The Arizona Instructional League has been an excellent opportunity for Cubs prospects.
In September, when the news about the Arizona Fall League’s cancellation broke across baseball, there was an air of disappointment felt across the game. At the height of a national pandemic, the impact on the game – for the Chicago Cubs and every other club – has been immeasurable.
During this time of the year, when the postseason ends and the offseason begins, prospects are gearing up to hit the diamond to stay in shape and hone their skills to remain vigilant towards their craft.
Thankfully, the Cubs are one team taking part in this year’s instructional league in Arizona. Fifteen teams who have their training facilities located in Arizona are currently taking part in the league, giving clubs and players affected by the Minor League Baseball season’s cancellation the opportunity to stay fresh during this time.
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Several young prospects within the organization have been playing over the past month, and a few of them have stuck out in terms of production. Much of the roster consists of guys who have been in the system for a few years. However, a few guys have experienced their first taste of professional baseball during this time.
Diving into a few names and numbers also gives fans the chance to follow guys, they may otherwise not know within the organization. One of the more prominent names to stick out is second baseman, Chase Strumpf. The 22-year-old 2019 second-round draft pick out of UCLA has already found some success at Class-A Short Season, batting .292 last year in 26 games at Eugene.
Thus far in instructs, Strumpf has slashed an impressive .375/.414/.792, three home runs, six RBI and a 1.205 OPS in 29 plate appearances. As one of the names in the system who has been mentioned as expendable in terms of his value, Strumpf is someone the Cubs should seek as a long-term integral piece.
Another guy fans should come to familiarize themselves with is 2020 third-round selection Jordan Nwogu. As a three year starter at the University of Michigan, Nwogu ranked number 197th in Baseball America’s MLB Draft Top 500 Prospects list this year.
Nwogu is an interesting case as he is a big player who also hit leadoff for the Wolverines for two years. In 105 career college games, Nwogu slashed .335/.442/.577 and possesses a lot of raw power and quick bat speed. The Cubs have found gems in the past in the early to middle rounds, and Nwogu will hopefully transition into just that for Chicago.
In 22 plate appearances during instructs, Nwogu has put together a robust .389/.500/.556 slash line, posting a respectable 13.6 percent walk rate and not overly terrible 22.7 percent strikeout rate. If Major League Baseball fully adopts the DH, Nwogu seems like the perfect candidate to fit that role.
Many additional guys are climbing the ladder. Catcher Cam Balego who spent the 2019 season at Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach and hit 12 home runs for the Pelicans, is slashing .357/.353/.571 in eight games. Another backstop, Pablo Aliendo, is also producing as he is walking at a 23.5 percent rate in eight games and is hitting .308 with just two strikeouts. Aliendo is a 2017-18 international class product and hit .203 in 49 Dominican Summer League games last year as an 18-year-old.
The Cubs have a number of young potential stars in the making despite what many think. The instructional league has allowed them to make up for some of the missed time and hopefully keep them moving in the right direction as we approach 2021.