Cubs Prospects: Starting Pitching

Cubs Prospects: Starting Pitching

Now comes the last installment of the position-by-position top prospects lists and it is perhaps the most important..or at least the position that is on the mind of most Cubs fans.  It's time to look at the starting pitchers.  We've seen what a good rotation can do as the San Francisco Giants rode a mostly home spun rotation to their 2nd World Series title in 3 years.  The Cubs are a long way from building that, but they do have some interesting arms, particularly at the lower levels.

The top 5 players, plus conversion candidate Alberto Cabrera can all reach at least 96 mph with a solid secondary pitch.  They all have concerns, however, whether it's durability, delivery, command, the need for a 3rd pitch, or some combination of all that.  The raw arm strength and athleticism  however, is exciting and something we haven't seen here on the north side in quite some time.

New Minor League Pitching Coordinator Derek Johnson has been brought in to get some of these lower level arms to develop command, much as he did with pitchers David Price and Sonny Gray at Vanderbilt, but he also is here to help pitchers like Arodys Vizcaino, Pierce Johnson, and Dillon Maples stay healthy.  He certainly has some challenging, but potentially rewarding projects to work on.

Here's the final installment in the position by position series and I apologize in advance for it's obnoxious length...

1. Arodys Vizcaino, 21, 6'0", 190 lbs., RHP

  • Likely 2013 club: Iowa (AAA)
  • ETA: Late 2013

Before his TJ surgery, Vizcaino showed the stuff and command you want from a front line starter.  He has a 94-96 mph fastball that can hit the high 90s, a plus curve, and a solid change.  He commands all of them well for a young starter and has shown solid control in the minors, posting a rate of 2.3 walks/9 IP for his career.  He can also miss bats, striking out 9.3 batters per 9 innings.  Vizcaino has struggled to stay healthy and that, combined with his slight build have some thinking that he's destined for the bullpen, where he'd be closer material.  The Cubs would rather he stay a starter, of course, where he has the stuff of a front line guy, but may slide in at #3 because he may not be the kind of workhorse you like at the top of your rotation.

2. Juan Paniagua, 22, 6'1, 175 lbs., RHP

  • Likely 2013 club: Daytona (Adv. A)
  • ETA: 2014

Paniagua will turn 23 in April, so he needs to move quickly.  He only pitched 10.1 innings in his debut with the Cubs but he showed plenty of arm strength, including a fastball that touched 97 and a nasty slider which will give him a 2nd out pitch. The change-up is a work in progress but he reportedly had a good one back in the Dominican Republic. His delivery is clean and effortless, generating what scouts like to call "easy heat".  It should also help him repeat his delivery easily, which bodes well for his command.  Like Vizcaino, he's not the biggest guy out there on the mound and his late start could mean he starts out in the bullpen, but Paniagua has the arm, repertoire, and command to be a top of the rotation starter.

3. Pierce Johnson, 21, 6'3", 175 lbs, RHP

  • Likely 2013 club: Daytona (A)
  • ETA: 2015

Johnson is another of the Cubs new strong young arms and he should be advanced enough to start in Daytona.  He pitched well in his debut, showing the abilty to miss bats.  Another pitcher coming off an injury, Johnson has some delivery concerns but can throw the ball up to 96 mph,though he sits more at 92-94.  He also has a plus breaking ball and a change up that is still developing.  Many thought Johnson could have been a first round pick had it not been for the injury concerns -- and even then there were some who thought he should have gone in the first round anyway.   The Cubs were obviously thrilled to get him with their supplemental pick.  He projects as high as a #2 starter, though most think he's more likely to be a #3.

4. Dillon Maples, 20, 6'2", 220 lbs., RHP

  • Likely 2013 team: Kane County (A)
  • ETA: 2016

This is where the arms start to get a bit more raw, but the upside/ceiling is still right up there.  Maples proved to be very tough to hit with his 93-97 mph FB and a sharp curveball, but he also had a hard time finding the strike zone, walking 10, hitting 3, and throwing 6 wild pitches in 10.1 innings of work.  Maples also struck out 12 and gave up just 6 hits.  Maples has a bit of an odd delivery and it's possible that it leads to some of his command issues and some think it could contribute to arm troubles long term.  As it was, Maples got off to a late start because of an arm injury.  The old regime didn't express concern, but the feeling here is that the new one will tweak his delivery a bit.

5. Duane Underwood, 18, 6'2", 205 lbs., RHP

  • Likely 2013 club: Boise (Short Season A)
  • ETA: 2017

Underwood may have the most raw ability on this list but also has the furthest to go.  If you like high ceiling/high risk guys, Underwood is your man.  He throws with a fastball that has reportedly touched 98, though he more often throws 92-94 right now.  He also has a curveball which sometimes looks like a plus pitch but at other times it flattens out.  He'll need to find consistency there as well as is with his velocity. Underwood is a hard-working kid who is very coachable, so if the Cubs are right about his raw ability, he could develop into something special.

Conversion Candidate: Alberto Cabrera, 24, 6'4", 210 lbs, RHP

  • Likely 2013 club: Iowa (AAA)
  • ETA: 2013

Cabrera's stuff is as good as any of the top 5 pitchers on this list, starting with a mid 90s fastball that peaks at 97, a good slider, and a better change up than you would expect from a relief pitcher.  His command was excellent at the AA level, though he struggled with it in the majors.  He'll return to Iowa to get stretched out.

4 more to watch to make it an even 10 (including Cabrera)

Paul Blackburn, 18, 6'2", 185 lbs., RHP

  • Likely 2013 club: Boise (Short Season A) or Kane County (A)
  • ETA: 2016

Blackburn was the second of two supplemental picks and is polished for his age.  His raw stuff isn't as good as the pitchers above him on this list, but he is very projectable with the potential to have at least 3 solid average pitches with good command.  That would profile him as a #3 starter if he reaches his ceiling.  I'm interested to see where Blackburn starts.  My first inclination was to say Boise, but he may be advanced enough to start at Kane County.

Ben Wells, 20, 6'3", 220., RHP

  • Likely 2013 club: Kane County (A)
  • ETA: 2015

Wells probably would have made the top 5 had he not gotten hurt.  He was up into the mid to high 90s last spring, a big jump from the prior season.  He also throws a good slider and a decent change with surprising command for a pitcher who was as raw when he was drafted.  He throw a "heavy ball" meaning that it has good velocity and late sink, making it difficult to hit the ball in the air with authority.   Early in the season, Wells walked off the mound with pain in his elbow.  He didn't require surgery but he missed a big portion of the season.  I saw him late last year at Peoria and his velocity was 88-91, so the key for him is rebuilding arm strength.  He's a big kid with a potential to be a workhorse.

 Starling Peralta, 22, 6'4", 180 lbs.

  • Likely 2013 club: Daytona (Adv. A)
  • ETA: 2015

Peralta was one of those DSL pitchers I kept filed in the back of my mind.  He had the size, velocity and lots of projection left.  He still has room to fill out but he started flashing his potential this past season. He made some waves when he struck out 14 batters in a game and I saw him 3 times and he was better with each outing.  In his last appearance, he reached 96 and maintained it for 5,6 innings before tiring.  He also has a good, but inconsistent slider.  His control/command wavered but he did improve as the year went on.  Developing a 3rd pitch and better command of the strike zone will be the keys for Peralta's hopes to remain a starter.

Nick Struck, 23, 5'11, 185 lbs.

  • Likely 2013 club: Iowa (AAA)
  • ETA: 2013

Struck deserves a mention because he was the Cubs top minor league pitcher last year and he is as likely to make it to the bigs as a starter as anyone on this list.  He's only slightly older than A ball pitchers Paniagua and Peralta and he will be at AAA.  He's polished, has a full assortment of pitches, has good command (though he hasn't shown it this fall), and an aggressive approach on the mound that serves him well.  He is not afraid of contact. His ceiling isn't as high as any of the pitchers ahead of him, but he has enough to make him a candidate for the rotation as early as mid-season. He's a Rule 5 candidate if the Cubs don't put him on the 40 man roster.  I think, given the dearth of pitching depth at the upper levels, they'll protect him.

Others (in no particular order):

RHP Dae-Eun Rhee was once one of the Cubs top SP prospects and the team is holding out hope that he can still reach his potential.  His velocity has been down a bit this past season and in the fall league, as he throws more 88-91 these days.  He has good secondary stuff, especially his change.  RHP Tayler Scott is an athletic pitcher who played a lot of soccer early on in his native South Africa.  He has a fresh arm with a  projectable body that can generate low 90s heat right now as well as the makings of a plus curveball.  Right now Scott doesn't miss a lot of bats and he's more of a back of the rotation type, but could be more as he matures and learns the nuances of pitching, though he shows an advanced feel for someone at his level of experience.  RHP Carlos Martinez-Pumarino has good size and a solid fastball but is inconsistent with his secondaries.  He blew away the competition in AZ but at 21, that should be expected from a pitcher of his physical maturity.  The real test comes this year when he likely starts at Kane County.  LHP Gerardo Concepcion was the first big splash international signing by the new front office but disappointed with his velocity and command, then missed the rest of the season with mono.  When I went to see the last week of instructs, Concepcion still wasn't pitching in live games.  He'll try to regain his strength and be ready for the spring.  One pitcher who impressed in my time in AZ was RHP Jose Arias.  He's an intimidating presence on the mound and was overpowering the competition at instructs with a mid 90s fastball and an improved curve and change.  He looks the part, but Arias needs to be consistent with those secondaries.  If he doesn't, then his destination is the bullpen.  RHP Jose Rosario doesn't have the physical presence that Arias does but his stuff may be nastier.  He fanned 11 batters in one game that I attended, much of it with a slider that had hitters lunging helplessly.  He showed good control all season. He's slightly built and there is some concern whether he'll have the durability needed for the rotation and those concerns resurfaced when he missed the second half of the season with an arm injury.  Given that and his lack of a 3rd pitch, I see him more as a reliever right now, but there's time. RHP Kyle Hendricks was the secondary piece in the Ryan Dempster deal and he's more about exceptional command and pitchability then pure raw stuff.  Profiles more as a back of the rotation type.  RHP Marcelo Carreno, the payment for Jeff Baker, is another pitcher who controls the strike zone (starting to see a pattern in the new front office acquisitions?).  He throws in the low 90s and has a curveball that gets mixed reviews.  If you think it's a plus pitch, then maybe his ceiling is as a 3rd starter.  If you think it's average at best, you're looking at a 5th starter/bullpen type.  One name that often gets lost out there is RHP Michael Jensen.  He's not a big pitcher but he can generate low 90s heat and one of the best 12-6 curveballs in the organization.  He has solid command and enough swing and miss potential to make him interesting.  RHP PJ Francescon converted from the bullpen and was an immediate success at Peoria.  He keeps the ball down and generates ground ball outs with a two-seamer that sits in the low 90s, though he can hit higher than that if needed.  The Cubs held back his innings after his promotion to Daytona, but they could be ready to see if he can handle a heavier burden, possibly at AA Tennessee.  RHP Dallas Beeler came into the season as a possible breakout prospect but didn't miss a whole lot of bats in his first full season in AA.  Beeler works with a heavy 2 seamer and a hard curve, though his biggest strength may be his ability to throw strikes low in the zone.  He was the only AA pitcher at instructs last year, presumably to work on something new, though he was already gone by the time I got there.  LHP Brooks Raley is my favorite of the Cubs assortment of finesse lefties.  He has excellent athleticism which gives him a chance to repeat his delivery well and throw strikes with 4 pitches, a must considering his stuff is just average.  LHP Chris Rusin is similar stuff-wise to Raley and is a bit more polished right now.  He'll battle Raley for a spot on the big league staff this spring.  A third LHP, Eric Jokisch continues to surprise by playing up an 87-88 mph fastball with an excellent circle change, perhaps the best in the organization, and good control.  RHP Robert Whitenack was on the brink of becoming a top Cubs pitching prospect before blowing out his elbow last year.  His return from TJ surgery was slow as he lacked the command and velo he had before the injury.  When right, he can touch the mid 90s and has solid secondaries (slider, change) with excellent command.  RHP Zach Cates is an athletic pitcher who really regressed last season.  Injuries played a role and Cates didn't show the velocity expected when he was acquired as the secondary piece in the Anthony Rizzo deal.  Converted OF'er LHP Kyler Burke is a big bodied pitcher with a fresh arm and good control.  He works with an 89-92 mph fastball out of an easy delivery.  He also throws a big breaking curve and a change.  His best bet is as a reliever.  LHP Austin Kirk throws in the low 90s with a good curve and when he commands them, he can be tough to hit as he has shown in spurts throughout his young career.  That command deserted him upon his promotion to AA, where Kirk's 3.09 ERA is deceptive in terms of his actual performance. Of all the Cubs finesse lefties, he has the potential for the best breaking pitch, and that gives him a chance, but he has to throw with better. more consistent command and miss more bats to succeed as he moves up.  RHP Matt Loosen has average stuff across the board (low 90s FB, slider, curve, change) and showed flashes of brilliance mixing that up in Daytona.  He needs to locate well to succeed but he has the ability to be a back end starter if he does.  RHP Ryan McNeil is a raw, big-bodied pitcher who showed some swing and miss stuff in a brief but impressive debut at rookie level AZ.  He can throw in the low 90s now but that may improve as he matures physically. RHP Hayden Simpson showed some improvement with his FB (up to 90-91 at times) and had some encouraging outings, but he was very inconsistent with both his stuff and command.  This season is very likely a make or break one for him.  As for DSL pitchers, they're hard to evaluate because of lack of information.  You can get statistics but that and a couple of dollars might buy you a cup of coffee.  Still, there were some intriguing numbers, led by Carlos Rodriguez who put up a 2.01 ERA, struck out over a batter per inning, and showed good control -- all as a 17 year old who doesn't turn 18 until July.  He is smallish for now (5'11", 178 lbs.), but there is obviously plenty of time to grow and fill out. RHP Daury Torrez, 19, has good size and walked just 4 batters in 74.2 innings while posting a 1.21 ERA.  Chris Pieters, 18, is a highly projectable LHP whom the Cubs signed for a $350K bonus out of Curacao.  He had all kinds of control problems in his debut, but the raw ability is there.

 

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  • Since pitching was the biggest weakness of our farm system, I hope many of these prospects pan out. At least 1 making it per year will be a good start.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    They have some depth and they've added some potential impact arms since Theo's arrival, so there's hope and there are a lot of viable arms so you hope even just a few make it.

  • Many #3, 4 & 5 starters....but no one who is a "stopper" type of pitcher.

    Mark Appel can change that for us in the next draft.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    There are a couple of guys who can be #2s, but yeah, I don't really see a #1 here. Underwood maybe, but he has a long, long way to go.

  • You didn't mention AJ Morris, who pitched pretty well at Daytona after returning from a severe injury. Any thoughts on him?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Older guy with injury history and solid but not great stuff, may make it as a middle reliever but Cubs seemed in no rush to move him to AA even though he was 25 and was performing well against much younger hitters. Could make it, but other guys more interesting to me.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I actually feel worse about leaving out LHP Brian Smith from the RP list. Oversight and I'll probably add him on even though few will go back and read it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Doing so help if you decide in the future to do an encapsulated version of your writings. ;=)

  • Great work, John. Lots of potential out there. However, I see lots of injuries in these guys' history, which makes me feel good about the hiring of Derek Johnson. If he can help these young arms a) recover and be healthy, and b) learn good mechanics to prevent injury, he will be a great addition to the coaching and development staff. Good forward thinking by the FO.

    Also interested to see if the new training people will have similar backgrounds as Johnson.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thanks and exactly what I was thinking. It's certainly not a coincidence that the Cubs hired a guy who has shown a good history of getting pitchers to avoid injury.

  • I also agree completely. Johnson will teach long-tossing at all levels, which increases arm strength while helping release points and reinforces good biomechanics. Leo Mazzone taught it to all his guys and Greg Maddux swears by it. The O's are handling Dylan Bundy with kid gloves and they are including it into his coaching.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    You've been saying for a while that you'd like to see the Cubs look into things like biomechanics. I'm thinking this hire made you very happy :)

  • McGehee just chose free agency.

  • That was pretty much expected. Defense improved but bat has regressed...maybe getting back to NL Central will help.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I could see Cubs taking a flyer on him, but he would be a pretty low-grade option. McGahee is now 3 years removed from being a good hitter, and based on his minor-league record, that one year in Milwaukee now looks pretty flukey.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think it is flukey. He'd probably platoon with Stewart or Valbuena at this stage.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If I remember right, the Cubs let him go so they could
    protect a nobody on their 40-man roster.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    McGehee was a minor league free agent and was free to go where he wanted. He didn't see an opportunity at 3B with the Cubs and Ararmis Ramirez there, so he made the decision to leave. It turned out well for him, but I don't think he's a player we should be worried about losing. He had a decent year or two, but overall he's a role player at best.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    McGehee wasn't a minor league free agent. He had just been called up by the Cubs that September. Hendry promptly DFA'd him to clear a 40 man roster spot, for, as emartinezjr says, a nobody. Milwaukee claimed him and he had a couple of nice years there.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Achhh. I forgot about that short stint. Thanks. I remember that he was due to me a minor league free agent and the Cubs were going to lose him anyway. Probably called him up to get a quick look. He obviously didn't impress.

    In fairness to Hendry, nobody thought he was more than a utility guy and except for two decent years, they were right. And only one of those two years was better than a fringe starter because of his bad defense. I just don't think it was all that big a loss. Cubs weren't going anywhere anyway and McGehee isn't a game changer. Much of it to me was the frustration of a bad season and another A-Ram injury during McGehee's first year out of the org.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Didn't McGehee also tear up the AFL or a winter league before he was called up? I remember he was the oldest player in the league, but talk to Moyer about age.

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    John. What is your gut feeling on Vizciano? Do you think the TJS will be what he needed to clean up the area and now he will stay healthy? Or do you think he is destined for the bullpen?

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    In reply to Demarrer:

    I'm not John, hope it's OK to comment.......from what I have read, reports are very optimistic on Vizcaino returning to for post TJS. But jury is still out on whether he has the build and durability to be a starter.

    My gut says he is destined for the bullpen ultimately, but you never know. The Cubs have stated he will have an innings limit this year of around 100 innings, which is VERY low, and shows they are treating him with kid gloves. For Vizcaino, it's not about winning games this year, it's about missing bats and staying healthy.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I have heard from some very good sources that the rehab is going well. Optimism abounds for a full recovery.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    That is a very tough question that I don't think even the Cubs front office can answer right now. My feeling is that he has an easy enough deiivery where he'll put minimum strain on that arm and he has a good shot to stay healthy and remain a starter. The unknown is whether he is just predisposed, similar to Andrew Cashner. He'd be a knockout reliever, in my opinion, but of course we all want to see him stick in the rotation, where his value would be highest.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Have the Padres given up on Cashner as a starter? Just curious.

    He's got a great arm, but I'd rather have Rizzo, thank you.......

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I don't think they've officially given up. It's a shame because he has the build, stuff, and (potentially), the command to be a starter. If he ends up a reliever, I'd consider the trade a steal by the Cubs.

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    In reply to Demarrer:

    PS: It should be noted the Cubs knowingly took a risk with Vizcaino. The Braves likely offered lower-risk, lower-return types in exchange for Maholm. Vizcaino was actually ranked ahead of Randall Delgado as a prospect, whom the Braves had offered for Dempster.

    So, we knowingly rolled the dice, but it's not like Maholm was a superstar, so we weren't going to get guaranteed super-stardom in return.

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    This is a big year for our farm system in terms of starting pitching development, because there is alot of raw material on this list, but not much in terms of finished product. And even our raw prospects are not as refined as our hitting prospects.

    I credit team Theo for recognizing the dearth of pitching, and addressing it at every turn. I anticipate 2013 draft will be about pitching, pitching, more pitching, and maybe a catcher. That's it.

    The SF Giants are showing us how important starting pitching is. They have built a dynasty on 3-4 quality starting pitchers, plus Buster Posey.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Big year indeed. A lot of these top arms will be at full season ball with a chance to move quickly if successful. Given the attrition rate of pitchers, you're probably right the Cubs will select quite a few more in next year's draft, especially near the top. College pitching and high school catching is where the depth is, so the Cubs have a chance to get some help there.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    plus Sandoval.

  • Concepcion has been pretty disappointing, especially for the money. Nick Struck's been good at AA, but hasn't been able to make the jump to AAA so far. Rooting for him to do so this year and maybe even be an emergency starter by mid-season.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    He's been young and he really flew through the system in 2011, so I think the Cubs did a good thing by holding him back a little and letting him master an upper level league. I think he'll be much better at Iowa the second time around. If you could describe pitchers as grinders, Struck would certainly qualify. Will be interesting to see if it plays against MLB level competition.

  • I think there's still hope for Beeler. He essentially skipped Daytona--and he's not the kind of elite guy who should be expected to skip levels--so it's not surprising that he struggled in the first half and his K rate went way down this year. He did pitch better in the second half and I think they should/will give him a chance to repeat AA. I'm glad that they're working with him and continuing to invest in his future.

    I'm skeptical about Austin Kirk. His combination of a low K rate and a low GB/FB rate will hurt him when he gets to the PCL and Wrigley (if he makes it that high). I think he's a guy whose ERA will balloon when he reaches the upper levels.

    I'm also a bit skeptical about Cabrera's chance to make it as a starter. He's been atrocious as a starter in the minors. And for all the talk about his great FB, he gets hit pretty hard early in the count when he tries to get ahead with it (even in AA/AAA). I would think Dolis would be a better candidate to convert back to a starter because that awesome sinker of his would work well in that role, and his starting/relieving splits in the minors are pretty equal, in terms of results. Dolis would be the kind of guy who could pitch to (weak) contact and go deep into games.

    I like Loosen quite a bit and heard Hoyer mention him in a positive light earlier in the year, as being a guy who could be a part of the Cubs' future.

    I also like Scott, Peralta and Paniagua and expect them to have good years in '13.

    I'm glad they have Vizcaino on a short leash, and I think it's very unrealistic to expect him to contribute at the MLB level in '13. Not only does he need to come back from the injury, but he's had a long layoff and he only has 8 starts above A ball. Even if things go very well, he probably needs to have a full year of AA/AAA this upcoming year.

    We don't have much in the way of SP prospects who can be expected to make an impact in '13, which is another reason they need to go after free agents or be creative in the trade market. I would expect the Cubs to go hard after Ryu as the solution to one of their rotation holes.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    Cabrera has excellent movement on that FB as well but I think of it like Samardzija. For these talented, athletic guys once it clicks the whole equation changes. You can basically throw out Shark's entire past when trying to project him now. He's just a different pitcher. Hopefully the same is true of Cabrera.

  • Yeah, that's true--there's definitely precedent for that kind of thing--Samardzija is a great example. I totally agree that Shark has a very bright future. I'm sure it's worth giving a shot, and Cabrera probably needs more AAA time anyway, whether as a starter or a reliver. I hope it clicks for him.

    Any thoughts on Yoanner Negrin and Ty'Relle Harris, who weren't on the list? Do you think we could see either of those guys in Cub uniforms in 2013, or will the Iowa rotation be too crowded for them to get a shot?

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    I think they'll be in the bullpen, though one or both could piggyback starts from Vizcaino and Cabrera as they get stretched out. I don't see them as anything but emergency fill-ins, up and down guys, at best.

    I want to say that some guys that I haven't mentioned (Negrin, Morris, Harris, etc.) aren't necessarily non-prospects with zero chance, but they are fringy and I had to draw the line at some point. This piece was long enough already!

    I'm glad you all are bringing them up in the comments section, though, since they're still worth mentioning.

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    Great post John!

    I'm excited to see some of the kids work their way up here. I would expect we'll see Cabrera in the Chicago rotation at some point in 2013, and that's far easier to live with than many of the recycled journeymen we had to use in 2012.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Thanks JW!

    I'd definitely rather take a chance on a big arm/big body like Cabrera. Not much to lose. He can always return to the bullpen if need be.

  • How often does one see a an example like Samardzija, where a pitcher with average success figures he can be a stud starter and pulls it off?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    It's definitely more the exception than the rule, but I think you can increase the odds with good information. Does the pitcher have the necessary repertoire, stamina, athleticism (which leads to good command), and work ethic to pull it off? In Shark's case, the answer was obviously yes. I think the Cubs have thought these things through with Cabrera and they must think he fits this profile as well. The odds may not be great, but he appears to be the type of pitcher who is more likely to succeed in this conversion.

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    That top 5 is actually pretty impressive. (Although Underwood probably shouldn't be top 5 in a quality pitching organization, yet.) But after that... yeah. McNeil is nice. Have we mentioned the Cubs have some great shortstop prospects? Wanna make a deal, Diamondbacks?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I would have put Wells in that top 5 if he's healthy and maybe you can even argue that Cabrera would be 5th. So far to go for Underwood but sometimes talented guys move quickly once it clicks.

    Like the idea of using the SS depth for deals.

  • Seemed like both Maples and Underwood still had plenty of command problems in instructs. So hopefully they can improve on that in the spring, otherwise I think they both start off in Extended ST and see from there.

    Blackburn just seems so polished, pretty decent walk rate. Good K/BB numbers. I think he winds up in KCC.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    Could be. Cubs wanted to start Maples last year in Peoria and he's 20 now, I think he'll start in KC, though he might spend a bit of time in ext ST. Underwood probably plays SS somewhere.

  • John

    Where does Peoria's knuckleballing Joe Zeller stand now? Still a starting prospect, a bullpen candidate, or on the way out?

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I like the fact that the Cubs have a knuckleballer. He was old for his league but that doesn't matter much in these cases. Still, he's a fringy guy. Wouldn't call him a prospect until he masters that pitch.

  • John, very much appreciated this position by position prospect series of your. Very well done, a lot of great info. I do have one suggestion for the future. You did a fantastic job in giving a lot of names & bonus players for the positions of OF, RP, & SP, but I think you should go a bit deeper with the actual ranked players, since those spots produce more starters & rostered players. Just a minor quibble of yet another amazing piece of work.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Thank you ChiRy. I really appreciate the kinds words as well as the constructive feedback.

    I'm still looking for the best way to approach these kinds of lists. i see so many ballplayers these days and you can see something in all of them that gives them a chance to make it -- even if it's a small chance and they're going to need a lot or work and some luck to make it that far. Hard for me not to mention them...but that certainly makes the list very long! I'll see if there is a way for me to balance it out better next year. Maybe talk about "sleeper" prospects in a separate piece or something.

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