Alex Walsh has written for MLB Trade Rumors and once wrote for Goat Riders of the Apocalypse, a forerunner among Cubs blogs. Alex is back with another guest post and this time he's taking inventory of some of the Cubs pitching prospects. I'll be writing more and more about Cubs prospects in the next few weeks, so this should be the first of many that cover the Cubs post-deadline inventory of prospects.
An inventory of the Cubs' MiLB starting pitching
By Alex Walsh
When a guy like Chris Rusin shows up and pitches seven great innings, you might wonder, "Holy crap, what else do we have lying around in the minors?" It's funny because at the start of the year it really didn't seem like the Cubs had much of anything above, say, low-A ball? to offer in terms of starting pitching. But the trades the team has made over the past few weeks, along with some good development efforts with the talent they already had, have changed that conversation a bit. Of the eight guys I list below as being anywhere near starting an MLB game, four were acquired within the past 12 months via trade, three were drafted, and one was signed out of Latin America several years ago.
The following inventory of Cubs starting pitching in MiLB was written mostly for myself, but hey, why not share it with you also?
Acquired: trade, July 2013
Everything about Grimm's numbers say this guy will be a starting pitcher in MLB. The question is not about whether or not he'll get there, but rather how good he'll be once he does.
He has some upside to him. For example, check this out.
Justin Grimm, Apr 11 - May 30 (MLB): 52.2 IP, 44/14 K/BB, 3.93 ERA
Edwin Jackson, Jun 9 - Jul 26 (MLB): 55.1 IP, 41/15 K/BB, 3.42 ERA
That said, based on the numbers to which I have access, I think Grimm is someone who needs to build up arm strength. His strikeout numbers in MiLB fall in each month of the season (April is better than May is better than June, and so on), for example. And if you look at his 2013 velocity chart, you can see he was able to get above 95 mph with his fastball at one point several weeks ago, but has seen his velo fall since then.
Based on team need, I see the Cubs giving Grimm a full year in Iowa next year, with a focus on maintaining his strength throughout the season.
Control, control, you must learn control!
Acquired: trade, July 2013
Lots of baseball people loved the Cubs' Feldman deal with the Orioles because they see Arrieta as a guy with very high upside. He's got a great fastball that consistently reaches 95, and averages in the upper-mid 90s. As a 23 year old in AA, Jake struck out 70 batters in 59 innings pitched.
But for Arrieta to succeed in MLB, he'll have to improve his command (a revolutionary concept, I know). It's not that Jake can't throw strikes; over the past two years, he's thrown 138.1 innings in MLB, and put up good K/BB numbers (8.6 k9, 3.4 bb9, a 2.54 ratio). To my untrained eye, this looks like a classic control vs command case: he can throw strikes, but not where he wants them to go. My bet is he nibbles a lot, and then when he falls behind in counts, gets too much plate, leading to big H/9 and HR/9 numbers (9.6 and 1.2 respectively over the past two years).
Like Grimm, Arrieta could fill a spot in the Cubs' major league rotation right now were he needed. But it seems like more development could benefit him. Given that his fastball is superior to Grimm's, he has the higher upside.
Acquired: trade, Nov. 2012
There's upside here, and the former 1st round draft pick (unsigned due to injury and weird MLB rules) has dominated A+ and AA ball. Triple A has been more of a challenge, and for one reason: Loux simply walks too many batters. He's getting Ks, and limiting hits and home runs, but 42 walks in 68.2 IP as a starter simply won't work at MLB. Loux could start in the majors, but looks like a back of the rotation arm, and appears to need another year in MiLB before breaking through.
Left, right, left, right
Acquired: 2005 (signed at age 16 as an international free agent)
From the looks of his numbers, Cabrera could contribute to a major league team tomorrow if needed -- but not as a starter. The 6'4" righty has dominated right-handed hitters throughout his MiLB career, with a 9.81 K/9 against a 3.36 BB/9. But his strikeouts go way down (6.52 K/9) and his walks go way up (4.37 BB/9) against lefties.
His numbers against righties are even better this year (10.41 K/9, 3.38 BB/9), and he's gotten a little bit better against lefties (6.60 K/9, 2.89 BB/9). He may appear in the MLB bullpen later this year, but should have another go as a starter in AAA in 2014 to see if he can't improve his approach against lefties.
LME - low margin of error
AAA -- Brooks Raley (drafted in 2009), Chris Rusin (drafted in 2009)
AA -- Kyle Hendricks (trade, July 2012), Eric Jokisch (drafted in 2010)
These guys have all had success in the minors by getting just enough strikeouts (usually about 7 per 9 IP) and limiting walks (2 or fewer per 9). Unfortunately, they probably don't have the stuff to make it in MLB, because every mistake they make will be crushed. Chris Rusin is a case in point: yes, he's had two good starts in a row now, but he's been helped by a .152 BABIP. His career MLB numbers, however, are more telling: 45 IP, 5.20 ERA, 49 H, 6 HR. 2.0 K/BB.
Far, far away
Pierce Johnson (drafted in 2012)
Pierce is widely considered a top 10 prospect for the Cubs, and is well on his way toward pitching in the upper levels of the minors.
Acquired: trade, July 2013
Edwards is in High-A, which definitely counts as long way away from contributing at the major league level. As for his potential impact, I'm going to defer to Fangraphs' Nathaniel Stoltz on this one, who says his profile "sounds like a decent third starter or good fourth starter." Here's the link to the full write up: http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/what-can-we-expect-from-c-j-edwards/
Listed below are some other interesting names from throughout the Cubs' system.
Juan Carlos Paniagua
Ivan Pineyro (updated 10:41 a.m.)
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