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Looking for More Upper Minors Pitching Depth for the Cubs and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

rob zastryzny cubsYesterday’s family trip to Toledo involved multiple stops along the way for bathroom breaks, and a solid 20-mile stretch with absolutely nowhere to stop and The Little Boy threatening every 30 seconds to pee his pants.

In truth, though, it was a really nice trip!

  • It’s no secret that the Cubs are still looking for that ever-wanted, ever-elusive cost-controlled younger starting pitcher, on whom they can rely not only in 2016, but also in 2017 and beyond, when the rotation is probably going to be shaken up quite a bit. A less-discussed Cubs desire, but nearly as important for 2017, is to have more starting pitchers with minor league options left, who can be shuttled up and down from AAA as much as is necessary. Right now, among the starting pitching options the Cubs have who fall into that category (and who were explicitly identified by Theo Epstein as such): Rob Zastryzny, Jake Buchanan, Aaron Brooks, and Seth Frankoff.
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  • Zastryzny showed some signs of being able to get big league hitters out last year and I’m very interested to see how he looks in 2017. But his time in MLB last year was out of the bullpen, and was in the most limited of duty. Brooks was injured last year and hasn’t quite shown it yet at the big league level. Buchanan was a minor league signing before last year, and was solid but not spectacular at AAA last year. Frankoff was a minor league signing this offseason, and, although there are reasons to be intrigued, he only just converted back to the rotation last year, and that came at AA. Maybe Ryan Williams comes back healthy to give the Cubs another option, but we’re not quite sure what to expect on that front. There’s Jordan Pries, who came over as part of the Mike Montgomery-Dan Vogelbach trade, but he struggled greatly after that trade.
  • The long story short there: the Cubs do have options for that depth-y, up-and-down starter spot, but because they have not produced many upper level top pitching prospects just yet, it’s a really thin group. To be sure, it’s hard to come across quality pitchers with options left who aren’t already pitching in the big leagues (because, well, if they were good enough to make you happy with the depth, they’d probably be starting on a big league roster somewhere), but that’s usually where top prospects enter the equation. The Cubs will have to target this type of pitcher from another organization in trade – perhaps parting with positional prospect talent – in order to bolster the group, if they’re hoping to do it in the near term.
  • All of this matters, of course, not only because the Cubs currently sport a starting five with Mike Montgomery at the back (huge upside, still unproven), and thus there is essentially no depth behind him whatsoever on the big league roster, but also because a key change in the CBA is going to allow teams to rest starting pitchers more easily. With the minimum disabled list stint down to 10 days, a pitcher with an achey (but not totally busted) arm can be rested for ten days and miss just one start – a start that could be filled by one of these up-and-down AAA starter types.

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  • David Laurila’s Sunday Notes are always interesting, and one that jumped out at me this time: candor from Astros manager A.J. Hinch about the realities of the “save” statistic impacting the way a manager makes his decisions and works with his players. If it’s important to the players – and that stat is for financial reasons, unfortunately – then it has to be important to the manager, at least to some extent.
  • Javy Baez was part of an MLBPA tour of Puerto Rico, which included a clinic for 200 kids in Salinas, PR.
  • No spoilers:


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.

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