Cubs: Yohendrick Pinango and D.J. Herz eyed as breakout candidates

Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

The stoppage of Minor League Baseball brought a deflated feeling last year as young prospects lost valuable playing time. Thankfully this is a new year, and new opportunities await the budding talent. This week in the drive of excitement towards the new season, Baseball America named two ‘breakout’ prospects from each club, including the Chicago Cubs.

Prospects who do not find themselves in the top 10 of the organization are the catalysts for the list, and chosen for the Cubs was outfielder Yohendrick Pinango and left-handed pitcher D.J. Herz. I’ve touched on each of these two guys at various points. Last year, Pinango was in the bunch of international prospects to keep an eye on, while Herz was lauded as a prep arm who could do big things.

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Pinango is a wiry 18-year-old lefty. He signed with the Cubs as part of the 2018 international class for just $400,000. Pinango spent his first year in the organization, in the DSL, where he slashed .358/.427/.442 and managed to keep his strikeout rate to a mere 7.3 percent. Most striking about his year offensively were his 27 stolen bases in 34 attempts.

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Per his scouting report at Baseball America (subscription required), Pinango is considered one of the best “pure” hitters in the organization, meaning he hits for a high average, utilizes the whole field and does not strike out routinely. By the look of his first year, the kid from Venezuela has the makings to be a future star. Projected as a center fielder, Pinango could develop into that for the Cubs down the road. It will all depend on his makeup and how his body develops.

Herz, meanwhile, was initially committed to Chapel Hill with a commitment to become a Tar Heel. A three-sport athlete, Herz excelled in all facets. It seemed to be a surprise as he ranked as the fourth overall ranked lefty in North Carolina and 17th overall nationally. He’s another guy with a wiry frame and has a chance to grow into it as he develops fully.

Possessing a low to mid-90s fastball, that is his bread and butter. His three-quarter arm drag creates deception to hitters. He also throws a slider which a handful of scouts has observed as a plus-pitch. Herz saw his first action in 2019 as well, in the AZL.

He threw 10 1/3 innings finishing with a 2.61 ERA. Opponents hit .238 off him, and while the low ERA was optimistic, Herz did walk the same number of hitters as he struck out and ended the year with a 5.04 FIP and 5.91 xFIP respectively.

Lightfoot takes mound, approves fans at Wrigley. dark. Next

Both Pinango and Herz have estimated arrival times of 2024. However, it feels as though Pinango has a faster track as he is younger, and the Cubs need to see more of Herz to determine the capacity of his future role. Prospects take time to mold and shape. The Cubs should feel excited with these two in their organization. Let’s hope it becomes all systems go in a few years.