Smokies Stay Alive, Perlaza’s Game-Winning Catch, Canario Does It Again, New Catcher Signing, Sleeper Starting Prospect, More

The Tennessee Smokies won last night to stay alive in their postseason series. If they win again tonight against the Rocket City Trash Pandas, they’ll move on to the Southern League Championship Series. The game starts at 6:35pm CT, and the starter is still officially TBA.

  • A few key highlights from the win, including Chase Strumpf’s decisive three-run homer, Cole Roederer saving a run with a throw, and Yonathan Perlaza’s incredible catch to seal the win:
  • What a catch. That was relief prospect Zac Leigh getting the save, by the way, and Ben Brown was the starter in the game (3.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 3 BB), while Baily Horn (2.1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 2 BB, 5 K) and Blake Whitney (2.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K) served as the clean bridge to Leigh.
  • Elsewhere, the Sosa-McGwire home run race between Matt Mervis and Alexander Canario at Iowa had another moment, with Canario hitting his 35th the night after Mervis hit his:
  • Canario, 22, is now up to a .244/.407/.533/149 wRC+ slash line at Triple-A Iowa. The sample is smaller (60 PAs versus 100 PAs), but Canario basically now has the numbers he had at High-A when the org decided, ok, clearly this dude is not being challenged, we need to bump him. Just for context on how scorching hot Canario has been over the last 10 days since returning from the ankle injury.
  • Oh, Canario also has 22 stolen bases on the year. Just thought that worth noting somewhere.
  • The Cubs tried to sign catcher David Avitia as an undrafted free agent last year, the same year they took his brother Daniel, a pitcher who was committed to the same school, in the 19th round (he did not sign). Unfortunately an injury stopped it before it could happen, so it’s very nice to see that after he recovered, the Cubs are still signing David Avitia:
  • From the write-up, the injury was elbow-related and required surgery, so it’s possible it was Tommy John surgery, although that’s not stated explicitly. Avitia spent the last year working with Grand Canyon as a student assistant (probably nice to still be there with his brother).
  • An interesting look at the possible deep-sleeper breakout starting pitchers for next season:
  • The pictured pitcher, righty Connor Noland, seems like a thoughtful breakout pick (we’re talking about SURPRISING types, mind you), given his experience in the SEC. The results were solid for the 9th rounder, and he’s the kind of older-and-experienced type that the Cubs have seemed to push aggressively up the ladder when justified. From Northside Bound: “2022 draftee Connor Noland will more than likely start out in South Bend, but odds are Myrtle Beach might be an option because of the aforementioned logjam. He’s a guy who could end up the season in Tennessee. He’s got SEC experience, Friday night starter vibes, and some pretty good control. If the Cubs bump up his fastball a couple mph over the winter, he might be our ‘sleeper’ in the clubhouse.”
  • From the Baseball America pre-draft write-up on Noland, where you get the sense that he could pop if there is some “stuff” development, which the Cubs do have a recent track record of pulling off: “Listed as a senior pitcher , Noland just snuck into BA’s top 500 at 470: “After not filling a significant role on the 2021 club, Noland stepped up to fill the massive void created when Arkansas’ expected ace Peyton Pallette blew out his elbow. Noland was rarely spectacular, but he was extremely reliable as Arkansas’ Friday starter. He went 8-6, 3.65 in 116 innings and 19 starts. Noland’s 89-91 mph fastball would be a below-average pitch in pro ball, but it does effectively set up his average, mid-80s slider and above-average, mid-80s curveball. He has above-average control. Noland is a fourth-year junior who could opt to return to Arkansas for another season if his late-round draft status doesn’t entice him.”

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