MLB.com posted an article over the weekend about every team in Major League Baseball’s prospect to watch for the remainder of the season. They could’ve chosen a center fielder to fill the void that Cody Bellinger may leave behind if he leaves via trade in Pete Crow-Armstrong. They could’ve chosen a power-hitting outfielder that is returning to the AAA level from a freak injury in Alexander Canario. They could have even taken the low-hanging fruit of choosing a starting pitcher to replace Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks, or Drew Smyly if any/all leave via trade at the deadline.
However, they chose RHP Daniel Palencia, and I have to say I agree.
Palencia was the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season and this year was fast-tracked all the way to the majors after a shift to the bullpen. He was acquired in the Andre Chafin trade with the A’s a few years ago and he could have easily spent more time in the minors trying to develop a third pitch to potentially become a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
The Cubs have plenty of middle-of-the-rotation type guys already and they needed help in the bullpen now so I absolutely respect the decision to move Palencia to the pen and so far it’s worked out extremely well. He has hit 100 mph five times already (in just three appearances) which is good enough to tie for the most on the roster.
Many Cubs fans were in favor of Jeremiah Estrada getting an opportunity in high-leverage spots but the fastball was simply too flat in his time at the major league level and honestly, it hasn’t been much better at the AAA level. Palencia has decent spin on the fastball and his slider is significantly stronger than any pitch that Estrada currently has in his repertoire so it makes sense to give Palencia this shot.
Adbert Alzolay has been a solid closer for the Cubs since taking the role. Mark Leiter Jr. seems better suited for the 7th or 8th inning which leaves the other open for Palencia the rest of the way this season.
If the Cubs are going to try to make the playoffs and buy in the next couple of weeks then it might make sense to trade for a legit closer, move Alzolay to setup and Leiter to the 7th, sending Palencia back to AAA for additional seasoning. However, if the Cubs end up selling, it could be very interesting to see if Palencia and Alzolay can form a strong (and more importantly, cheap) back of the bullpen going into next season.