Last season was disappointing for Jeremiah Estrada, the Cubs’ sixth round pick in the 2017 draft. After pitching just 6.1 innings in that first partial season, Estrada missed the entire 2018 season with a strained UCL. He avoided surgery, though, and has burst back onto the prospect scene again at short-season Eugene.
Age – 20
Height – 6’1”
Weight – 185
Throws – Right
2017 6th round pick
ETA – 2023
On Sunday June 17, Estrada made his 2019 debut pitching in relief for Eugene. It was an odd turn of events to say the least, but there he was as the third pitcher of the game. His night began with what is known as an immaculate inning: nine pitches, nine strikes, all on mid-90’s fastballs.
A few days late but.. Never a better feeling to be back on the mound after missing a long upsetting season last year due to an injury! Thanks to the Fans of the @eugeneemeralds 💚 You guys are the best‼️ & more importantly, thank you to My Biggest Fans..My Family❤️HFD Pops⚾️👨👦 pic.twitter.com/E6PIS3Huyw
— Jeremiah Estrada (@Jeremiah13Estra) June 18, 2019
Though the rest of the outing was anti-climactic from there, Estrada ended up going four innings and struck out seven. The hype, as we shall say, was immediately back on.
He got his first actual starting pitching nod six days later and was all over the place, throwing 93-94 and struggling with command. The secondaries did not look promising and the wildness was in full effect, leading to an abbreviated outing.
Not ideal, but it was just one outing after missing a full year and his stuff is not going to bounce back immediately. In an article on the Ems’ website by Cam LeFlerle, pitching coach Armando Gabino really put things in perspective.
“Goal number one is to stay healthy,” Gabino explained. “And he needs to understand how important it is to stick with a routine. Work ethic, to me, is everything. When you have a work ethic, you know mentally what you need to do and how you need to do it.”
While his first two games were at home, I was interested to see how Estrada would handle his first outing on the road in Hillsboro. He came on in the 4th as a piggyback starter and needed only six pitches to get through the inning despite giving up an infield hit. The important part of that scoreless frame was that he looked relaxed. He was not pressing or overthrowing and he showed some feel for his change already.
He looked to be in a groove in the 5th, throwing around 92-93 and getting some nice movement on his changeup. The 6th inning was downright filthy as he started working in his curve and got two more strikeouts. He’d only thrown 42 pitches and I was hoping he would come back out for a fourth inning of work.
When he needed only seven pitches in the 7th, the last of which was a beautiful curve to end the inning, I knew he’d be out for another go. The whole night I kept thinking: If he can stay healthy, he might something special by the end of July.
Estrada came out for the 8th and got a flyout that was followed by an infield single. Before the next batter, he shook his arm and the Hillsboro announcer said he thought Estrada was limping. Gambino came out to check on him but quickly went back to the dugout. Then a 58 foot fastball went to the backstop and the trainer came out to the mound with Lance Rymel, the Emeralds’ manager.
Estrada calmly pointed at his elbow and Rymel did not hesitate to remove him from the game. I don’t know what was said, and he could have been saying his elbow was fine, but you don’t take chances with the arm. Estrada fist-bumped all his teammates with his pitching hand on the way out, so that was good sign. His next appearance should be on July 4, so keep your fingers crossed.
When it comes to Estrada and the rest of the summer, Gambino’s words echo in my head. The 20-year-old just needs to be healthy and develop above all else. While his secondaries came back on Friday, he will struggle to get the feel for them occasionally. Remember, he’s only thrown a total of 17 IP as a professional and it will take some time to really settle in.
He could be something if he’s able to put it all together, but that means staying healthy above all else.