Cubs prospect profiles: Chase Strumpf
Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Ian Happ, and Nico Hoerner. The Cubs have had an affinity for drafting polished college bats in the 1st and 2nd rounds of the league’s June amateur draft.
In 2019 with the 64th overall pick, the organization added to their deep resume of college hitters, selecting UCLA second baseman Chase Strumpf. The two-time PAC-12 All-Conference infielder helped lead UCLA to the 2019 NCAA baseball tournament as the No. 1 seed. His polish at the plate and experience in competitive play set him up for a productive career as he ascends through the Cubs’ farm system.
Strumpf played his high school baseball at JSerra Catholic in San Juan Capistrano, California, the same school that produced 2017 first overall pick Royce Lewis and Padres catcher Austin Hedges. He attended UCLA for three seasons starting in 2017. He struggled at the plate during his freshman year, but that summer he played ball with the Duluth Huskies in the Northwoods wood bat league and hit an impressive .335. His breakout came just months later during his sophomore year as the team’s shortstop, when he slashed .363/.475/.633 with 36 extra-base hits and 53 RBI.
In 2019, Strumpf solidified his standing as a Top 70 pick in the 2019 draft with an .888 OPS as he moved to second base and played well in the regional and super-regional rounds of the NCAA tournament.
After a disappointing loss to Michigan, the 2019 NCAA tournament’s runner-up, Strumpf migrated to pro ball, where he displayed his advanced pitch recognition and ability to make contact. Across three levels — rookie ball, Class A short-season and Class A — he posted a .374 OBP. With the Eugene Emeralds in the Northwest League, where Strumpf played most of his games, he batted .292 with 14 RBI in 89 at-bats.
Strumpf’s premier tool is his bat. The prospect analysis site Fangraphs projects him to have a future 55-grade hit tool, which translates in scouting parlance to a .270 average at the major league level. Add in Strumpf’s natural feel for the strike zone and his OBP should eventually sit above league average (about .340 in 2019). His future power projection has a wider range of outcomes. If Strumpf becomes more aggressive at the plate, some analysts see his power ticking up to average or slightly above, which should give him around 20 home runs per season in the majors.
The trade-off between aggression and retaining plate discipline skills, however, is a fine line when facing major league pitching. The best hitters in the league have often ascended to that pedestal through a superb understanding where they can do the most damage in the zone. And most of the time, the most productive place to hit a ball in hopes of maximizing power is to a hitter’s pull side (left field for a right-hander) in the air without sacrificing contact to all fields. This refined approach worked for two Indians hitters who obliterated scouts’ expectations of their power ceiling — Francisco Lindor and José Ramirez.
While Strumpf is often compared as a player to Nico Hoerner for their contact-first styles and second base position, there’s always a chance a player with a compact and powerful swing grows into more game power through the minor leagues. The Cubs’ investments in player development technology and coaching on the offensive side of the ball bring even more promise that Strumpf’s ultimate role can exceed expectations.
Strumpf would have likely started the 2020 minor league season with Class A South Bend, and depending on his play, could have earned a promotion to High-A Myrtle Beach around the midpoint of the season. But with the 2020 minor league season all but canceled, the next competitive at-bats for Strumpf could be later this year if the league decides to expand fall instructional leagues or the Arizona Fall League.
With steady progression, he could take his first steps onto Wrigley Field sometime during the 2022 season.