Thomas Hatch Learns From All-Star Teammates
The Cubs gave righthander Thomas Hatch a locker in between Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks at big league camp and purposely held him out of Cactus League games, wanting him to soak up as much as possible before sending him to minor league camp.
Hatch—who is 15 credit hours away from earning his finance degree at Oklahoma State and projected to start this season at Double-A Tennessee—took advantage of the opportunity to see how all-star pitchers go about their business.
"You grow up watching them on TV and you kind of play them (up) as these superheroes,” Hatch said. "They’re human, too. They make mistakes. It’s just they make less of them, and they’re more consistent.”
The Cubs selected Hatch in the third round in 2016, grabbing the Big 12 Conference pitcher of the year from a College World Series team who dropped because of a right elbow injury that had wiped out his 2015 season.
The sprained ulnar collateral ligament didn’t require surgery, and the Cubs didn’t place restrictions on Hatch last season, other than monitoring his first full season in pro baseball. It should be all systems go in 2018.
"I feel great right now,” Hatch said. "My arm feels great. I’m ready to face some live competition.”
Hatch’s velocity hovers in the low to mid-90s, and his developing changeup helped him make 26 starts last year at high Class A Myrtle Beach, where he recorded a 4.04 ERA and struck out 126 in 124.2 innings.
"In terms of just raw stuff, he’s one of our top guys,” said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. "If he continues on this path, we want to work with him on where he’s going to attack the strike zone with his fastball, using his breaking ball on both sides of the plate. He does have swing-and-miss stuff. He’s a great competitor.”
Cubs Begin To Build Their Next Young Core
While the Cubs' farm system is not anywhere near as well stocked as it was four years ago, it did yield multiple bright spots in 2018.
• Catcher Victor Caratini appears ticketed for Triple-A Iowa, so he can play every day while veteran Chris Gimenez backs up Willson Contreras in Chicago. "He’s only been catching full time for four years,” farm director Jaron Madison said, referring to the fact Caratini was drafted as a third baseman. "It’s just continuing to develop behind the plate, learning how to call games . . . making sure he’s completely ready.”
• Versatile infielder David Bote—a launch-angle convert—was opening eyes this spring as a Joe Maddon-type of player. "I didn’t know he could play third base that well," the Cubs manager said. "I didn’t know his arm was that good. He’s primarily a second baseman (and) I’d heard a lot of good things.”
Patrick Mooney is a senior writer for The Athletic Chicago.