On Wednesday night, Myrtle Beach lefty DJ Herz was part of a no-hitter for the Pelicans. As the starter, he went five innings with seven strikeouts and four walks. The night did not exactly go smoothly for Herz based on those numbers, but that’s probably a good thing.
After he needed 20 pitches to make it out of the 1st, I was a bit iffy as to whether he could make it into the 4th inning. However, something changed when Herz came out for the 2nd. He began to locate the fastball in the zone, which allowed him to get ahead of hitters and work much more efficiently. He only used 25 pitches the next two innings and was sitting at 62 after four frames.
As stressful as some of his innings were, I thought they would be more than happy with the four no-hit innings and the Pelicans would move on to the next arm. Surprisingly, Herz did come out for another go and he was very efficient, needing only 15 pitches to set down the Columbia Fireflies lineup. It was the first time Herz had ever pitched that deep in his Cubs career and I was impressed by how he got by and threw 57 pitches after the 1st inning without his best stuff.
Don’t get me wrong here, Herz still had good stuff. It just wasn’t as good as we’ve seen when he’s really dealing. Last night’s start was the fourth time this season that Herz held an opponent hitless, but it was the first time his teammates joined him in that endeavor. As the rest of the game unfolded, Jeremiah Estrada struck out seven over 2.2 innings before Bailey Reid and Danis Correa finished off the Fireflies for the final four outs.
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) June 24, 2021
Herz displayed a good deal of growth on during what ended up being both a great individual and team accomplishment, showing his mental fortitude and the ability to grind through a start. Just like Max Bain has shown in South Bend, development is not always a straight line. There are bumps and falls and learning how to manage them is key to moving up a level.
At the beginning of this month, Hertz was named the Cubs minor league pitcher of the month for May after putting up a 0.75 ERA and striking out 20 in just 12 innings. At the same time, it came as the Cubs handled him with kid gloves, never letting him exceed four innings or 70 pitches. In fact, his first couple of outings were limited between 40 to 50 pitches.
DJ Herz with a nice high fastball for his 3rd K to start the second pic.twitter.com/qonrjH2hoD
— Todd ⚾️🐻 (@CubsCentral08) May 20, 2021
Herz went into June as one of the most talked-about young prospects on the horizon, with some even wondering whether he should be a top 10-15 prospect in the system just based on one month.
Sometimes development is a cruel bitch.
At the beginning of June, Herz had the worst start of his pro career. He was tagged for nine earned runs in 2.2 innings and it was clear he had some things to work on. Chief among those was learning how to adjust as a pitcher when you don’t have your best stuff.
Herz will pitch four to five more times over the next month, at which point the Cubs are going to have to make a decision about which place is best for his development. He’s just 20 years old, so there’s no need to rush him to South Bend just for the sake of a promotion. If he’s still dominating at Low-A and isn’t really being challenged, however, he’ll need to be tested with a higher level.