It is all about the pitching in this week’s South Bend Cubs recap. When we last left off, the South Bend Cubs crossed the .500 line at 12-10. This week, the starting pitching was the highlight of the seven days, notching three wins and handing the bullpen either a lead or a tie in 3 others.
Just how dominant has the starting pitching for South Bend been? Here’s a look at their weekly stats:
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That is some pretty sturdy starting pitching!
However, the bullpen did not do a great job of reciprocating the gifts as the relievers took 3 of the 4 losses on the week. Where James Farris came in twice for two saves, Tommy Thorpe, Francisco Carillo, and Ryan McNeil all took losses. Reliever James Norwood out of St. Louis University was activated off the DL and should provide some help. Norwood pitched an inning of relief on Friday and did not give up a run. To make room, Tyler Ihrig was sent down to Eugene and likely will be stretched out as a starter.
On the hitting side, Gleyber Torres continues to hover round the .330 mark, along with Chesny Young. Leadoff man LF Charcer Burks is hitting .378 in his last ten games and joins Torres and Young in providing most of the offense.
C/1B Cael Brockmeyer is in a mini slump. On the other hand, Yasiel Balaguert is showing some glimpses of his power potential but is not stringing together games of solid at-bats. Jesse Hodges and Rashad Crawford’s averages are creeping up ever so slowly, but the Cubs are not getting much help from the middle of the lineup. Balaguert, Jeffrey Baez, and Gioskar Amaya are all at .200 or lower. The heart of the order needs to improve to help take some pressure off the bullpen.
This week, the Cubs are off on Sunday before hosting the Lugnuts for four games.
PROSPECT PROFILE: ZACH HEDGES
Zach Hedges is something of a mystery man. Tall and lean, the right-hander was a 26th round pick of the Cubs in 2014 out of Division II Azusa Pacific. At 6’4” and 195 pounds, Hedges has some room to fill out physically and could add a couple of ticks to his fastball.
The mystery comes from the fact that Hedges skipped short season A-ball between 2014 and 2015. Where the other starters Clifton, Williams, Null, Stinnett and Leal all saw action at Boise in 2014, Hedges only played in the Arizona Rookie League, where he only pitched 19 innings of relief in 12 games. His ERA was a solid 1.37 while striking out 23.
I like what I have seen from him so far in 2015. To date, he is 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA while striking out 15 in 26 innings and has only walked 3 all year.
When you watch Hedges at first, he does not look spectacular. It takes about 7 or 8 pitches to see why the Cubs selected him – fastball command with late movement. If you get a chance to see him pitch, the catcher’s mitt does not move much when the target goes up.
Hedges throws a fastball that varies in speed from 86-90 (mostly 90) and a few times a game he dials it up to 92-93. A breaking ball is in his arsenal but when your fastball moves with armside run and some downward movement, you don’t need to throw the curve much, nor do you need to throw hard all the time.
A sign that Hedges is on his game is the number of ground balls he gets. In both games I have watched him pitch, he gets a lot of nubbers back to the mound on weakly hit grounders. If he leaves his fastball up a bit, hitters can square him up. However, Hedges does not do that often.
As for his breaking ball/slider, when he stays on top, he gets a lot of weak grounders to the right side of the diamond. It cannot not be a fun pitch to hit if you are a right-handed hitter as the ball breaks on a 2-8 plane with sharp bite. In his last two starts, Hedges has only allowed 5 fly-outs while getting 15 ground-outs. That is an outstanding ratio!
Developmentally, however hard Hedges eventually throws does not matter as long as he has late movement. His offspeed pitches are still works in progress as he works mainly off his fastball command and movement.
For a little more on the personal side of Zach Hedges, check out this interview with Steve Krah of The Elkhart Truth.
Next week’s player profile: Chesny Young