Cubs: A quick check-in on injured prospects, others on the rise
Today over at FanGraphs, prospect connoisseur Eric Longenhagen gave us some quick snippets on what is going on in the Chicago Cubs system, including some injury information, as well as some improved grades on guys who you may have never known existed. Buckle up. We will dive into everything prospect-related and try to make some semblance of the information.
Good news, Cubs fans, your team once again has a top 10 farm system, at least according to Bleacher Report’s National MLB columnist Joel Reuter. And why not? Last season the Cubs made some tough decisions on guys who were on expiring contracts with almost no window to an extension. It made for some emotional choices and, at the same time, opened doors for a lot of possibilities.
The possibilities are what brought Theo Epstein to the Cubs a decade ago. Those possibilities led to some great draft picks, as well as the diamonds in the rough who previously were cast aside by other organizations. I’m looking at you, Miguel Montero. And those same possibilities are what are going to drive this team back to a winning mentality.
Cubs Minors: What the heck is happening down under?
Top prospect outfielder Brennen Davis has not played a game since May 3 due to a vascular malformation in his back. In layman’s terms, it is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels on, in, or near the spinal cord. So yeah, pretty serious. Given he had surgery to address the issue, odds are he’s done for the year. Thankfully, doctors found no structural damage, and he is expected to recover fully.
Before this occurred, Davis was slashing .195/.286/.299 with two home runs and seven RBI at Triple-A. Most of this drop in production from last season has to do with his injury, I would imagine, as he posted a 150 wRC+ in 68 plate appearances at Iowa in 2021. So, for now, we’ll wait and see how he looks next spring.
Another top prospect, Ed Howard, has not appeared in a game since May 10. He was confirmed out for the season due to a reported “serious” left hip injury. Howard slashed .244/.323/.317 at High-A in 93 plate appearances this year before the injury. He showed he could handle the higher levels of competition displayed by his improved strikeout rate, dropping it by nearly 10 percent, along with the jump in reaching base.
Losing two promising guys to such occurrences, especially coming out of the pandemic, is not the news Cubs fans hoped for coming into 2022, but, alas, here we are. Thankfully, Howard isn’t yet legally old enough to purchase alcohol, so there is plenty of time for a full recovery. Davis just moved to the ‘old enough’ side of the age line, so the organization is fine. However, their development moving forward is critical.
Lastly, touching on the injury/restricted information, right-hander Alexander Vizcaíno has been on the restricted list for many months. However, per Longenhagen, there is no given reason or anything public. Vizcaíno, if you remember, was one of two top-tier prospects the Cubs acquired in the Anthony Rizzo trade with the New York Yankees.
It’s strange how much clout he received considering his struggles through the Yankees’ system and his 5.27 ERA at High-A for the Cubs. That situation will be monitored moving forward, and hopefully, we’ll soon get clarity as to what the heck is happening.
On a more positive side of things, several guys are on the up and up. Right-hander Chris Clarke has spent this season in Double-A and is throwing the ball well. The competition is stiffer. However, he’s still managed a 21.8 percent strikeout rate. Clarke’s FIP is currently at 3.43, although his xFIP is a 3.19, so he’s throwing the ball better than the numbers show.
Yovanny Cruz is another guy on the rise. He was struck down by the pandemic and began this season in the Arizona Complex League, having not pitched since pre-pandemic 2019. In his first appearance this past week at High-A, Cruz pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts. Talk about a positive sign for a guy who hadn’t pitched for nearly three seasons.
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So there are a lot of positives to be excited for, Cubs fans. The injuries to both Davis and Howard stink. However, so many guys continue to step up, and that is something we can hang our hats on, looking into the brighter future ahead.