Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Exciting Cubs Prospect to Compete in New MLB Futures Skills Showcase


That’s right, it’s time to hype up Cubs prospects because well I’m kinda tired talking about the bullshit surrounding the big-league team so far in 2024. Exciting Cubs prospect Moises Ballesteros is going to compete in the new Futures Skills Showcase this year in addition to his All-Star Futures Game honor.

As you may recall, Ballesteros was recently promoted to Triple-A, where he’s the second youngest player in the entire league, after putting up great numbers with the Tennessee Smokies at Double-A to begin the season. The 20-year-old hasn’t stopped hitting with the Iowa Cubs and on Monday night Ballesteros recorded his 7th multi-hit game at Triple-A in his 11th game at the new level.

Since his promotion to Triple-A on June 18, Ballesteros is 17-for-45 at the plate, slashing .378/.417/.556, which puts the left-handed hitter at a .972 OPS and 152 wRC+ through 48 plate appearances. He’s gotten a hit in 9 of 11 games and has reached base at least once in 10.

So, in the official 2024 Futures Game announcement, Ballesteros is listed as an “inactive selection” meaning he got the All-Star nod, but will not play in the game. However, according to MLB.com, Ballesteros will be one of eight players to compete in the first MLB Futures Skills Showcase that will consist of three hitting challenges.

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Via MLB.com.

1. Hit It Here
Hitters have 10 swings to earn points based on each target’s value. There will be obstacles representing infielders’ traditional starting positions placed on the infield dirt to add a degree of difficulty. Hitters get points for reaching outfield targets on the fly or on a bounce and they earn points by landing the ball on the bunt target.

2. Call Your Shot
This round showcases control and placement, and players will “call their shot” while taking 10 swings to left, center and right. Hitters initially can pick any field to hit the ball to. If successful, then they choose one of the two remaining fields, moving on to the last field once they’re successful with the second one. Once all three fields have been hit, the player can call his shot to any field with any remaining swings. Six points are earned for each successful swing, with hitters needing to clear the infield for it to count.

3. Swing for the Fences
This one will feel familiar to most fans as it most closely resembles a Home Run Derby. But points for the home runs are weighted: six points for pull-side or center-field home runs; 12 points for any opposite-field shots. And if a hitter goes deep on consecutive swings, he’ll get an additional six-point streak bonus. If he hits more than two in a row, every home run in the streak will get the six-point bonus.

The skills competition will follow the conclusion of the All-Star Futures Game on July 13.

Meanwhile, two more Cubs prospects were also named to the 2024 Futures All-Star Game; outfielder Owen Caissie and infielder Matt Shaw.

Caissie, 21, has been at Triple-A since the beginning of the regular season and the left-handed hitting outfielder has been steady at the plate. Caissie is currently putting up a slash line of .283/.392/.450, with 8 home runs and a 121 wRC+ in 73 games for Iowa.

The big question with Caissie is whether or not he can keep his strikeouts in check and while he does have a 27..6% strikeout rate, those numbers have declined month by month. In March/April, Caissie had a 31% strikeout rate and in May/June it declined to 26%. Meanwhile, the tall batter has posted an impressive 14.4% walk rate.

Cubs fans were getting a little nervous about Shaw back in May, but the 2023 first round pick has bounced back in a big way and he’s certainly earned his Futures Game nomination. The 22-year-old is slashing .251/.361/.428, with 10 home runs in 68 games at Double-A this year.

Shaw’s current 135 wRC+ ranks 12th among 50 qualified hitters in the Southern League this season. The right-handed hitter has taken his game to the next level since May 26, posting a 175 wRC+ with a .305/.380/.571 slash line in 121 plate appearances. Shaw has hit for more power in the past month of games, crushing 7 of his 10 homers in the last 27 games, as well as 7 of his 9 doubles on the season during this recent stretch.

One thing that does jump out is that Shaw has not appeared in a game since June 27. It’s the minor leagues, so fans have not been given any insight into Shaw’s absence from the lineup.

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