It’s the fans who need spring training. You gotta get ‘em interested. Wake ‘em up and let ‘em know their season is coming. The good times are gonna roll!” Harry Carey

 

And while waking up, the fans are able to get a glimpse of the future of their team in spring training games by seeing some of the best prospects in the minors. Last year, we watched Ian Happ shed his minor league wings and become an important member of the 2017 Cubs. Who will be ready to move on up this year?

 

Contrary to popular belief, the Cubs are not devoid of minor league talent, and certainly not pitchers. We may see a few pitchers move up this year depending on their personal development. One of those is Oscar De La Cruz. How cool is that name? Just sort of flows off the tongue. If you happened to see him pitch this year in spring training, one thing you will notice very quickly is he needs NO clock for the pace of play issues. The second thing that stand out is his size. At 6 foot 4 or 5 inches, depending on what you read, and 200 pounds his physical presence on the mound is intimidating. Does not hurt he also has one of the most project-able arms in the Cubs system.

 

De La Cruz was signed in 2012 our of the Dominican Republic. Once a shortstop, the Cubs liked his arm so much he was converted to a pitcher. The initial results were slow but in 2015 the big right-hander began drawing some attention. With smooth as silk mechanics he aggressively challenges batters with a fast ball topping out at 97, and in the low 90’s consistently, he was finding his groove. Additionally, his fastball has above average movement and, because of his size, it comes at the batters with a bit of a downward plane making it a double plus pitch. His 81 mph curve also flashes plus. While his command continues to improve, his change-up is one of two things holding him back right now.

 

After the 2015 season, posting his best numbers, everyone was anticipating 2016 to be the year of Oscar. Ranked the number 5 prospect at the beginning of the season elbow soreness held him back. He did work through it with extended spring training and while many downplayed the issue it could not be ignored. He returned and over his first six starts back posted a respectable 3.25 ERA while his command issues continued to improve. However, in 2017, De La Cruz again had arm soreness taking him out of for a month. He was selected to play in the Arizona Fall League but was removed from action in order to rehab a minor pectoral issue. Because of his arm issues, the Cubs will err on the side of caution, taking it slow to ensure durability.

 

To sum it up, De La Cruz has physicality on his side, and a double plus fast ball. Competitiveness and aggressiveness are his calling cards and is known to show a bit of a mean streak on the mound. He has one of the most volitive arms in the entire Cubs organization and once he gains command of his change-up, his skill set will be complete. Baring further injury, he could be a top of the rotation starter able to handle 200 innings a year. He will likely start 2018 in Myrtle Beach or Tennessee, but at this point he could move up quickly. And that Cub fans makes our future look very bright.

CHISportsNation
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