The CCO’s post-season minor league awards conclude today with the Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Justin Bour was named Minor League Player of the Year on Monday, along with Tim Saunders and Daury Torrez being named Short-Season Player and Pitcher of the Year last week.
Although there was some excellent pitching at all levels, we only needed to look as far as the Tennessee Smokies for our list of candidates. While there were several great individual performances by the Smokies’ pitchers to consider, one pitcher stood out from the rest.
The beginning of the 2012 season must have seemed like a setback for right-handed starter Nick Struck. Struck had pitched in 12 games for Triple-A Iowa in 2011, starting 11 and posting a 2-4 record with a 5.20 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP in only his second season of professional baseball. However, a new front office placed Struck back at Tennessee for 2012, where he was 1-1 in six starts with a 2.31 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP (26 strikeouts and six walks) in 2011. The organizational Pitcher of the Month for June, Struck led the entire system by going 14-10 in 28 games, 26 starts, with 123 strikeouts and 44 walks (1.18 WHIP) for a team that ended up only four games over .500. Struck posted a 3.18 ERA, which was good for third behind teammates Austin Kirk and Eric Jokisch.
At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Nick Struck isn’t your prototypical imposing right hander. The Cubs selected the soon-to-be 23-year old (October 7) in the 39th round of the 2009 draft from Mount Hood Community College in Oregon. As a member of the Peoria Chiefs in 2010, Struck was 8-8 with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 25 games, 18 starts (84 strikeouts and 40 walks). Struck earned a promotion to Daytona toward the end of the 2010 season, and ended up with a 1-2 record in three games, two starts, with a 5.14 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP for the D-Cubs. Struck started the 2011 season back in Daytona, but only spent a little more than six weeks with the club after going 6-2 in 10 starts with a 3.42 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP (47 strikeouts and 16 walks in 50 innings).
While holding batters to a .238 average and maintaining a nearly 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio in 2012, Struck showed he still has some work to do. Struck has yielded nearly as many hits (421) as innings pitched (431.2) in his career, while serving up 28 homers in his three professional seasons.
Others considered for this year’s award were teammates Eric Jokisch and Austin Kirk. Jokisch led the Cubs’ system with a 3.11 ERA (1.19 WHIP) to go along with a 10-6 record and 115 strikeouts between Daytona and Tennessee. Kirk also split time between Daytona and Tennessee, and his ERA of 3.12 (1.30 WHIP) was just behind Jokisch. Kirk went 9-3 in 27 games, 25 starts, with 91 punch-outs and 60 walks. Reliever Frank Batista rounded out the slate. Batista earned 24 saves this season and has picked up 50 saves over the past two seasons. Batista was 2-0 with a 2.69 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 49 games with 44 strikeouts and 25 walks in 60.1 innings between Tennessee and Iowa.
This concludes our regular season coverage of the Chicago Cubs’ Minor League system for 2012. Thank you all once again for turning to the CCO for all of your minor league news. I’ll be back with some feature articles but until then, this is Tom U., signing off.
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