Ed. note: This one is running a day later than initially planned due to the rush of a doubleheader.
We were all excited about the potential debut of Caleb Kilian this evening, but Cubs fans will have to settle for outfielder Nelson Velázquez instead, at least for now. Kilian’s future will include time in Chicago at some point this season, just not today, and probably not this coming weekend. Despite the letdown, the 24-year-old righty has made a compelling case to earn a promotion.
“He was a guy when I was in Cleveland that we were really on and really liked,” GM Carter Hawkins told Tommy Birch of The Des Moines Register. “So, when we saw that Chicago got him in that deal, I was like, ‘Oh man, I would have loved that guy.’ And lucky me, here I am. I get to work with him. But, obviously, he’s got that prototypical starter build, he’s got multiple pitches he can throw for strikes.”
That Hawkins was enamored with Kilian is quite telling. The Guardians have done a remarkable job developing pitchers over the last decade and all were drafted or acquired while Hawkins served as the organization’s assistant GM. He also oversaw Cleveland’s player development department, and during his tenure with the team, a number of his pitchers became stars, including Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, and Zach Plesac.
As far as Kilian, there’s really no rush to get him to Chicago, as much as that may dismay Cubs fans looking for a little hope. The Cubs aren’t going anywhere and the August 2 trade deadline is drawing closer. Kilian shouldn’t be counted on as a savior, especially for a system that also boasts Jordan Wicks, Brailyn Márquez, and DJ Herz among potential big league starters. In fact, Márquez should pitch for Triple-A Iowa soon, according to Hawkins.
“I think so,” the GM said. “He started to get off the mound a little bit here over the last few days. It’s been tough for him to get over the hump just from a health standpoint. But once he does, we know he’s got some pretty electric stuff.”
I don’t mean to dilute the news about Velázquez. He is probably more deserving of a shot than any of the team’s minor league players, but he may have to wait until August for a more permanent roster spot. The Cubs desperately need power and “Baby Boomstick” should provide plenty of fuel for an offense that can best be described as inconsistent. Velázquez, much like Patrick Wisdom, has exciting strength and elite exit velocities but is prone to strikeouts.
It would be nice to see Velázquez have a debut similar to that of Christopher Morel. If anything, it’s nice to see the pipeline starting to deliver quality players to the bigs. The slow but steady process can be unnerving at times, but we’re all hoping these kids will be worth the wait.
Affiliate News & Notes
- Velázquez won’t be the only Cubs prospect coming up to make his big league debut, as righty Matt Swarmer will start game one against the Brewers.
- Pete Crow-Armstrong continues to display his surprising but impressive power. The Myrtle Beach centerfielder blasted his seventh home run of the year in an 11-5 win over Augusta and also stole his 13th base of the season.
- Tony Andracki of Marquee Sports Network says there is no limit to Crow-Armstrong’s potential.
- James Triantos was 2-for-4 and swiped two bags in that contest.
- Triantos has been exceptional in his full-season debut.
- The Pelicans ran their winning streak to 12 games thanks to late-inning heroics from Reginald Preciado.
- Jordan Nwogu had a nice game in Saturday’s 13-10 loss to Great Lakes. The South Bend outfielder homered in the 1st inning and ripped a ground-rule double to the opposite field in his next at-bat that plated a pair.
- Bryce Ball was really heating up for Tennessee for a hot minute. The first baseman who was acquired in the trade that sent Joc Pederson to the Braves leads the team with 35 RBI. He struggled this weekend against Rocket City, however, going 1-for-19 with nine strikeouts.
- In the first game of a doubleheader, Alexander Canario was 3-for-3 with two RBI while leading the Smokies to a 7-4 win over the Trash Pandas. Tennessee lost the nightcap 3-2.
- Nick Madrigal has started his rehab assignment with Iowa. Clint Frazier was promoted to Chicago.
- Velázquez really struggled this weekend against the Memphis Red Birds. He entered Sunday’s play hitless in his last 14 at-bats with eight strikeouts.
- Robel García leads Iowa at the plate with a .307 average, 12 home runs, and 29 RBI, all tops on the team.
Owen Caissie flexed some muscle on Thursday, and this 430-foot bomb left the park at 108 mph.
Owen Caissie. Longggggg gone. pic.twitter.com/2DAgGZ6mvT
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) May 27, 2022
- Cubs Insider EIC Evan Altman had some thoughts on Kilian being bypassed: “Getting some reps now would either boost his confidence or show him some of the things he still needs to work on. His promotion [would have been] a win-win situation.”
- As part of Chicago’s ongoing roster shuffle, electric reliever Brandon Hughes was sent back to Iowa.
- CI’s Greg Huss indicates the organization has taken a more balanced and progressive approach to this rebuild as compared to 2015, and he thinks that’s going to benefit the Cubs long-term.
- Our own Sean Holland was joined by Staci Heaton of Cubs DNA to talk about Chicago’s suddenly stacked farm system in this week’s edition of the Holy Cow! Podcast.
- Matt Clapp of The Blogfines joined Jeremy and Pat on the latest episode of the Wrigleyville Nation Podcast to talk about the progress of the Cubs’ younger players like Morel and Keegan Thompson.
950 Miles to Chicago
Caissie is today’s featured prospect, and though he’s a few years away, the 19-year-old outfielder continues to impress at each level. Long levers and a tendency to swing-and-miss a little too much will keep Caissie from being fast-tracked, so late 2024 or spring of 2025 is the industry-wide consensus of his big league debut. His plus raw power to all fields and excellent athleticism portend a successful career as a major league starter. He’s a little less athletic than Jayson Werth was, but his upside portends a similar career.
He won’t turn 20 until July, but Caissie is playing well this season with High-A South Bend, something vice president of player personnel Matt Dorey predicted during spring training.
“I don’t think it’s a reach at all,” Dorey told Mark Gonzalez back in March. “He’s evolving at a very quick pace.”
Craft Beer of the Day
Very Hhhazyyy by Tree House Brewing Company – If there’s one brewery at the top of my bucket list to visit, it’s THBC’s 53,000-square-foot chapel located in Charlton, MA. I don’t usually prefer beverages that are overly citrus, but a combination of clementines, strawberries, guava, passionfruit, and grapefruit beneath a two-inch foamy head sounds dreamy, especially with a side of oysters-on-the-shell and fried clams on a Cape Cod summer afternoon.
Very Hhhazyyy is currently ranked No. 15 on Beer Advocate, and the site says the hops-saturated double IPA has “just the right amount of bitterness [to] balance [its] sweet fruit flavors while a velvety soft mouthfeel will make you easily forget this one clocks in at 8.6% ABV.” I just ordered a four-pack from their website and I can’t wait to try it.
Children of the Corn
- Mariners’ prospect Connor Jones hasn’t been scored upon for 22 innings spanning his last three starts for Double-A Arkansas. On Thursday, he added unhittable to the mix. The reigning Texas League Pitcher of the Week delivered a seven-inning no-hitter in the Travelers’ 6-0 victory in a doubleheader opener with the visiting Amarillo Sod Poodles.
- Yorlin Calderon was promoted by the Yankees to Single-A Tampa and then threw a no-hitter in his debut.
- A Philadelphia Inquirer report says the Phillies are the only organization in baseball that has failed to secure apartments for its minor league players.
- Outfield prospect Baron Radcliff of the Phillies put a ball in play just 19 times in the entire month of May. Radcliff had just six hits that didn’t leave the yard. That means fielders other than the catcher and pitcher were responsible for just 13 outs against a starting player over a whole month of baseball.
- Outfielder Michael Harris II, the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, made his big league debut on Saturday. The 21-year-old was 1-for-4, notching his first MLB knock against Sandy Alcantara.
- Giants prospect Tyler Fitzgerald enjoyed a five-hit day on Sunday that included two dingers.
- Endeavor continues to expand its reach across minor league baseball. Last week the global sports and entertainment giant owned by William Morris acquired Triple-A Gwinnett, Double-A Mississippi, and Single-A Rome, all Braves affiliates, for $47 million.
- “Everything we’ve seen with Caleb, it just looks like real big-league stuff. I know he’s having a great season. Stuff’s trending up, the velocity’s moving up, and there’s just a lot of good things to like about him. He’s somebody that our scouts identified and really liked in that trade last year. He’s having a great season. I’m sure we’ll see him sooner rather than later.” – David Ross
- “Nelson is a guy that has a chance to get going here pretty soon and show us that power that he has. He’s on the 40-man for a reason and [he has] a shot to help us out in the big leagues.” – Hawkins
Monday Walk-Up Song
Seventeen by Sharon Von Etten – The songstress waxes on the universal struggle of growing up by juxtaposing her age with her changing neighborhood.