Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 09/13/12

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 CCO Minor League Pitcher of the Year – Nick Struck, RHP
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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  • Tom K

    Thanks for keeping us informed! Great stuff!

  • redlarczykg

    Bour’s Minor League player of the year, but not given a chance to play at AAA Iowa, after Rizzo is promoted? I don’ get it.

    • Aaron

      I do….they’re just not high on him. Here is a list of the top 10 most likely guys I personally believe won’t even be in the organization at some point next year:

      Bour/Rohan (one of the 2, but not both)
      Jay Jackson
      McNutt (I’m just going on a limb here and saying that he’d be a Rule 5 selection, because they likely won’t protect him)
      Burke (while he’s proven to be pretty good as a pitcher, I just don’t feel they’re high on him at all, and will likely lose him)
      *with Bour/Rohan, Burgess, and Ridling, it’s highly likely that one of them (if not all) will be in Japan, or another organization if the Cubs release them (also likely). Bour might be the only one in that group they hang onto, but only if they release Rohan, and here’s why….Vitters at this point is highly unlikely to break camp with the Cubs, which means he will be the 3B at Iowa. Rohan plays, 1B and 3B primarily, so you have to figure if it comes down to Bour or Rohan, they’ll keep Bour due to age difference. Rohan would be looking at being an OF all of next year (or at least until Vitters is called back up). With Campana, Sappelt, and possibly even Brett Jackson ticketed for a return to Iowa, plus Ha, Szczur, Silva, and potentially Lake (if they move him to the OF) in line for a bump to AAA, that effectively means there wouldn’t be a spot for Rohan in the OF either. That happens sometimes, and it’s extremely unfortunate…A lot of deserving guys are either traded or released, even if they’re better than other internal options.

  • paulcatanese

    Great articles all year Tom,kept everyone well informed, thank you.

  • texcubnut

    Tom, I know you hear it often but as far as I’m concerned, it is not said often enough. Thank you, Tom.
    Neil has put together the best, and I mean the very best, Cub fan site on the internet. With your informative contributions, you just make it that much better!
    I look forward to next year and many more years of your excellent and well researched articles.
    So once again sir, and with great respect, thank you for ALL that you do.

  • Tom U

    Thank You to everyone for your comments this season. I really had a great time being able to provide all of you with the information. Remember what I’ve always said “the best fan is a well informed fan”.

  • brent carmona

    Tom, if its not too late, could you throw out a top list of what our starting pitching prospects might be ? Doesn’t have to be in order..

    I would think it would include the guys in this article, plus

    P Johnson
    Paniagua (spelling?)
    P Blackburn

    ill throw in tayler scott here because of his projectability and his background story.

  • brent carmona

    Ah I forgot dillon maples although he has barely pitched at all

  • Tom U

    Since the Bears aren’t doing too well, I’ll give it a try for you Brent. I’ll start with the low minors first.

    Daury Torrez
    Carlos A Rodriguez
    Alexander Santana
    Luis Villalba

    Ryan McNeil
    Paul Blackburn
    Dillon Maples
    Anthony Prieto
    Duane Underwood

    Tayler Scott
    Juan Carlos Paniagua
    Jose Arias

    Pierce Johnson
    Gerardo Concepcion

    Yao-Lin Wang
    Michael Jensen
    Ben Wells

    PJ Francescon

    Matt Loosen
    Kyle Hendricks
    Jacob Brigham
    Arodys Vizcaino

    Brooks Raley
    Chris Rusin
    Dallas Beeler
    Eric Jokisch

    The following are starters eligible for the Rule 5 Draft

    Jeffrey Antigua
    Austin Kirk
    Felix Pena
    Starling Peralta
    Nick Struck
    Robert Whitenack

    In addition, Kyler Burke can become a Minor League Free Agent

  • brent carmona

    That’s just what I wanted to hear and a whole lot more…thanks a bunch, now I feel like an informed fan hehe !

  • Tom U

    Sorry, Brent, I forgot one.

    Lendy Castillo will probably be pitching at the Double-A/Triple-A level next year.