While I believe that it is possible to overvalue strikeout rates as a method of evaluating minor league pitchers, there is no denying that a higher strikeout rate is nice to have. And it probably comes no surprise that the leader (min 30 innings) in the Cubs’ farm system in strikeouts per nine innings is their best pitching prospect: Dylan Cease.
But I would lay long odds that not a one of you would be able to name the rest of the top five. In fact, if we limited it to just starting pitchers (min one start) I still don’t think most of us would get more than one name right. And that’s probably a good thing. We have a brand new crop of pitching prospects emerging in the low minors right now to get to know, and in many cases the Cubs are aggressively moving these prospects up the system. Some of these prospects will fizzle out in higher levels, but some could be future Cubs in a year or two, and some of them may turn out to be parts of trades.
Dylan Cease leads the system with a K/9 of 14.09, and right behind him is Dillon Maples (13.28). Maples is having a resurgent year that could, with some improvements to his control, have him on the fast track to Chicago. Next up is 2016 draftee Dakota Mekkes (13.13). Mekkes, like Maples, is a reliever with some control issues who is being promoted aggressively. Fourth overall and second among starters (min one start) is Michael Rucker (12.80), a guy whose walk rate of just 1.86 BB/9 is almost as impressive as his strikeout rate. As is the case with the rest of these pitchers, Rucker has already been promoted this season. And rounding out the top five is Craig Brooks (11.87).
Maples should be a familiar name if you’ve been around Cubs fandom for awhile, as he was a former well regarded draft pick who has been plagued by injuries and control issues. Mekkes should be familiar as well; we talked quite a bit about him after the 2016 draft. Rucker and Brooks, though, have both received several mentions in the Daily but otherwise have not gotten much prospect attention. If they continue to perform like this through the remainder of the season, I suspect both will be on a lot of Cubs’ prospect lists over the winter.
As for the top five among just starting pitchers … think it over. You already know the top two (Cease and Rucker). See how many more names you can come up with before the end of the article.
Triple A: Iowa Cubs
Iowa had the night off.
Double A: Tennessee Smokies
The Smokies are on their All Star break.
High A: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
The Pelicans are on their All Star break.
Low A: South Bend Cubs
The Cubs are on their All Star break.
- Javier Assad: 4.2 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K
- Jhon Romero: 2.1 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 3 K
- Rafael Narea: 2 for 4
- Connor Myers: 1 for 3, BB, SB
- Jose Gonzalez: 1 for 4, SB
- Zach Davis: 1 for 2, BB, SB
- The first Cubs signing of the 2017 draft has been reported, and it is first rounder Brendon Little. He signed for a little more than I had hoped, but still somewhat under slot. Look for Little to report to Mesa for orientation and some initial work with the Cubs’ coaching staff, and then probably an assignment to Eugene as a reliever (purely as a means of managing his innings, not an indication of his permanent role in the organization). An assignment later in the season as a starter, just enough time for three or four starts, isn’t out of the question either.
- Fangraphs has a bit of info on Jose Albertos, the least seen and most unknown of the Cubs top pitching prospects. The short version: movement on his pitches looks good, good enough he may well have three plus pitches one day, but he has problems finding the strike zone consistently. I wouldn’t worry too much about that, though. I am certain that the Cubs are working with Albertos on his mechanics extensively, and that cleaning up his consistency and getting him around the plate is one of their highest priorities. It may take some time, but that is what the minor are for.
- Setting the bar for starting pitchers at a minimum of one start (admittedly, a low bar), the top five starting pitchers in the Cubs’ organization by strikeout rates are: Cease (see above), Rucker (see above), Matt Swarmer (1 start, 9.64 K/9), Tom Hatch (13 starts, 9.52 K/9), and Seth Frankoff (11 starts, 8.76 K/9).