Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 10/06/11

The last of the CCO’s five-part series on the Cubs minor league system focuses on the pitching in the lower levels of the organization … the Boise Hawks and both the rookie league and Dominican summer league teams.

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

Boise Hawks – Starters

Grade – Pass

Young and inexperienced, the Boise starting rotation held their own and helped put the team in the playoffs. Living up to the international hype was right-hander Yao-Lin Wang. The Taiwanese 20-year old was only 4-4, but was second in the Northwest League in strikeouts with 77, fifth with a 1.25 WHIP, and his 3.22 ERA was good for sixth. Another 20-year old, righty Jose Rosario, was ninth in the league with a 3.53 ERA and his six wins were good for sixth in the league. The native New Yorker was 6-3 with 50 strikeouts to 18 walks and a 1.33 WHIP. Lefty Willengton Cruz’s 3.71 ERA would have been good for tenth, had he enough innings to qualify. The 21-year old Dominican was 1-2 with 50 strikeouts and 31 walks in 53.1 innings. Leading the team in starts, 18-year old Ben Wells struggled some in his first professional season. The big right-hander was 4-4 with a 4.66 ERA, but showed his future potential by striking out 53 while walking only 19 hitters in 77.1 innings. Not doing as well was 19-year old Austin Reed. The righty struggled with his command, and was 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA and just over a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio (36 strikeouts, 25 walks). Another 19-year old, Jin-Young Kim, failed to live up to his hype. The South Korean appeared overmatched at Boise, going 2-2 with a 7.66 ERA. He was able to regroup in the Rookie League, with a 2-0 record and 1.74 ERA in 20.2 innings. His countryman Su-Min Jung actually started the season at Peoria before coming to Boise. Jung had a hard time in Peoria, going 2-2 with a 5.36 ERA, and 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA at Boise before being mover to the pen after seven starts overall. There, he had a 1.63 ERA in 11 innings of work.

Boise Hawks – Bullpen

Grade – Fail

As much as the starting rotation helped secure a playoff spot, relief pitching put the Hawks in the position to squeak in rather than putting teams away. However, that was usually not the case with 22-year old Bryce Shafer. Second in the Northwest League with 12 saves, the righty had a 2.35 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 25.2 innings-pitched. The 2009 Cubs minor league player of the year, 23-year old Kyler Burke made a successful conversion back to the mound. The powerful lefty was 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 44 innings, also sporting a 1.23 WHIP. Twenty-three year old right-hander Joe Zeller was able to use his experience to compile a 1.95 ERA and three saves along with a 2-0 record and 1.16 WHIP in 27.2 innings.

But after those three players, things went downhill in a hurry. The best of the lot was righty Dustin Fitzgerald. The 21-year old was 3-1 with a 3.19, but nearly a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio (27 strikeouts, 23 walks) in 31 innings. Converted third baseman Charles Thomas had a 4.35 ERA and a 1-2 record in 17 appearances, with a 1.98 WHIP. However, the 22-year old right-handed pitcher was called up to Peoria at the end of the season. Nineteen-year-old righty Colin Richardson managed only a 5.64 ERA in 15 appearances, but had 25 strikeouts to 12 walks. Twenty-two year old right-hander Hector Mayora posted a 5.29 ERA in 17 innings. After signing near the deadline, left-handers Sheldon McDonald and Andrew McKirahan had four appearances apiece for Boise. The 22-year old McDonald had a 4.91 ERA, while 21-year old McKirahan’s ERA was 2.25. Fellow 2011 draftees Michael Jensen and Tony Zych gave up no earned runs in two appearances each.

Arizona Rookie League Cubs

Pitching for the AZL Cubs finished the season with a 28-28 record, 4.08 ERA, and struck out 460 batters opposed to 197 free passes. Not too bad for a squad that ran through 31 players and had an average age of 20. Here are some thoughts about the pitchers that have not been covered in previous summaries.

The AZL Cubs had what could be considered a starting rotation, which was headed up by 18-year old Brian Smith. The Canadian left-hander led the staff with 12 starts, was second with 41 strikeouts, and had a 3-4 record and 3.30 ERA. Leading in punch-outs was 20-year old Hunter Ackerman with 49. The southpaw was the fourth round pick of the Cubs in 2010 and Ackerman posted a 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA in 44 innings (nine starts). Eighteen year-old James Pugliese was the Cubs 18th round pick this past June and started nine games for the team. The big righty was 2-2 and a 4.62 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 39 innings.
If anyone could be considered a closer, it would be 21-year old Yilver Sanchez. The Dominican right-hander actually had four appearances in Boise before tossing 26.1 innings for the AZL Cubs. Sanchez was 1-3 with a 2.39 ERA, 32 strikeouts, and two saves in 14 appearances. Another Dominican, 19-year old Rafael Diplan, was tried as a relive but with less success. The righty had a 7.07 ERA and a save in 14 innings.

Felix Pena, a 21-year old right-hander, hurled 39 innings and was 3-2 with a 6.92 ERA and 32 strikeouts. A pair of 19-year old right-handers, Alvido Jimenez and Ramon Garcia, was next on the list. Jimenez was 3-1 and a 2.50 ERA with 22 strikeouts and two saves. Garcia saw time with Peoria and Tennessee, and was 6-2 with a 3.21 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 53 innings overall. Also appearing at multiple levels were 23-year old Jean Sandoval and 19-year old Ryan Hartman. Both right-handers, Sandoval was 3-2 with a 2.12 ERA and 1.06 WHIP between Boise and the Rookie League; while Illinois native Hartman had a 3-0 record and 5.59 ERA in 29 innings between Peoria and the AZL Cubs. Two other right-handed pitchers who struggled were 22-year old Santo Rodriguez and 27-year old Yoannis Negrin. Rodriguez also saw time in Boise and Arizona, and was 1-3 with a 12.15 ERA in 20 innings. Signed late in the season, Negrin pitching in Arizona, Peoria, and Daytona and was1-1 and a 4.85 ERA, with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings combined.

Eighteen year-old lefty Luis Villabla, and 19-year old righties Tayler Scott and Amaury Paulino also saw brief action in Arizona.

Dominican Summer League

With 51 pitchers taking the mound between the Cubs’ two teams in the academy, covering each one would take another entire article. Here are some of the more outstanding performers.

One of the youngest players to take the hill, 17-year old Alexander Santana shows a lot of promise. The right-handed pitcher was 4-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 67.1 innings covering 14 starts. Santana received an invite to the Instructional League this fall. A pair of 20-year old right-handers in Jose Arias and Loiger Padron was among the top in ERA for starting pitchers. Arias was 1-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 43.1 innings over 12 appearances (10 starts). Padron pitched for both teams and was 6-3 with 49 punch-outs with a 1.02 WHIP and 2.44 ERA in 17 appearances, six of which were starting assignments. Pitching exclusively for Cubs-2, 19-year old Victor Garcia led the Cubs’ teams with 64 strikeouts. The left-hander was 3-2 and a 2.95 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in eight starts as part of 14 appearances. Eighteen-year-old Augusto Colinas may have a future as a closer. The lefty was 5-2 with two saves, a 2.65 ERA, and 35 strikeouts in 37.1 innings. A name to remember for next season could be Francisco Turbi. Although 23-years old, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound right-hander was 4-1 with 11 saves and a 3.09 ERA, with a 1.13 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 32 innings.

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