Next time, I plan to talk a bit about expectations of recent draftees. Before I get there, though, some of the commentary on third-round selection Jacob Hannemann's age has been humorous: "He's too old."
He took some time away from school and baseball on a Mormon mission. When he returned, he performed well enough that the decision-makers wanted Hannemann over all other available options on day two of the draft. While 22 is a somewhat advanced age to start a pro baseball journey, he should be a quick mover. With a third-rounder, you are hoping for a major league career. That would, most likely, happen in a range of four to six years after the draft. At that point, Hannemann will be in his mid-to-late 20's, just when he should be at his baseball best.
In almost all cases, the question should be "Will he contribute?", not "Is he young?" The Cubs have drafted plenty of young players who had nondescript careers. What they need now is more good baseball players. If Hannemann is one, nobody will claim his age as a reason. If he isn't a good enough ballplayer, his age won't be the reason, either. Some teams effectively draft college juniors, grasping they will washout less often than preps. The best plan is to draft some young guys, and some older guys. The skills, and how they are developed, are the important thing.
The pace of minor-league ball suits me rather well. If a Cubs system player or two have a good game, that generally makes the night worthwhile. There isn't so much animosity about a player screwing up. If he is over his head, you send him down a level. That, or you release him. No worries, as there are with the parent club. Despite that, there is something the current administration is continuing that I really don't grasp. Everyone does it.
This might not compute with some. Either I agree in entirety in advance what Team Theo does, or I wait until I know what they do, and back it 110%, right? Except for burning options on lefty pitchers last year, I'm required to agree, aren't I?
The minor leagues are for developing players. Is the hitter ready to move up? Is the catcher calling a good game? Is the starting pitcher carving up the current level? Did the outfielder take a good route? In most instances, the minor league method is to help advance players to the next level. Get the boxes checked, as it were. There is one contrarian example. It happens far too often, and it's time to make a mention. Why is it good for developing players to draw in the infield in the early innings? It isn't.
In the majors, if the opposition has a runner on third with less than two outs, the manager contemplates drawing in some or all of the infielders. I understand the premise. There are some points where shutting down the run from scoring at third adds significantly to the likelihood of winning. Enough to counter the increased likelihood of a bouncer getting through for a single. There is a give-and-take, and either strategy could work better. In many instances it won't matter, but if the run is that important, bring in the infield.
That said, the minor leagues are about development. If a runner reaches third with an out in the first against a Low-A level Cubs pitcher, I can't think of a situation like that outside of the playoffs where the infield should be in. Take the out, give up the run, and move the game along. You were going to need a run sometime anyway, and winning isn't that important. Otherwise, relievers would pitch on back-to-back days.
At higher levels (Double- and Triple-A) or late in games, (eighth innings and beyond), exceptions can be made. In reality, though, I don't like the infield drawn in at lower levels much of ever. If I were asked, I would need a really good excuse to call in the infielders.
Have you any ideas for something in player development that irks you? Bunting too much? Or not enough? Hit and runs, or pitch counts? Or, do you think I'm more clueless than usual opposing "infield in" early in lower level games? Have at it.
Austin Reed, P (High-A Daytona Cubs)
Reed headed into the All-Start break with a WHIP of 1.9. He has walked 21, and fanned 22. He is better over his last ten outings, but he's still walking a hitter every two innings, and surrendering nearly a hit an inning over the stretch.
Zeke DeVoss, CF (High-A Daytona Cubs)
DeVoss is hitting .286 over his ten games before the break. That vaults him to .228 on the season. His walks are okay, but he has 45 strikeouts to 38 walks. He's been caught in seven of twenty steal tries, and there is a youngster threatening to take his job. See below.
Carlos Llano, P (Dominican Summer League Cubs)
In their championship season in 1971, Pittsburgh reliever Bob Veale was 6-0. His ERA was 6.99. (An aside on Veale: when I was growing up, his ERA that year was 7.04. Yeah, I remember stuff like that. Apparently, the Pirates stats have been edited the last 10 years.) Llano is 2-1 for the DSL Cubs. He has 2 saves. In just over 6 innings, he has walked six, surrendered 7 hits. He has fanned 11. Each outing has resulted in Llano getting a win, loss, or save. His ERA is 5.68. Llano turns 22 in February.
Albert Almora, CF (Low-A Kane County)
Jose Barrios of Cedar Rapids was born in May 1994. Tyler Pike of Clinton was born in January of the same year. That's it. A handful of 1993's. A bunch from 1992, 91, and 90. But there are only two pitchers in the Kane County half of the Midwest League born in 1994. Almora was born on April 16, 1994. There is, therefore one pitcher younger than Albert Almora in the Midwest League West. How have these veterans held him down?
Almora is hitting .396. That isn't his slugging (.531) or his OPS (.954). That's kinda like a high school freshman ripping up his conference in his sport. He'll probably cool down a bit. The fly in the ointment is, he takes solid routes in center, so his defense may be better than his offense. I expect he might make Double-A earlier than later next year. Yes, that would be fast-tracking him. He'd probably be younger than almost all the pitchers in the Southern League.
Which obviously deters him from hitting.
Ben Carhart, 3B (High-A Daytona Cubs)
Carhart is 8-for-15 since getting back from three days off for the All-Star break. Perhaps someone informed Carhart that Kris Bryant might get started in Daytona. Either way, what smart teams do is pile quality drafts on top of quality drafts at all positions. Carhart will continue to be a decent corner infielder type in the system, until other players at multiple levels pass him up. The Florida State League is a tough hitters' league. He should reach Double-A next year, apparently with decent numbers. (His OPS is an acceptable .743.)
James Pugliese, P (Short-Season Boise Hawks)
Pugliese led the runner-up Hawks last season in strikeouts, but is repeating the level. Over two wins in two starts, he has surrendered a run, on a mis-played fly for an inside-the-park homer. He's had one shaky inning in ten, and he survived that unscathed.
Pugliese re-worked his delivery over the off-season. It seems to have worked for him. For people who insist on 93 plus on the radar gun on a fastball, Pugliese may not be your guy. He sits in the low 90s, but if he's retiring hitters, that's good enough for me.