Spring Training 2011 Mega Preview: Jeff Samardzija

Editor's note: forgive me for the lateness of this.  It was due yesterday, which I spent at my new house painting the ever-loving crap out of the bedroom walls.  Sorry!

A few years back, Jeff Samardzija was a pretty interesting prospect.  The long-haired Cub fan who gave up a career of head traumas for the possibility of pitching in Chicago reached the majors as a 23-year-old in 2008 and he promptly put up some impressive numbers.  
The Shark, as he was wont to be called, threw 27.2 innings that year, striking out 25 opponents to 15 walks, posting a 1-0 record and a 2.27 ERA.  Pretty decent numbers for a rook.  Pretty good indication that he's upward bound.  
It's been a long trip to Suck Town ever since, though.
Since then, Samardzija has thrown 54 innings in the major leagues, where he's surrendered 47 earned runs, struck out 30, and walked 35.  That's an ERA of 7.83.  That's a whole lot of wasted millions on a guy who has one of those no-trade clauses that Jim Hendry likes to hand out as if they are candy.  That's right - "wasted millions."  Samardzija earned $3 million in 2010, and is set to earn $2 million in 2011.
At this point, it goes beyond talent - any guy whose strikeout rate drops and walk rate goes up has something wrong with his head, if not his arm.  And, despite making several million dollars that Samardzija has certainly not earned, he's done nothing in the major - or minor - leagues to warrant roster consideration.
Yet here we are, talking about him, because of all those wasted millions.  Guh.  There are some days that I curse having ever learned how to spell his ridiculous last name...
Here's the theoretical good news.  Despite his craptacular pitching performance in Chicago last year, he wasn't gawdawful in Iowa.  In a hitter's league, Samardzija went 11-3 with a near-career best ERA of 4.37, striking out 102 and walking 67 in 111.1 innings of work.  These aren't exactly the kinds of numbers I dream of from a "top prospect," but they kinda/sort remind me of another former prospect on a different team... Adam Wainright.
Back before the Arm Explosion himself had major league success, he went 10-10 with a 4.40 ERA in Triple A Memphis.  Of course, he was 23, not 25.  He only walked 51 in 182 innings, not 67 in 111.1.  And he was widely regarded as having a future.  
My point is this - although Samardzija is a long-shot at best of becoming a successful major leaguer, it could happen.  Maybe.  But probably not.  On the bright side, there's a decent chance that our Indiana readers will get to buy cars from the Shark's future dealership in a couple more years...

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