The South Bend Cubs are on a roll. This week, the team moved over .500 thanks to solid starting pitching, timely hitting, an emerging bullpen, and a star in the making.
It all started last Sunday at Fort Wayne with a dominant performance by Ryan Williams, who allowed 1 hit over 6 innings while striking out three. His team-leading ERA 0.46 is outstanding. Williams is using good fastball command and a promising slider to carve through lineups.
After a day off on Monday, the Cubs took to West Michigan. Watching on MiLB.TV it was evident early on that any pitch on the inner half of the plate was not being called a strike. As a result, Jake Stinnett struggled by leaving the ball out over the outer half. He gave up 7 hits in 2 and 2/3 while walking two. Two errors did not help as the righty gave up five runs. On the bright side, it is clear why the Cubs selected the former Maryland Terrapin – he gets wicked movement on all his pitches. However, he has yet to master the command of his arsenal.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Cubs took the series via back to back wins against the White Caps as Jeremy Null dominated the first game by going 5 and 2/3, striking out six, and not allowing a run on six hits. His ERA is a miniscule 0.79. Erick Leal only gave up two runs on Thursday as the Cubs won the series and moved above .500. On Friday night, the offense exploded for seven runs in the seventh inning en route to an 11-5 victory over Fort Wayne to move to 12-10.
In addition, the bullpen has been getting things in order to hold down leads late in the game.
@thehistoryrat last 5 games, bullpen 22.2ip / 5er / 1.99era
— SouthBend Cubs Radio (@SBCubsRadio) May 1, 2015
PROSPECT PROFILE: Gleyber Torres
It is quite clear who is becoming the star of this team. Between Wednesday and Thursday’s games, top prospect Gleyber Torres reached base in nine straight plate appearances. In his last 9 games, he is 17 for 33 (.515). He is now the RBI leader on the team with 14. Back in March, Drew Brown profiled Gleyber on Cubs Insider. One key line sticks out from that piece and it is by Chris Crawford of Baseball Prospectus: “I personally don’t understand why he hasn’t gotten as much hype as some of the other guys.”
The hype is coming including notice from Ben Badler of Baseball America.
Four-hit night for Cubs shortstop Gleyber Torres, who finishes April hitting .352 in Low-A. He’s the same age as a high school senior.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) May 1, 2015
In watching several games on MiLB.TV (a worthy $50 investment), here are several things I have noticed about Torres’ development in just 22 games.
He moves fluidly from left to right on the diamond and is just as capable of getting to a ball deep in the hole as he is at going behind the bag, or even chasing down balls in shallow parts of the outfield. The issue has been what to do when he gets the ball out of his glove. He has made 6 errors in 79 and four have been of the throwing variety.
A lot of his errors will change greatly as he gains experience in game situations and increases his strategic thinking. In one chance, he was unsure if a ball he fielded deep behind second base should have been thrown underhand or over hand to Chesny Young waiting at second. These are little things that he needs to correct. Watching him last night, the ball was released quickly and he knew where the throw was going.
His arm is solid, but not spectacular. He gets to a lot of balls others can’t because he has good range and plus instincts off the bat, but he is still a work in progress on experience and gameplay.
Early in the year Torres was hitting sixth and seventh in the lineup. He was inconsistent at best and would go 0-3 one day and 3-4 the next. Things changed when Torres went to the second spot behind Charcer Burks and ahead of Chesny Young. His .515 clip has shown that it is his bat that sets him apart from other prospects. At 18 years old, it is amazing the run he is on.
It is one thing for a prospect to do well at a level, the Cubs are looking for prospects to dominate. That is what Torres is close to doing. Here is a video of his two run triple on Wednesday:
What you will notice right away in his semi-open stance is he really barrels up the ball to hit it with authority the other way. His hands give the illusion of being busy, but there is a brief half a second where everything is still as the pitch is released then his hands just explode into and through the zone driving the ball the other way. His hips don’t fly open and neither does his front leg. He has an extremely solid base. If you watch 50 at bats of him swinging, it is the same swing in every one.
He has some adjusting to do as he does get fooled, but his 23% K rate might be due to his inexperience and age. He has great pitch recognition, smooth hands, and the ability to go the other way. He has yet to hit a home run but has 2 triples and 3 doubles. And, he may not need to hit for power. He also takes his walks (.443 OBP). Additionally, he has decent speed and has swiped 7 bases this year.
In the next month, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell will no longer to be eligible to be called prospects at 150 at bats. There will be a new #1 and #2 prospects in the Cubs organization by the end of May. Expect to see Torres in discussion for a top five spot this summer, and the top spot by the fall of 2016. And if I’m a GM of another team, he would be one prospect I would want in a trade with the Cubs. And if I am Theo and Jed, I wouldn’t give Torres to them.
Coming Soon: A profile of pitcher Zach Hedges