Right now the hot topic of discussion among Cubs fans, and baseball fans everywhere, is the Cubs minor league system. Prospects that Cubs fans are hopefully watching every night (some maybe even more vigilantly than the actual Cubs team) are raking in runs left and right lately. But what seems to have been overshadowed in the wake of Kris Bryant home runs and Javier Baez's tremendous starts at second base are the Cubs pitching prospects.
As a result of the Samardzija/Hammel trade, the Cubs have work to to fill out a complete rotation. At the moment, they seem to be filling in the gaps. They are bringing up some of their top starting pitching prospects to "test the waters", if you will. Let's do a quick overview of the top three pitchers who have made their debut this season.
Dallas Beeler is no doubt one of my favorite minor leaguers to watch. With a 6-3 record at Iowa and a 3.56 ERA in 73 innings, he holds onto a 1.173 WHIP and has give up 5 homeruns. He made his debut for the Cubs earlier this season at home and started his second major league game on the road at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. In those two starts he pitched a total of 11 innings, allowing 10 hits and 4 earned runs - most of that damage coming during his July 9th start at Great American Ballpark. At home, he pitched 6 innings and dealt 6Ks while walking three, allowing one run and earning no runs. Pretty impressive for your first two major league starts, especially with one of them coming on the road.
At age 33, Tsuyoshi Wada made his first major league start just a few weeks ago with the Chicago Cubs. So it's not to say that he will become the Cubs next Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka - though it is early to tell and his numbers are quite impressive already. In his one start that came on the road at the Great American Ballpark, he pitched 5 innings with 5 hits and allowed no earned runs. In his minor league days with Iowa, he has a 10-6 record with a 2.77 ERA in 113 innings, allowing just 13 homeruns with a 1.161 WHIP. Definitely something I would like to see more of for the Cubs at the major league level.
Probably the most interesting of the lot would be Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs staff seems to think so as well, recently announcing that they will call up Hendricks to give him a shot in the starting rotation. He will make his first home start at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night vs. the Padres. His opponent will be LHP Eric Stults, who currently owns a 4.98 ERA and has only pitched an outing longer than 6 innings twice this year, both occasions occurring at home in Petco Park. Hendricks on the other hand, is currently 10-5 with a 3.59 ERA at Iowa in 102 innings, and made his major league debut at Great American Ballpark just a couple of weeks ago. He pitched 6 innings and allowed 4 earned runs in a rocky start, but then regained his control and pitched his way to a Cubs win with 7Ks. I am very much looking forward to seeing more of him this season in the rotation and seeing how he fairs at the Friendly Confines. As long as he maintains his control, he will be a much needed addition to this Cubs rotation.
Cubs pitching is something that some fans are screaming for the organization to give some attention to at the major league level. Losing Samardzija and Hammel while relying on a struggling Edwin Jackson and more recently Travis Wood, doesn't exactly make for a pretty sight on the North Side - although the Cubs do still have Jake Arrieta to dote their praise upon. What most Cubs fans understand though, is that this picture isn't going to be perfect just yet. It's a long term process that needs to take some blows before becoming "workable". Trying on some of these minor leaguers for size is a part of that process. Sure, there is some trade talk and lots of rumors that the Cubs may go for a big arm before the deadline or in the offseason, but I'm not sure that the front office is looking to invest in that area right at this moment. If you're remodeling your home, you have to knock some walls down to before you can rebuild it to become exactly the picture perfect sight you wanted it to be. Right now the Cubs are knocking those walls down, and they're starting with their pitching.