Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 10/04/11

The CCO’s Minor League analysis will focus on the pitchers in the Cubs’ system over the next three reports. For those that missed last week’s reports, the CCO took a look at the Cubs infield and catching prospects and then the outfielders down on the farm.

First up, the pitching staffs of the Iowa Cubs and Tennessee Smokies.

Pitching Analysis

Because pitching assignments can be fluid (career starters can be used out of the bullpen, and relievers with little starting experience can but used in that role), the grading scale I will use will be:

  • Pass
  • Fail
  • Incomplete

The reports are broken down by level, assignments, right-handed and left-handed pitchers.

Iowa Cubs – Right-Handed Starters

Grade – Fail

The previous General Manager for the Cubs deemed his Triple-A club as a repository for other organization’s unsuccessful prospects that he never intended to bring to the parent club. This was truly apparent in the pitching staff that, with only a few exceptions, lacked any future potential. Bookending this notion were Thomas Diamond and Dave Bush. Picked up on the waiver wire from the Rangers organization in September of 2009, Diamond posted 1-3 record with an 8.66 ERA before being released in early June. Bush was brought in late in the season, as injuries continued to decimate that parent club. The Major League vet was 1-2 with a 6.14 ERA in five starts before opting out of his contract and becoming a free agent. Austin Bibens-Dirkx came from the Seattle system in 2009, and split time between Iowa and Tennessee this season. The 26-year old Bibens-Dirkx was a combined 6-7 with an ERA of 5.94. Bibens-Dirkx posted just over a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio (91 strikeouts, 40 walks), and served up an unacceptable 21 home runs. Out of all these type of pitchers, former Angel Ramon Ortiz put up the best numbers. The 38-year old was 6-3 with a 4.26 ERA and a better than 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio (81 strikeouts, 20 walks).

The prospects that were actually given a chance to perform at the Triple-A level produced, at best, a mixed bag of results.

Leading the way was 23-year old Casey Coleman in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Coleman was 5-2 with a 3.65 ERA and a team best 1.23 WHIP for starters. He also struck out 54 and walked 22 (better than a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio) in between call-ups to the majors. Another 23-year old, Jay Jackson, led the I-Cubs with 26 starts. Battling injuries and inconsistency, Jackson was 8-14 with a 5.34 ERA. Jackson always seemed to be giving up the big inning, and appeared to try and be “too fine” to overcome a shaky defense for most of the year. Twenty-one year old Nick Struck shot through the system in 2011, but seemed to meet his match in Triple-A. While only 2-4 with a 5.20 ERA in 12 starts for Iowa, Struck was 9-7 with a 3.91 ERA through three levels of the system. Combined, he struck out 111 while walking 44, and surrendered only four home runs. Overmatched can best describe Alberto Cabrera and his performance at Iowa. The 22-year old was 6-2 with only a 5.36 ERA and 1.66 WHIP at Tennessee, Cabrera had 17 starts in Triple-A, and was 3-6 with an ERA of 6.60 and impossibly high WHIP of 1.92.

Iowa Cubs – Left-Handed Starters

Grade – Incomplete

What can you say when there are only two left-handed starters, and one did well while the other was released? Minor league veteran J.R. Mathes started the season in the rotation but was released at the end of May, as he was 2-4 with a 9.07 ERA. Promoted at the beginning of July, 24-year old Chris Rusin went 5-2 with a 4.02 ERA for the I-Cubs. Overall, Rusin was 8-4 with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. Rusin struck out 95 and walked 30 in 138 2/3 innings between Tennessee and Iowa.

Iowa Cubs – Right-Handed Relievers

Grade – Fail

The most consistent right-handed reliever for Iowa this season was 26-year old Blake Parker. Parker was 3-3 with a 2.81 ERA and four saves in 51.1 innings. Big things were expected for a pair of 27-year olds in Marcos Mateo and Justin Berg, but neither was able to deliver. After having a big season in the winter leagues, Mateo was 1-3 and an ERA of 6.87 with the I-Cubs before going on the disabled list in early July with elbow soreness. Berg made it to Wrigley this season, but was undistinguished in eight appearances. He was 4-1 with three saves and a 5.16 ERA in 29.2 innings for Iowa before he went on the DL. Another 27-year old, Esmailin Caridad, also struggled with injuries. He notched four saves and was 3-2 but had an 8.27 ERA and finished the season in Double-A. Acquired in the Kosuke Fukudome deal, 25-year old Carlton Smith was forgettable in his 12 appearances for the I-Cubs, going 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA. Twenty-six year old Robert Coello was acquired from Boston before the season and was given 11 starts, with a record of 5-6 with a 6.68 ERA and a quick trip to Tennessee. Upon returning, Coello was used strictly out of the bullpen and was 1-0 with a save and a 0.79 ERA in 34.1 innings. Flamethrower Chris Carpenter made appearances with the big league club, but was far from a polished product. The 25-year old is capable of consistently hitting 100 mph on the radar gun, but was 2-3 with a 6.53 ERA and a trip to the disabled list for a strained oblique.

Iowa Cubs – Left-Handed Relievers

Grade – Pass

The best pitchers on the 2011 Iowa Cubs’ staff had to be 26-year olds Scott Maine and John Gaub. Maine led the club with 12 saves and had a 3-4 record with a 3.68 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 51.1 innings. However, Maine didn’t get the job done in 7 appearances in Chicago, with a 10.29 ERA. Gaub was acquired from the Indians in the Mark DeRosa deal on the final day of 2008, and had one of his finest seasons in 2011. Gaub was 4-4 with a 3.42 ERA in 55.1 innings, recording seven saves and 75 strikeouts against 40 walks. Both appear to have what it takes to be future situational left-handers, or LOOGY’s, at the big league level … if they can throw enough strikes.

Tennessee Smokies – Right-Handed Starters

Grade – Incomplete

If it weren’t for injuries to Trey McNutt and Robert Whitenack, there is no telling what the grade for this unit would have been. The 22-year old Whitenack had been streaking through the system, compiling a 7-0 record with a 1.93 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP and a better than 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio (47 strikeouts, 14 walks). Whitenack’s season ended on May 27 when he left the game with two outs in the third inning. Whitenack ended up having season-ending Tommy John surgery. McNutt also rose rapidly through the system in 2010, and big things were expected of him this past year. Unfortunately, the 22-year old suffered from blister and rib cage problems throughout a majority of the season. McNutt didn’t post bad numbers, at 5-6 with a 4.55 ERA in 95 innings, but it wasn’t the 10-1 record with 132 strikeouts season of 2010. McNutt will soon be suiting up for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, where, hopefully, he can put his injury problems behind him.

The surprise of the Smokies’ staff was 22-year old Australian Ryan Searle. Promoted to Tennessee after going 1-2 with a 1.59 ERA in 16 appearances, all in relief, for Daytona, Searle made 11 relief appearances before converting to a starting role. Searle was 3-3 as a starter, and 5-3 overall with a 3.51 ERA, with some promise for the future. Also promising was 22-year old Dallas Beeler. Beeler made a bigger jump, coming from the Peoria Chiefs after posting a 1-1 record and 1.66 ERA as a piggyback starter. Placed in a traditional starting role at Tennessee, Beeler went a hard-luck 1-5, but had a 4.53 ERA and 33 strikeouts with only seven walks, a nearly 5:1 ratio. Beeler was placed on the disabled list on July 26. Beeler returned at the end of the season and made three starts for the Peoria Chiefs … not allowing an earned run in 8.2 innings. Twenty-four year old Marco Carrillo was the jack-of-all-trades for Tennessee, thriving on work. Carrillo posted a 4-0 record and a 1.21 ERA, with a spot start and a save in a closing role, in 17 appearances in the first six weeks of the season before being promoted to Iowa. There, Carrillo made only 11 appearances in nearly two months, and returned to the Smokies as a starter. He went 1-4 down the stretch and finished with a 5-4 record and a 2.36 ERA. For someone who uses him correctly, the rubber-armed Carrillo could be a valuable member of a pitching staff.

Tennessee Smokies – Left-Handed Starters

Grade – Pass

After much consideration, this squad gets a barely passing grade based more on the promise of Chris Rusin and Eric Jokisch, than on the somewhat shaky performance of Brooks Raley. Rusin’s season was documented with the Iowa starters, while Jokisch will be discussed under Peoria.

The 23-year old Brooks Raley had an enigmatic season for Tennessee. Leading the team with 26 starts, he posted a 4.22 ERA with 80 strikeouts and 45 walks. However, his 8-10 record was mediocre, while his 16 home runs allowed were unacceptable. Raley displays some talent, but will need to show more consistency to advance.

Tennessee Smokies – Right-Handed Relief

Grade – Pass

The Smokies right-handed relief corps featured a high-profile pitcher in Rafael Dolis. However, the grade reflects the efforts of his fellow right-handers rather than Dolis. The 23-year old appears to have good numbers on the surface, 8-5 with a 3.22 ERA and 17 saves. But some of his numbers were skewed from four starts he made at the beginning of the season. Dolis only went 1-1 in those games, but posted a 2.70 ERA with 15 strikeouts and seven walks. Subtracting those numbers, Dolis was 7-4 in relief with a 3.38 ERA that included 33 strikeouts and 28 walks …not the kind of numbers that inspire confidence for a closer.

Tennessee actually opened with 23-year old David Cales as its closer, and he delivered six saves in nine appearances with a 3.86 ERA. Unfortunately, he too went down with an injury that required Tommy John surgery. Another tragic occurrence in eastern Tennessee happened to Ty’Relle Harris. Harris was enjoying some success as a set-up man, with a 2.10 ERA in 17 appearances, when he suffered injuries as another motorist struck his car. There has been no word as to whether Harris will ever pitch again.

However, the real gems in Tennessee were Marcus Hatley, Oswaldo Martinez, and Kevin Rhoderick. Doing a lot of the dirty work, 23-year old Hatley was usually called upon when other pitchers were in trouble. He had a 4.66 ERA and four saves in 22 appearances. Rhoderick was the workhorse of the bullpen, leading the team with 45 appearances. The 22-year old’s 3.47 ERA reflects the amount of times he was asked to put out other pitcher’s fires, and his 7-0 record his success. Also 22-years old, Martinez’s 2.34 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 20 appearances was among the best for the right-handers. Each one of these pitchers had around a 2:1 strikeout ratio.

Twenty-seven year old Jeff Stevens was demoted from Iowa and was 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA, two saves, and 52 strikeouts in 25 appearances. After being loaned to the Mexican League, 25-year old Hung-Wen Chen saw action as a reliever upon his return. He ended up 1-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 29 innings.

Tennessee Smokies – Left-Handed Relief

Grade – Pass

What other grade can you give the organization’s Pitcher of the Year? Jeffrey Beliveau had an outstanding season, consistently slamming the door on the Smokies’ opponents. The 24-year old was 6-1 with a 1.89 ERA and three saves in 57 innings of work. Beliveau posted a 0.87 WHIP with 69 strikeouts and only 13 walks. He will be representing the United States on the Pan Am/World Cup team.

Traded in the Rodrigo Lopez deal, Ryan Buchter made ten appearances for Tennessee. Much traveled 23-year old Brent Ebinger had six appearances in a short stint, while Luke Sommer was released after eight early appearances.

More Analysis of the Cubs Farm System

Next up … The CCO will take a look at the pitching staffs of the Daytona Cubs and Peoria Chiefs

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