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Cubs minor leagues: Three up, three down

Some good pitchers are featured this week, including Ryan Meisinger of Triple-A Iowa.

Ryan Meisinger pitches for Baltimore in 2018
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Minor league, or development level ball, games are about development. Sunday, I had an occasion to equally want the Cubs affiliate reliever to escape a 12th-inning jam (which he did), and serve up a meatball for a single to center. Nobody was injured in the very late innings, and that was important. I’m not entirely sure what percentage of games have injuries, but the number seems well up. That could be any of a various number of biases, but fans don’t see the numbers. The Cubs seem in “very slow ramp up” mode.

Chase Strumpf went to Beloit, waited through a series, and still hasn’t gotten clearance to resume play. As fun as it would be to have him in the lineup, players are getting chances to sink or swim in his absence. If the next couple months are middling, having a better idea of which players are least likely to “pop up” is probably wise.

No matter how bad it seems, it could always be worse. Diamondbacks top prospect Corbin Carroll is done for the year with shoulder surgery. Matt Allan, a top Mets prospect, is getting Tommy John surgery. Fredericksburg (Nationals Low-A affiliate) fell to 0-12 on Sunday, despite getting their first pitch from a starting pitcher in the fifth inning. Some teams and organizations have rebounded better from a year off. I’ve generally valued July and August more than April or May, anyway. Now, I’ll get more September.

As usual, Three Up Three Down looks at three players that showed me something this week. Maybe you already knew these things, but I tend to be a bit cynical and deliberative. Until I have enough evidence. I reserve the right to change my mind, later, on further evidence.

Three Up

1) I’d heard of Cayne Ueckert (pronounced Eckert) and had some glowing reports about him. I hold my opinions caged until in-game events change my mind. Ueckert pitched briefly and effectively for South Bend, and his promotion to Tennessee was abrupt and quickly rewarded. He survived two extra innings where one run beats him. Putting too much optimism in two road games is foolish, but he seems up to the level. He’s meshed well with Miguel Amaya, who has gunned down multiple base thieves with Ueckert on the mound. If he keeps this up until July, another promotion might make sense.

2) Joe Nahas is an undrafted free agent from Georgia Southern. He created a buzz on the Cape in 2019, and the Cubs signed him then and there. He was adequate in Eugene in 2019, and then life happened. Nahas has now pitched in three games for Low-A Myrtle Beach, winning two of them (yeah, I know), and seems better than the opposition so far. He fanned successive hitters with 95 and a breaking ball. Low-A guys who can throw 95 and can spin a quality curve don’t belong in Low-A Ball.

3) Whether this intrigues you or not, the Cubs have a number of relievers in Triple-A Iowa who probably deserve a look at some point. Those with “years of service time availability” provide an edge over more tenured arms. Regardless their age, if someone runs off six weeks or eighteen months of effectiveness, if they’re near the league minimum level, that should be useful. And the more in that category, the better.

Ryan Meisinger has 79 days of MLB service with the Orioles and Cardinals. I really don’t have a scouting report for you, The Iowa Cubs are third in all of Triple-A (30 teams) with a 2.88 team ERA (through two weeks), and Meisinger gets the late innings. He closed out the no-hitter. He pitched the eighth on Sunday when the I-Cubs were down three, and was rewarded with an eight-run top of the ninth. The bottom was slick and clean. The 27-year-old Radford University 11th rounder in 2015 (Orioles) has the makings of a longer-term keeper, especially at league minimum. I considered him “a guy in the Iowa pen” more than “the guy in the Iowa pen.”

Just missed: Darius Hill, Miguel Amaya, Cam Sanders

Three Down

1) South Bend’s power. I’ve griped about the organization’s propensity to go away from capable and established hitters in the draft before. When South Bend homered twice on Sunday, they were the team’s first long balls of the season. Not only were they the last team to reach one home run, when they reached two homers a couple innings later, they were the 120th team to hit their second home run. I really do enjoy the infield flexibility in the pipeline, but draft more guys that can hit the ball for distance in the second through fourteenth rounds. Even if it means selecting a first baseman.

2) Tennessee Smokies pitching. While a few on the Smokies have been relatively good, the breakdowns have been a few too many. This is only about a three-in-ten concern for now, but Double-A is supposed to be where decisions get firmed up.

3) Again, near the three in ten concern levels, Myrtle Beach isn’t hitting, yet. Eventually they should, but they’re bottom three (of twelve) in batting average, on base, slugging, and OPS in their league. Their OPS is .551. Fredericksburg? They’re at .502, with an 8.12 ERA. Which is how you go 0-12.