As has been the case for much of the year, the shuttle between Chicago and Iowa is racking up the miles recently. With pitchers Javier Assad and Nicholas Padilla getting the nod this week, it begs the question how soon until wee see more young Cubs talent at the major league level.
One name, in particular, stands out to me given he’s Rule 5-eligible and has a strong chance of getting plucked from the organization unless the Cubs protect him and put him on the 40-man in Jeremiah Estrada.
Estrada is currently on his fourth year of pro ball after being signed at the age of 18 in the sixth round of the 2017 draft. Hailing from Palm Desert, CA, Estrada features a fastball, curveball and change-up. If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch any I-Cubs games this year, this is the guy I have circled in that bullpen who deserves a shot in the majors immediately.
In my opinion, he has all the makings of a fantastic relief option and at just 23 years old in Triple-A, I have a hard time believing he goes untouched in the Rule 5. There is definitely at least one team out there that will come along and want to take a shot and keep a guy like this on their big league roster for at least a year.
His time with Iowa has been pretty limited, but he hasn’t missed a beat, sporting a 0.00 ERA after four relief appearances. That is, of course, after dazzling with a 1.86 ERA in 19 1/3 innings Double-A Tennessee and a 1.17 ERA in 23 innings at High-A South Bend. All of that comes on the heels of an equally impressive 1.51 ERA in 23 frames at Myrtle Beach last year. It’s pretty remarkable that Estrada started the year in High-A South Bend and is now in Triple-A Iowa banging on the door for a shot in the big leagues.
Chicago Cubs: What are the Cubs getting in Jeremiah Estrada?
Across those three levels this season, Estrada has amassed a ridiculous 73 strikeouts in 46 1/3 frames, good for a 14.2 K/9 mark. I can’t shake the feeling that this is the type of guy that you lose in the Rule 5 Draft and have it haunt you for years to come. The strikeout rate alone is enough for you to realize he has all the makings of a homegrown closer.
Looking at advanced metrics on Fangraphs, in High-A, Estrada recorded a 42.9 percent strikeout rate. At Double-A Tennessee, that percentage dipped to a still elite 35.1 percent and now in Iowa after his four appearances, that number sits at 38.9 percent. Absolutely mind-boggling stuff. Does all this mean it will automatically carry over to the majors? Of course not. But given how seamlessly he’s advanced through the minor league system this season, combined with the fact that the Cubs aren’t exactly competing for a playoff spot this year, they have nothing to lose by calling him up this season and seeing what he’s made of.
The numbers simply can’t get much better in the minors. The Cubs would be doing their future a major disservice by, at the very least, not making sure they aren’t missing out on an absolute gem in the bullpen moving forward.
Given the sheer number of quality prospects Jed Hoyer has amassed in his two years at the helm, juggling the 40-man this winter will be a challenge – and something we’ll all want to keep an eye on. Let’s see what Estrada is made of in the next month and take it from there.