Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 10/05/11

Next up on the CCO’s trip through the Cubs minor league system are the pitching staffs of the Daytona Cubs and Peoria Chiefs.

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.

Daytona Cubs – Right-Handed Starters

Grade – Pass

Another tough call, but the performance of Dae-Eun Rhee gives this squad the edge. The fire-balling 22-year old South Korean was second in the organization with 117 strikeouts against 43 free passes. He’ll need to become more of a pitcher than thrower to advance, as his 8-7 record, 4.02 ERA and ten home runs allowed will attest, but his future looks bright. The yang to Rhee’s yin would be Brett Wallach. Acquired from the Dodgers last season, the 22-year old had a tough time this season. Wallach was 3-5 with a 5.74 ERA before being demoted to Peoria, where he was 1-4 with a 6.49 ERA. He does have some ability to work with, as he had 71 strikeouts in 18 games for the D-Cubs with 96 K’s overall.

With the more transitory nature of “A” ball, Nick Struck was 6-2 for Daytona, while 21-year old Aaron Kurcz was 3-2 with a 3.58 in 12 starts before converting to a reliever. Twenty-two year old Matt Loosen made six starts for Daytona, in which he was 2-3 with a 4.42 ERA. Pitching at three levels, Loosen was 4-6 with a 3.55 ERA, and 75 strikeouts to 27 walks in 17 games.

However, all starters at Daytona were subject to a bizarre arrangement to rehab 29-year old Angel Guzman. Guzman started every fourth game and pitched up to two innings each time. In the process Guzman bumped the scheduled starter all the way the third inning. It was well documented how each of the young pitchers suffered from this plan, and Guzman was 0-3 with a 4.26 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 31.2 innings before being demoted to Boise.

Daytona Cubs – Left-Handed Starters

Grade – Pass

The core of the future pitching staff begins here. Twenty-three year old Jeffrey Lorick was acquired from Atlanta last season and led Daytona with 18 starts. Lorick was 8-6 with a 5.38 ERA and 75 strikeouts to 44 walks. However Lorick went on the disabled list toward the end of the season. He joined another 23-year old on the DL in Zachary Rosscup. As part of the Matt Garza deal, Rosscup was 4-2 with a more than a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio (50 strikeouts, 19 walks) and a 2.54 ERA before being lost for the season in late June. To pick up the slack, 22-year old Casey Harman was pressed into service from the bullpen. He was 4-5 with a 4.47 ERA and, most importantly, 48 strikeouts to only 12 walks. Also coming in from the pen was Jeffry Antigua. The move seemed to suit the 21-year old. While going only 2-2, he struck out 81 while walking only 18 and posted a 2.92 ERA with a 1.11 WHIP.

Daytona Cubs – Right-Handed Relief

Grade – Pass

If you are looking for anything that resembles classic closer, look no further than Frank Batista. At 5-foot-10, 170-pounds, Batista will bring back memories of former Cub Tom “Flash” Gordon in both stature and performance. The 22-year old All-Star was 5-3 with a 2.36 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. In 61.0 innings, he struck out 46 and walked just 20 as he recorded 26 saves. After 12 starts, Aaron Kurcz was sent to the pen however, the move didn’t seem to be the best. The 6-foot, 175-pounder was 2-2 with a 5.45 ERA in 20 appearances. For all that, Kurcz is a strikeout pitcher, recording 91 whiffs to 34 walks overall. Acquired from the Dodgers in 2010, Kyle Smit came to the organization with the reputation of having a big arm and future closer potential. After making appearances in the 2010 Arizona Fall League, the 23-year old started the season in Tennessee. However, after having a 5.40 ERA in 43.1 innings for the Smokies, he was demoted to the D-Cubs. He didn’t do much better in Daytona, going 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA. He also made six brief appearances in Iowa as a roster fill-in, with a 10.12 ERA. Smit will need to work on his control, as his 1.96 WHIP for the season will attest.

Middle relief was well provided, as 24-year old Jordan Latham was second in appearances with 41. Latham was 6-2 with a 4.70 ERA. Twenty-two year old Eduardo Figueroa had the most bullpen innings with 70.2, and had an exact 2:1 strikeout ratio with 56 strikeouts to 23 walks. Figueroa ended up 2-2 and a 2.42 ERA. Juan Serrano chipped in with a 4-1 record and a 3.67 ERA. The 23-year old also had 41 strikeouts to 20 walks in 56.1 innings.

Daytona Cubs – Left-Handed Relief

Grade – Incomplete

Left-handed relief was mainly transient for Daytona, with Jeffrey Beliveau, and the traded Ryan Buchter passing through, along with Casey Harman and Jeffry Antigua converted to starters. However, 23-year old Brent Ebinger made 19 appearances, and struggled mightily. He was 5-5 for the D-Cubs with a horrid ERA of 7.74 and 1.88 WHIP in 43 innings.

Peoria Chiefs – Right-Handed Starters

Grade – Fail

The fate for Peoria’s right-handed starters was sealed by the performance of Hayden Simpson. The 2010 first round draft pick was clearly not ready for the season, as his fitness and conditioning were curtailed due to illness. Second on the team in starts with 16, the 22-year old went 1-6 with a 5.27 ERA. Sent to the Rookie League to regroup, Simpson ended up 1-10 with a 6.27 ERA combined. Twenty-one year old Luis Liria’s numbers seem pedestrian at 3-3 with a 3.77 ERA. But when you combine it with a WHIP of 1.04, 3.44 ERA, and more than a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio (58 strikeouts, 27 walks) between Peoria and Boise, there is some promise. With similar, but not as good, numbers was Starling Peralta. Just 20 years old, he started 12 games for the Chiefs and was 3-5 with a 5.68 ERA. After 15 appearances out of the pen, the Cubs 40th round pick in the 2011 draft P.J. Francescon was given two starts late in the season and had a 1.50 ERA in those performances, earning him a call-up to Daytona. The 22-year old made one more start and finished the year at 1-4 with a 3.49 ERA, three saves, 1.22 WHIP, and 44 strikeouts with only eight walks in 38.2 innings.

Peoria Chiefs – Left-Handed Starters

Grade – Pass

As stated with the Daytona lefties, future major leaguers seem be here. At the top of the list is 22-year old Eric Jokisch. Beginning the season as a piggyback starter for Hayden Simpson, Jokisch moved into the primary role and was 9-3 with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. His 103 strikeouts were good for third in the organization. Jokisch was promoted all the way up to Tennessee, where he was 1-0 with a 4.11 ERA in three starts. Looking at some of the numbers for 21-year old Austin Kirk, you might not be that impressed. Kirk led the Peoria staff with 28 starts and was 5-12 with a 4.29 ERA. However, he also had a 1.19 WHIP and led the organization with 122 strikeouts, as well as tossing a Fourth of July no-hitter.

Acquired in the off-season from Washington, 21-year old Graham Hicks was third on the team with 14 starts however, ended up on the disabled list on July third. At 6-foot-5, 170 pounds, the string-bean lefty was 1-3 with a 4.01 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. He made two rehab appearances with the AZL Cubs late in the season. Twenty-two Year old Cuban Frank Del Valle bears some watching. After blowing away the Rookie League with his near 100 mph stuff, Del Valle came to the Chiefs and was 3-2 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, earning a promotion to Daytona. For the season Del Valle was 3-4 with a 3.95 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and a better than 2:1 strikeout to walk ration (47 strikeouts, 20 walks) in 14 games. Going an opposite direction was Cameron Greathouse. The Cubs eighth round pick in the 2010 draft started the season strong, but a 4-5 record and 4.37 ERA earned him a trip to Boise. With the Hawks, Greathouse was 0-5 and a 7.58 ERA, and was moved further down to the AZL Cubs. Greathouse made four appearances in the Rookie League to finish at 4-10 and a 5.06 ERA with a 1.91 WHIP. While his 87 strikeouts and 87 walks are not encouraging, keep in mind that he is just 20-years old.

Peoria Chiefs – Bullpen – Incomplete

Grade – Incomplete

One of the toughest things to maintain in the low minors is a good bullpen. Simply by its nature, when someone does well, they are moved up to fill hole in the system. This was especially true in Peoria this season. Opening the season in the closer role, Marcus Hatley was moved all the way up to Tennessee after going 2-1 with a 2.35 ERA and three saves. Moving into the closer role was 20-year old Robinson Lopez. Acquired from Atlanta last season, the right-handed Lopez was 2-0 in four starts before going to the pen, where he recorded a save. However, Lopez ended up on the DL, the first of two stints. Lopez finished the year 4-3 with a 5.35 ERA in 26 appearances. Needing someone to close out games, the organization rescued 23-year old Dan Berlind from the independent Can-Am League. The 6-foot-7, 215-pounder seemed to resuscitate his career, going 1-3 with four saves in 25.2 innings for the Chiefs. The right-hander then went to Iowa, before settling in a Tennessee prior to their playoff run. Overall, he was 2-3 with a 3.98 ERA and 22 strikeouts to 10 walks in 31.2 innings. Berlind was un-scored upon in the playoffs for the Smokies. Also showing future closer potential were righties Pete Levitt and Roderik Pichardo. The 22-year old Levitt was only 1-1 with a 4.55 ERA, but struck out 21 with only five walks in 27.2 innings. Brought in from the Dominican Summer League, 21-year old Pichardo was 1-1 and a 1.69 ERA with two saves in 16 innings.

In middle relief, 25-year old righty Alvaro Sosa was available to provide experience and mentor the younger pitchers. Sosa was 4-2 with a 3.42 ERA and a save in 34 appearances. Twenty-one year old Yohan Gonzalez led the bullpen with 40 appearances and 73.1 innings. The right-handed pitcher was 5-6 and a 5.15 ERA with three saves. An enigma was 21-year old Larry Suarez. A huge right-hander at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, Suarez was perfect in 16 innings for Peoria, with no earned runs and 23 strikeouts. He added 12 more K’s and a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings of work at Daytona, but then was given four starts at Tennessee. In six games with the Smokies, Suarez was 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA and 11 more strikeouts before being placed on the disabled list. Whether his future will be as a starter or as a closer remains uncertain.

More Analysis of the Cubs Farm System

Next up … The CCO will take a look at the pitching staffs of the Boise Hawks, AZL Cubs and the Dominican Summer Leagues

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver