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Cubs Minor League Stock Watch: 3 up, 3 down

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Another snapshot at who is making progress to the major leagues and who needs to catch up.

Trent Giambrone
Trent Giambrone
Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

So how about we do another episode of Minor League 3 up, 3 down? This is just a random sampling of six players who I believe are moving in the Cubs prospect rankings. It’s not comprehensive and it’s not final. It’s not necessarily the six who have done the most to help or hurt themselves this year. But there are just about seven weeks left in the minor league season, so there’s not much time left.

I excluded anyone who was on my last edition of this series. Yes, I know Miguel Amaya is a stud and Jose Albertos is still struggling. The good news is that D.J. Wilson is healthy again and playing better. While he’s still not where he needs to be, he’s moving in the right direction at least.

1 UP: Second baseman Trent Giambrone, Tennessee Smokies

Much like David Bote last year, Giambrone was one of those “just a guy” players before his breakout this year at age 24 in Double-A Tennessee. I don’t want to make too much of the comparison to Bote. For one, I think Bote is the better defensive player. But Giambrone has shown more power than Bote ever did, hitting 15 home runs already in just 318 plate appearances this season. That includes that amazing three-bomb game against the Generals on July 5.

This year, Giambrone is hitting .270/.331/.502 in Double-A after hitting just .242/.297/.348 with 12 home runs last year in High-A. That’s a major power surge. Getting out of the Carolina League’s strong pitching environment helped some, but he’s not taking advantage of Smokies Park either, as he has more home runs on the road than at home. Yes, there are some other yellow flags (I wouldn’t call them red) in that he strikes out a little more and walks a little less than Bote does. But if he keeps this up, he could have a career as a bat-first second baseman in the majors.

2 UP: Right-handed pitcher Keegan Thompson, Tennessee Smokies

Thompson was on the prospect radar before this season, but this year has moved him into the upper-tier of Cubs prospects. Thompson missed his entire 2016 season at Auburn with Tommy John surgery, but he came back in 2017 and the Cubs took him in the third round. The Cubs babied him last season, only letting him throw 19⅓ innings in Eugene.

After a full season back from TJ, the Cubs took the training wheels off Thompson and he’s shone. Thompson threw 67⅔ innings with a 3.19 ERA in High-A Myrtle Beach. His crown jewel was seven perfect innings and eight strikeouts in a game against Carolina on June 14. That was his final start in High-A as he headed off to Tennessee. He got hammered for eight runs in his first start in Double-A, but he did not give up a run in his next two starts.

Thompson’s low-nineties fastball limits his upside for now, but he’s got four pitches and both his slider and curve are nasty when they’re on.

3 UP: Right-handed pitcher Rollie Lacy, Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Lacy was an 11th-round pick last season out of Creighton and while a lot of 11th-round picks are top-five round picks who dropped because they’re tough signs, that doesn’t appear to be the case with Lacy who signed for the standard $125,000 maximum.

Lacy’s is a command and control right-hander, who issues few walks and keeps hitters guessing. His masterpiece was the first seven innings of a combined no-hitter for South Bend on June 6. For South Bend this season, Lacy threw 71⅓ innings, struck out 84 and walked 20 for a 2.02 ERA. He held opposing hitters to a .203 average. That earned the 22-year-old a promotion to Myrtle Beach, where he allowed just one run and struck out seven in 5⅓ innings in his first and so far only start in High-A.

1 DOWN: Third baseman Wladimir Galindo, Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Galindo was one of my favorite prospects last season before he missed the second-half with a broken leg. But whether he’s still recovering from the injury or he’s just struggling to find his grove again, Galindo went from hitting .290/.350/.432 in 44 games in South Bend last season to this year in Myrtle Beach, where Galindo is hitting just .224/.279/.324 in 71 games. The one saving grace here is that Galindo is still just 21 years old and has more than enough time to recover.

2 DOWN: Left-handed pitcher Bryan Hudson, Myrtle Beach Pelicans

It’s easy to see why scouts like Hudson: he’s 6’8”, left-handed and flashes a major-league plus curveball. But after making some positive steps in controlling all of his pitches in 2017, he’s taken a step backwards this year. Hudson has been terrific in getting batters to hit ground balls, but the bottom line is that he walks too many and strikes out too few. He can’t control his fastball or throw it hard enough to set up that curve.

This year in High-A, Hudson has made 15 starts and has managed just 68⅓ innings. That’s about 4 and a half innings a start. In that time, Hudson has struck out just 50 batters and walked 40 of them. He’s also got 13 wild pitches in that time. That’s given him a 5.27 ERA.

Again, Hudson is just 21 and he’s still learning to control his tall, lanky body. Pitchers like Hudson are often long-term projects. So while Hudson may still end up on some Top 30 prospect lists when the season is over, he’s definitely moving in the wrong direction in 2018.

3 DOWN: Right-handed pitcher Oscar De La Cruz, Tennessee Smokies

This one is easy. On the plus side, De La Cruz has been healthy this season and has already set a career-high for innings pitched. His strikeout ratios are also slightly up.

The down side is pretty simple. He’s walking more, has a 5.24 ERA and was suspended for the rest of the season with a failed PED test. Maybe I should have led with that. All in all, that’s a bit of a downer.

All statistics are through the games of Wednesday, July 11.