Swarmer 2018 MB

Young Cubs: The Cubs’ MiLB System Had a Few Surprises in April

Don’t judge the Cubs’ MiLB system on its April won-loss record. Instead, it should always be about development. And for April, several players came up strong like we thought they would. Dakota Mekkes did not allow a run. Alex Lange flashed not one, but two types of curves. Austin Filiere and Jared Young both showed great approaches with great results at South Bend. Thomas Hatch was decent, while Bailey Clark was dominant as a long reliever with 28 Ks in 20 innings and a 1.35 ERA. In addition, Tyler Peyton continued a trend he began last summer in South Bend, as he was outstanding out of the pen for Myrtle Beach with a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings in April.

Still, the old BP Wrigleyville crystal ball did not foresee everything. There were a few surprises at the plate and on the mound.

Surprise Hitters

Jeffrey Baez – He has flashed his near five-tool profile at times in his Cubs career, most notably the second half at Myrtle Beach in 2016 where he hit .296 with 5 HRs and 19 RBI and spurred the Pelicans onto a Carolina League title. 2017 was a disappointment, as nagging injuries limited any sustained playing time, and he limped into the offseason with a .217 average. He is back at Tennessee to begin 2018, and he dominated the Southern League in April. Baez hit .411/.443/.723 split with 3 HRs and 15 RBI in 21 games. It will interesting to watch how he does in May while entrenched in the leadoff spot for the Smokies.

Jhonny Pereda – I watched Pereda play last summer at South Bend. He improved at the plate over the course of the year, but there was nothing super special about his bat. He did walk quite a bit, and he did not strike out much. Sometimes, I get caught watching the average vs. the approach. This spring, Pereda’s approach is paying dividends.  He hit .304 for the month with only eight Ks in 69 at-bats (11.5% K rate). That’s easy to like.

Surprise Pitchers

Tyler Thomas – Heading into the season, I thought Thomas would be as outstanding a reliever for South Bend as he was for Eugene. I thought he might get a chance at starting later this summer after the draft. That chance came early as he was the Cubs’ opening day starter. He looked dominant at times—until a wet rainy night in South Bend when he gave up two runs late in the game. Still, in 19 innings he struck out 24. Opponents only hit .194 against him, as he posted a low WHIP of 0.84. Thomas relies on a deceptive delivery and sneaks a 91-92 mph fastball by with an upper-70s/low-80s changeup that gets some ugly, ugly swings.

Matt Swarmer – The Cubs pitcher of the month for April had a 1.72 ERA with 26 Ks and only allowed three walks in 20 innings. He began May with a scoreless 6.2 inning outing, in which he struck out seven. Swarmer has taken off this year, perhaps due in part to some added muscle and an uptick in his fastball to 91-94. He throws a slider that looks to have a sharper bite to it rather than a loop like he had last year. Occasionally, Swarmer will mix in a raw changeup he is still developing. It looks like he could be the real deal.

Brian Glowicki - After watching him pitch for Eugene after being drafted last summer, he just looked tired. The 2017 draft pick closed at the University of Minnesota and posted a 4.57 ERA for Eugene in 20.1 IP. But this year, he didn’t allow a run as South Bend’s closer in April. The key for Glowicki was that he attacked hitters who only got two hits against him all month. A WHIP of 0.63 is indicative of his ability to get ahead in the count.

Who Is Trending Up for May?

The big surprises come when the Cubs have five short-season leagues begin play in Eugene, the Dominican, and Mesa. However, they don’t begin play for six weeks. In the meantime, there will be only a few surprises in May. In the past couple of weeks, though, a few players have been figuring things out and could grab some headlines.

Tyson Miller - Last week, he went seven strong with seven Ks in a scoreless outing for Myrtle Beach. Like Swarmer, Miller has added some muscle to 6’5” frame and is topping out at 95 a couple times a game. Last year, he sat 89-91. Now at 91-93, Miller has been pitching ahead in most counts throwing strikes at a 70% rate. He has only walked eight batters in 27 innings.

Andruw Monasterio – I first became aware of Monasterio when he was in the AZL in 2015 and more so at Eugene in the summer of 2016 where he hit .324 in two months before a promotion to South Bend— where he struggled. He started 2016 at Myrtle Beach. He was beginning to catch fire in June last year when he switched places with Zack Short from South Bend. Back in low-A, Monasterio did very well in the second half, hitting .281 with a .351 OBP while playing three positions. He picked up in 2018 where he left off in 2017. He got off to a great start before slipping down to .269 at the end of April. In May, he’s been raking. As of May 6, he’s at .319 with a .413 OBP, as he’s hitting .471 for this month before Sunday’s game. And he is still just 20 years old. I still find how young he is to be amazing, as it seems like he’s been around a while. Baseball is trending in the right direction for him.

It will be fun to see who else will have a spike in their development.

Lead Photo of Matt Swarmer by Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

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