The John Arguello Awards: Minor League Pitcher of the Year

Good morning! Today is the second of a series of three articles recognizing outstanding performances in the Cubs’ minor league system. On Monday, Cubs Den named their Short Season Pitcher and Player of the Year. Now, we turn our attention to pitching.

Minor League Pitcher of the Year: DJ Herz, LHP

Prior to the 2021 season, there was great hope for the pitching prospects beginning to rise through he Cubs organization. But injuries set back top prospects in lefties Brailyn Marquez and Jack Patterson, as well as right-handers Kohl Franklin, Riley Thompson, and Michael McAvene. In addition, high profile prospects such as Ryan Jensen, Cory Abbott, Burl Carraway, and Richard Gallardo all had uneven seasons.

That left the competition wide open, and 20-year old left-hander DJ Herz stepped up.

Selected in the 8th round of the 2019 draft, Herz had only 10.1 innings in his career with the lost 2020 season. The native of North Carolina was said to have one of the most electric arms as a high school pitcher in the 2019 draft. However, there where concerns over whether he would sign a professional contract. When the Cubs offered what would be considered fourth round money, Herz inked the deal.

As an 18-year old, Herz had a somewhat nondescript debut in the rookie league. While he posted a 2. 61 ERA, there was a rather high 1.742 WHIP and only 8 strikeouts.

Limited to the Cubs’ pitching camp in the 2020 instructional league, no one knew what to expect of Herz coming into this season.

Beginning 2021 with Low-A Myrtle Beach, Herz was eased into a starting role. Tossing only 12 innings in four May starts, the lefty allowed only one earned run ands struck out 20.

Then in his sixth start of the season, Herz gave up 9 earned runs in 2.2 innings. For the rest of the season, Herz would never give up half that amount in any appearance, nor toss so few innings at any one time. The 20-year old would go on to make 17 starts for the Pelicans before being promoted to High-A South Bend in September. After 3 more starts for the SB Cubs, Herz would end up a combined 4-4 with a 3.31 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, and 131 strikeouts against 44 walks in 81.2 innings.

With good size at 6’2″- 175 lbs., Herz still has room to grow and add to his mid-90’s fastball. Herz also has a low-80’s slider and a spike curve, while he needs to further develop his change-up.

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Tags: Cubs, DJ Herz, minor leagues, Tom U

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  • We all know Cubs current roster is bad. You have to hunt for building blocks, & at Jed's end of the year presser, he is going on about smart investment. What does that mean? low price starting pitching? Short term high price players? AAAA players? Cubs are one of the big revenue MLB teams, sure try to fill one/two positions on the cheap, &/or the bullpen. Improve player development, & avoid long term high priced contracts.... isn't that smart investing for large market teams?

    Didn't the Cubs try to do what the Giants did this year? Build around the core with affordable players like Davies, Arrieta, Workman, Miller, Holder, Duffy, Bote, Marisnick, Tepera, Chafin, Williams, & Romine.

    Ten years ago Cubs new front office was talking about waves, and waves of player development. Player development is hard when you cannot outspend most teams for amateur talent. Hitting on bounce back players, & hidden gems is great when it works out. I Cubs large market club president is talking about finding value, & spending intelligently. What?!? Cubs are bad with very little in the way of minor league help for next season.

    Jed does not create much confidence for me. Theo said at the end of 2018 offense is broken, The Cubs still have not fixed that... I sure hope the Cubs don't spend all off-season looking to prove how smart the front office is at finding under valued players. Add talent, & I sure hope the Cubs payroll is the highest of all the NL central teams, and top 4 team payroll for all NL teams.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    I’d disagree about your confidence in Jed. As mentioned below, I feel it’s too early to make a call on him. He did the best he could, when he got the directive to cut payroll. And we all know who makes that decision. And he likely could really had got a lot more if he would have been allowed to go further and trade a couple more, last offseason.
    I too was skeptical for awhile, but I look forward to see how Jed attempts to transform this roster. He definitely seems to have found some decent hitters and young high ceiling prospects in trade. Hopefully he will show us all that he can find some starting pitching.

  • Thanks Tom ! Great article !
    In regards to the above comment, Raising payroll to become better doesn't guarantee wins. San Diego is a prime example. When Tampa Bay, whose payroll is half of some other clubs, it is great management. The Cubs look to be following the same path in some aspects.
    It appears that Hoyer is not a Theo clone, is a very good sign and its way too early to judge his performance.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Makes sense. I think all thirty orgs should be spending intelligently in these times. Mets would be another example. I think Jed will spend when appropriate. As Jed noted winning the off season doesn't mean winning the season. I also agree with Nujack' s point that we should act like a big market org.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Cubs traded almost everyone. My two cents payroll going into 2022 should be higher than 2021 $150-ish million to start the season. Hopefully the budget Jed is given is real close to the luxury tax limit.

    I actually like some of the things Jed has done. I'm a fan of trading for much younger prospects with potentially higher ceilings.

    In 2019 Cubs were estimated to be third in MLB revenue. Cubs need to make better decisions. Most seasons Cubs could have 4 to 8 building block type players that cost $110 million in total salary for the season. Then try to be the Rays, Giants, &/or a player development machine team to build the rest of the roster with intelligent spending/affordable contracts.

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    In reply to Naujack:

    I like what Jed and Dan Kantrovitz have done. Trading everyone at the deadline produced some high ceiling prospects and overall I'd give him a high grade--as much as anyone can for 18 and 19 yr old players.
    Jordan Wicks seems to have another high ceiling as well as the last 2 drafts and IFA signings. With all the losing this year, and I wanted them to lose as much as possible, choosing #7 can be of great help, and that's the #7 pick in each additional round. I don't know how many rounds there will be next year, that will be decided in the new CBA, and I don't see the Cubs sign a FA with a QO so they would have to give up a draft choice and money too.
    I see a revival for next year and certainly for the year after that.

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    I'm sort of non-committal
    on Hoyer, I like what he did on the deals he made this year, but I also realize he was the GM throughout these last 7 years, it was he who made a lot of the decisions as GM, why does he get a reprieve .
    As far as we know, Epstein has taken a lot of blame for the results, but Hoyer was in charge of the player side of the equation, just because Epstein didn't push blame on Hoyer doesn't mean he wasn't culpable.
    I very much hope Hoyer gets a GM from Tampa or LA, or maybe steal Billy Beane from the A's, I really don't trust the brain child we have right now.

  • In reply to tater:

    I firmly believe Theo was steering the ship. But that doesn't matter anymore. Hoyer is doing things differently and that's fine with me.
    Just like Tampa, Hoyer dumped several players at just the right
    time. After the July 30th dump, the rating of the Cubs farm system has gradually moved up to 17th overall. Before July 30th, the Cubs
    had no flex-ability in payroll to make trades or sign free agents.
    ARROW UP ! GO CUBS !

  • In reply to tater:

    Rumor has it that Jed and Theo disagreed vehemently at times, as over heard by staff within earshot. In the end, Theo was probably the decider. Priorities change and Epstien would be making different choices now as well.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The spat between Theo and Jed makes perfect sense. You can see that now that Theo is gone , things are being done differently. It appears Jed is putting his stamp on running the club.
    I agree on a possible overpay for a couple of pitchers until the minor leaguers are ready to be brought up. There are several free agent pitchers who won't get a qualifying offer that I'm sure there on the Cubs radar.

  • It’s time to zag while everyone else is digging. High end prospects are over valued at the expense of older talent. Fine, go sigh older talent. Even over pay, but keep this to one, maybe two year deals. Two years of older dudes should give time for the farm to start producing.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    Will the Cubs overpay on short term deals? Multiple teams went after Schwarber last off-season, but Nationals paid him more than what he would have made in arbitration. Dodgers did the same things for Blake Treinen after the 2019 season when A's non-tendered him after a down season.

    Will the Cubs over-pay players on one or two year deals in order to sign them? This off-season Cubs will show how aggressive they want to get with dollars on short-term contracts. As long as the Cubs are under the penalty limit, dollars should not be the reason why Cubs do not sign players they like on short term contracts this off-season.

    Long term high priced deals, I think the Cubs absolutely want value like when they signed Darvish, & Kimbrel .

    oMLceod, Bush, & Greenberg three assistant GM's all have been with the Cubs a long time.

    Craig Breslow, the other assistant GM/VP of pitching joined the front office in 2019. I sure hope the Cubs not only add a GM from outside the organization, but at least one more assistant GM from outside the organization.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    Why not move up Craig Breslow to GM ? The Cubs could do a lot worse.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    Why not move up Craig Breslow to GM ? The Cubs could do a lot worse.

  • Shame about what’s going on, in the Astros series, lol. But what I regret is that I can’t hear Stone and Benetti put their ‘special spin’ of excuses on the two games.
    I wonder how long it will take Hahn to trade Kimbrel. Maybe Jed can offer them Bailey Horn for Kimbrel. I’d take him back for that.

  • I know will be painful to read but hear me out
    Maybe the Cubs need to copy more of the Brewers model. There I said it.

    None of the position player starters in game 1 were developed by them. Tellez was acquired in July. Wong was a free agent signing. Adames was acquired from Tampa ( a steal for the Brewers from TB) Escobar was acquired in July. Yellich was a trade acquisition a few years ago. Cain was a free agent (an overpay) several years ago… Garcia free agent signing 2 years ago. I believe Navraez was a trade acquisition 2 years ago..
    Their key starting pitchers I believe are all home grown …. So the Cubs likely can’t copy that for 2022.
    Thoughts?

  • In reply to stv711:

    I'd say that there is more than one way to skin a cat (odd expression). An organization can end up chasing its tail, by worrying, too much, about what another org is doing. I think the Cubs arrow might be pointing up and let's see if it's arrow straight.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think that it's time to stop blaming anybody, whether it be Rickeetts, Theo, the Core, or the grounds crew. This was a transition year ending a good run. Time for another good run. There are no guarantees.

  • Angel Hernandez calling balls and strikes ? What a joke ! Rob Manfred, your a disgrace. No wonder S.F. and L.A. were pissed.

  • I would like to see the Cubs go after Conforto for LF, Galvis as a stop gap SS and to cover 2b and 3b, Then go after a Gray and Pineda and two veteran relievers. Conforto brings LH power, Galvis is a cheap switch hitting solid defensive SS that they’ll need. I don’ think Hoerner is an everyday SS, he doesn’t have the arm or health for it. Make him a super sub and play him 80-100 starts at SS, CF & 2b. Gray would be my one expensive signing, although if he gets a QO I would switch my focus to Stroman. Pineda or Matz for my 1-2 year deal. Also I think Marquez ends up in the BP, seems to fragile. So I would go Conforto 2yrs for 12-13 mill a year, Galvis 2 years 3-4 mill a year, Gray 4-5 years 22 mill a year, Pineda/Matz 2 years 8-9 mill a year and two vets in the BP for 2 years at 12 mill a year for both. That would be about 50 million added to no more than 80 million or so from returnees and that’s only about 130 million. If they can do that I would extend Contreras and you would still be at about 140 million or so. That would give them time to get their prospects up and make them at least semi respectable/watchable while you use the Ortega’s, Schwindells and Wisdoms of the world to save money.

  • In reply to PhillyCubFan:

    It is tough to guess contracts, or even what players Cubs will be interested in. Media is making it sound like Cubs will focus more on Matz, Pineda, & maybe Duffy range of starting pitchers in the free agent market?

    Cubs need to replace three starting pitchers from the start of last years rotation Davies, Arrietta, & Williams at a minimum in my book.

    I still think Jed will make a few trades this off-season to add talent, & clean up the 40 man roster. I think players like A. Mills will be offered in trade packages.

  • Kevin Gausman would be a great start, Marte at Center field, and the Dodgers utility man, the guy that hit the homer downing the Cards, would be great to kick the Dodgers in the groin !

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