It's early in spring training and we can't make much of statistics right now. The sample size is small. Veteran pitchers work on certain things -- for example, Jeff Samardzija has yet to throw a splitter and Edwin Jackson threw all fastballs in his last outing. It's apparent that both pitchers are working on locating their fastball early in the count. Both pitchers have swing and miss level secondary pitches, but it isn't as effective when they're behind in the count. So both pitchers are working on getting ahead in the count by locating their fastballs well. That will go along way in their ability to better set up hitters.
Other pitchers are trying to impress and can't really afford to hold anything back. This is their chance to get noticed and while it may not be enough for them to make the team, it's enough to get them on the radar if they continue to pitch well at Iowa or Tennessee. Younger veterans like Blake Parker and Chris Rusin have struggled early on and that could open up some doors.
Here are the pitchers who I think have put themselves on the radar this spring...
Vizcaino put himself on the radar this offseason when he was showing electric stuff but he has cemented that initial evaluation with a couple of solid outings this spring. His last outing was most impressive as Vizcaino used all three of his pitches, including a fastball that touched 97 mph. He has generated plenty of swing and miss along with some weak contact. If healthy, it's not a matter of if with Vizcaino, it's a matter of when. The Cubs still haven't ruled out Vizcaino as a starter because of his 3 good pitches (FB, curve, change), all of which he projects to throw with good command. Because they are thinking long term with him, don't expect the Cubs to rush him to the big leagues.
You wouldn't think a pitcher who spent the entire year on the roster and gradually improved as the season went along would need to prove anything, but Rondon was and is no sure bet to make the 25 man roster this spring. Rondon has picked up where he left off. His breaking ball continues to improve. Rondon is back in the mix for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Grimm is on the edge of a big league job as it is and while he has struggled with command at times, his stuff out of the bullpen is overpowering. Like Vizcaino, he has hit 97 mph and has shown a good breaking ball to compliment it. Grimm has the pitches to be a starter, but he may re-start his career out of the bullpen as a power reliever.
He's been one of my sleeper favorites for awhile on the strength of his excellent size, athleticism, and stuff. Hatley can reach the mid 90s with his fastball and throws in a power curve. The issue with Hatley has always been command. He was an outfielder as an amateur and so is relatively new to pitching. As such he has been a bit more raw and inconsistent than your normal 25 year old minor league veteran. Things began to come together for Hatley as he improved his control while keeping his strikeout numbers high. Hatley was a minor league free agent after last season and there is a reason the Cubs made it a priority to re-sign him. I think he has a shot to be this year's Blake Parker.
The PTBNL in last year's Matt Garza deal, Ramirez has had an up and down career as a prospect, reaching as high as #5 three years ago, falling off the radar two years ago, then coming back strong again this year. The major concerns with Ramirez have been some past shoulder soreness and inconsistency with his delivery. That, in turn, has led to questions about his durability and command as a starter. Some believe he can be an excellent reliever if he can work in short stints (where he can also reach 97 mph), concentrate on his top two offerings, and limit his workload. He's had an efficient spring so far. He's likely ticketed for Iowa, but with one option left, expect the Cubs to take a long look if he continues to pitch well. He could be up sometime mid-season.
One of the least heralded arms, Jokisch has come into camp and is showing he belongs. His change-up is beginning to look like a plus pitch and he's going to have to continue to locate to have success. He's a starter by trade but he also has a chance to challenge Zach Rosscup and Chris Rusin for a long term lefty role out of the bullpen. Like most young pitchers, consistent command is the area he needs to work on most, but as a reliever that becomes less of a concern.
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