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cj edwardsThis October has seen its fair share of young pitchers stepping into the spotlight and delivering memorable performances. Michael Wacha, Gerrit Cole, Sonny Gray and Alex Cobb all have, at one point or another, stepped up and proven to be part of an impressive youth movement that’s taking place in the big leagues. It appears that managers are less afraid than ever to go with raw talent over experience in the biggest of moments.

Naturally, the instinct of fans whose teams aren’t pumping out young pitching prospects with mid-90s fastballs and devastating breaking balls is to ask, “Why can’t we ever have one of those guys?” I’ve seen this refrain quite a bit lately from Cubs fans, even some writers who claim that, while the Cubs have a great farm system, it’s devoid of the type of pitching talent that teams like the Rays, Cardinals and A’s consistently produce.

There’s no doubt that those three teams have done something special when it comes to acquiring (most frequently via draft, but also by free agency or trade) and developing young pitching. All three teams seem to lose talented veteran pitching year in and year out, whether it be through injury, trade or free agency, and never seem to lose a step. The Rays trade Matt Garza and James Shields? No worries, here come Matt Moore and Cobb. The Cardinals have Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia go down to injury? Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Wacha step right in.

The Cubs are known for the offensive power that’s in their farm system. Not only do they have top talents like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, but they have depth with names like Arismendy Alcantara and Dan Vogelbach. It’s pretty obvious that the Cubs are lacking elite pitching talent in their system (that’s a concern for majority of teams in baseball), but they’ve tried to remedy their depth issues by going pitcher-heavy in the last two drafts. But to assume that the system is completely devoid of the type of young talent we’ve seen star over the past two weeks would be folly.

Of course, there is no Cole comparable in the Cubs system. Cole, the number one overall pick in the 2011 draft, is a rare commodity. The number of young pitchers in baseball with Cole’s ceiling and pedigree isn’t very high. There are a few already in the majors (Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, to name a pair) and even fewer in the minors (Archie Bradley, Taijuan Walker and Jameson Taillon).

One could make the argument that the Cubs passed up this type of elite talent by taking Kris Bryant over Jonathan Gray in the last draft. But that argument would be ignoring the fact that Kris Bryant has quickly become one of the top prospects in all of baseball. You can talk all you want about the Cubs lack of top pitching prospects, but once a front office starts drafting for need over talent, that’s when mistakes are made.

The focus here should not be on Cole, but on the other three pitchers mentioned in the opening paragraph. Wacha and Cobb were both projected as back of the rotation starters with number three upside and both have recently pitched like top of the rotation arms. Gray (of the Sonny variety) has always possessed the stuff scouts speak of when describing an ace, but his small stature (5-foot-11, per Baseball-Reference) brought out doubters that he could stick as a starter.

There are numerous explanations as to why these three have exceeded expectations. First of all, we have a very small sample size, so to suggest that we’re seeing a finished product with these kids would be unfair. There’s still time for all three to regress back to what scouts originally projected for their careers. However, in the case of both Cobb and Wacha, they have exceeded their projections not just with game results, but both have developed above average breaking balls (which was not the expected result according to industry consensus when they were drafted) and are proving to be plus-pitchers at the Major League level. Gray has yet to prove he can handle the rigors of being a 200-inning workhorse, but he’s certainly shown he has the arsenal to be a top of the rotation arm and topped the 180-inning mark between the minors and majors this regular season, and appeared to have plenty left in the tank for the playoffs.

While the Cardinals and Rays obviously liked both Wacha and Cobb enough to draft them, if you talked to people in their respective organizations, they’d admit both pitchers have exceeded expectations. The success those organizations have had recently is a credit to their scouting and player development departments and of course, they’ve been blessed with a little bit of luck. Unfortunately for the Cubs, in what is likely a failure at some level in each of those three categories (and sprinkle in the fact that money hadn’t been heavily invested in the farm system until recently), the North Siders haven’t seen such results in a while.

But if you look at their system, it’s not too hard to find a few arms who could be making some noise for an improved Cubs team in the not so distant future. Here’s a quick look at three of them (for a more in-depth analysis, please read my season review of the Cubs system at ESPN Chicago).

Pierce Johnson: According to one scouting director, had it not been for a forearm injury, Johnson would have been drafted right around where Wacha ended up going (19th overall) in the 2011 draft. Johnson has the stuff (plus fastball and slider) and just needs to continue to improve his command as he works his way through the Cubs system.

C.J. Edwards: Edwards has the stuff to be a top of the rotation arm, but many question his ability to handle the innings load that comes with that label of “staff ace.” The easy comp is to Gray, but while the A’s rookie is shorter than Edwards, he’s also broader than the Cubs’ top pitching prospect. Questions with Gray remaining a starter stem from his short stature and what some scouts believe would lead to an inability to get quality downhill plane on his fastball, something easier to accomplish for taller pitchers. Edwards doesn’t have that issue, but has what one scout recently described as the build of a marathon runner (the descriptions about Edwards’ slender frame have gotten more and more creative the more I ask around. It’s as if there’s some sort of contest among front office types about who can come up with the most unique skinny metaphor). But make no bones about it, if Edwards can stick in a big league rotation, he has front of the rotation stuff.

Paul Blackburn: Here’s the guy who people within the Cubs organization are hopeful can take that leap (I’ve previously gotten a Cobb-comp for Blackburn). While the previous two pitchers mentioned already have mid-rotation or higher ceiling, Blackburn currently projects as a four or five. There’s still development needed for Blackburn, but it’s not a complete dream to project a tick up in his stuff and he already has impressive command. Blackburn has yet to pitch in a full-season league, so he’s further away than both Edwards and Johnson. An offseason of work and his foray into what will likely be low-A ball will give us more insight into what the Cubs can hope for from Blackburn down the road.

No, the Cubs certainly don’t currently have the pitching depth of their arch-rival Cardinals (coming into the season, Wacha was St. Louis’ fourth best pitching prospect, behind Miller, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, according to Baseball Prospectus. Seriously, WTF Cardinals?). But there are some names in the Cubs system to keep an eye on. The Cardinals strategy shifted about a decade ago when they started populating their system with athletic, hard throwing arms. Those arms have been found in the early rounds (Wacha, Miller) or later on in the draft (Rosenthal, Garcia). The Cubs are starting to do the same and their hope is that, along with the three names mentioned above, pitchers like Rob Zastryzny, Tyler Skulina, Duane Underwood and others will provide the system some much needed depth of power arms.

So don’t believe those who say the Cubs haven’t acquired the pitching necessary to compete with the big boys or those who repeatedly point to a dearth of pitching in the system as a major flaw. Yes, they need some things to break their way to ensure these kids reach their potential, but the arms are there. The scouting department has done their job. The recently revamped player development department is in the process of doing their best as well. The rest is up to our fickle friend luck.

  • DarthHater

    Ummm, Gray is not 5-11. He’s 6-4, 255.

    • Jon

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/grayso01.shtml

      [img]http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d108/phoenix030405/Creations2/FACTSmitt2stch.jpg[/img]

    • DarthHater

      Okay, Sonny Gray is 5-11. But you had more recently referenced Jonathan Gray in the article.

      • Randy

        I did not see it that way.

      • jt

        shades of Gray?
        don’t know ’bout that but the article was first rate. OK, most of the articles are first rate but this one was real good.

    • mjhurdle

      was it really that hard to figure out which Gray he was referring to?

      • Jon

        Apparently….

    • Jono

      It’s kind of more annoying that people keep focusing on the mistake than the mistake or defense of the mistake

  • Jon

    You could have bothered to read the actual article further to realize he was talking about Sonny Gray, not Jonathon Gray.

    • DarthHater

      Jonathan Gray was referenced in the immediately preceding paragraph. Referring back to Sonny in the next paragraph without being more specific is stylistically wrong.

      • Jon

        Um, Jonathan Gray was discussed in contrast to Kris Bryant in a paragraph discussing if it was the right move to pass up an ace-type pitcher in the draft.

        The next paragraph changes the subject completely and discusses CJ Edwards, and “Sonny” Gray is brought up as a comparable pitcher in terms of height.

        Two completely different subjects. For a big shot lawyer, (or so you claim) you sure don’t seem to read the details.

        • DarthHater

          Don’t you have some remarks about Jews to make or some charitable activities to bash this morning?

          • Jon

            Read it again, Jonathan Gray/Kris Bryant, Sonny Gray/CJ Edwards

            The first pairing are top 5 draft picks in the 2013 draft

            The second pairing are 5’11 pitchers with ‘ace’ like potential. I know the same surname confuses it a bit, but give it another read, top to bottom, left to right. It’s not that hard.

            Or just post another stupid gif, your choice.

            • Scotti

              For what it’s worth, the second pairing isn’t of 5’11” pitchers as CJ Edwards is not 5’11” (or, at least, he is 5’11” and 3 or 4 more inches).

      • DarthHater

        Oh, and by the way:
        [img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3673/8763152824_bb5d86171d_o.jpg[/img]

        • Randy

          So cant take a little back at you. Judging by your remarks you must be an editor at a newspaper.

        • Featherstone

          Easy there Darth. You jumped the gun a bit on your comment about Gray which is an understandable mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. Own up to it and move on.

        • Spriggs

          That should say “..a nice big cup…” Sounds better.

  • macpete22

    Hopefully we can draft an “Ace” in the draft. Hoffman to go along with Edwards and Johnson could be nice

  • Blackhawks1963

    The Cubs have definite pitching talent in the system. Do they have enough of it? No, but I don’t think any organization has enough of it. Like the late Dick Williams used to say, “there is no such thing as a team or an organization having too much good pitching.”

    I like Johnson a lot. He projects as a hybrid between Dempster and Matt Clement, which I’ll take. Hendricks lacks the raw stuff, but is pitching savvy and projects nicely as a quality 4th starter type. Shades of Lynn in St. Louis. Edwards is a high ceiling prospect and one of the best pitching prospects in the game right now. Not elite, but damned good regardless. And there are wildcards in the system like Maples, Blackburn, Underwood, Cates and of course Arodys Vizcaino. And Zastransy holds a lot of intrigue as well.

    • SenorGato

      Johnson improved as a SP prospect for me this year, though some of that is the calming down of #2 starter talk. He added some size and stayed healthy, nice things to be able to check off after a season of prospecting.

  • CubFan Paul

    I like what Professor Parks had to say about Edwards yesterday in his chat. Very revealing stuff from Parks and scouts who are familiar with Edwards.

    • SenorGato

      I feel like I read the same thing over and over on Edwards, including what Parks said the other day. The most interesting or different thing I have heard said about him was a mention of his cutter a while back. Good pitch, worries that he is overusing it…There was some noise that coaches don’t like younger pitchers (or pitchers in general) throwing too many cutters because it messes with the four seam velocity. It can be an addictive pitch for pitchers.

  • Dumpgobbler

    I actually think we’ve taken huge strides in our pitching department. We don’t have a Cole, but we have a slew of interesting arms for sure. The whole Daytona rotation will probably be with the big club at some point. Pineyro, Black, Johnson, Wells and Edwards. Blackburn, Maples, Leal and Underwood are all younger guys to keep an eye on. We’ll wait a bit on the newly drafted guys, Z, Skulina, Masek, Frazier and the rest. Guys like Hendricks and Vizcaino should be up soon, along with the BP arms we saw this year.

    I think the fact that we have 4 big time position prospects, along with a handful of other interesting position guys (Vogelbach, Alcantara, Villanueva, Amaya, ect ect) make people underestimate what we have in arms. Again, no Ace level guys yet, but a heap of guys that have a chance to be MLers. And guys like Johnson and Edwards actually have the talent to make a Cobb like jump.

    • bbmoney

      I couldn’t agree more. I feel like it’s still a year out. But I think in 2015 we could start to see more arms graduate. They aren’t all going to make it, obviously, but there are enough interesting names that I think there will be a noticeable positive impact on the MLB team, which has been missing for the most part from our pitching prospects.

      • Jono

        I might be stating the obvious, but I think it’s likely that the Cubs trade minor league hitting for either young MLB pitching or near-ready MLB pitching before the 2015 season. Given the offensive talent they have in the minors, they could get a really nice young pitcher.

        • bbmoney

          Agreed. I think that’s the more likely time for it to happen, as opposed to this off-season too.

        • Matt

          Agreed. That’s why you take the Best Player Available approach. You can trade for pitching later.

    • On The Farm

      “Blackburn, Maples, Leal and Underwood are all younger guys to keep an eye on. We’ll wait a bit on the newly drafted guys, Z, Skulina, Masek, Frazier and the rest. ”

      Actually Z and Skulina ended their season in Kane County (which is probably where they will open the 2014 season), but based on their experience, they should be able to move up the organizational ladder much quicker than Blackburn and Underwood. This will be a big year for Maples, he will need to find some sort of control to be effective. Maybe you can get away with a 4 BB/9 in Boise, but he will need to improve to be effective in Kane County or even Daytona.

      • Dumpgobbler

        Right, but I’d like to see a bit more on some of the newer guys. I think Skulina could be the guy out of the arms drafted last season to excel.

      • Scotti

        The 4BB/9 in Boise is deceptive. He had 5 BB in his first 3 IP there then settled in to 3.23 BB/9 the rest of the way. THAT is how he was successful at Boise. He’d be successful doing that at any level.

        http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=596027

        • On The Farm

          Well yeah, if he can sustain a 3 BB/9 the rest of the way I agree he will be more successful. However, younger minor league players tend to have a ‘swing at everything’ mentality, and as players climb the ladder of their organization, they realize they need to be more selective. I just don’t think you can assume even with a 3.23 over the rest of his time in Boise you can assume he will be able to sustain that. The hitters are going to get better.

    • cubs2003

      There is some talent, but I look at pitching pipelines like the Cardinals have and I’m just wowed. Hopefully Theo, Jed, and Jason have the ability to put something like that together. A question to anyone-do you think it’s more drafting or player development that makes a good major league pitcher? Obviously, all these guys are talented, but some organizations seem to take them from talented youngsters to MLB ready at a way better rate than others.

  • JM

    “…the descriptions about Edwards’ slender frame have gotten more and more creative the more I ask around. It’s as if there’s some sort of contest among front office types about who can come up with the most unique skinny metaphor). But make no bones about it,…”

    That’s just too funny. Brett wins!

    • TWC

      Sahadev. Not Brett.

      • JM

        You are correct sir. My apologies to Sahadev.

  • Jono

    An article on cubs pitching prospects? This is my O face

  • SenorGato

    Maybe it’s my bullshit inner hipster turned off by all the TOR talk for Edwards and Johnson, but I am less high on both as a starter than I think the average Cubs forum poster is. Would not lose a bit of sleep if either is traded this offseason. THAT SAID, maybe I am a little too old school in how I look at SPs, though that feels a bit light.

    Honestly, while there probably is a starter in the more polished group of RHs (Hairston trade guy, Edwards, Johnson, Hendricks) there is a serious lack of high quality MLB TOR starter velocity in the bunch. Edwards or Johnson are the best of the bunch in velocity but both see major fluctuations in game while also having size or other questions.

    Duane Underwood might be as interesting as Blackburn, but Blackburn has the performance edge right now. I really thought Scott Frazier in the 6th was a nice get. Frazier added another thing this system’s SP prospects seem to lack – raw size at 6’6 230 or so. Skulina is interesting like Frazier, so in a Scott Feldman kind of way, and Trey Masek might make a pen with his fastball/curveball one day. Basically the bar just isn’t very high in the system right now, though depth is slowly building and getting more interesting.

    It would be nice if Tyler Beede threw just the right amount of strikes to not go 1 but still be a steal at 4. He is a prototypical high ceiling SP prospect with the kind of size and build that lends confidence to holding a good fastball through a season as a SP. Lack of injury,high pedigree, high stuff, traits of good mechanics but inconsistent-ish, high performance for a big program….This is the kind of profile I think the system lacks.

    • CubFan Paul

      “turned off by all the TOR talk for Edwards and Johnson, but I am less high on both as a starter than I think the average Cubs forum poster is”

      from Parks’ chat:

      “…Scouts are mixed on ultimate projection, but I’ve yet to speak to one scout ***with familiarity*** who believes Edwards is a top of the rotation type”

  • http://www.bleachernation.com salesguy

    I believe in baseball, kinda like in sales you make your own luck/fate. Those people (or teams in this case) that don’t understand how the Cardinals for example show up with guys like this in their system just say things like, “Man he/they’re so lucky”. But, luck has very little to do with it, the organization is now headed in the right direction by focusing on these types of arms in their draft. The lesson here is, the more of these guys that you populate your system with, and the more rock star player development people you put in place (like the minor league coaching staffs, and our roming pitching instructor) the better chance you have of one breaking out and exceeding expectations. These are the guys who take rotation spots and run with them, or come out of the bullpen in the playoffs with mid to upper 90’s fastballs and hammer curves. Coolest thing is, the other organizations mentioned in the article, have had these types of system’s in place for years, it’s really kinda awesome how far we’ve come in 3.

    • Jono

      “I believe in baseball”

      The new BN slogan?

    • mjhurdle

      after that first line, all i could think of was the ‘i believe in’ speech from Bull Durham

  • Indy57

    Given that Trey McNutt was the top prospect a couple of years ago and that beyond him it was pretty slim, the Cubs have made great progress. Still some distance to go, but there are 2-3 good reliever candidates at each level now and we have an assortment of up to 10-12 potential starters in the system from Boise to Des Moines. We do lack the TOR guy and that’s what makes Tanaka so valuable to the Cubs. Even without him, our rotation depth and reliever depth looks the strongest it has for a few years now. Not that it is make or break, but the Tanaka signing really puts the Cubs at a strong advantage and allows them to keep the positional talent that is coming in 2014 and 2015.

  • SenorGato

    BTW the good thing is that they could/should be able to build a bullpen internally relatively easy. Rivero and Corey Black are battling for my relief prospect heart.

    • Kyle

      Rivero wins that for me in a Mortal Kombat-style fatality. He crushes all comers.

      • SenorGato

        Yeah, he’s well ahead and the best relief prospect in the system.

  • Spriggs

    I’m still hoping that Paniagua will start to live up to some of his hype too. I saw one start of his this year in the rookie league and he looked quite good and was throwing hard. Haven’t seen him in the Instructs this year. Anyone know how he’s been doing?

    • Jono

      oh yeah, that guy

  • Kyle

    Good article.

    I thought the organizational pitching had a really, really good year in 2013, and it was one of the biggest stories of the year in terms of importance.

    A year ago at this time, we had a few high-profile interesting arms, but nothing elite and the depth was subpar. We still lack the elite guys, but our depth has really improved. A very high percentage of our pitching prospects took steps foward.

  • itzscott

    Nobody’s going to beat the Cardinals. They’re better than ever and knew exactly what they were doing when they let Pujols walk.

    I hate the Cards, but you have to admire what they’ve done and are doing.

    As far as Wacha…. I’ve seen many pitchers look like Cy Young the 1st time a team faces them and then come back down to earth once those same opposing teams have a book on them. Cardinal scouts tend to be right more times than not and it’ll be interesting to see if Wacha eventually earns his way to a #4 starter.

    • Spriggs

      Wacha will prolly go the way of former cardinals like Hughes, Stuper, LaPointe, Cox, Kepshire, Tewksbury, Bottonfield, Simontacchi, Looper, Pineiro, McClellan – obscurity – an incredible pennant run – then back to obscurity.

      • jh03

        No, I think that’s Joe Kelly. His numbers scream regression. Wacha at least projects as a #3 starter. Joe Kelly is a swingman who is best suited for the pen, who gets out of jams on a daily basis from nothing but Cardinal voodoo magic. At some point that’s gotta change.

        • cubfanincardinalland

          Amazing how the media creates things. The Cardinals might be the worst team in baseball at developing quality starting pitchers over the last 50 years. They have a proven track record of flaming out.

        • SenorGato

          To be fair to Kelly, he probably has some help from the 95 MPH sinker he throws.

          • jh03

            Have you seen his numbers? He had like a 1.3 WHIP with only a 5.5 K/9. Oh, and he had a .270 BABip, I think. It’s been a few weeks since I looked at his numbers. Those are not sustainable for the long-haul. At all.

            His sinker is a nice pitch. But it’s better suited in the bullpen. Especially when his secondary offererings aren’t plus.

  • itzscott

    The other pitcher nobody seems to mention anymore is the other guy the Cubs got for Garza…. Neil Ramirez.

  • Bob D

    Anyone want to give a go at our pitching prospect top 10?

    • Dumpgobbler

      I’ll try.. its going to be debatable for sure.

      1. Edwards
      2. Johnson
      3. Vizcaino
      4. Blackburn
      5. Hendricks
      6. Maples
      7. Zastryzny
      8. Underwood
      9. Pineyro
      10. Paniagua

      Mostly SP’s there, while some could end up as RP. Still missing some interesting arms there. Cabrera, not sure if they will start him or make him a RP. Ramirez just missed out, as well as Wells, Skulina, Frazier, Jokisch, and Leal. Black and Rivero are RP, but you could certainly argue to throw them in there somewhere.

  • MightyBear

    Nobody mentions the kid we got from the Yankees for Soriano either, Cory Black. He pitched well at Daytona last year. Nobody mentions Hendricks who isn’t too far away. I think the “number 1 pitcher” is over rated. The key is to have 5 solid guys and depth in the bullpen. Look at the Cardinals, their only loss to the Dodgers was when Wainright, their number 1 lost. The Dodgers have two number ones and they lost. Verlander is a number 1 and he lost. I think a rotation in the future of Wood, Edwards, Hendricks, Johnson and Black, Ramirez or Vizcaino could be quite formidable.

    • Funn Dave

      I agree. Not having an absolute ace is not cause for alarm at this point.

  • MIchael

    The Cubs will have another nice draft pick this upcoming year that seems to be loaded with pitching…and next year we will probably have another nice draft pick so we have a few years to draft some nice pieces to plug some holes in the system.

    • Kyle

      The early indications are that the college bats suck, but I hope that changes and we take another one. Bats forever at the top of the draft.

      • SenorGato

        Brett Austin, a switch hitting catcher from NC State, might be interesting if he can hit for some power next year.

        OTOH Young Beedah is probably better.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Cubs should do the same thing they did in last years draft this year with one exception. Take a TOR pitcher with that first pick. Hoffman, Beede, or Nola would all fit that spot. I’m assuming Rodon would be gone by # 4.
    After that first round pick concentrate on more college pitchers and catchers. C Brett Austin from NC St. P Musgraves from WV, Foley from C Mich. Savas from Illinois St. wiest from Cal St. Fullerton, Rice from Vandy, C Greiner from S. Carolina.

    • Funn Dave

      You must have missed the section of the article that warns against drafting need over talent.

  • Chris

    Sahadev,

    Why no love for/mention of Dillon Maples? Despite some injuries in 2011-2012, I feel he made strides this year at Boise, and yet isn’t getting the same attention as some of these others. Thanks!

    ps, I also posted this same question/comment under your ESPN article.

    • Edwin

      At this point, Maples is still a pretty big wildcard. He pitched great in A-, but lousy at A ball. His BB/9 is way too high. He still has a far way to go. If he can put together a good season next year, then he’ll be back on the radar. Odds are he won’t, though.

    • Eternal Pessimist

      Boise just is just filled with very raw players, and most pitchers w/ a couple years in the minors should do very well there. Hard to get excited about Maples doing “well” after moving down to Boise.

  • chrisfchi

    Anyone thunk Hendricks has a shot this upcoming season? Wouldn’t mind getting a look at him sometime this summer.

    • macpete22

      Depends on who they end up with as the 5th starter. Shark, Wood, Jackson, and Arrieta are more than likely going to be in the rotation. If they sign someone to flip for prospects, then I can see Hendricks being called up. Curious to see who they get as the 5th guy in the rotation. Tanaka?

      • chrisfchi

        Getting tanaka would be amazing

        • macpete22

          It would make Shark or even Arrieta expendable if the right trade came along

          • Voice of Reason

            We lost over 90 games the past two seasons.

            In my eyes Shark and Arrieta are expendable right now… in the right deal!

    • Edwin

      I agree with Chris below. I think he’s on the short list of guys they call up, but I think they’d like him to spend some more time in AAA to see how he handles some more advanced hitters. There’s still a chance that despite how good his numbers have been, his stuff just doesn’t play well against MLB caliber hitting.

  • Chris

    I think Kendricks absolutely has a chance to pitch in the majors this season, if he succeeds at AAA and a spots opens in Chicago. But he won’t make the rotation out of ST

    • davidalanu

      It was only six starts, but it was impressive to me the way he advanced to the PCL, and kept his numbers nearly identical to AA. I know he doesn’t impress with pure stuff, but he’s been amazingly consistent throughout his minor league career.

  • Cedlandrum

    Too bad the Cubs couldn’t sign Sonny Gray when they drafted him.

  • cub1

    Are there any statistics that back up small pitchers being less durable? I’m 5’9″ and I could throw all day when I was in college. I always thought it had more to do with proper technique and fundamentals. I could be wrong, but I just always thought it sounded more like an old “scout’s” tale.

    • cubs2003

      I’m pretty sure, medically, bigger pitchers tend to put less stress on their arm. By no means does that mean smaller players can’t have success. We’ve all seen guys like Pedro Martinez and Tim Lincecum. I think it’s just front offices playing the percentages. It seems like organizations keep these kind of things pretty close to the vest, though. A quick Google search didn’t provide much interesting.

      • On The Farm

        I think it is more of a physics theory as opposed to medically proven. What I really think it comes down to is a person’s genetics. Much like Micheal Phelps isn’t just a great swimmer because he practices a lot, he also benefits from double joined shoulders, longer wing span than body height, etc. I think there is an in-measurable ligament strength that you just don’t know until the pitcher breaks down.

        At least that is part of the equation, not all of it.

        • cubs2003

          I agree. Genetics are a huge factor, I’m sure. Just look at the NFL. Those guys are insanely huge and insanely fast. How anyone can do that, I have no idea. I do think a really good FO should be looking at these things and I’m sure they are.

    • Scotti

      There are two types of “smaller.” CJ Edwards is tall (6’2″ or 6’3″) but slight and others, like Gray (listed 5’11”), are shorter (many guys listed at 6’0″ are 1-2 inches shorter).

      I coached a guy in high school who was both short and slender (5’7″ and skinny as a rail) yet who could throw 90 mph late into 7 inning games. Never got a sniff from a scout or offer from any college.

      Anyway, the issues are different. The short guys pitch from a lower height so their pitches don’t have the drastically different downward plain that a guy 3-7 inches taller can have. Shorter guys also release further from the plate and so their pitches don’t seem as fast (if a taller guy–with longer legs, torso, arms–is releasing 6-9 inches closer to the plate, that has a similar effect of a guy pitching 6-9 inches closer and that really makes a difference–that’s why 70 mph BP is done much closer in).

      But the slight guys who are of decent height (CJE, Juan Cruz, etc.) are all suspect because of endurance (even if they can still impress on the guns). Can a guy who is that slight (low muscle mass) maintain his ability to pitch into the late innings with the same easy velocity? Some can and some can’t. The theory is that the larger muscle mass holds more energy and that smaller muscle mass is depleted of that stored energy in the early innings. There’s also belief as to these same guys getting gassed over the course of a long season. If they are expending more energy on a start-to-start basis to keep the velocity up, then will they still have what they need later in the season.

      The later applies to position players to a certain degree, as well. This year Alcantara seemed to melt as he played more games…

  • Crazyhorse

    Nice Article- Its always nice to have the basics on the players in the Cubs farm system. I have deep respect for this Front Office selection and handling the players the Cubs draft. Yet, I also feel that when a Major League Baseball Team is a bottom feeder as the Cubs have been for past 4 years ,the work should be a tad easier to select better players in the first two rounds.

    The Cubs have put themselves in a position to select better players by having bad teams . I Am more curious about the selections the Cubs make round 3 and higher and how those players are developing. Its is those instancing that will determine if this Front Office is truly benefiting by selecting players that not only make the show but contribute.

  • David

    Can we win the 2015 World Series with a “prett solid” everyday lineup (which is the FO’s hope/ plan), an awesome bullpen (I can see this coming true) & a starting pitching staff of #3 & 4 starters?? I think we come up short.

  • Scotti

    “One could make the argument that the Cubs passed up this type of elite talent by taking Kris Bryant over Jonathan Gray in the last draft. But that argument would be ignoring the fact that Kris Bryant has quickly become one of the top prospects in all of baseball. You can talk all you want about the Cubs lack of top pitching prospects, but once a front office starts drafting for need over talent, that’s when mistakes are made.”

    Yes, Bryant has become one of the top prospects in all of baseball. So has Jonathan Gray thus the need/talent argument is, for all intents and purposes, moot. Clearly the Cubs liked Bryant over Gray but much of that seems to be a version of the TINSTAAPP mentality.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Based on his performance so far, I would argue that Bryant’s stock has improved since the draft based on his 146 PAs with an OPS of 1.078 and subsequent hot start in the AFL while Gray’s has not moved much based on 37.1 IP. Both are still obviously amongst the top handful of prospects in the game, but Bryant has done more so far to back up that ranking.

  • MightyBear

    Personally, I don’t think Samardizja is with the Cubs next year. I think the Cubs will try to sign him to an extension. I think he’ll refuse and the Cubs will rightfully trade him.

  • Aaron

    Agree that the Cubs are lacking elite pitching talent in their system. This is why next year’s MLB draft is so important. Also, the Cubs may want to consider trading some of their hitting prospects (not to include Bryant, Almora, Baez or Soler) for some young minor league pitchers with solid numbers in A or AA. The FO is really good at picking past top tier prospects from other teams. Stick to what they’re good at.

    TRADE: Perhaps trade a player like SHARK to a contending or near-contending team for a few high-ceiling pitchers in the low minors.

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