Are Cubs looking to a post-Anthony Rizzo era in Duane Underwood trade?

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

The beginning of the week brought the end of the Duane Underwood Jr. era in Chicago when the Cubs designated the 26-year-old for assignment. Underwood is now headed to the Steel City in a trade for Pittsburgh Pirates first base prospect Shendrik Apostel.

Underwood is a former second-round pick for the Cubs. At his ceiling, Underwood ranked as the organization’s number four overall prospect. His best year came in 2016 between South Bend and Myrtle Beach, but unfortunately, things drastically fell off shortly after that and Underwood struggled to recover.

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As the Cubs have found excitable prospects with big arms in recent seasons, Underwood’s time in Chicago needed to come to an end. He was out of options, and the move allowed for a reclamation project in a different organization. It has come in the form of Apostel, the big first base prospect who has spent the past two seasons at Rookie ball in the Dominican Summer League for the Pirates.

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Just 20 years old, Apostel stands at a whopping 6’5″, 245 pounds. His brother is a top prospect in the Texas Rangers organization. Apostel has 68 career games in the minors under his belt already. In that span, he has slashed .252/.381/.463 and significant power. In 2018, Apostel posted a .221 ISO followed up in 2019 by a .195 ISO.

He cut down on his strikeouts from 29.1 percent in his first year to a modest 16.8 percent the following year. Apostel managed the zone well, too, raising his 10.8 percent walk rate to a mighty 19.6 percent. Undoubtedly there is not much to glean from a couple of seasons in an instructional league, but he does have a nice sample size to go off, and adding a new first-base prospect to the fold is intriguing.

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Apostel will most likely not fit into the mold of a top 30 prospect for the Cubs, but outside of Alfonso Rivas, the club lacks critical depth at the position. He could force his hand into the discussion, assuming he gets adequate time this year. It will be fun to follow Apostel in his climb through the system.