Frank Batista entered the Cubs’ system in 2010, and by 2012 he was the closer in Double A Tennessee. He remained the closer in Tennessee (with a few stints in Iowa and in the Mexican League) throughout the 2013 and 2014 seasons as well, and, while he pitched well for a Double A closer, at no point did he make me certain that he had a major league future. He was effective enough that I could envision him in a middle relief slot for a few years, but not so good that I felt the Cubs had to give him a chance.
But, over this past winter he started some games in the Dominican Winter League, and the Cubs kept him starting when he arrived in spring training. Through five starts in Double A, Batista, who just turned 26, has an ERA of 1.19, a K/BB ratio of 3.29, and, in over 30 innings, has allowed well under one base runner per inning. Did the good minor league closer Batista morph into the excellent starting prospect Batista over the winter?
It isn’t impossible, but I don’t think we should rush to that conclusion quite yet. While Batista has gotten off to a very good start this year, there are some oddities on his stat sheet that suggest a regression may be coming. First of all, while a nice reduction walks over last season accounts for some of the reduction in base runners, the rest of it comes down to the fact that hitters (through the first four starts) had a BABIP of just .185 against him (the data on these stats isn’t updated yet for his start yesterday). That is a lot lower than we saw as a closer, and I suspect that it is only a matter of time before some hits starting finding grass against him. Furthermore, his Left On Base percentage as a starter this season was an awesome 93.4% through those same four starts – much higher than he ever posted as a closer. I doubt that he can keep that up either. And if we look at his FIP of 3.73, we get another indication that maybe his stuff hasn’t been quite as good as his results this season.
Then again, he just sailed through another six shutout innings yesterday, so those numbers (which were taken before yesterday’s start) are mostly going to improve a little. That regression, if it is coming hasn’t hit yet.
So how do we resolve this conundrum? Well, if you’re an MiLB.tv subscriber, you can sit down and study some video of Batista on the mound just as soon as you get some free time. And that is exactly what I plan to do one day soon. I tend to doubt that Batista has reinvented himself as an undersized, weak contact generating starting pitching prospect of note… but I would love to be wrong. In a case such as this time, and tape, will tell the tale.
Scores From Yesterday
Iowa – It was a shutout, but Iowa was on the wrong end. They lost 6-0.
Tennessee – The Smokies swept a doubleheader on the road, winning the first game 2-1, and winning the nightcap 4-1.
Myrtle Beach – The Pelicans split their doubleheader. They lost the first game 5-4, but bounced back to win the second 4-2.
South Bend – The Cubs tied it in the eighth but lost in the ninth by a final of 4-3.
Performances of Note
- [Iowa] Javier Baez, playing shortstop this time, finished 1 for 4 with one strikeout.
- [Iowa] Chris Valaika, who finished 2 for 4, had the only multi-hit game.
- [Tennessee] Frank Batista struck out 4 and allowed a run on 5 hits over 6 innings in the first game. He carried a shutout into the sixth.
- [Tennessee] The second game was a group effort that featured contributions from Adres Santiago, Gerardo Concepcion, C.J. Edwards, and Michael Jensen. The best outing came from Edwards who struck out the side in his one inning on the mound.
- [Tennessee] Albert Almora returned to the lineup and promptly went 2 for 3 in Game One.
- [Tennessee] Jacob Hannemann moved to left to make room for Almora in the first game and finished 0 for 2 with 2 walks and his 4th steal of the year. He moved back to center for the second game and added a hit.
- [Tennessee] Anthony Giansanti tripled in the first game to provide the only extra base hit in that contest.
- [Tennessee] In the first game Kyle Schwarber and Dan Vogelbach were held to some walks, but in Game Two Vogelbach broke out a 3 for 4 performance that contained his 9th double of the year.
- [Tennessee] Between the two games, Bijan Rademacher finished with 2 hits, 3 walks, and his 2nd steal of 2015.
- [Myrtle Beach] Daury Torrez stuck out 6, but gave up 5 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits over 6.1 innings in the first game. Tayler Scott struck out 5 over 3 innings in the second before 2 scoreless innings each from Zach Cates and Jasvir Rakkar sealed the win.
- [Myrtle Beach] Mark Zagunis walked twice in the first game, then collected 2 hits in the second. Wes Darvill did the same thing, except one of his hits was a home run.
- [Myrtle Beach] Billy McKinney doubled, walked, and finished 2 for 2 in the second game.
- [South Bend] Charcer Burks finished 3 for 4 with 2 more steals, including his 8th of the year.
- [South Bend] A triple from David Bote (1 for 4) and a double from Jesse Hodges (2 for 4) were the only extra base hits for the Cubs.
- The Chicago Cubs wrap up in St. Louis with a day game today, and that means your evening will be free to take your pick of three interesting pitching assignments on MiLB.TV.
- Tsuyoshi Wada takes the mound for the Iowa Cubs. Wada pitched very well his last time out, and with another strong performance could find himself on a flight to Chicago. As an added bonus, viewers of this game will get to watch Javier Baez take his swings against a guy with an ERA of nearly 6.00. That could be fun.
- Tennessee sends Corey Black to the mound in Pensacola. Black struck out ten in his last start, although he needed 99 pitches to do it. Those concerned about the ability of this slightly undersized right hander to endure higher pitch counts in consecutive starts may want to tune in and see how he does for themselves. And did I mention that the power-packed Smokies lineup will be facing a guy with an ERA of 7.59?
- And finally, Duane Underwood will go to work for Myrtle Beach. Underwood is one of the best pitching prospects in the system, possesses arguably the best pitch in the system, and goes into his fifth start still looking for his first shutout of the season. If you want an early look at the future of Cubs’ pitching, then watch the Pelicans.
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