The Chicago Cubs announced a wave of organizational promotions Friday. This time, more pitching prospects are on the move. If we were looking for more confirmation about the Cubs’ ability to develop relief pitchers, we got it today. The farm system is oozing with power right-handed relievers, each making their way closer to the big league level.
RHP Jeremiah Estrada
Starting from the highest MiLB level to the lowest, right-handed reliever Jeremiah Estrada received a promotion from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa. This marks his second promotion of the season after starting the year at High-A South Bend.
After dealing with injuries most of his minor league career, the 2017 sixth-round draft pick has stayed healthy and dominated with a 1.49 ERA across two levels. As one of the best relievers in the minors, Estrada carves up hitters with a powerful and electric fastball that sits around 98 MPH. He also throws a lethal slider with a lot of vertical break.
With a 14.0 K/9, that’ll undoubtedly play in Jed Hoyer’s future bullpen. He could even get called up as early as this season to the Cubs, given that he’s Rule 5 Draft-eligible following the year. The Cubs would be wise to protect him.
RHP Hunter Bigge
Just another Chicago Cubs reliever making noise. No biggie. Right-handed pitcher Hunter Bigge gets the call to move up from the High-A South Bend Cubs to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. As the South Bend Cubs shared, Bigge has allowed only one run in his last 14.2 innings pitched dating back to June 25.
The promotion to Tennessee signals the Cubs’ developmental team has seen enough from Bigge to earn a stronger challenge. It’s also worth noting, much like Estrada, Bigge is Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter. Bigge is unlikely to be poached by another team in the Rule 5 Draft, but you can’t “rule” anything out.
Bigge has struggled with walks (14.7%) but has a high 28.8 percent strikeout rate, seven saves, and two holds with South Bend this year. Unfortunately, he has also blown five saves. Let’s hope he maintains the strong momentum he’s gained since late June.
RHP Ben Brown
Newly acquired prospect RHP Ben Brown will, in fact, make his Cubs’ debut with the Double-A Smokies. The Cubs got Brown back from the Phillies in the David Robertson trade. Brown was promoted to Double-A to pitch for the Reading Fightin Phils but never got the opportunity there because of the timing of the trade.
Brown is a big 6-foot-6 righty with wicked stuff. In 16 High-A appearances this year, Brown had a 3.08 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 73 IP.
RHP Alfredo Zarraga
What a fun name to say. I can’t wait to make The GodFather memes if and when this kid makes an appearance for the big league club. Now he’s one step closer. Alfredo was promoted from Low-A Myrtle Beach to High-A South Bend after only 17.1 IP with the Pelicans.
Zarraga signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2021. His 96 MPH fastball and wicked breaking ball have been on full display this season. He has done outstanding work, serving as the closer for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, with a 2.08 ERA, 28 strikeouts, seven walks, and four saves.
INF Liam Spence
With Zarraga’s promotion, the Chicago Cubs assigned infielder Liam Spence to Low-A Myrtle Beach from the ACL Cubs. Spence plays all four infield spots and has split time between Low-A and Rookie ball this season. He was a fifth-round pick out of Tennessee by the Cubs in last year’s MLB Draft. Spence is slashing .155/.293/.244 across the two levels this year.
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