For much of my last few years I had an actual job, I worked third shift. Which had upsides and drawbacks. One of the drawbacks was irregular sleeping patterns. One of the upsides was, when I got up late in the morning, I could follow along with the Cubs’ Dominican Summer League games. After all, nothing much else is going on baseball-wise at 11 in the morning. I’d try to familiarize myself with the players names and hometowns. Even the guys who weren’t playing very much. Or very well. Players develop on their timeframes, not ours. Sometimes, the players who don’t excel early figure it out, eventually.
Pablo Aliendo, catcher
Born May 29, 2001, Naguangua, Venezuela.
Signed by the Cubs as an international free agent
In 2019, as I watched the box scores roll in, Aliendo would catch either the first or second half of most of his 47 games behind the dish. (The Cubs tended to split games between two catchers, for whatever reasons. Interesting idea at that level, and I don’t dislike it.) His OPS was a rather ordinary .617, with six extra-base hits in 161 plate trips. While he was a definite candidate for promotion to the USA, being the No. 1 catcher for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in 2021 was a “from out of nowhere” surprise for me, and I knew he existed. Someone forgot to tell Aliendo he wasn’t good enough because his prior numbers didn’t back it up.
As the Pelicans’ offense was struggling early, Aliendo forced his way into regular time by being among the team’s best hitters in the first month. If you base your opinions 100 percent on what happened before, baseball will surprise you. Despite being on a team that was under-experienced, Myrtle Beach would ease into second place in their four-team division. You can deny Aliendo (.723 OPS in his first full-season campaign) credit for the team’s success, but his keeping the pitching staff together (along with Ethan Hearn, the other primary catcher) was a large part of keeping everything afloat until late July.
After a promotion to Advanced-A South Bend, his offensive numbers tumbled. Frankly, though, that he pulled the “wearing the catching gear” thing well enough to get promoted to South Bend put him as a 19 on the 20-sided die roll of seasonal development. As much as we want the Cubs organization’s catchers to hit, Aliendo kept a somewhat maligned staff early, going. Aliendo and Hearn provided a nice catching tandem, and if Aliendo replicates in South Bend what he did in 2021 in Myrtle Beach, he becomes an actual catching prospect.
My guy, Pablo Aliendo, just golfed one out to give Myrtle Beach the lead pic.twitter.com/rTIGZkWj5t— Todd ⚾️ (@CubsCentral08) June 13, 2021
Since it’s my article, a bit of levity.
Alexander Canario with a 2-run shot to left, and Pablo Aliendo trolling from the bullpen. pic.twitter.com/pfQIeVZ0aV— Brad (@ballskwok) September 12, 2021