The Rundown Lite: Cubs Using Advanced Pitching Robots, Updated Prospect Rankings, Reyes Raking

Ed. note: Michael’s taking a brief hiatus, so I’m pinch-hitting again. That means an abbreviated version of the daily column you have all come to love, or at least like a lot, over the years.

We’re still a little ways out from having automated strike zones, but the Cubs are already using robots to help their hitters. More specifically, they have purchased several Trajekt Arc machines in order to replicate the arm slot, velocity, and spin profiles of actual MLB pitchers. Patrick Mooney has the full story over at The Athletic and I find this to be an endlessly fascinating topic worth following into the future.

Though it’s remained largely a secret until recently, the Cubs had an earlier version of the Trajekt Arc robot at their Mesa facility last year and now have newer versions there, at Triple-A Iowa, and in Chicago. There are apparently very few of these machines being utilized currently, with Trajekt Sports offering that seven teams have placed orders for a total of nine units. If the Cubs are being counted in that group, it would mean they’re the only organization with more than one.

They are also the only team in the NL Central to have access to this technology due to a multiyear exclusivity agreement with the manufacturer. That could represent a tremendous competitive advantage if the folks running the hitting infrastructure are truly able to leverage it. The goal here is to take BP beyond generalization and into hyper-specific training that allows Cubs hitters to effectively get at-bats against a pitcher before facing him in a game.

The Trajekt Arc can’t be used during the game itself, but it sure could come in handy in pregame warmups to get a look at the guy they’ll be facing that day. What would help even more is an improved roster, which is something else Tom Ricketts might be willing to spring for.

We’ve seen in the past that the Cubs are willing to invest in expensive tech to get the most out of their players, with the equipment that makes their pitch lab tick getting most of the hype. But the first thing I thought of when I heard about the pitching robot was how hitting director Justin Stone made a successful request for a $1 million equipment purchase in his second day on the job back in 2019.

Now if they could just get a robot that would help runners to stop making boneheaded outs on the basepaths.

Cubs News & Notes

  • MLB Pipeline has updated its top prospects lists and Pete Crow-Armstrong has risen to No. 1 in the Cubs organization and No. 31 overall.
  • Franmil Reyes has been great since joining the Cubs, due in large to studying his swing and putting in work between plate appearances. He now has two homers, a double, and a triple after popping a dinger Tuesday night. It’s wild that Cleveland was willing to give up on him.
  • Reliever Manny Rodriguez will pitch an inning for Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday, just a week after he began pitching in Arizona Complex League games. The righty made only two appearances for Iowa at the beginning of the season before an elbow issue shelved him.
  • Can anyone explain how the Cubs manage to run into outs with such alarming frequency? Rafael Ortega‘s TOOTBLAN in extras was a special kind of bad.
  • Minor league slugger Alexander Canario is just one homer shy of 30, which would make him the first Cubs minor leaguer to reach that mark since Kris Bryant (43) in 2014.
  • Though Canario was in the system last year, it feels like the Cubs have had better success tweaking and improving the offensive performance of players they pick up from other organizations. That could just be recency bias from Canario, Reyes, and Crow-Armstrong.

How About That!

  • The Mets have called up Brett Baty, their No. 2 overall prospect who has been raking at Triple-A. He did not play in Tuesday’s game that saw the Mets strike out 14 times in a 5-0 loss to the Braves.
  • Christian Yelich hit his first homer in 142 plate appearances, a stretch that included an 0-for-26 slump. The former MVP has 3.6 combined fWAR over the last 1,201 plate appearances after posting 15 fWAR over his previous 1,231 PAs.
  • The Braves signed rookie Michael Harris II to an eight-year, $72 million extension just two weeks after inking Austin Riley to a big deal. The Braves like to sign young players to extensions and now have long-term commitments from a number of their stars. Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuña Jr., and Matt Olson are among that group.
  • Don’t look now, but the White Sox have gotten hot and are just a game out of the division lead.

They Said It

It’s fucking unbelievable. – Anonymous Cubs official (my guess would be Stone)

Monday Walk-Up Song

I recently found out about Teddy Swims from a Facebook post and I’ve been obsessed with the guy ever since. Born Jaten Dimsdale, the Conyers, GA native adopted his stage name as a combination of his husky build and an acronym for “someone who isn’t me sometimes” that describes his persona as a performer. I love this guy’s voice and the way he blends R&B, soul, pop, and hip-hop into something that sounds entirely unique yet also very familiar.

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