starting pitcher might be Brailyn Marquez, whose 39 strikeouts in 35 innings is pretty eye-catching. The tall 19-year-old lefty throws throws 95-97 mph, though he is not without his struggles. He’s not efficient as he works a lot of deep counts and rarely gets out of the fourth inning. Once he makes that adjustment, he could really take off.
Mesa Rookie League
It’s very hard to break out in rookie league, since you’re not exactly facing the best competition on the planet. Then again, you still have guys who throw in in the upper 90’s and others hitting 400-foot home runs. Three players come to mind so far based on their performance.
Pitchers Didier Vargas and Jesus Tejada both had outstanding months on the bump in July. Vargas was outstanding last year with a 0.99 ERA in the DSL and Tejada was the best pitcher in the entire system last August, also in the DSL.
Second round pick Cole Roederer has been very impressive from an offensive standpoint. He’s shown the ability to hit for average and power, he can get on base, and he’s got speed once he reaches. It’ll be great to get a better look at him as he advances up through the system.
While there are only two weeks remaining in the minor league season, that’s still a lot of time when you’re talking about players with limited professional experience. And even if none of them really leap off the page and shoot to the top of the Cubs’ prospect lists, there’s a great deal of growth that can take place now and over the winter. Keep checking back as we monitor that growth following the conclusion of the season and moving forward.