Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Hughes and Morel exit debuts to standing ovations; Frazier kicks off rehab; Alcantara and Pagan homer as Pelicans offense explodes again

Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Hughes and Morel exit debuts to standing ovations; Frazier kicks off rehab; Alcantara and Pagan homer as Pelicans offense explodes again

Kevin Alcantara (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

MLB

Rookie Performers

You couldn’t ask for better debuts from Brandon Hughes and Christopher Morel last night.

The MLB debut for @Brando_Hugs:

1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K. pic.twitter.com/m3lHZnc6PM

— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs)

May 18, 2022

The Friendly Confines can’t contain Christopher Morel. pic.twitter.com/GUh9loc1jo

— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs)

May 18, 2022

Brandon Hughes of the @Cubs is the first pitcher in the modern era to get 5+ outs in his MLB debut with all of them coming via strikeout.

— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS)

May 18, 2022

Hughes showcased exactly what has made him a such a fast riser in the system since the start of last season. The converted outfielder has a deceptive four seam fastball that plays much higher than the velocity he throws it with (often 91-93, T95). Opposing hitters are often late or swing through it. There is nothing outrageous in the movement profile of the pitch which indicates why it is so difficult to hit, so there is likely an added element of deception created by the arm path and delivery Hughes utilizes. The same goes for his slider, which doesn’t have crazy lateral or horizontal movement, but generates a ton of whiffs regardless. It must tunnel extremely well off his fastball and also benefit from the same arm path/delivery deception. Hughes also throws a changeup which has improved this season which adds yet another weapon to utilize against RHB.

To give you an idea of how freaky Hughes ascension as RP was. He was an OF in ST 2019. He started pitching that summer in Mesa and went through 3 levels in 1 year. No season in 2020, dominated SB and TN last year, TN and Iowa this year.

Grand total of innings….91.2!!!!!!!

— Todd (@CubsCentral08)

May 17, 2022

Readers here are likely pretty aware of Christopher Morel. I’ve longed preached about his defensive versatility, bat speed, and infectious energy. He began his career very raw offensively. He swung at everything during his disastrous stint with Eugene in 2018 (0 BB in 93 PAs) which got him sent back to Mesa. The physical skills were apparent though. The quick twitch athleticism, bat speed, and arm strength all showed through if you were willing to look past the ugly triple slash line.

I expected him to eventually break out, but was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it occurred. He spent the first month or so of 2019 in EXST, but then got jumped up to Low-A South Bend and immediately began to perform. He still wasn’t showing enough patience to draw many walks but he was showing enough to wait for better pitches to swing at, and thanks to getting a little bigger and stronger in the offseason was able to do damage when he got a good pitch to hit.

When Minor League play resumed last season Morel was aggressively pushed up the ladder by the Cubs once again, skipping High-A and instead finding himself assigned to AA Tennessee. There were some expected struggles, he hit just .223 with 134 Ks in 110 games between AA/AAA, but once again he made small strides with his plate discipline and pitch recognition. He also continued to hit for increasing power (18 homers) all while adding CF/RF to his defensive repertoire.

Morel returned to Tennessee to open this season, and it was no surprise to see him once again become a bit more patient and show a bit more power (.306/.380/.565 in 28 games). Morel generates exit velocities on par with any prospect in the Cubs system so if the 22 year old can continue to refine his approach he can definitely ascend to great heights.

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Daniel Norris exited the game with a sore Achilles tendon.

AAA

Columbus 9, Iowa 3

Top Performers

Robel García: 3-4, 2B, R, RBI (.311)Trent Giambrone: 1-1, 2B, RBI, BB (.185)Carlos Sepulveda: 1-1, RBI, BB (.250)Nelson Velázquez: 2-4 (.273)Nelson Maldonado: 1-4, 2B, R (.265)Jared Young: 1-4, 3B (.265)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Clint Frazier kicked off his rehab with an 0-4 night, but he did just a miss a homer in one at bat. He is coming back from an appendectomy a couple of weeks ago. It is expected that Frazier will remain in Iowa for the week before rejoining Chicago.

AA

Chattanooga 9, Tennessee 8

Game Recap

Any hope for a repeat of a no-hit performance by Peyton Remy was short lived. The righty struggled to throw strikes, walking one, hitting another, and giving up three hits without making it out of the 1st inning before being lifted for pitch count reasons. The bullpen tried to pick up the slack and the offense, led by Bryce Windham and Levi Jordan, even managed to claw their way to a lead in the middle innings. But more control issues, this time by Burl Carraway in the 8th, doomed the Smokies.

My guy, Bryce Windham, just destroyed a baseball. The Smokies were down 5 to 0 and now lead 7 to 6 pic.twitter.com/H3nnT1o01R

— Todd (@CubsCentral08)

May 18, 2022

Top Performers

Bryce Windham: 2-3, HR (1), R, 3 RBI, BB (.233)Levi Jordan: 2-3, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB (.348)Bryce Ball: 2-4, R, BB (.323)Chase Strumpf: 0-2, 3 R, BB, 2 HBP (.219)Yonathan Perlaza: 1-4, R, RBI (.194)Wyatt Short: 3 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 2 K (1.29)Blake Whitney: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K (L, 2-1, 3.75)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

One of South Bend’s hottest hitters, Matt Mervis, has received a well deserved promotion to Tennessee.

It took a bit for Bryce Windham to find his footing at the plate this year, but he’s now 8-for-23 in May.

High-A

Wisconsin 3, South Bend 1

Game Recap

Manuel Espinoza and Bailey Horn held Wisconsin at bay for seven innings, but the Cubs offense struggled to get runners on all night and eventually Jeremiah Estrada had an off night, giving up a homer in the 8th.

Espinoza doesn’t have overpowering stuff but he knows how to throw it for strikes and change speeds. He’s just 21 and getting good results in High-A, but I still struggle to project him as a noteworthy prospect. But it is also more difficult than ever to project pitchers. All of them tend to show up each spring with better velo or a new pitch, so who knows. Stay healthy and throw strikes and maybe additional stuff will come later.

Top Performers

Manuel Espinoza: 4 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 3 K (1.88)Bailey Horn: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 3 K (0.00)Cole Roederer: 1-3, 2B, BB (.192)

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

It has been confirmed that Ed Howard will miss the remainder of the season with an unspecified hip injury. It is reported that he is expected to make a full recovery though.

Low-A

Myrtle Beach 15, Columbia 5

Game Recap

Not sure what to say at this point. The Pelicans offense rarely goes more than a few days without lighting up the scoreboard and they did it again last night. All nine batters reached. Eight recorded a hit, six recorded at least two.

Ezequiel Pagan homered for the third time in five games. He maybe doesn’t have the highest upside, but he’s a guy who has hit whenever given consistent playing time, and I think there are fair odds he can make it into the upper levels of the system.

Ezequiel Pagan with his third home run in his last five games!

A solo shot gives the Pelicans a 9-4 lead in the top of the sixth. pic.twitter.com/8UFRWsdHYV

— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball)

May 18, 2022

Ceiling is not an issue for fellow outfielder Kevin Alcantara though. He’s not even close to his full physical maturity but that doesn’t stop him from hitting lasers out to the opposite field.

Kevin Alcantara HAMMERS one to right and the Pelicans are on the board! Fourth home run of the season for Alcantara.

Fireflies 2, Pelicans 1 in the bottom of the second. pic.twitter.com/Fz9UqCkQHM

— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball)

May 17, 2022

First James Triantos began to find his groove, and now in recent weeks Reginald Preciado has followed. He’s still not lifting the ball much and a future swing alteration seems likely but he’s now hitting well over .300 in May. Preciado went 3-for-4 last night with hits from both sides of the plate.

How is Reggie Preciado doing this month? Let’s take a look. This double puts them at .314 for May pic.twitter.com/byfoppy2Zp

— Todd (@CubsCentral08)

May 18, 2022

Reggie Preciado it is now three-for-four on the night including this single from the right hand side of the batter’s box. pic.twitter.com/jgBLdoLjkY

— Todd (@CubsCentral08)

May 18, 2022

We’re likely getting close to a promotion for 1B/3B B.J. Murray, Jr. (.311/.425/.525). The 22-year old was a late bloomer out of Florida Atlantic who the Cubs took in the 15th round last year. I haven’t done a deep dive on him yet, but the switch hitter is quiet at the plate and has been killing it for a few weeks in Myrtle Beach. There’s a spot opened up in South Bend with Matt Mervis heading to AA.

Here is one of the breakout hitters of the first half. His name is BJ Murray and he is just destroying baseballs in Myrtle Beach pic.twitter.com/68aTAtr7KK

— Todd (@CubsCentral08)

May 18, 2022

Top Performers

Kevin Alcantara: 2-4, 2B, HR (4), 2 R, 2 RBI, BB (.261)Ezequiel Pagan: 2-5, HR (3), 2 R, 3 RBI (.211)Reginald Preciado: 3-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB (.218)B.J. Murray Jr.: 2-5, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB (.311)Juan Mora: 2-5, 2B, R, RBI, BB (.267)James Triantos: 2-6, 3B, 2 R, RBI (.276)Jacob Wetzel: 1-5, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI, HBP (.194)Pete Crow-Armstrong: 1-5, R, 2 RBI, BB, (.357)Richard Gallardo: 6 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 2 ER, BB, 7 K (W, 3-1, 2.67)

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Recent Comments

In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:
Looking at all of these young guys i think the Cubbies are going to have to try and trade some…
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In reply to Michael Ernst:
Hughes looked good. Encouraging start. I hope Norris will be fine, he was throwing pretty good lately, and could be…
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As someone mentioned before, the Cubs organization was 5-0 the other day, and last week the entire minor league clubs…
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Good write up – as usual Michael, Took me a couple of days to get around to reading it. :D…
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In reply to Michael Ernst:
Velazquez, Maldonado, Sanders, Hughes, Hudson were called up previously, and Morel is being called up to Iowa as well (with…
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