Some additional thoughts on Kane County pitching staff from Cougars announcer Wayne Randazzo

A couple of weeks ago at the Baseball Prospectus gathering, I asked Cougars announcer Wayne Randazzo his thoughts about this year’s team.  He immediately noted that while last year he was excited about many of the hitters, he is looking forward to seeing some of the pitchers this season.

We agree. In our last installment of the top prospects list, we covered 5 pitchers — 4 of them who may be taking the mound for the Kane County Cougars in 2014.  I asked Wayne if he could share thoughts his well and he was kind enough to do so.

Here are his thoughts,

Dillon Maples
He has such raw talent and a stronger arm than most pitchers in the system. One thing that I’ve been told is that he has improved his delivery. It was fascinating to watch Maples pitch alongside Pierce Johnson last year because Pierce has such a free and easy delivery. If Maples could just loosen up on the mound and throw strikes, he suddenly becomes a top prospect. His delivery last year was so rigid and robotic, but if that gets better, Maples will get better. Keep in mind, he’s learning how to pitch so his path will be longer than most. 

Tyler Skulina

You don’t get the sense from Skulina that he’s breathing fire from the moment he gets to the mound. Not that he lacks a competitive edge, his is just harder to read. All the tools to be successful, and if we do see him at Kane County this season, we won’t see him for long. Something would have to go wrong for him to pitch one inning as a Cougar in the second half.

Rob Zastryzny

At his size, I want to see more of a fastball. He becomes a different pitcher at 93-95 even without the nasty breaking ball. His changeup was definitely his best pitch last season. He has solid makeup, and he’s a hard worker. I think he’ll move through the system quickly as well, but it remains to be seen what type of pitcher he will become, and if he can reach a high ceiling.

You can follow Wayne on Twitter at @WayneRandazzo and be sure to give him a listen whenever you can’t make it out to the Cougars game.   You can also hear him as the Update Anchor/Host for 670 The Score and WBBM News Radio.

Filed under: prospects


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  • I live in the Quad Cities n get to see the Cougars up n close april 3,4,5,6 if the weather is fine..John its been a pleasure reading all the work u do ive been a cubs fan for 40+ yrs

  • In reply to big daddy wppf:

    Thanks big daddy! I appreciate that.

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    All 3 guys have high ceilings but pretty low floors as well. Really want to ssee pitchers like Maples, Frazier, Skulina, Blackburn, Underwood, etc take big steps this year and jump up some prospect lists.

    If McNeil and Conway can come back healthy this year that would be a nice boost as well. They were dealing before injuries ended things prematurely. Conway's was a freak accident.

    Then there's still wild cards with good arms like Paniagua, Peralta, Arias, Masek, Clifton, Garner, and others that could come out of nowhere and open some eyes.

    Lots of good power arms in the system. All we need are a few of them to breakout and were looking pretty solid for the future.

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    Where's Duane Underwood pitching this season? I'm not giving up on him yet either.

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    With the positive reports coming out of ST on him, I'd be surprised if he doesn't start at Kane county. But AZ Phil is reporting that he started a game yesterday and left with 2 outs in the 1st inning due to injury. So let's our fingers crossed.... don't know anything about the injury right now.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That sucks. Thanks hoosier. Any news on that yet?

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    Haven't seen anything about his injury yet.

  • I think the Cubs are going to find themselves in a situation similar to what Kansas City was in last year or the year before. That is to say - the offensive players appear to be gelling, while the home-grown pitching was still a couple of years behind.

    Hence the trade for Shields, and the acquisition of Santana (now flown of course). Zimmer and Ventura (who may make the 25-man roster out of ST) are thier up & coming pitching prospects for starters, and now their bullpen is largely homegrown.

    It will warm our collective hearts to see some of these guys move up to AA or AAA this season - but it is unlikely they will move up to Wrigley before at least 2015, more likely 2016.

    Until then - we'll at least have some fun offensive fireworks to watch - and nicely stocked young bullpen.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    That's a fair comparison. The nice thing will be, the Cubs can actually afford to bring in pitchers via FA and should in theory have more than just a window of contention that the Royals have before guys get too expensive for them.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Exactly mjvz - the Cubs will have decided advantages in both retention of younger players (a la the contract extensions already given to Rizzo & Castro), and via a bigger FA budget once the time comes to open up the wallet.

    KC really only has this season or at most the next couple of seasons before some of their young offensive talent starts to get quite expensive. Then their window will close pretty rapidly unless they can mimic what the Rays have been doing the last several years.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I com pare the Cubs more to the early 1990s Indians, with Belle already in the bigs, and Thome, Ramirez, Alomar and Baerga coming up thru the system. Dont forget , the 95 Indians that went 100-44 in a shortened season had 5 starters who came up thru there system, and also had Charles Nagy as a mid-rotation starter. They acquired Hershiser and Dennis Martinez to fill out there rotation, something the Cubs might do in a year or two.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Probably also a good comparison mb.

  • LHP Gerardo Concepcion (yes, the guy who pulled a Hayden Simpson on us) might be one to keep an eye on too. Apparently he's healthy now, regained his velocity, and there's been some positive reports on him out of ST. He'll probably start at Kane County too.

    Yesterday, he threw 2 innings of no hit ball in a ST game.

    Kane County's rotation is starting to get awfully full. This is a good problem though. I'd expect the older guys (Skulina, Zastryzny, Concepcion, etc) to bounce to Daytona by mid-season assuming they're doing well.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Probably going to be a piggy back program set up for some of the guys:


  • In reply to mjvz:

    Yeah, that's pretty common in the minors.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I could also see the older guys like Zastryzny and maybe Skulina/Concepcion/Paniagua start off the year in Daytona because KC could also have Tseng, Leal, Torrez, Arias, etc., etc.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks for the info on Concepcion. That is good news. The more the merrier.

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    What are the roster limits for each minor-league level?

  • I cheated and looked it up. If I under stand it correctly:
    AAA 37 total 25 active
    AA 35 total 25 active
    below AA 34 total 25 active

    So if you add all the affiliates up a potential 310 Cub players within the organization.

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    In reply to bleachercreature:

    ok, so in the majors your extra guys on the 40-man are stashed in AAA - where does your AAA team put the 12 men that aren't on their 25 man active roster - in AA? Does it just cascade down? And the 15 men that are officially on the MLB 40 man roster but are playing in AAA - do they count towards the AAA roster, or is that 37 man limit above and beyond the 15 guys from the MLB roster that aren't at wrigley?

  • has anyone heard anything on if steven bruno is in the minor league camp? if so with which team?

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    He is on the Tennessee roster as of now. And it seems reasonable he stays there. Don't know if he is going to start the season on the active roster though. He may still be rehabbing.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Like mjvz mentioned, he's listed on the AA Roster that was released 3/20. That's where most projected him starting the year. But I haven't seen his name on any of the MiLB box scores that AZ Phil posts. If he was healthy and participating, he should have gotten 1 or 2 PA's in SS games, but he hasn't.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Actually, just found this from AZ Phil on the 21st: "Stephen Bruno is now participating fully"

  • couple other names that might start some games in Kane County, Torrez and Paniagua.

  • From AZ Phil on Friday:

    "It's starting to look like Rob Zastryzny and Tyler Skulina might not get moved down (it could happen, but so far, so good). Both Zastryzny and Skulina are VERY advanced, and I really don't see that much down-side to having them both begin the 2014 season in the D-Cubs rotation. Felix Pena could be a starter or could be a "piggy-back" (he's stretched-out and he's thrown well so far), and LHP Michael Heesch is another SP/PB candidate.

    KC is a bit trickier, because there are probably as many as a dozen pitchers (Arias, Blackburn, Concepcion, Frazier, Leal, Maples, Masek, Paniagua, D. Torrez, Tseng, and Underwood) contending for spots at KC who will be stretched-out as starters by the end of Minor League Camp."

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Interesting from AZ Phil. Almora is on Tennessee's roster and Jiminez is on Kane County roster, thats very exciting if that is where they are starting the season. If Almora continues success and has high BB and low SO rates we probably will see him in chicago in september.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    They won't start there. There is a filter down effect on the minor league teams in ST because part of the AAA team is in big league camp, so about 1/2 the roster on the AAA team right now will actually play in AA, and so on down the line.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Makes sense, cause I was thinking Jiminez would start in Arizona at best.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    If you read the disclaimer above the article "NOTE: ROSTERS AT MINOR LEAGUE CAMP ARE FLUID. Minor League players are often initially assigned to a squad one or even two levels above where they will ultimately be assigned once the regular season starts. Minor League Camp roster assignments are based on several factors, including the player's position as it relates to the specific needs of the organization, and the player's age, amount of professional experience, and previous season's performance (including any time spent at a post-season Instructional League). As players are sent to Minor League Camp from the Major League squad during the course of Spring Training, there are corresponding roster moves made at Minor League Camp as players are either moved down a level or released."

  • O/T, but an interesting theory (with some statistical backing) on Sharks vulnerability...

  • Cant imagine Jiminez starts in Kane County. But thats what it looks like.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    No, it's not uncommon to list guys on the ST roster 1-3 levels above where they'll actually play to begin the season. "If" Jiminez plays in the US it will be in the AZ Rookie league. He's likely to play in the DSL and then fall instructs...

  • O/T but we're creeping up in PECOTA's projections to 73 wins and Fangraphs has us up to 75 wins.... FWIW, PIT made the playoffs with 84 wins....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I've picked us for 75 wins since the end of last season.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I think the Cubs will be improved but so will Milwaukee. I think 75 wins will be a hard get. Better offense,better relief pitching and about the same starting pitching. Unfortunately competition will be better as well.

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    In reply to bleachercreature:

    milwaukee maybe better, but cinicinatti sl worse, pittsburgh had some guys playing out of their minds last year, not sure they're going to have the same type of year, philadelphia certainly worse.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think it's going to come down to how well we do the first half. Without the BP implosions last year, .500 was imaginable. If we can play close to .500 and avoid a mass sell off, then we got a shot at 75+ wins. but if we wholesale off the likes of Shark, Hammel, Villanueva, Schierholtz, etc... It'll be tough to keep the losses under 90...

    But with rebounds of Rizzo, Castro, etc. and additions of guys like Olt and later Baez and the the BP improvements, it's not inconceivable that we can improve by 9 wins right there. That would put us at 75 wins. People forget that we were very unlucky in close games last year...

  • Do the Rangers have any prospects left? I hear they need fill in for 2nd base

  • In reply to rsanchez11:

    Yes, they have an outstanding 2B prospect named Roughned Odor.

  • In reply to krn99:

    as generous as Daniels has been that might be pushing it!

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    John-couple of q's:

    1. Will Ramirez start or relieve at Iowa?

    2. The draft pick is trade able now?

    My opinion-the pitchers are really moving up and down the board. I think I'd draft another position player.

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    In reply to Dale Miller:

    Not John, but the Cubs picks are not trade-able. Only the competitive balance picks can be traded in the current CBA.

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    Not sure if anybody's mentioned it but...Happy golden birthday to Starlin Castro

  • John...any thoughts on an article about the Max Scherzer situation in Detroit?.....I think having an ace well on his way to free agency next year is good news for the 2015 rotation prospects...

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