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Cubs minor leagues: Three up, three down and the Dominican Summer League

There’s good and bad in the Cubs’ Caribbean summer teams.

Danny Rockett

The pipeline over the last three or so weeks has been far better than it had been before this season. It's been similar parts better pitching and better hitting. Early in the season, up until a month ago, it was commonplace to have seven or eight Myrtle Beach hitters hitting below the .200 mark. On Sunday, only one hitter was hitting below .200. The pipeline has become far more enjoyable recently.

I've said very little here about Bryce Ball here, though I’ve been a bit active on Twitter. It's curious how people can shade perceptions based on their desired end-result. Fangraphs, who makes their living assessing prospects and showing their homework, rated him a 40-plus. As a 40-plus hitter, he pencils in as a $4 million asset for the organization.

Does that guarantee he'll be a big leaguer, or regular when he is? No, not even close. However, it's rather apparent that Joc Pederson was acquired to be dealt in July if the Cubs weren't a likely playoff team. Which they aren't. Pederson isn't likely the last to go, and "likely departure" articles aren't popular sometimes. Ball is more valuable to the Cubs long-term than Pederson was, and this month is about long-term, not short-term or sentimentality.

Three Up

In doing my Dominican League Cubs homework, I have four thin sheets of cardboard. One is for the Red Team hitters. One is for the Red Team pitchers. The Blue Team Pitchers and hitters have one, as well.

In the left column is the player's name. Next up is his year of birth. The hitter cards have a column for position. The column on the right is hometown. Whether referencing them in an article, tweet, or podcast, the cards are handy cheat sheets. I'm uninterested in Baseball America projections on a daily basis, but hometowns, like Los Teques, Venezuela (Moises Ballesteros) or Azua, Dominican Republic (Luis Marte) sometimes get a mention.

An important column is birth year. The 2001 or before birth year type is unlikely to be a long-term piece (relatively speaking) without a good season this year. The 2002s are about ordinary. The 2003s, like Cristian Hernandez, are the special ones to watch. However, in 2004 hitter Pedro Ramirez (Templar, Venezuela), the Cubs have an outlier.

The switch-hitting infielder is listed as a second-baseman/shortstop, but is the regular third baseman for the Red Team. Younger than the league to a comical extent, he has no extra base power, yet, through five games. Nonetheless, he entered play on Monday hitting .421 with two walks and four strikeouts in four games. I'm good with that.

The Iowa Cubs bullpen has been comically good, as well. Sometimes, the starters scuffle. The offense might vaporize for a few days. However, the bullpen is effectively an octopus. Between Dillon Maples, Tommy Nance, Dakota Mekkes, Manny Rodriguez, Jake Jewell, and Ben Leeper, the premise is 96 or higher. Often much higher. Usually, throwing strikes isn't a problem.

As recently as 2019, the question of "Which relievers in Des Moines belong in Chicago?" would be followed by a stammer and a harrumph. Now, a string of those relievers is ready. The path is to get proper value from the pieces currently in Chicago's pen before clearing a spot for the next call-up.

Does that mean they all guarantee MLB success? Of course not. However, the fourth in the pecking order (whoever that is) seems more prepared for success than the second-best guy in most years from 2012-2019.

Brennen Davis keeps hitting. I aggressively push against projecting out any more than one level. If a Myrtle Beach hitter is doing well, I have no idea how he'll do in Tennessee.

After a relatively brief adjustment period, Davis is better than Double-A pitching. To be entirely honest, his defense needs work, but he's playing somewhere defensively five games a week or more. He's getting looks in all three spots, and ought to get better with time in all three. (He's probably weakest, now, in left.) He should be getting regular looks in Tennessee or Des Moines for the rest of this season, and at Iowa next year, at least through the work stoppage. He might be okay, and when a young player starts to figure things out, it can be fun.

Three Down

Cubs Blue in the DSL has pitched six games through Monday night. They'd pitched 48 2/3 innings. Their hits allowed are a tolerable 44. However, they've walked 45. Yikes. Development.

On the same sheet of virtual paper, their team slugging percentage is a whopping .247.

On the DSL Red side, the early-season ERA is 8.14, with 38 walks in 42 innings.