Chicago Cubs Weekly Farm Report (5/24/21): Brennen Davis Debuts, DJ Herz and Ryan Jensen Shine
I spent the first week of the minor league season watching at least a portion of nearly every single game in the system. Week two saw me spending a lot of time traveling, so I was unable to watch as many games as I would have liked. Week three was right at the Goldilocks level of nerdiness in the Huss household.
I was able to tune in for some incredible starts from DJ Herz and Ryan Jensen, witness plenty of chaos including a 14-13 final in Myrtle Beach, and dig into the developing storylines based on normalizing statistics across the farm.
News in the System
- After a years-long drought, homegrown pitchers have taken over the MLB roster. It was something prospect-followers have seen coming for the past few years, but it is nice to see it actually come to fruition with Adbert Alzolay, Dillon Maples, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, and Tommy Nance making an impact in Chicago.
- Speaking of homegrown guys in the majors, PJ Higgins finally got the call to the bigs this week. With all due respect to Tony Wolters and Austin Romine, Higgins probably should have begun the season on the North Side. He got his chance because a .333/.458/.513 slash line in Iowa is hard to keep out of Chicago.
- We saw several players make their season debuts this week after getting held back in Mesa for some extra work, headlined by Brennen Davis at South Bend (for a quasi-rehab assignment) and Tyson Miller at Iowa. Nelson Maldonado (Tennessee), Ryan Lawlor (Tennessee), and Brad Deppermann (South Bend) also got their first real action of 2021
Triple-A Iowa Cubs
- Iowa had a game rained out on Tuesday this week but battled their way to a 3-2 record in the series against the Omaha Storm Chasers. Their season record sits at 9-7 and they are the only affiliate over .500 as of Monday.
- The fun one of the week for the I-Cubs came on Thursday when they blew the doors off Omaha in a 16-1 game. They scored a run in all but two innings.
- Patrick Wisdom had quite the game in that one, going 2-for-2 with two homers, two walks, five RBI, and four runs scored. He came out the next day with another doozy, going 1-for-2 with a grand slam and two more walks.
- Sergio Alcantara was the other hot hitter in Iowa, slugging two homers on his way to a 1.403 OPS. He walked in 27.3% of his plate appearances.
- On the pitching side of things, the I-Cubs have a roster full of minor and major league vets just waiting for their call up to Chicago. The three that impressed the most this week were Kohl Stewart, Jake Jewell, and Adam Morgan.
- Stewart went six innings in his start and only allowed one earned run on a homer. The former first-round pick struck out five and walked a batter.
- Jewell didn’t allow a run in 3.2 innings. His season line in 9.1 innings currently sits at a 0.96 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and .138 opponent batting average.
- Morgan hasn’t allowed a run to cross the plate all season long in six innings. Hitters are only mustering an average of .050 and he has struck out 36.4% of the batters he has faced.
- Iowa stays at home in Principal Park for another six-game set against the St. Paul Saints, a Minnesota Twins affiliate. The two teams split their series in the Twin Cities just a week ago.
Double-A Tennessee Smokies
- It was a full week of games that put the Smokies right back where they started after an even 3-3 record against the Biloxi Shuckers. Their season record now sits at 7-10.
- The doubles crown of the week is passed onto Andy Weber, who logged four two-baggers to go along with a triple while playing shortstop for the Smokies.
- Grayson Byrd looks right at home after making the jump from Low-A all the way up to Double-A a couple of weeks ago. He walked as much as he struck out this week and doubled three times en route to a 1.010 OPS.
- Scott Effross has thrown every pitch out of the bullpen this year but still finds himself with the third most innings on the mound for Tennessee. This was a huge week for the sidearmer, who threw 6.1 innings of shutout ball while striking out 11 batters and only walking one.
- Dakota Mekkes was sent down to Double-A from Triple-A Iowa this week as a way to get him more innings. Now finding himself outside of the crowded Iowa pen, he quickly logged 3.1 innings without allowing a run to cross. He still isn’t very far from a shot at Chicago.
- Time for your weekly Cam Sanders report: five innings, two hits, one run, two walks, seven punchies.
If you haven’t noticed, I’m a fan of Cam Sanders.@PitchingNinja pic.twitter.com/K5aG0Hw076
— Caleb Webb (@calebgwebb) May 22, 2021
- The Smokies now begin a two-week road trip where they will travel to Chattanooga (Reds affiliate) and then down to Birmingham (White Sox).
High-A South Bend Cubs
- A great week from South Bend with a record of 4-2 against the Dayton Dragons now puts them back in the hunt for .500 at 8-9 this season.
- The big win from a week’s worth of game came on Saturday as they earned a hard-fought walk-off win as Yonathan Perlaza drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 9th inning.
- Brennen Davis coming to Four Winds Field was the story of the week down on the farm. He will debut in Double-A soon, but some time “rehabbing” from his hit-by-pitch will get him geared up for the long haul. He didn’t waste any time getting back into the action, homering and walking three times in his second game of the season. Oh, and the bomb was a mammoth piece to left field.
Brennen Davis’ first home run of the 2021 season. A no-doubter to left field! pic.twitter.com/5nQ00Oa0Cz
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) May 23, 2021
- Nelson Velazquez absolutely raked this week, picking up 12 hits. Don’t fact-check me, but that might actually be the most hits in a week that a prospect has had since I started doing these weekly updates.
- Three starters had terrific outings this week, led by Jensen. He went five innings of one-hit ball, striking out four without walking anyone. His sinker generated plenty of groundouts, with ten compared to just one flyout. He worked entirely with a four-seam and two-seam/sinker in this one, as I didn’t see a single offspeed pitch the entire night. It will be nice to see him work on the slider, spike curve, and changeup as the season wears on because we already know the fastballs are elite.
- Max Bain and Peyton Remy had the other two good starts, going five and six innings respectively. It was no runs and three strikeouts for Bain and two runs with a whopping eight strikeouts for Remy.
- South Bend will now wrap up their homestand with a series against the Padres’ affiliate Fort Wayne TinCaps for the first time this season.
Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans
- A week that could have easily been nice .500 baseball at the ballpark turned into a 2-4 record against the Lynchburg Hillcats. The Pelicans are now 8-10 on the young season and to be brutally honest, with the way the offense has performed, I’m not entirely sure how Buddy Bailey has this season nearing the .500 mark.
- It was the Friday matchup that was quite the heartbreaker for the Birds. They shot out to a 6-0 lead in the top of the 1st and then had a 9-0 lead after four innings. But nine unanswered runs by the Hillcats tied the game up going into the 9th inning. Each team scored one run apiece in the next four innings and Lynchburg walked things off in the bottom of the 13th.
- There was only one batter with at least six plate appearances that posted an OPS over .681 this week. Yohendrick Pinango doubled and homered, accompanied by a heck of a bat flip.
Yohendrick Pinango with a blast and an incredible batflip pic.twitter.com/dQkjkXLrjw
— Ivy Futures (@IvyFutures) May 20, 2021
- The Richard Gallardo fan club is rather large and I’m sure they were rather happy this week as he made a four-inning start where he didn’t allow a hit, a run, or a walk, and struck out four batters.
- Herz’s ERA on the year now sits at 1.08 after his start this week. He looked about as dominant as any starter I’ve seen so far this year as he struck out eight and didn’t walk anybody. Nearly half of the pitches he threw on the evening resulted in a called or swinging strike and he mixed in 30 fastballs with plenty of late life with 10 spike curves that when thrown in the zone were very effective, and 10 of the best changeups the system has to offer.
DJ Herz doesn’t care if you call for time, he’s ready to sit you down as soon as he gets the ball@DavidjohnHerz @PitchingNinja pic.twitter.com/qza3TGdrnN
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) May 21, 2021
- The Pelicans finish up their road trip with a matchup against the Salem Red Sox to round out the month of May.