There was some mild confusion when the Cubs released the first iteration of their 60-man player pool, largely because they only included 50 names. Though a few top prospects like catcher Miguel Amaya, lefty pitcher Brailyn Marquez, outfielder Brennen Davis, and third baseman Chris Morel were among that group, many others were conspicuously left off.
The main reason the Cubs only listed 50 players was to give themselves a little flexibility throughout the next three weeks. They are probably going to be shuffling the major league roster to some extent, so naming a full 60 players to the pool would have meant making corresponding transactions to clear space. And once a player is removed from the pool, he can’t be added back.
As a result of that leeway, several of the Cubs’ top prospects are in sort of a limbo as they await the club’s moves over the next few weeks. By the time July 23 rolls around, the Cubs should have a full 60-man pool split evenly between Chicago and South Bend. That latter group will likely include Tyson Miller, Zack Short, Trent Giambrone, with Justin Steele and Ryan Jensen perhaps there as well.
There are, however, a few slightly less obvious choices to make the squad and that’s where I want to turn the focus for now.
The Cubs’ 2019 MiLB Pitcher of the Year dominated the competition the last two summers at South Bend, Myrtle Beach, and Tennessee. He struck out 50 batters in August alone last year, posting a 0.98 ERA over that time. Abbott’s competitiveness and ability to eat innings makes him a priority candidate for a rotation spot in 2021. Having him in South Bend will continue that development arc.
This is probably less of a surprise than leaving him off the list in the first place, especially with an injury forcing José Quintana to miss at least two weeks of action.
Congrats to Cory Abbott on winning #Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year!
His consistently dominating season-long stats:
146.2 IP – 3.01 ERA – 1.12 WHIP – 27.8% K – .207 opp AVG pic.twitter.com/PeRw05StIy
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) September 17, 2019
This pick is going to be a surprise to most people, but I really love Thompson. He started off last year by throwing five shutout innings and then was shut down, but he avoided surgery and was able to make it back late in the year. He then held his own in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, making up for lost time during the season.
Thompson usually throws in the low 90’s and can dial up a little higher, but he loses a little bit of control if he overthrows. His greatest asset is that he knows how to pitch, which isn’t as simple as it sounds. More than being a talented pitcher who could provide emergency depth for the main team, he could benefit from getting more experience in a formal environment.
#Tennessee @smokiesbaseball RHP Keegan Thompson’s (@kthompson_7) line vs. @SLeagueBaseball visitor @mbraves Saturday: 5 IP, 0️⃣ H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K. Threw 75 pitches (48 strikes). The 24-year-old was a 3rd-Rd. pick of the #Chicago @Cubs in 2017 out of #Auburn. pic.twitter.com/2MM9IUfnkr
— Danny Parker (@TheDannyParker) April 7, 2019
The second round pick in 2018 went through some ups and downs last year at South Bend as the grind of a 140-game season took its toll at times. Roederer adjusted and he put on some weight this past offseason to help him withstand the wear and tear a season takes. He has the sweetest swing in the system, generating easy power from the left side, and likely would have been assigned to Myrtle Beach this summer had there been a season.
He’s only 20, but heading to South Bend would keep the top young hitters in the system together and developing along the same track.
The 77th overall selection in the 2018 draft.
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) April 27, 2020
Rivas came to the Cubs from the A’s in the Tony Kemp trade last winter. The lefty-batting first baseman had an outstanding year at high-A, hitting .283 with a .383 OBP, then sparkled in the AFL. Although he lacks power, he’s shown to be able to consistently put the bat on the ball at a high rate and drive the ball to the gaps.
— Las Vegas Aviators (@AviatorsLV) September 5, 2019
The Cubs don’t have a lot of lefties, period, so that depth might need to be addressed in South Bend. Patterson, who stormed through three levels last year with a 1.69 ERA, was slated to return to Double-A Tennessee if only for a little while. His mid-90’s heat and a killer breaking ball are big weapons, but it’s the ability to command his pitches for strikes in any part of the zone that makes Patterson a dude.
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) July 31, 2019
We should find out in relatively short order how many spots the Cubs have left to add prospects and which of these names will be heading to South Bend, so keep checking back as we bring you all the updates.