Cubs Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year 2002-2012

There was quite a bit made about the Cubs losing Jeff Beliveau on waivers last week to the Rangers. Beliveau has the makings of a good lefty specialist (LOOGY) and he was the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year just the season before last. Did the Cubs give up on him too quickly? Or did a calculated gamble backfire?

Whether or not Beliveau will realize his promise with the Rangers’ organization or not is a debate for another day. But being named as a player or pitcher of the year in the Cubs organization has become more of an exercise in ‘whatever happened to’ than seeing the player meet or exceed expectations in blue pinstripes.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have repeated since day one that their goal is to build an organization with sustained success. To have a minor league system that is strong enough to feed the big league team with talent and keep the team playing in October so hopefully they will be able to knock the door down one day.

The Cubs minor league system has not produced enough quality players over the years. And there is a multitude of reasons as to why. Either from bad drafts or the unwillingness to spend over slot for the top talent in the draft or signing free agents tied to draft pick compensation and loosing those picks for that given year (see the 2006 draft) or not selecting the players recommended by the scouting director, the list goes on and on. And to add insult to bad drafting, the Cubs did not have a system-wide development plan in place to teach the game to the players in order to maximize their talent.

Only a handful of the organization’s pitchers and players of the year have contributed to the Cubs at the big league level since 2002. While players such as Chris Archer (2010), Brandon Guyer (2010), Kevin Hart (2007), Eric Patterson (2005), Sean Gallagher (2005), Renyel Pinto (2004) and Hee-Seop Choi (2002) have been used in trades to land Matt Garza, Rich Harden, John Grabow, Juan Pierre, Tom Gorzelanny and Derrek Lee, the list of the Cubs’ pitchers and players of the year have not become the Major League players that some thought they would.

Cubs Minor League Players and Pitchers of the Year 2012-2002

2012

It is yet to be seen how Logan Watkins and Nick Struck will perform in the majors. Watkins has the tools to be the next Darwin Barney or at least a solid utility player. Struck has good stuff but some question if it will translate into outs in the big leagues.

2011

Bryan LaHair had a career-year in 2011 both at the Triple-A level and in winter ball. LaHair then performed well enough in September to earn a shot the next season with the new regime. As with most career minor leaguers, LaHair could not sustain his early success that got him voted onto the NL All-Star squad and will play in Japan for the next two seasons.

As for Jeff Beliveau, he struggled with throwing strikes in 2012 starting with a less than stellar Spring Training. Beliveau, as mentioned, has the stuff to be a lefty specialist for a long time in the big leagues … that is if he can throw enough strikes.

2010

Chris Archer has the best shot of having a successful big league career of any of the Cubs recent pitchers of the year. Archer was sent to Tampa in the Matt Garza deal, along with Brandon Guyer. Archer has excellent stuff that could land him in the back of Tampa’s pen before it is all said and done. Guyer figures to be a fourth or fifth outfielder and he could carve out a successful career … that is if he can stay off the disabled list and on the field.

2009

Casey Coleman drew unfair comps to Greg Maddux early in his career. Coleman was considered (and still is) a smart pitcher without overpowering stuff that would be able to locate his pitches for strikes. Coleman was given multiple chances by the previous regime and simply could not throw enough quality strikes. Coleman was then mishandled during Spring Training in 2011 and was thrust into the rotation after injuries to Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells left the Cubs without many options. Coleman was not stretched out as a starter during camp and has struggled since.

The Cubs acquired Kyler Burke from the Padres, along with Rob Bowen, in the Michael Barrett trade and it appeared then that the Cubs might have received a useable player moving forward. But the southpaw could not hit enough and has since been converted to a starting pitcher. Burke (3-9 with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 27 games, 19 starts, for Peoria and Daytona) did well last year and could end up in the backend of the Cubs’ pen one day.

2008

The Cubs selected Mitch Atkins in the seventh round of the 2004 draft. Atkins had two cups of coffee with the Cubs in 2009 and 2010. Atkins pitched in seven games, all in relief, in the two seasons and managed a 5.25 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP in 12 innings. Atkins finished out 2010 with the Orioles, spent 2011 in Baltimore’s system then signed a minor league contract with the Nationals. Atkins spent the 2012 campaign at the Triple-A level in Washington’s system. Atkins, like so many Cubs’ pitching prospects, could not throw the ball over the plate.

Micah Hoffpauir became the guy that just about everyone rooted for. The Cubs tabbed Hoffpauir in the 13th round of the 2002 draft and he finished his breakout season of 2008 with the big league team. Hoffpauir was very good during a 33-game stretch in 2008, was exposed in 2009 (.239/.300/.427/.727 with 12 doubles and 10 home runs) then faded in 2010 (.173/.246/.231/.476 with three doubles in 24 games). The Cubs let Hoffpauir out of his contract and he went to Japan in 2011. Hoffpauir is coming off a decent second season overseas.

2007

The Cubs landed Kevin Hart as the PTBNL in the Freddie Bynum deal with the Orioles in December of 2006 and it appeared the Cubs had landed a backend of the rotation starter for a utility player. Hart was excellent in 2007 but struggled in the majors and when it was starting to look like he was putting it together, the Cubs shipped him to Pittsburgh, along with Josh Harrison and Jose Ascanio, for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny. The trade with the Bucs was finalized and announced after Hart beat the Astros. Hart has struggled with injuries since and has not pitched in the majors since 2009. Hart spent last season in Independent Ball.

Geovany Soto has performed better in the majors than any other pitcher or player of the year in the last 10 years. Soto was known as a defensive catcher prior to his breakout season of 2007. While Lou Piniella was busy going through catcher after catcher with the Cubs in 2007, Soto was putting numbers on the board in Iowa. Soto finished the year with the Cubs and was named Rookie of the Year the following season. Soto could never build on his 2008 season and inconsistency, along with an out of proportion contract, forced the new regime to trade him last July.

2006

The Cubs did not name a position player of the year in 2006 and decided to give the Minor League Player of the Year award to a pair of lefties … Rich Hill and Donald Veal. Rich Hill and his devastating curve ball carved up the PCL in 2005 and 2006. Hill then helped the Cubs win the NL Central Crown in 2007 but was never the same after his game three start in the playoffs that began with a long home run off the bat of Chris Young. Hill struggled in 2008 and was dealt to the Orioles in February of 2009 for cash considerations or a PTBNL (the two teams settled the deal with an undisclosed amount of money).

Donald Veal, like so many players around this time, was mishandled by the Cubs organization and they lost him in the Rule 5 Draft to the Pirates in December of 2008. After injuries derailed his career for a couple of seasons, the southpaw from Arizona discovered his niche last season in the White Sox bullpen.

2005

Both Sean Gallagher and Eric Patterson were traded to Oakland in the Rich Harden deal, along with Josh Donaldson, in July of 2008. Gallagher and Patterson did not do much in Oakland but Josh Donaldson stepped up last season for the AL West Champions. Gallagher struggled with his command and was not able to live up to the Baseball America rankings (ranked fifth in the Cubs system by BA in both 2007 and 2008) selection while Eric Patterson has pretty much followed the same career path as his older brother and spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Tigers’ system.

2004

Renyel Pinto was dealt to the Marlins in the Juan Pierre trade along with Sergio Mitre and Ricky Nolasco in December of 2005. Pinto owns a career mark of 8-10 in 244 games, all in relief, over five seasons with the Marlins. Pinto posted a 3.62 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP and spent last season with the Softbank Hawks in Japan.

Brian Dopirak was the Cubs second round pick in the 2002 draft and was ranked as the 21st best player in the game prior to the 2005 season. Dopirak had a monster season with Class-A Lansing in 2004 and posted a .307/.363/.593/.957 line with 38 doubles and 39 home runs. Dopirak could not repeat his success and was released in 2008. Dopirak tried to catch on with the Blue Jays and Astros but never made it to the big leagues.

2003

The Cubs did not designate between pitchers and position players when handing out minor league awards until after the 2003 season.

The Cubs selected Chadd Blasko in the supplemental round of the 2002 draft out of Purdue. Blasko was 10-6 in 26 combined starts for Lansing and Daytona in 2003 with a 1.95 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. Blasko made it as high as Double-A West Tenn in 2004.

2002

Hee-Seop Choi had a tremendous 2002 campaign with the I-Cubs in which he posted a .287/.406/.513/.919 line with 24 doubles and 26 home runs and appeared to be on his way with the big league team until he hit his head on the turf during a game at Wrigley Field against the Yankees in 2003. The Cubs traded Choi, along with Mike Nannini to the Marlins for Derrek Lee in November of 2003.

 

There is no doubt that being named an organization’s player or pitcher of the year is an honor and it should not be discounted. With that said, it would speak volumes moving forward if the players that are tabbed as the organization’s player and pitcher of the year end up being productive big leaguers for the Cubs … or the team in which they were traded.

Cubs Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year 1990 – 2012

 

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  • Ripsnorter1

    I think it is real simple: the people picking these folks as “Player of the Year” do not know how to pick talent.

    • Tony_Hall

      Maybe he already has….

      Remember, when you have an award to give out, someone has to win it, even if no one is deserving.

      I think we need to just admit how bad JH’s drafts and player development were for all those years.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Rip, here is a link to show the change that has been made recently in the system

      http://chicagocubsonline.com/archives/2012/12/cubsminorscoach.php

      • Ripsnorter1

        Thank you Neil.

  • Ripsnorter1

    If you click the link above, you will see that only 2 players back to 1990 had any ML success: Steve Traeschel and Kerry Wood.

  • mutantbeast

    Hendry stuck at drafting players. Not ONE Hendry draft choice had sustained success with the Cubs. Anyone remember the great Mark Pawelek? Or Grant Jackson? Funny, Jeff Spellcheck might be the best pl,ayer Hendry drafted, and they had to buy him out of the NFL.

  • Brp921

    Looking at the MILB POY’s got me to thinking about the young Kerry Wood…man if his arm could have sustained that slider…if Prior wouldn’t have been hurt…those two could’ve been one of the best one two combinations ever.

  • Ray Ray

    I think this was pointed out before that the draft is a crapshoot. Look at the starting pitchers Theo developed in Boston. Very sad! They had multiple 1st round picks in many of his drafts and the ONLY starting pitcher to consistently start are Clay Buccholz who had 1 breakout year in 2010 and Justin Masterson. That is it. Unless somehow Michael Bowden(former Theo 1st round pick) makes the rotation . Lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/rich.hood.144 Rich Hood

    I hate to mention it but the Cubs problem is not having talent. As Tony has pointed out again and again we have a lot of talent in our system. The problem is development of that talent and getting them ready to play at the Major League level.

    Look at some of the players that the Cardinals over the years have gotten to the big leagues. Before they arrived had anyone heard of David Freese, Allen Craig or any of the pitchers that they have developed recently? Now I am not talking about the Shelby Millers of the world but tell me that anyone other than the most astute analyst had Lynn on their radar last February?

    The reason I bring this up is for years minor league prophets have said that the Cards system is barely producing and have them ranked from the middle of the pack by some to the very bottom from others yet every time they bring a kid up he is ready to play.

    You should hear all the griping about Tony Larussa down my way with his handling of these young guys but guess what it works. He always made the kids earn playing time and never put them in positions to fail. While on the other side of the ledger the Cubs seem to have failure after failure from our system. Hmmm makes you wonder.

    Now we have a new FO and a “Cubs way” that is good we need a cohesive strategy. The reorganization of the coordinators and coaches is a good start but until we have a complete reexamination of expectations and results for our talented crew at every level I personally can’t see much difference. I will know that that we are on our way when I see a John Rodriguez type come out of system be used properly for a short run and then traded before his flaws are revealed. That seems to be the “Cardinals way ” and no matter how much smoke their fan base puffs about it, it seems to be a pretty good strategy to me.

    • WidespreadHisPanic

      Well said.

    • Ripsnorter1

      I agree with you. And boy oh boy if we could have Tony LaRussa managing the Cubs!

    • daverj

      Some very good general points on the Cubs system and it’s epic failures that have led to the current state of the organization. That said, I wouldn’t consider Freese, Craig and Lynn good examples of the Cardinals turning unknowns into significant contributors. I would think most baseball fans (not just astute analyst) would have known of all three of those players while they were in the minors. They were good (albeit not superstar level) prospects who put up some very good minor league stats. If they were in the Cubs organization, Cub fans would have been very high on all three of those guys based on their minor league success.

  • paulcatanese

    Little levity here. I see where Sveum is going to have the
    bunting contest again (Bah-Humbug), but looking further, it makes sense teaching Rizzo how to bunt, he has cost the
    Cubs money with the balls he has lost into the bleachers,
    got to cut back:):)

  • Cubs4ever

    Rich Hill was definately the one who had the best chance out of all these names! Look at his last 2 years in the minors and his 1st full year with Cubs. 2005- 130 IP 100 hits and 194 K’s. 2006- 100 IP 62 hits and 135 K’s. and 2007 with the Cubs 11-8 3.92 ERA 195 IP 170 hits and 183 K’s. He looked like he was going to be special!

    • J Daniel

      and????

      This one is not on the Cubs or any other team. He had a chance with other teams as well and didn’t do anything. Sometimes it is on the player. Sometimes the player isn’t good enough even though many people think it is just coaching and development. It is more than that or you and I wouldn’t be posting we would be playing.

      • Cubs4ever

        And what???? Just pointing out how dominant he was in minors and first year!

        • J Daniel

          Just that Rich Hill was not very good or eventually he would have been good. Numbers in the minors are not always an indicator of success, especially for pitchers.

          • Cubs4ever

            Why are you arguing? I am merely saying I am surprised he fell off as bad as he did. This is not a knock against anyone or any team. And…. He did have a pretty good full year in the MAJORS.

          • J Daniel

            Not looking to argue…Thought you were pumping up how good he should have been…I know a lot of your posts are negative so that is how I took this one to be. If not, sorry about that. Just pointing out that Rich Hill was not very good.

          • Nate

            Rich Hill’s problem was confidence. He had the tools, but not the make-up. That ’07 playoff game messed him up, just like it did with Rick Ankiel 10 years ago.

          • J Daniel

            Great point but all of the players that make it that far have the tools or they wouldn’t have made it that far. What separates most of them is the slightest margin of error, or confidence, or mental make up, or the ability to make adjustments. But the margin is very small.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Rich Hill had confidence problems, I think, and Lou–if my memory is correct, Lou rode him with spurs over the walks.

  • Tony_Hall

    One of the best articles every year.

    Jayson Stark’s wildest, weirdest and wackiest feats of the 2012 regular season.

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8772294/strange-true-feats-2012-mlb-season

    • Tony_Hall

      Here are some notes about the Cubs.

      Believe it or not, the Cubs almost made it through the entire month of April without a home run from any outfielder — until their man Joltin’ Joe Mather finally ended that schneid in their next-to-last game of the month. Meanwhile, in L.A., Matt Kemp had 11 homers before a Cubs outfielder hit any.

      Strangest But Truest Relief Outing of the Year: Shawn Camp marched out of the Cubs’ bullpen in an Aug. 1 game against the Pirates, faced seven hitters and allowed a hit to all seven of them. You can probably guess how many other relievers have done that in the live ball era. Yep. Not one.