Simpson, so off the board that the Draft organizers literally had to create a nameplate for him, was not exactly welcomed by Chicago Cubs fans with open arms on Draft day. The fault, of course, was not his – and the fans weren’t really objecting to Simpson, himself. Fans were simply upset that the Cubs had decided to use a first round pick on a young man whom most had going in the third round (at best). And then, before he could even throw his first professional pitch, he came down with a massive case of mono.
So bad was his sickness that he didn’t pitch again until this Spring – after losing 22 pounds. And when he did pitch, he didn’t pitch particularly well. Throwing for the Cubs’ A-ball affiliate in Peoria, Simpson went 1-6 with a 5.72 ERA in 16 starts. In those 16 starts, he managed just 61.1 innings, giving up 76 hits and 27 walks. Worse, his velocity had dropped so far from his college days that Farm Director Oneri Fleita ordered that the stadium gun be removed on the days Simpson pitched.
And now Simpson has been demoted to the Cubs’ rookie ball team in Mesa, Arizona. There, in a league that is more instructional than competitive, the Cubs hope Simpson can regain his strength, velocity, and confidence. Even if he hadn’t been demoted, it was fair to assume that his development has been set-back significantly.
It’s a sad story so far, both for Simpson and for the Cubs. Hopefully we’re simply still in those early chapters where the writer is trying to make it seem like a breakthrough to success is impossible. Then, when success finally comes, it feels that much more deserved.
One thing’s for sure: if Simpson makes the Cubs a couple years down the road, both he and the Cubs will have deserved it.