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Cubs Prospect Perspective: Harrison Wenson

He’s got some qualities that are excellent to have for a catcher.

Harrison Wenson was drafted by the Angels in 2017
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/MLB Photos via Getty Images

I have a “frustrated gamemaker” chromosome loose inside of me. As much as I follow baseball, that’s not the game I try my most to create/improve. In reality, I’m looking for a base game that aleady exists, with a game that can already play, with generic player rankings. What I’m seeking is a game that I can add injuries and player upgrades. The best one I’ve found for my purposes is the Vince Lombardi Football Game. After (more than) a few tries, I’ve added player upgrades with more realistic injury likelihoods, and a team can get far better due to quality coaching. Which provides, oddly, a backdrop for Cubs catching prospect Harrison Wenson.

Football works easiest so far, because football has fewer plays than baseball or basketball and hockey, in which the action rarely stops. In football, you assess the three-yard gain, assess the statistics, any upgrades or injuries, and head to the next play. In baseball, each team normally has upward of 100 pitches, anymore. I’m not that adept at grasping the many strategies in hockey (or soccer/futbol) which dumps that idea right there. American football is basic enough, with a skeleton game, that a player could develop from a benchwarmer to a regular and beyond. I haven’t figured out a way to do that with other sports I know.

Harrison Wenson, catcher

Born April 21, 1995. Farmington Hills, Michigan
2017 Draft Pick, Angels, 24th Round, University of Michigan
Acquired by the Cubs as a minor-league free agent in 2021

As many of you know, Miguel Amaya was supposed to have a big year with the Cubs pipeline in 2021. It never happened, as he had an arm injury that ended his season, early on. Now, Amaya has had Tommy John surgery scheduled. Needing any sort of “advanced minor-league catcher” that was available, the Cubs added Tim Susnara (from Independent Ball and the University of Oregon) and Wenson, who the Angels released in early May 2021. Wenson was with South Bend in June through August, and with Tennessee in September. I expect he will be back.

As a catcher, Wenson’s superpower isn’t his offense, his throwing arm, or his ability to guess the right number of pitch to flash. From more than one source, he’s very good at relating to the pitchers on his staff, and getting them into a better “headspace,” which is my go-to term for mental skills. A person with proper self-confidence is difficult to stop. When that self-confidence wanes, success at any level is difficult.

Wenson seems the type of player that makes his coaching staff better. Whether he ever hits enough to claim a Triple-A roster spot in Iowa, if he’s the type of catcher who can help upgrade the pitching ability of every 14th or 15th pitcher he runs into, he ought to be employed by baseball teams for the next two decades, and I’m glad the Angels let him go.

Over four stops in two different systems, Wenson had an OPS of .677 in 2021. Which is entirely acceptable if the other stuff checks out. Sometimes, baseball is about bat-to-ball skills and getting from first-to-third on a single. Sometimes, it’s about making your teammates better, which doesn’t easily get translated to a “roll the dice to determine a play” sort of game.

My guess is that 2022 will see Wenson toggles between Double-A and Triple-A. In part, because someone usually does that anyway. And, in part, because it would give him two pitching staffs to “channel” in bullpen sessions. Any way a player can legally upgrade the pipeline is likely useful. As much as numbers can tell us in baseball, sometimes I prefer people to talk in terms of non-numbers.