For however rough the regular season has been for the Chicago Cubs, their minor league organization has delivered (and then some) all year long.
There have been big performances from the top dogs like Nico Hoerner and Miguel Amaya, some rising stars in Brailyn Marquez, Brennan Davis, and Cole Roederer. And there have even been some pretty nice surprises, like 29-year-old right-hander Colin Rea …
… Who was just named the 2019 PCL Pitcher of the Year!
First of all, congrats to Rea, who started his career out in the Padres system all the way back in 2011. Because while he did once reach the big league level back in 2015, his stay wasn’t particularly long (26 total games between 2015-2016 for the Padres and Marlins), and then he went under the knife before trying to work his way back with the Cubs. This guy is clearly a grinder and while winning PCL PoY isn’t likely as rewarding as pitching in an MLB stadium, it underscores his effort and continued dedication to the sport.
Rea has pitched out of Iowa all season long, with tremendous results. Through 25 starts, he has a 3.74 ERA, which actually LED THE ENTIRE LEAGUE this season, as the new PCL baseballs continue to fly like never before. He also finished among the top-5 in innings pitched (142.0, 5th), strikeouts (115, 4th), and WHIP (1.35, 5th).
But is it a lock that we’ll see him this September when rosters expand? Possibly, but there’s a catch. Rea, who signed with the Cubs back on January 7th, is not yet on the 40-man roster, which is both currently full and already awaiting the addition of Ben Zobrist. Certainly there are players at the end of the 40-man you’d be open to moving, but the point is it’s not a move that can be done in isolation. Moreover, if the Cubs aren’t in need of fill-in starts, Rea would be working in long relief, where there will be a whole lot of other options available, too.
Of course, there’s yet another wrinkle, but this one works in his favor: if the Cubs want to guarantee that they get to keep Rea for next season, they’ll have to add him to the 40-man roster, lest he become a free agent. They can technically do that after the season, but if you’re definitely planning to do it then anyway, you might be inclined to make that move now and see what you can get out of him. There’s a very low chance that Rea will ever be a big factor this season, let alone in October, but he could help the Cubs push to the postseason while sort of auditioning for the 2020 roster. And, hey, winning PCL pitcher of the month isn’t a bad way to do it. Like Theo Epstein once said, anyone who can pitch in the PCL right now deserves some attention, and Rea was literally one of the best.
So, again: Congrats to the right-hander and good luck the rest of the season, wherever it happens.