Along with the loud exit of starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs have quietly amassed a stable of valuable pitchers. No, the Cubs haven’t gone out and gotten the most talented and most capable of starting pitchers. However, relative to the contracts that the team is paying their starting pitchers, their value exceeds their marketability. After Carlos Zambrano left the team, many thought Matt Garza would be the next one out. Garza has since remained as the team ace, raising the question as to what the Cubs plan to do with their Major League-ready talent.
Clearly, Garza and Ryan Dempster will remain with the team, at least for now, as will Paul Maholm, which leaves two spots to fight for between Randy Wells, Chris Volstad, Travis Wood, Andy Sonnanstine, and Rodrigo Lopez.
The easy deductions are Andy Sonnanstine and Rodrigo Lopez from the roster, especially Lopez, since he doesn’t need to be put on the 40-man roster with signing only minor league deal that includes a non-roster Spring Training invite, essentially leaving Wells, Volstad, and Wood.
Each of those three pitchers register in the 88-90 MPH range, it’s safe to say that none of those pitchers would fit the mold of a power reliever, ala Kerry Wood. However, one of the more successful rotation-to-bullpen conversions wasn’t in the power relief mold–Sean Marshall.
None of those pitchers share the same handedness that Marshall possesses, however one–Chris Volstad–could be a right-handed Sean Marshall.
The book on Chris Volstad has been pretty much established–a fallen top prospect that has seen trouble in recent years. Since a solid debut in 2008, Volstad has never seen his ERA fall below 4.50. In addition, Volstad hasn’t ever put up a strong strike out rate in his career. Over the past three years, he has produced an average of 29 games started. However, he fails to pitch past the sixth inning.
Volstad offers a good variety of pitches, and his pitch selection counteracts the lefty advantage. In fact, all of three of his off-speed pitches–the change-up, slider, and curveball–offer exceptional swing and miss rates against left-handers.
Chris Volstad has also proven to be more productive earlier on in his pitch counts. Through pitches 1-25, his K/BB rate is 3.20 with a .292/.332/.404 slash line. In contrast, when he throws 51-75 pitches, his K/BB rate drops to 1.79 with a .331/.375/.614 slash line.
Out of all of the Cubs pitchers, Chris Volstad would be best suited to make a successful transition to become a swing man out of the bullpen as a sixth starter, and possibly become a decent set-up man in the Sean Marshall mold.
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