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Chicago Cubs Prospect Cory Abbott Continues Upward Trend

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Cory Abbott (photo by Bill Mitchell)

BUIES CREEK, N.C.—It’s been a whirlwind year and a half for Cory Abbott. Only 16 months ago, he was an undistinguished college righthander at Loyola Marymount with a chance to be drafted around the 20th round.

Then Abbott threw the first perfect game in LMU history on March 25, 2017. Since that moment, he’s been on a dizzying ascent.

Abbott flew up draft boards into the second round last year, and his upward trend is continuing in pro ball. After posting a 2.47 ERA in nine starts for low Class A South Bend, he was promoted to high Class A Myrtle Beach and made his first start for the Pelicans on Thursday.

Like just about every other start Abbott has made the last 16 months, it was a good one.

Abbott pitched six innings, gave up three hits and two runs, walked two and struck out eight to lead Myrtle Beach to a 4-2 win over Buies Creek (Astros). The 22-year old righthander earned the win in his Carolina League debut and improved his overall record as a professional to 5-1, 2.81.

“I maybe didn’t trust myself enough before,” said Abbott, the Cubs' No. 16 prospect. “And then when my perfect game started I stopped kind of caring in a sense, but in the good way where you just go with the way you’re feeling and let (your stuff) do its own thing. I’ve kind of just been riding that wave ever since.”

Abbott made quick work of the Buies Creek lineup. He sat 91-93 mph with his fastball, showcased his short, 86-88 mph slider against both righties and lefties, flashed an 84-85 mph changeup he landed for first-pitch strikes and even introduced an 80-82 mph power curveball that drew swings and misses.

He threw 58 of 88 pitches for strikes, had two separate stretches of seven straight batters retired and wrapped up his quality start in an hour and a half.

“This was the first time I ever caught him and it was definitely a good first impression,” Myrtle Beach catcher P.J. Higgins said. “He was pounding the zone with the fastball, slider had good action on it, it was pretty firm too. It was hard for them out of the hand to differentiate the fastball and slider. Changeup was good and curveball was good at times. Give up three hits, that’s a pretty good start.”

Abbott’s plus slider was the primary pitch that got him drafted No. 67 overall last year, but he knew to succeed in pro ball he needed more weapons. That’s where the development of his changeup and power curveball have come in.

He’s adjusted the grip on his changeup this spring, moving from a two-seam grip to a four-seam grip, and progressively added velocity to his curveball after the Cubs' pitching development staff threatened to shelve it.

The result is the most complete arsenal Abbott has ever had, and at just the right time, too, as he goes through his first full season of professional baseball.

“In Arizona (in spring training) I was working on throwing a curveball more than the slider, then when I got to South Bend I was thinking more slider for strikes, and then the last two weeks I was putting even more emphasis on my changeup,” Abbott said. “It’s all kind of been working out for me.”

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Buies Creek third baseman Abraham Toro was the only Astros hitter who could touch Abbott on Thursday. The 21-year-old notched all three of Buies Creek’s hits against Abbott, including a two-run homer in the fourth that was Abbott’s only major blemish.

But aside from Toro, Buies Creek was just the latest lineup on the wrong side of Abbott’s rapid ascent. From college to low Class A to high Class A, Abbott has yet to find a challenger who can slow him down.

“I think what’s coming more together is just throwing more pitches for strikes,” he said. “I’m putting the pressure on the hitters more now than I was before. I think that’s been a good turning point in my focus, and now I’m kind of carrying it on.”

NEWS AND NOTES

Cubs' No. 1 prospect Aramis Ademan went 2-for-4 with a single and a home run. The 19-year-old shortstop lined an outside fastball the opposite way to left field in the first inning for his single, and in the fifth inning he drove an elevated fastball past the 375-foot sign in right center for his first home run since April 14.

Toro reached base in all four of his plate appearances, finishing 3-for-3 with two singles, a two-run homer and a walk. The 2016 fifth-round pick is 6-for-12 in his last three games and has a hit in seven of his last nine.

Buies Creek righthander Tyler Ivey, the Astros' third-round pick last year out of Grayson (Texas) JC, pitched four innings, gave up four hits and two runs, walked two and struck out three. He sat 91-92 mph with his fastball, got swings and misses on both his mid-80s slider with depth and 73-75 mph curveball and flashed an 83-85 mph changeup with fade against lefties.

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