This had originally been started in a different direction as a stand-alone piece. I wanted to talk about extending Justin Steele into a "something other than a 20-pitch maximum guy," and the I-Cubs announced him as the starter on Sunday. It worked out well, so far, though I have moderate concerns about injury or ineffectiveness concerns. However, extending relievers is part of what the minor leagues are about. The latter portion of my original piece was going to be about reliever Jake Jewell.
Jewell is a MLB veteran (21 games for the Angels in 2018-19) on a minor league deal. As I-Cubs broadcaster Alex Cohen noted during a recent game, Jewell hasn't allowed a run in four weeks. Sometimes, a team has rights to a player for an extended period. Sometimes, that period is through the end of the season.
With a pitcher like Jewell, who has been better than Triple-A, the cry is often: "Call him up." For the 2021 Cubs, the bullpen has generally been rather strong. You and I both expect a few relievers to be traded this month. Which will lead to MLB openings.
Guys who have already pitched for the 2021 Cubs such as Tommy Nance figure to get the first clarion calls. Manny Rodriguez, who has been better than Triple-A so far, will get a look, especially since he throws easy 97 and 98 with some degree of control. Then, the decisions get harder. Pitchers like Adam Morgan, who was a likely "use him or lose him" case, was tried at the top level. Dakota Mekkes will lobby for a callup. 2020 undrafted free agent Ben Leeper has been spectacular. But: What to do with Jewell? More of a 96 guy with a splitter, Jewell isn't a sure-fire name. He wasn't any kind of electric in spring training, a bit like Nance, or Keegan Thompson.
Should Jewell, who might be long-term useful — or entirely forgettable — be given a look? If not used, and not added to the roster, he goes elsewhere next season. Are you in favor of creating an excuse to try Jewell with the 2021 Cubs? Or are you more convinced you've already seen that movie and hated the ending? Either is fine. As long as you own the opinion long-term.
Brennen Davis looks about ready for Triple-A. Over the last 15 days, his OPS is 1.251. He's about ready for Des Moines. Toss in two missile launches in the Futures Game in Denver.
Early in the season, I was trying to locate trade pieces in the pipeline. Pitchers who had pitched well enough to potentially trade, but who didn't have enough luster to collapse the system if traded. Derek Casey was among those I'd considered as a trade piece.
Casey has kept having decent outings, despite my expectations. His ERA over the last 30 days is 1.99. He belongs in Tennessee.
Jeremiah Estrada's ERA in Myrtle Beach is 0.57. He is Rule 5 Draft-eligible this December. Perhaps he should try South Bend on for size.
Three Down (small sample size warning)
Porter Hodge was the Cubs’ 13th Round draft pick in 2019. He's the Monday guy for Mesa, which is akin to being the ace. His starts have gone largely the same.
Starts well. Good after that. Then, a huge ERA-wrecking blow-up. The cool thing is, in a development league, the lessons outstrip the losses in importance. Chin up, kid.
The Dominican Summer League started on Monday. In a game against the Mets, the Cubs trailed 4-0 to the seventh, with one hit. Which came on a bunt. A classic teaser rally in the seventh and final inning pushed the totals to 2 runs on 3 hits. In the other game, against Cleveland, the Cubs scored two in the first without the benefit of a hit. They lost 3-2 in 10, getting one-hit. 17 innings and 4 hits.
In the same games, the Cubs combined for ten errors. Five in each. I'm glad the DSL is back. No, really. I am.