Cubs Prospect Statistical Update - The Pitchers

It has been a tough first half for a number of Cubs pitching prospects, particularly at the upper levels. Injuries have shortened or contributed to rocky beginnings for not only Duane Underwood Jr., but also Ryan Williams and Pierce Johnson. This has left the organization thin on options in the event of an injury at the MLB level. Rob Zastryzny has been the best among the top prospects in AA and AAA, but he has yet to excel at either level. The decision to send down and stretch out Adam Warren in the weeks prior to the All-Star break speaks volumes regarding the faith the organization currently has in the starters at Iowa being able to step in and contribute in Chicago during the second half.

The Myrtle Beach staff has continued to make strides. Jake Stinnett and Trevor Clifton get the headlines, but Erick Leal and Zack Hedges have quietly put up strong numbers, relying on control more so than swing and miss stuff. A pair of heralded starters slated to begin the year in South Bend have been injured (de la Cruz) or struggled (Steele), and now Carson Sands has also begun to falter of late despite being named to the MWL All-Star game. It is still too early in the development cycle of each player to panic though. Meanwhile, the recent college draftees (Morrison, Kellogg and Miller) have begun their careers on the right foot and have held the rotation together.

The picture is much rosier in Eugene Oregon. Dylan Cease, prior to leaving his last start early, was missing bats with his great upper 90s fastball and high 70s curve. Big lefty Bryan Hudson has been inconsistent, but has flashed the stuff and ability to generate ground balls that make him so intriguing. The two strongest starts have belonged to Jose Paulino, a left hander with a mid 90s fastball, and Jesus Castillo, who was the second pitcher acquired in the Tony Campana deal.

While I have greatly expanded the number of starting pitchers below, the relief pitcher list has been trimmed to 15 names and focuses mostly on relievers in the upper levels. Frankly, if a pitcher is throwing one inning stints in A ball, even as a closer, the chances that pitcher ever establishes himself in the majors is slim. Many MLB relievers are failed starters, so a number of pitchers appearing in the starter list, such as Johnson, Zastryzny and Markey, have a better chance of forging a role in an MLB bullpen than a starting rotation. I considered cutting the reliever list even further, but I know there are a number of people interested in seeing the statistics on more.

Reference Range

Rating FIP BB% K%
Great < 3.20 < 5.5 > 24.0
Average ~ 3.80 ~ 7.7 ~ 20.0
Poor > 4.40 > 8.5 < 15.0

NOTES: The numbers tend to skew a little different for relievers, especially K rates, which should be a few percentage points higher to be considered great, so I used < 18.0% and > 27.0% cutoff in their chart below.

Starting Pitchers

Underwood Jr. 21 58.2 4.91 5.09 .276 1.65 11.3% 16.8%
Cease 20 21.2 3.32 3.44 .238 1.25 8.9% 25.6%
Hudson 19 17.0 3.18 6.05 .155 1.24 16.4% 11.0%
Steele 20 36.2 6.63 4.44 .298 1.96 13.4% 20.9%
Sands 21 63.0 4.29 4.75 .244 1.40 11.0% 13.6%
Stinnett 24 83.0 4.23 3.64 .237 1.23 7.8% 20.5%
Clifton 21 69.1 3.12 3.26 .238 1.37 10.7% 25.8%
Johnson 25 32.1 7.24 5.82 .282 1.86 14.7% 20.4%
Zastryzny AAA 24 54.0 4.83 4.46 .237 1.31 9.0% 20.2%
Zastryzny AA 24 54.2 4.28 4.36 .245 1.28 8.9% 18.7%
Williams 24 44.0 3.27 4.48 .256 1.25 6.6% 16.6%
Blackburn 22 92.1 2.83 3.47 .241 1.16 5.9% 16.0%
Tseng 21 59.1 3.34 3.89 .255 1.30 7.2% 15.5%
Markey 24 87.0 2.59 5.24 .250 1.31 8.5% 10.7%
Hedges 23 90.2 2.78 3.12 .236 1.10 4.3% 16.3%
Leal 21 81.1 2.99 3.58 .239 1.12 5.2% 17.3%
Morrison 22 81.0 2.44 2.85 .228 1.14 6.7% 22.1%
Miller 22 57.0 1.58 3.11 .196 1.00 7.6% 18.7%
Kellogg 22 90.1 3.49 3.70 .232 1.14 5.6% 19.3%
Paulino 21 22.0 0.41 1.85 .158 0.64 2.6% 28.2%
Castillo 20 20.2 2.61 2.61 .208 0.92 3.7% 35.8%
Rondon 21 19.0 1.42 3.47 .188 1.00 7.9% 23.7%
Albertos 17 4.0 0.00 1.83 .077 0.50 7.1% 50.0%
Moreno 19 22.1 3.22 3.68 .241 1.07 3.3% 26.1%


Relief Pitchers

Edwards Jr. 24 25.1 4.26 3.66 .185 1.34 15.5% 31.8%
Patton 28 26.0 1.04 1.81 .192 1.04 8.6% 40.0%
Concepcion AAA 24 22.2 5.56 5.10 .312 1.90 13.1% 17.8%
Concepcion AA 24 17.2 0.00 2.41 .089 0.51 6.5% 27.4%
Rivero 28 41.2 2.59 3.39 .184 1.20 12.5% 32.4%
Black AAA 24 11.2 7.71 3.43 .292 1.89 14.3% 25.0%
Black AA 24 22.2 3.18 3.36 .220 1.46 15.2% 25.3%
Rosario AAA 25 2.0 0.00 2.78 .000 0.00 0.0% 16.7%
Rosario AA 25 16.1 2.76 2.83 .183 0.86 4.8% 23.8%
Rosario A+ 25 16.1 1.65 3.20 .238 1.41 11.3% 19.7%
Berg AA 23 25.0 3.24 2.72 .300 1.36 3.8% 14.3%
Berg A+ 23 12.2 1.42 2.34 .204 0.87 2.0% 19.6%
Garner 23 37.0 4.38 3.97 .259 1.65 14.2% 23.7%
Alvarez 25 6.2 5.40 6.47 .310 1.95 11.8% 29.4%
Farris AA 24 16.1 3.86 3.44 .238 1.16 6.0% 26.9%
Farris A+ 24 30.0 2.40 1.74 .188 0.93 5.9% 30.3%
McNeil 22 33.0 2.45 3.20 .223 1.18 9.0% 26.3%
Minch 22 34.1 2.88 3.59 .270 1.51 12.4% 17.9%
Araujo A+ 22 8.1 0.00 2.00 .167 0.84 6.3% 28.1%
Araujo A 22 19.0 0.47 1.69 .111 0.58 6.0% 34.3%
Brooks A+ 23 2.2 16.88 5.32 .500 3.38 20.0% 13.3%
Brooks A 23 32.1 1.39 2.92 .191 1.30 14.6% 30.7%
Norwood 22 24.0 3.75 2.11 .265 1.38 6.5% 28.0%


Filed under: 2016 Top Prospects


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  • Those charts are a great feature with the reference ranges- thanks

  • Michael, you're always at the top of your game.

  • In reply to NilesNorth:

    Thank you, sir

  • Matusz and Nathan apparently on their way to Iowa from Tennessee

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I feel like Matusz could be the LOOGY we are looking for. Fingers crossed we strike gold with him.

  • In reply to criggilyk:

    I was hoping that too, but I think they're stretching him to possibly be a starter.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    That would be even better. I don't have as much confidence in him as a starter though.

  • In reply to criggilyk:

    I think they will stretch him out and have him be an option in case of injuries to the rotation. But I don't see him getting any starts unless that occurs. My guess is he will be competing with Richard for a swing role down the stretch and get some multi inning relief appearances. Then, he will be given a shot at the rotation next spring like Richard and Cahill received last year.

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    Great feature. Unfortunately, not great results...whole lot of RED up there. This has not been a good year for Cubs pitching prospects, IMO, while our hitters continue to thrive.

    Blackburn got rocked again today in his start at TN, and Berg was also knocked around in relief

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Tennessee is really struggling.

    Half of the offense can't hit for power (except Happ), and the other half can't hit at all.

    Half of the staff can't strike anyone out, and the other half can't even throw strikes.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yes, a lot of red. The Cubs only have a handful of guys (mostly in the lower levels) that can get by without above average command. Unfortunately, most of the upper level pitchers have only shown average command at best.

    Even if it isn't with the Cubs, I'm still a believer that Edwards, Pena, Underwood and Williams are full time MLB pitchers at some point in their futures. Edwards may already be solidifying his spot now.

    The rest of the staffs in Iowa and Tennessee are very questionable. Concepcion was really in a groove earlier this year, but his command has faltered and the breaking ball has flattened. hopefully it is just a bump in the road. Patton and Rivero (and to a lesser extent Mejia) have the stuff, but with all three already 28 years old, it is difficult to count on them refining their command enough to be consistent contributors at the highest level if they haven't done so by now.

    Among the starters, Johnson probably has the best stuff of the remaining guys but he is so hard to count on. I really think he should convert to the pen full time next year and see if it helps him stay healthy. Zastryzny is likely a swing guy if he can't improve either his command or improve one of his offerings into a true out pitch. Markey is the other guy that his best chance is in the pen. He has a good breaking ball and enough command where if his fastball ticks up a little working shorter outings I think he can carve out a role in middle relief.

    Tseng, Blackburn, Berg and Farris are all very dependent on command. Even if they keep it up, they may not have the stuff to be more than part time or middle relief options. There are other interesting arms that might make it if they can ever dial in their control, but they aren't pitchers that should be counted on.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Good summary there....basically, what we have looking into next year at the ML level is a handful of guys that might be right-handed relievers. We can probably scrape together a 6th or 7th starter who can be called up, but nothing you can count on. That's pretty much it for any internal help.

    So yeah, we need some young pitching.....

  • If there are any Western Illinois/Eastern Iowans interested, the South Bend club will be playing is starting a series in Clinton, Iowa tonight, and then plays a set in Kane County this weekend.

  • Looks like I missed Felix Pena in the reliever list

    44.2 IP, 6.80% BB%, 31.30% K%, .190 AVG, 0.96 WHIP, 3.63 ERA, 3.35 FIP

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    So, I don't actually know enough about the pitching development process to call for people's jobs. But your numbers are troubling enough I'm assuming fixing this will take up a large amount of time this winter. Imagine this team if the Cubs could produce pitchers half as well as they produce hitters.

  • All I know is that the facts remain that the current Cubs FO has yet to have a single drafted pitcher make it to the majors. That stat can be misleading yes, because they've drafted, and drafted extremely well, high level bats in the early rounds. But other than, maybe, Cease there isn't a single pitcher drafted that will end up better than a #3 or #4 pitcher. That is evidence of either poor scouting or poor player (pitching) development.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    To be fair the only 3 players to make it to the majors, position player or otherwise, that this regime has drafted have been their 2012-2014 1st round draft picks (Almora, Bryant, Schwarber). That is it. And I think we can say that a couple of those guys were freaks that ascended quicker than should normally be expected. There really has not been a lot of time in terms of baseball development since the FO took over. There are a number of players from their first two draft classes at the AA/AAA level.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    I just did a big post in the John's Eloy article and went over the draft picks for this FO. Again and again they drafted the best most bankable player and there was only one pick (the Zastryzny pick) could really be questioned. Even the Johnson and Blackburn picks in 2012 were reasonable and there weren't any clear misses later in the same rounds. At some point, we have to look at this through a logical unjaundiced lens

  • In reply to ericccs:

    Here's that post. I challenge anyone to find the great ace that we missed on in this FO's draft history.

    After reading all the lamentations about the FO's inability to develop pitching, I went back and looked at their first four drafts to sort of rank us vs the competition and see if we'd missed the boat on big time pitchers.
    In general, we've killed it with the first rounders and they were clearly the correct picks in 2013 (Bryant when everyone was screaming for Jon Grey), 2014 (when we passed over Nola and raised eyebrows with Schwarber), and probably 2015 with Ian Happ. On the surface, we could moan that Almora isn't a superstar with the 6th pick, but that was a dismal draft and Almora was an obvious high floor pick with the glove and contact skills to be an annual 3 WAR player.
    The real bone of contention is with Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn in the supplemental first round. Johnson only around because he'd had some injuries at Mizzou. Blackburn was a HS kid with a 3 pick mix that could get it up to 94 and still had some projectability. Johnson hasn't been able to stay healthy and Blackburn's stuff has actually backed up. No amount of developmental expertise can make up for these issues. Underwood lasted until the second round because he was inconsistent and immature. Then he got his act together and became a unilateral top 75 prospect. Now he's had elbow issues the last two seasons and it feels like an inevitability that he'll have a TJ surgery in his future. Again, this is why pitchers are risky propositions. You have to get lucky and we have not been.
    McNeil and Conway may become viable relief options. Rashad Crawford and Rademacher were nice late round picks and Crawford could still pay off big.
    Overall just an average draft at best.
    2013 was the first season where the FO won big. Bryant is a potential HOF. Hanneman was an unusual pick but could still pan out. At worst, he's a 5th OF and there was nothing special taken after him in the 3rd round. David Garner was a nice pick in the 7th and could be a high leverage reliever. Clifton was a great over slot pick in the 12th round and he is a developmental success story thus far. Will Remillard could have been a nice late round catching prospect but I believe he's had 2 TJ surgeries. Poor kid.
    The 2nd and 4th round picks could be criticized. Rob Zastryzny was never a candidate to be anything more than a BOR guy, while Cody Reed (of the Reds) was another lefty who could pump it up to 95, but he was a JC project that didn't have a lot of consensus.
    In the 4th round we took Tyler Skulina when there was still Cody Bellinger on the board and that kid looks like a star at either first or in the outfield. But those are the only two guys that really stand out in each round.
    Overall, we easily had the best draft that year based solely on Bryant.
    2014 is when this FO really got rolling. Schwarber was a brilliant and gutsy pick who signed for way below slot which allowed us to pick up 3 borderline first round picks in the 4-6 round in Sands, Steele, and Cease. The 2nd and 3rd rounders were Stinnett and Zagunis. Zagunis is already a steal as he looks like a sure major leaguer despite probably being a LF only dude. The late round picks are also impressive. Ryan Williams, 2015 milb pitcher of the year for a 2k bonus in the 10th round and already in triple-A. Chesny Young (Hi-A batting champ), Jeremy Null (low A all-star last year), Jason Vosler, Brad Markey, Zach Hedges, and the lottery ticket that is Kevonte Mitchell.
    That's a top to bottom dominant draft, but all the big 3 HS pitchers will take time. You know you're dealing with a 5 year waiting period for them to develop.
    2015 was another clear win in my opinion.
    Happ is already a unilateral top 50 prospect, Dewees was a likely first rounder who lasted all the way to the second round and was a Low A all-star.
    Hudson in the 3rd round was a great pick but that's another 5 year ETA. The only pick you could question is DJ Wilson in the fourth round. You could say that the Brewers picked Demi Orimoloye (an athletic freak) in the 4th for right around slot money, which was 8 picks after Wilson. We could have scooped up D.O. and still paid Wilson his million over slot in the 5th.
    We killed the rest of the top 10 rounds with smart senior signings Craig Brooks, Preston Morrison, and Dave Berg. The late rounds were no different with Scott Effross, Casey Bloomquist, and inspired picks in PJ Higgins and Ian Rice.
    This is a really, really good track record despite the misses on Johnson (who still has a chance to be a nice reliever) and Blackburn, and keep in mind, there was nothing special out there that we passed on.
    The IFA classes of 2013 and 2015 have also been impressive. Jose Albertos was a pitching steal out of Mexico, but alas, it looks like he may be going the TJ route.

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    In reply to ericccs:

    I agree on the Zastryzny pick questionable How is the scouting organized? Is someone in charge of rating and scouting position players and someone is charge of rating and scouting pitchers. If so I think the staff performance on pitching should be reviewed and perhaps some changes made. Picks were reasonable based on what the what our evaluation were? Do we really know where other organizations had our picks rated. Seemed not as high as we did.

  • Zastryzny has outperformed the picks ahead of him -- Blackburn, Pierce Johnson so not sure why we single out thta pick as questionable. He has a better chance of sticking at starter than Stinnett. He's been solid for a 2nd rd. pick. Don't get a lot of MLB players in round 2 and Zastryzny has a very good shot at becoming one very soon.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    He's been better than the first overall pick. Really, what more can you ask for from the early second round?

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Remarkable aside: in the history of the draft, from 1965 (Rick Monday) to 2012 (Carlos Correa), two guys have been taken first overall and failed to play in the majors: Steve Chilcott (1966) and Brien Taylor (1991). The Astros may well have picked two in a row with Mark Appel and Brady Aiken.

  • I know we all love Schwarber but Aaron Nola was sitting there and he's looking pretty good with 5+ years of more control.

    I think the issue and concerns are that we haven't hit on any mid-late round draft picks. CJ Edwards was a super late round guy but Texas deserves more credit for him than we do.

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    In reply to berber31:

    You still take Schwarber every time. Nola can be a reliable Major League pitcher, looks like a 3 now, if everything goes right he's a top of the order guy. Schwarber is an elite hitter from the left side who combines a short, compact stroke with elite power. He's already a middle of the order presence. If everything goes right for Schwarber, he's the best hitter of his generation and slides into Cooperstown.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Only 6 lefties hit 30+ HRs last season. Two of them (Ortiz and Teixeira) are near the end of their careers. Schwarber possesses a very rare skill in today's game.

  • In reply to berber31:

    Nola's a solid pitcher. He was my actual prediction for who they'd pick but I was wrong. Nothing against Schwarber, who was a fantastic pick, but I can see where right now at least it would be nice to have Nola.

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