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Cubs Prospect Perspective: Ezequiel Pagan

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Here’s a player who lost playing time because of the contraction of the minor leagues.

Ezequiel Pagan
Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

The Lemonade Stand meme. By whichever version, whether from Lucy in Peanuts to far more recent characters, the subject takes a stand, and requests someone explain why they’re wrong. Their opinion is probably rather smug, or they wouldn’t involve themselves in the Lemonade Stand meme. It’s classic passive/aggression, and that’s one of my better traits on some days. As it happens, I have a Lemonade Stand meme concept on today’s article subject.

Ezequiel Pagan, outfielder

Born July 8, 2000. Puerto Rico
Cubs Draft choice (13th Round in 2018) Pro Baseball HS and Academy, Cayey, Puerto Rico.

A few weeks back, I listened to the Cubs season opener in 1969. I won’t spoil the game for you unless you want to look here, but what worked for me was something not intended to be of interest. Leo Durocher was being catty about what had been done to the minor league pipelines heading into 1969. MLB had moved from 20 to 24 franchises, and teams, apparently, lost affiliates. Or something. I’m intrigued what was done, and how, and a 10-minute Google search didn’t fill me in on anything. (Knowledge added below, is welcomed. And I was shocked that Durocher was being combative. Shocked, I tell you.)

Into 2021, team organizations were shrunk to four full-season teams, a compound, the DSL, and however many teams 180 players can provide. For the Cubs, in 2021, that meant one team in the states below full-season level, where they’d had three in 2019. Pitchers went without innings. Hitters went without at-bats. Some games were shrunk to seven innings, because. And every organization had players of both sorts that would have benefited from more play.

As I break out my card table and my sign, “No Cubs prospect was screwed more by the reduction of games being played than Ezequiel Pagan”. Pagan played, somewhat sporadically, at three levels in 2021. Each, for Pagan, was somewhat problematic. In Mesa, the problem wasn’t his play. His OPS was more than tolerable, at 1.019. The problem was, when Pagan played, someone else sat. Be it Owen Caissie, Kevin Alcántara, Ismael Mena, or someone had to sit. Pagan even popped six homers in 27 games in Mesa, a fact that shocked me. (I didn’t see him with that much power.)

In Myrtle Beach, Pagan had a very tolerable .650 OPS, but the six-man outfield rotation (Jordan Nwogu, Yohendrick Pinango, Jonathan Sierra, Jacob Wetzel, Edmond Americaan, Christian Franklin, and Caissie, depending on the week) sat someone who should have been playing. If there were an Advanced Rookie League team, and a limit notably higher than 180 players, Pagan could have played all season. Without taking at-bats from anyone else. A late two game cameo in Advanced-A South Bend saw him go 0 for 7.

Arizona Phil noted recently that the Advanced Rookie League squads might be returning. The absurd and needless player limit will make it rather difficult, and the concept of switching the minor long-term injured list to 30 games might make the extra level possible on the compound level. Pretty much anything to get three games going in 2022 where there was only one in 2021. Pitchers and hitters could both get in more activity. And get better, working on things in-game.

Pagan is a quick player who is useful defensively.

The bat will, or won’t, improve enough to advance. This is suddenly not a system where an ordinary hitter can be promoted without representing in-game. If only Pagan had 70 more at-bats in 2021. May that penny-wise-pound-foolish loophole go away.