Normally, most of my offseason (and in-season) reading is somehow related to the Cubs (after all, this is a Cubs-focused site). But with the lockout still in-place, I’ll take just about anything at this point – which led to me reading The Enquirer out of Cincinnati, specifically, a piece on the Reds’ concerns over the health of minor league pitchers.
"“I’ll be honest with you,” Reds farm director Shawn Pender said in the piece, “I have greater concern probably this year about our pitching health than I did last year.”"
The piece is worth checking out, even if you don’t care a lick about the Reds unless they’re in town to play the Cubs. Because the concerns voiced by those in the Cincinnati organization are hardly unique – and are certainly worth examining through the Chicago-focused lens.
Minor league arms haven’t seen a ‘normal’ full-year experience now since 2019. The entire Minor League Baseball calendar was canceled in 2020, shortened by a month in 2021 – and now, although camps are underway for non-40-man players, it’s still a far cry from typical.
Chicago Cubs looking to get pitching prospects back on track
We touched on the number of 40-man Cubs prospects who are in a weird sort of limbo earlier this weekend – still minor leaguers who will play with the team’s affiliates at some point this year – but can’t train or do anything team-related with the lockout in place. On the pitching side of things, that includes top pitching prospect Brailyn Marquez, Manny Rodriguez, Michael Rucker, Corey Abbott and Anderson Espinoza.
Marquez is already coming off an injury-shortened 2021 season, so getting back in camp and getting back to full strength is critical for his development. Every prospect was impacted by the canceled 2020 MiLB campaign and, with a chance to play a full season for the first time in three years (and an even longer season at the Triple-A level), this year is vital for these young players.
Unfortunately, with that return to a full work load comes injuries. Continued development is, of course, the end-all, be-all goal for the Cubs. But keeping these guys healthy (because you can bet we’re going to see that Iowa shuttle running back and forth between Chicago this summer) will be important for these prospects, the affiliates – and even the big league club in 2022.