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Prospect Report: Ryan Jensen

Premium velocity righthander is scratching surface of potential

Ryan Jensen by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)

How acquired: MLB Draft, 1st Round, 2019

The 2019 Cubs draft featured a remarkably different strategy than recent memory. They were projected to pick numerous safe college bats in the first round such as Michael Busch, Kody Hoese, and Logan Davidson. But the Cubs plan entering the draft was to debut a riskier plan. Even on Twitter there was a mild surprise as Jeff Passan announced the Cubs were taking high school right hander, Matthew Allan. High school righthanders are one of the riskiest demographic in the draft so to even see the Cubs prominently connected to a player in that profile raised eyebrows. Instead Rob Manfred stood up at the podium to announce… Ryan Jensen, RHP from Fresno State University. What just happened?

What just happened was the Cubs had started a long-overdue process to go all in on player development. They’d be willing to accept some higher risk if it meant higher reward. And Ryan Jensen is that type of profile. Possessing a similar build to 2020 #3 overall pick, Max Meyer, Jensen offers significant upside and a fallback as a potentially elite reliever.

Mechanics and Control

Jensen begins from the windup with a step back with his left leg before gathering himself. He’s fairly balanced through the hand break before exploding towards the hitter. He holds the ball off to an angle behind his body. It’s difficult for a righty to pick up, but left handed batters get a long look at it. Despite coming from a 6’0″ frame, the motion is a lot of arms and legs and there’s some effort there. I’m not concerned with the frame. A lot was made of his shorter stature (I’m 5’5″, for reference, so all of you above 5’10” might as well be trees to me), however with the progression of pitching staffs in MLB becoming less reliant on innings, a greater focus on impact stuff, vertical approach angle (how “flat” a pitch appears as it crosses the plate), and athletic deliveries can allow shorter pitchers to succeed. See below for screen caps of Ryan Jensen’s delivery.

Jensen struggled with command during his first two years at Fresno State. Racking up 72 walks in 111 innings, Jensen turned the table in 2019. In 100 innings during his junior year, he only walked 27 batters. The timing couldn’t be more perfect as he stormed up draft boards. Any semblance of control dissipated in pro ball, but I wouldn’t put much stock into future projection from 12 innings at Eugene. The talent is there to have average control and command. I’d currently put a below-average future projection on command, but the stuff can be so electric that it could still play in a big way.

Pitching Arsenal

Fastball: Jensen is the rare pitcher who could probably succeed on one pitch (if you count his 4-seam and 2-seam as one). For the purposes of this evaluation we won’t. Jensen sits upper 90s deep into starts with his four seam fastball. It’s a straight pitch, but when pitching up in the zone it can be an effective weapon. In shorter stints, Jensen is closer to triple digits.

2-Seam: This is currently Jensen’s best pitch. It still sits mid 90s, but features late life moving in to righties. The Cubs have had success incorporating 2-seam fastballs into pitching repertoires, especially when they can play off plus sliders. The natural sink from this pitch is pretty impressive. I have this as a plus pitch right now.

Slider: Jensen’s slider can be absolutely nasty, but the command is so erratic. In short outings at Eugene, Jensen would pair upper 90s fastball with a hard slider in the 88-90 mph range. It really fell off the table. It flashes plus, but the command right now gives me pause.

Curveball: From his Fresno St days, Jensen would throw a slower breaking ball that looked like a weaker curve. I didn’t see any evidence of it when he got to professional ball, but it appears that the Cubs are focused on Jensen incorporating a new breaking ball into his arsenal. Combining the following two quotes from The Athletic’s excellent reporting, this curveball is coming along.

Jensen threw around 60 simulated innings during the shutdown and experimented with changeup grips and shaping a new curveball.

Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription required and encouraged)

Ryan Jensen, has an electric fastball, but the Cubs are thrilled about the development of his secondary pitches, a focus this past summer. The expectation is he’ll bring a much-improved breaking ball to the mound this season.

Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription required and encouraged)

Edit: According to Bobby Basham, Chicago Cubs Director of Player Development, in an interview with confirmed the pitch is indeed a spike-curve

[Jensen] has used this spike curve and with that guy, anything that comes out of his hands is going to be power, right?

Bobby Basham, Chicago Cubs Director of Player Development

Changeup: A work in progress, but important for his future development. Even a below-average changeup pairing with the movement off the 2-seam and slider would benefit his profile. No projection at this time.

You can see what the Cubs pitching development infrastructure is working with Ryan Jensen to build: A four-seam fastball/curveball and a 2-seam/slider/(ideally)changeup to each play off each other. If that combination sounds familiar, it’s very similar to Adbert Alzolay’s repertoire in the later stretches of 2020 after he added his 2-seam and slider.

Future Projection

As I said in the review for Brailyn Marquez, I would still bet on Jensen landing as an elite reliever with the info presently available. But it’s so difficult to predict future role without 2020 game footage. Until we see how the new breaking ball and changeup play in live at-bats, we have to just evaluate based on the fastball(s)/slider combo. There’s some big time potential there, but it’s incredibly challenging to succeed in the starting rotation with just two(ish) pitches. Ultimately 2021 will help decide Jensen’s future. If he’s utilized his time in quarantine to hone his mechanics and pitching repertoire, Jensen has significant potential as a starting pitcher. The reports trickling in during the shutdown are encouraging. I can’t wait to see Ryan Jensen in action in 2021.

Prospect Report: Davidjohn Herz

High-upside lefthander is starting to incorporate three pitches with plus potential.

DJ Herz by Stephanie Lynn (@SRL590)

How acquired: MLB Draft 2019

Davidjohn (also goes by DJ) Herz came into the organization in the 8th round of the 2019 draft. The Cubs have placed an increased emphasis on higher upside selections in the draft. This strategy came with risks as the Cubs selected a bevy of players who would be described as raw and/or had a prior injury. Herz represented the former as clips available leading up the draft showcased projectability and a three-pitch mix that was was far more about “flashing” above-average pitches than repeating it on the mound. The Cubs identified Herz as an ideal pitcher to bring into the player development system with the upside as an impact pitcher who features a bulldog mentality on and off the mound.

For more backstory on DJ Herz, check out this article featuring an interview with DJ.

Mechanics and Control

Previously posted based on 2019 video: DJ Herz comes at the hitter with a lot of moving parts. It’s an athletic delivery, but one that is inconsistent. Herz uses a crossfire arm action that adds to deception to the hitter and eats up lefties. There is a very inconsistent foot strike (where his foot lands). In an ideal delivery, a pitcher will repeat his mechanics. Where a pitcher lands with their lead foot is vital to maintaining control, let a lone command. What Herz does succeed with is his ability to gather himself at the top of his windup. This offers hope that he can have more repeatable mechanics in the future, especially when factoring in that he was a three-sport athlete in high school.

2019 Mechanics

2021 Mechanics

2021: Herz’s delivery has come a long way since being drafted in 2019. It still has a lot of moving pieces to it, but it’s an athletic delivery. There are elements that he repeats well. Herz’s particular motion adds deception, which allows his low to mid 90s fastball with late life to play up. He gathers himself well and his hand break is consistent. In the follow-through Davidjohn will often fall off the mound to the third base side, but when he’s right he at least finishes in a balanced position. Despite long legs, one area for improvement is a longer stride to elicit better extension. Where Herz is still improving is his inconsistent foot strike. There are starts where it becomes apparent that he struggles with it. In recent starts, his mechanics are far more repeatable.

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Herz has taken strides this year to improve his control and command. In multiple outings, it is obvious that Herz is in control over both his fastball and one off-speed pitch in-game. At times he is capable of commanding all three pitches in an outing, but that is an area of growth. At 19 in his first foray into professional ball, I’ll avoid capping Herz’s projected control and command. He has the tools to succeed with multiple pitches and at least average command in the future.

Pitching Arsenal

Fastball: Herz executes his fastball well. At the top of the zone, his four-seam fastball offers solid ride. He is able to elevate the heater as well as paint the outside corner when he is at his best. The fastball is sitting in the low-to-mid 90s at present, but in an interview with , Herz noted he believes there is more velocity to come. I have this as an average pitch right now, but it has significantly more upside in the future. When commanded well, Herz flashes plus with this fastball, especially as he’s successfully played elevated fastballs off his spike-curve and lower fastballs of his changeup.

“I was sitting 93-95 just in the bullpen in the lab. I’m hoping by [2021], I’m at 97-98.”

DJ Herz

Changeup: Herz has spent considerable time working to hone this pitch during the shutdown. His changeup is whiff inducing and able to both land in the strikezone and fall off the table generating feeble swings. The shape of this pitch varies, but at it’s best there is good depth and fade (into righties). This is an above-average pitch at its best.

Changeup for a strike
Changeup for the whiff
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Curveball: I’ve already written about DJ Herz’s work with fellow Cubs pitching prospect, Chris Clarke to develop his new spike-curve. Herz’s effort to craft this pitch appears to have paid off well. Herz spoke this spring about how he was getting good bite on the curve, but having trouble to locate it. Those issues continued into his first start of the season. Since then, DJ has had considerable success utilizing the pitch as both an option in and outside the strikezone. His command of the curveball still wavers, but he has entire outings where he relies on the pitch. This spike-curve is a a heavy power offering with a 12-6 action. It already sits as above-average, but the curveball has plus potential.

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Future Projection

DJ Herz is in the middle of a breakout performance this summer and a huge bright spot in an organization that has historically struggled to develop pitching. Herz was originally drafted with concerns about a future reliever profile, but with improved mechanics and the ability to showcase three pitches for strikes, he has largely quieted those concerns. As a 19-year-old in his first season of full season ball, there will be ups and downs with his performance this season, however with his deceptive delivery, bulldog mentality on the mound, and average (or better) command of three exciting pitches, DJ Herz boasts some of the highest upside in the entire Cubs system.

Prospect Report: Yovanny Cruz

Young arm with three average pitches. He’s a long way from Wrigley, but one to watch in 2021.

How acquired: International Free Agency 2016

When you think about Cubs pitching prospects with a legitimate chance to become a mid-rotation starter or better, Yovanny Cruz should be one to consider. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2016 during the two year penalty window on international free agency, Cruz doesn’t receive the fanfare of bonus baby, Richard Gallardo. Don’t let the more modest signing figure ($60,000) fool you, there is a lot to like about the young righthander.

Mechanics and Control

Yovanny has a very smooth delivery. He uses his high waisted 6’1″ frame to deliver pitches around the strike zone. His high walk numbers are surprising, but he often will just miss a corner and put himself in worse counts. Another tendency is Cruz can get into the habit of relying on hitters chasing a slider instead of challenging them in the strike zone. Sequencing at the lower levels of affiliate ball isn’t concerning and should improve even as he reaches the upper levels of the minors. He can get out of whack at times, but in several instances he was able to quickly get a ground ball with his heavy sinker or a strikeout on his slider. If “it breaks”, Cruz has shown the ability to “fix it” mid-inning.

Pitching Arsenal

Fastball: Cruz’s velocity has increased steadily and now sits 92-96, but has peaked in the upper 90s. I haven’t seen this in game, but MLB Pipeline reports he hit 99. Unfortunately, by all accounts, it appears to be a low spin offering. Cruz is young enough that some time in the pitch lab could do wonders. The Cubs pitch design gurus can help Yovanny create more spin, especially with his solid feel for spin with his slider. Spin isn’t everything and the total movement pattern (horizontal and vertical movement) is equally important to the pitch. Another method to consider may be to have him change his fastball to include a “cut” dynamic. With Cruz’s more over the top delivery, this may play better than his current fastball.

Changeup: I like the pitch and think it plays pretty well, especially for his level. It has above-average potential, but needs far more consistency. Even just an average changeup can play if he can develop his fastball and slider into plus pitches.

Slider: It’s a good secondary pitch and probably the one closest to plus. He shows a solid feel for it and will throw it to lefties and righties. When he gets in a jam, he’ll go to his slider often to get swings an misses. Overall there’s good spin here and that’s promising for future in the development of Cruz’s repertoire.

Future Projection

It’s imperative to see where Yovanny Cruz is once baseball is back. Everything was trending upwards heading into 2020. He will flash three average-to-plus pitches and shows enough projection that there’s more to dream on.

Davidjohn Herz is Motivated and Ready for 2021

I just love the pressure. Honestly, I love to perform better when it’s the big games, and it’s stressful games. And it’s being put in the situations that most people will fold. I love those.

Davidjohn Herz

A special thanks to Davidjohn Herz for taking the time for an interview with.

Davidjohn Herz, Josh Burgmann, Chris Clarke, and Michael McAvene (from left to right) at Cubs instructs by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)

Davidjohn (also goes by DJ) Herz came into the organization in the 8th round of the 2019 draft. Unlike previous recent drafts, the Cubs placed increased emphasis upon upside at the risk of rawness and/or prior injury. Herz represented the former as clips available leading up the draft showcased projectability and a three-pitch mix that was was far more about “flashing” above-average “stuff” than repeating it on the mound. The Cubs identified Herz as an ideal pitcher to bring into the player development system with the upside as an impact pitcher who features a bulldog mentality on and off the mound.

The clip (from 2019 footage) provides an important look into progress that Davidjohn had made in the Cubs system on all three of his pitches, but they don’t tell the whole story. According to DJ (and even the Assistant GM and Vice President of Pitching, Craig Breslow), he’s made enormous progress with his pitching mechanics. “Even [Craig] Breslow came up to me one day in spring training like, ‘Did you work with a pitching coach or trainer over the offseason?” Because your mechanics are looking way better than what they did from your first season’.” Herz said during an interview with Ivy Futures.

Herz attributes the improvements in his mechanics to focusing solely on baseball after being a three-sport athlete in high school. “I played basketball. I played football at very high levels. And now I’m putting all my focus on baseball. So I think it’s really helping me a lot.” Just like countless players across baseball affiliations, the lost 2020 robbed critical player development opportunities, but count DJ among those that used his time wisely. When DJ was drafted he was a svelte 175 lbs. and reported to spring training in 2020 at 185 lbs. But now, Davidjohn is rocking at 200 lbs. after adding even more muscle. “Because fortunately, this COVID period, [it] did a lot of good things for me, which I needed. I needed to get a lot stronger, I needed to gain weight.” Herz said.

However reshaping his body is only the first step to prepare for the 2021 season. Pitch development is critical to Herz competing at the next levels. DJ’s pitch mix in 2019 featured an improving change-up, albeit one that lagged behind his fastball and breaking ball. It appears there is significant improvement in the offering during DJ’s throwing sessions. According to Herz, “One thing that I’ve also been working on the offseason is my changeup, just commanding it. It’s got very good movement. It’s just I need to get command. But it’s coming along really good. And I picked it up really quickly.”

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In addition to the change-up, you can count Davidjohn among the spike-curve adopters in the Cubs organization. “We’ve been working around with the curveball in spring training, which changed it from a regular curve to a spike curve now. And we’re trying to get it [from a] 10 to 4 [shape] now, trying to get to 11-5, 12-6.” Herz said. “And that’s coming along very good. I got buddies helping me from like [Cubs pitching prospect] Chris Clarke, who’s been working on me with that.” Cubs prospect hounds will no-doubt recognize Chris Clarke’s name-dropped in there. Clarke was a fellow draftee from the 2019 draft who features an impressive curveball. MLB pipeline gives it a 65 grade on the 20-80 scale (better than a “plus” pitch) and has this to say about the offering, “Clarke’s hammer curveball ranks as the best in the system and is effective against both left-handers and right-handers with its powerful downward break.” Herz was very gracious to Clarke for his help in developing the pitch. If DJ can incorporate anywhere near the shape and action of Clarke’s curveball, it should be a plus offering.

In a clear example of burying the lede, DJ was seriously optimistic about an increase in velocity on his fastball. He posted recent video of him hitting 102 on a crow-hop/”pull-down”. Those type of exercises are used by agencies like Driveline to increase velocity. Typically velocity readings from pull-downs are 2-3 mph faster than on the mound. Due to a COVID precaution during instructs, he doesn’t know where he’s currently throwing, but in spring training, he was able to experience the fabled “pitch lab”. With the caveat that there was likely some adrenaline in play due to throwing in front of the front office, according to DJ, he’s showcasing consistent velocity. “I only got to throw [there] two times in spring training. And each time I didn’t throw a pitch under 92. And I was sitting 93-95 just in the bullpen in the lab.” Herz said. DJ went on later to provide a fastball goal for 2021, “I’m hoping by next season, I’m at 97-98.”

Dj Herz is pushing some peak velocity

Perhaps what I was most struck by in my interaction with Davidjohn was his tenacious mentality and will to improve himself. Baseball is a game of many more failures before successes. The response in handling challenges helps to determine the level of player he can become. DJ outlined his goals for 2021. “For me, it’s just showing everybody that, how bad I want it. And that, and just, I mean, just going out there and doing what I do. I just love, I just love the pressure. Honestly, I love to perform better when it’s the big games and it’s stressful games. And it’s being put in the situations that most people will fold. I love those.” Herz said. “Just do what I do and focus on what I’ve been working for. And all the hard work will pay off.” Cubs fans should look forward to seeing Davidjohn Herz in the big games.

Check out the full interview

Nico Hoerner: A 2020 Retrospective and 2021 Preview

Nico Hoerner experienced a meteoric rise from surprise 2018 first-round pick (#24 overall) to the first 2018 draftee to make it to the majors a little more than a year later. A 2019 MLB debut was impressive enough, but it was even more extraordinary after Nico played a total of 89 games across four levels from 2018-2019 due to injuries. Hoerner’s debut was must-see baseball in San Diego. His 3 hits, four RBIs, and reliable defense at shortstop showcased everything fans had heard about Nico as a prospect. Hoerner slashed .282/.305/436, displaying a solid hit tool and defense while popping three homers for good measure in a valiant effort to keep the Cubs afloat in the 2019 pennant race.

Needless to say, expectations were high entering 2020, perhaps unfairly so. Hoerner garnered his share of darkhorse NL Rookie of the Year picks. The Cubs offseason brought little serious competition at the second base position. Native son Jason Kipnis provided insurance and a strong role model for Hoerner entering the year, but wasn’t an obvious candidate to start at second throughout the season. What is unclear is if it was ever the Cubs’s intention to have Nico make the opening day roster. It appears the initial plan in spring training was for the Cubs to have Hoerner spend several weeks in Iowa and be promoted when he was ready. Even Nico himself said all the right things about focusing on development rather than making the roster on opening day.

But if you’re reading this from your time in quarantine, you know the 2020 season did not go as planned. On March 12, 2020, Major League Baseball made the decision to cancel the remainder of spring training and delay the 2020 regular season. Players, fans, and organizations were left wondering what would become of the 2020 season if it occurred at all.

It took over 100 days for an announcement of baseball returning. As a byproduct of the pandemic changes, including expanded rosters, alternate sites, and no minor league baseball, it made little sense for Nico Hoerner to bide his time in South Bend. Batting 8th and playing second base, Nico started against the Milwaukee Brewers on Opening Day.

Credit David Ross for navigating the playing time for Hoerner well during the abbreviated 2020 season. From 7/24-8/6, Nico played nearly every game until a .235/.289/.265 slash and .250 wOBA (53 wRC+) forced Ross’s hand. The 23 year old second baseman sat until 8/13 to give Jason Kipnis a chance to demonstrate his best Mickey Morandini impression. Nico’s playing time took a step back, but was a consistent late inning replacement providing exceptional defense (96% percentile in outs above average; 3rd in baseball at 2B). He had a share of excellent hitting performances sprinkled throughout the season, including a 3/4 day against the Tigers on August 26th, but what became startlingly evident was that there was minimal power on display.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Nico’s 2019 debut was the three home runs he belted. He sure didn’t look the part of a scrappy slap hitter when he launched his first career home run into the centerfield bleachers, nor did he when he turned on 98 mph and drove it over the fence a few days later. But if you evaluate each home run separately a trend arises.

Nico Hoerner can hit a fastball. He can smoke a heater. He can wake up at 4 AM (I’d never say 3 AM) and drive 97 mph cheese into the gaps. In 2019 he hit fastballs to a tune of .310/.353/.476 with an xwOBA of .374 and had only a 7.9% whiff%. In 2020, it was down a bit to .230/.281/.279 (likely due defensive positioning, but also due to a change in launch angle – see below), but still had an xwOBA of .341 and only a 7.8% whiff%. On breaking and offspeed pitches, his whiff% climbs to over 34%. Pitchers exploited that weakness, his ISO plummeted to a ghastly .037, and his K% shot up to 19%. When he did hit, they were singles.

Launch angle may also help to represent Hoerner’s decrease in production from 2019 to 2020. Launch angle is a much talked about topic within baseball circles and while it isn’t the end-all-be-all, there are positive correlations between launch angle and offensive production such as xwOBA and ISO (among many others). Take, for example, the previous two statistics xwOBA and ISO. Among all players in 2019, xwOBA and ISO, there was the following association between these metrics and launch angle.

xwOBA compared with launch angle among all major league batted balls in 2019 via Baseball Savant
ISO compared with launch angle among all major league batted balls in 2019 via Baseball Savant

In 2019 Nico Hoerner had a 3.9% average launch angle on batted balls. In 2020 it dropped to 0.8. The histogram below demonstrates some remarkable differences in 10 degree increments between Nico’s 2019 and 2020.

Baseball Savant
Use slider to compare Nico’s 2019 (drag to right) and 2020 (drag to left) launch angle on batted balls

Exploring Nico’s whiff% by zone reveals more insight into his 2020 issues. In 2019, Nico didn’t whiff a single time on balls belt high in the zone, but in 2020, belt high and away (still in strike zone) rose to 12%. His overall whiff% on pitches in the zone increased in the lower strike zones. Pitches low and out of the zone gave Nico even more fits. His Whiff% on down-and-in rose to 44% and down-and-away to 65%.

Baseball Savant
Use slider to compare 2019 (drag to right) and 2020 (drag to left) whiff% in different zones
Picture is oriented so the left hand side represents the right hand batter’s box

2021

His 2020 was a disappointment, but the real question going forward is “what will his 2021 look like?”. There will be some significant hurdles to overcome for Hoerner going forward. But there are serious reasons for optimism of Nico going forward.

  • Contact bat
    Nico’s bat is one that fans have been pining for for years. They now have him in the system and he plays a position of need.
  • Minor swing changes
    Even minor swing changes can unlock substantial improvements in overall offensive value. An improvement from his 0.8 launch angle in 2020 to a comparable 3.9 launch angle could do wonders for his profile.
  • He’s 23
    It was his first “full season”. If you combine his 2019 and 2020 seasons it’s still only 68 games. There’s plenty of time to adjust.
  • Defense
    It was exceptional, which provides him a high floor as a player.
  • It was 2020!
    Even star players around the league with consistent historical recent performances had horrendous years.

You’ll forgive Nico if he has whiplash from the last several years. He’s shot around the Cubs system at breakneck speeds, oftentimes just long enough to have success before hit by an injury or promoted elsewhere. His 2019 provided a hint at his ceiling, and his 2020 demonstrated his floor. His 2021 season will go a long way toward forecasting the future of the Cubs organization at second base.

StatisticNameDefinitionCalculation
xwOBAExpected weighted on base averageFactors in expected outcomes of contact using Statcast data to remove defense from the equationQuality of contact + K + BB
ISOIsolated powerMeasures only extra base hits.SLG-AVG
wRC+Weighted runs created Attempts to quantify total offensive value and extrapolate the data into total runs. It takes park effects into account. 100 wRC+ is average.See specific calculation at Fangraphs
Whiff%Whiff percentageProvides information on swing and miss percentages (whiffs), which are positively correlated to strikeout percentage(Swings and misses) / (swings)
OAAOuts above averageRange based metric that quantifies how many runs were savedSee specific information on MLB

Prospect Report: Chase Strumpf

Future plus bat at the 2B position. Could move very fast in ’21

Chase Strumpf by Stephanie Lynn (@SRL590), writer for Cubs Den

How acquired: MLB Draft 2nd round 2019

While the Ryan Jensen selection pointed to a new draft strategy for the Cubs in 2019, the selection of Chase Strumpf in the second round immediately brought a familiar profile back to the Cubs system. Strumpf represents a safe and accomplished bat who should move quickly through the Cubs system. A three year NCAA career with a .297/.409/.507 college slash line made an immediate impression on Cubs fans following the draft.

Chase Strumpf continued to carry that strong first impression into the low minors with an excellent .292/.405/.445 line in Eugene. A brief stop (six games) and a back injury in South Bend led to a paltry .506 OPS, but expectations for 2020 remained high.

Strumpf was a limited participant in the 2020 spring training with a cast on his left (non throwing) arm and with the baseball shutdown, fall instructional league would serve as the opportunity to see him get game action. Chase Strumpf made the most of his limited time in instructs batting an absurd line of .375/.414/.792(!) with a 1.205 OPS and showing improved power. Instructs stats are courtesy of @FullCountTommy via Arizona Phil over at TCR.

Hit

Strumpf has a nice balanced swing. He utilizes a leg kick before landing in a crouch and bringing a line-drive swing through the zone. Strumpf’s head stays level through the point of contact. He’s able to drive the ball the other way. The Pac12 may not be the SEC, but it’s no slouch. Strumpf has faced impressive pitching in college. He can get beat and, in my viewing would chase on breaking balls down and in. He did sport a 20% K rate in instructs this year as well. All of these notes are normal parts of development. He’s capable of making in-atbat adjustments. There’s no glaring mechanical issues or holes in the swing that prohibit him from succeeding at the next level. I have this as an above-average hit tool and one that can continue to carry him through the minors and, ultimately, to the majors.

Chase Strumpf spray chart via Baseball Savant

Power

Strumpf can hit the ball to all fields but the majority of home run power (at the present) is from his pull side. As he gets stronger the hope is the doubles in the right-center gap morph into over-the-fence power. At instructs, he led the organization with 3 home runs, but we’ll have to see in a larger sample size at AA or higher. From 2019, I’d put it at average power, but it has above-average potential.

Field/Arm

Unfortunately, defense doesn’t appear to be Strumpf’s strong suit. He worked at 2B (his primary position) and 3B in instructs, but the arm doesn’t lend itself to being an asset at the hot corner. It’s common for instructional league to move players around the diamond to test out versatility and expose minor leagues to concepts like shifting. I worry this is most likely below-average fielding and arm grades, but at 2B that’s still very playable. Solid defensive positioning can make up for deficiencies, especially at second base. He’s not a butcher out there and Cub fans should not have Daniel Murphy flashbacks (don’t worry that link is Cubs fan safe).

Speed

Chase Strumpf has average speed now, but if steals happen as he advances that’s likely as a product to intuition and baserunning. He has enough lateral movement playing second base to cover the position.

Future Projection

This is a bat first profile, but one that can comfortably slide in at second base. I’m a believer in the bat. Right now there’s above-average hit and average power, but if the power keeps advancing you could be looking at a plus hit (.280 in BA per Fangraphs) and above-average power (19-22 HRs per Fangraphs) in the middle infield. To give you a contextual example that’s a line very similar to Jonathan Villar’s for the Orioles in 2019. Hang with me because Villar put up a .274/.339/.453 line with 24 home runs and below average defensive grades good for 4.0 fWAR. That’ll certainly play and if surrounded by above average defenders at shortstop and first base, Strumpf at 2B fits right in adding another patient polished bat to the lineup.