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Cubs minor leagues: Three up, three down, and a shift in the wind direction

Things have turned around in parts of the system, if only a little.

Tony Wolters
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

For most of the first two months of the 2021 season, the Cubs pipeline had been bad news heaped on top of bad news. Injuries. Players being underwater against the opposition. The last 11 days, or so, things have started to turn around, if only a little.

Myrtle Beach's hitters are starting to hit, at least a bit. Ed Howard had a four-hit game. Ethan Hearn homered, and hit a bases-clearing double to the wall. Development happens, as it does, if it does. Some of the next additions to the A-Level rosters might come through trades. Frankly, flipping an upgrade to the Phillies bullpen (for a prospect) might even happen mid-series. As I hack away at this early Tuesday, there are no rumors. However, if anything happens outside the norm, Dan Winkler for a corner infield upgrade in South Bend (for a 2019 draft pick) might seem very win/win.

If you want to contemplate a short-term rotation upgrade in Wrigley, mind the Triple-A starters. It's trendy to say "use Keegan Thompson," but without being stretched out, he'd struggle to go four. Adrian Sampson hasn't been earth-shattering, but if a roster spot opens, he might end up being the guy, at some point. Yes, I am on 2012-2014 mindset. And the time needed to reload will be about similar to the time needed to locate two or three All-Star level players making about league minimum. Be that two years, 22 years, or 122 years.

Like before.

Three Up

Whatever you consider Tony Wolters to be, he's been on fire at the plate, recently. Through the last 15 days, his OPS is 1.324. With Wolters around, if an emergency player is needed, he could be the guy.

It's somewhat cheating, but Jared Young is recently back from injury. In those four games, he's 10-for-18 with an OPS of 1.544.

Teammate Ethan Roberts has allowed one earned run in his last 11 outings.

Forced into the Pelicans rotation four appearances ago, Didier Vargas has had three straight starts with three or fewer earned runs. He's up to 80 pitches, now. Keep that up, and he could be in South Bend soon. Especially with 10 strikeouts in his last start.

Three Down

South Bend's bullpen re-appears. My default search is 15 days. Burl Carraway's ERA is 10.29 and he has issued 27 walks in 24 innings. The strike-throwing concerns are now real.

Tyler Payne's OPS the last 15 days for Tennessee has been .318.

Dee Strange-Gordon's OPS the last 15 days has been .480.