Cubs are in the "Arms" business
Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein
Publisher
Posted Mar 15, 2013


NorthSiders have made several deals to bolster pitching depth in minors since Theo took over.

It didn’t surprise me when the Cubs shipped Tony Campana to the Diamondbacks last month and got a pair of young pitching prospects in return. It's been a trend for the Chicago front office.

President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer have stated the importance of strengthening the Cubs minor league pitching depth, not only to develop but use in trades to obtain critical pieces when needed.

The latest deal added Jesus Castillo and Erick Leal to the list of hurlers (ten and counting) the Cubs have traded for since Epstein came on board.

The two 17-year-old Venezuelan right-handers were international signings by Arizona in 2012, Castillo receiving $250,000 and Leal $75,000. Both spent last year with the D-Backs Dominican Summer League team.

Leal, who stands 6’3” and weighs 180 pounds, had the better stats, going 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA in 70 innings. He started 12 games and struckout 70 while walking 11. Seven times he went six innings and twice fanned 10, including a game against Cubs. He ended the year with a WHIP of .99. Leal has made his first trip to the USA this spring and is in Cubs’ minor league camp.

At 6’2”, 165-pounds, Castillo made 14 appearances in the Dominican League starting eight games. His longest outing of the season was against the Cubs, going six innings, allowing seven hits and four runs with one walk and five strikeouts. The youngster’s best game of the year was five shutout innings against the White Sox, with a season-high seven strikeouts. Castillo pitched 46.2 innings with a 5.40 ERA, with 41 strikeouts and 17 walks. It’s likely he will play in the Dominican or Venezuela Summer Leagues this season.

While the Venezuelan right-handers are the youngest prospects the Cubs have bartered for since the rebuilding project started, they join a group of promising pitching arms the Cubs have stockpiled.

After the Cubs left camp in Mesa last year, Epstein sent outfielder Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox for Michael Bowden, who had been placed on waivers. The Red Sox also added left-handed minor leaguer Hunter Cervenka and pitcher Justin Germano, who signed a free agent contract with Blue Jays after the 2012 season.

Bowden who appeared in 39 games in five season with Boston, pitched in 10 games for Chicago before being sent down to Iowa. Upon his return to Wrigley in August, Bowden, 26, dropped his ERA from 6:39 to a season ending 2.95 and did not allow a run in his final 11 appearances. Bowden is expected to compete for a bullpen job at Wrigley and has gotten in five games this spring with a 1.11 WHIP and a .217 BAA.

Cervenka pitched in Peoria and Daytona after the trade throwing 47 innings of relief. The 6’1” left-hander fanned 47 hitters in his 26 appearances at both Class A levels. He was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox in the 27th round of the 2008 draft and hasn’t pitched above A ball. The Texas native started this spring in minor league camp on the Rehabilitation/Limited Activity list.

At the trading deadline in July, the Cubs made three deals that would eventually bring four new arms into the system. The biggest deal was acquiring right-hander Arodys Vizcaino, along with Jaye Chapman, from the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson.

Vizcaino, 22, had Tommy John surgery in March of 2012 and was considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball before the injury. The Dominican native was signed back in 2007 at age of 16 by the Yankees and traded to the Braves in the deal involving Javier Vasquez in 2009. He pitched in 17 games for the Braves in 2011, all in relief, but started 50 games in his minor league career, going 19-15 with a 2.91 ERA in 268.2 innings in four seasons. All eyes will be on Vizcaino this summer to see if he returns to his old form and he has been throwing this spring.

Chapman was drafted in the 16th round by the Braves in 2005, and the 25-year-old spent six seasons working his way through the Braves system compiling over 370 innings in five stops. A September call up in 2012 to Wrigley sent Chapman to the mound 14 times as the right-hander struck out 12 in a dozen innings for the parent club. This spring he’s been in four games allowing five hits and four runs in three one-third innings.

The Cubs front office was finally able to move Ryan Dempster at the deadline receiving third base prospect Christian Villanueva, a 21-year-old, and pitcher Kyle Hendricks, an 8th round selection out of Dartmouth in the 2011 draft.

Hendricks, a Carolina League All-Star last season, started 20 games for the Rangers’ farm team working 130 plus innings with a 2.82 ERA last season. He struck out 112 and walked only 15. He pitched in five games for the Daytona Cubs allowing 17 hits in 17 innings while fanning 11 with three walks. He may start this year at Daytona or more likely, AA Tennessee.

The Cubs dealt Geovany Soto to the Rangers for Jacob Brigham but the Rangers returned Brigham after an arm injury, and in November received Barret Loux, the former #6 overall pick of the 2010 draft by Arizona. Loux didn’t sign with the D-Backs after he failed his physical and was declared a free agent, signing with Rangers in Nov. of 2010.

The 23-year-old right hander was named 2012 Texas League Pitcher of the Year, compiling a 14-1 record for Frisco in 25 games, all as a starter. He fanned 100 and walked 41 in 127 innings He compiled 127 strikeouts in 109 innings in his first year of pro ball at Myrtle Beach, the Rangers’ high A team in the Carolina League. Loux pitched in three games this spring for the Cubs throwing two scoreless innings in his first outing against the Dodgers but allowed eight hits and nine runs in his next two games. Loux is expected to be part of the starting rotation in AAA Iowa.

Even after the July trade deadline the Cubs were able to send veteran utility player Jeff Baker to the Tigers for Marcelo Carreno, a hard throwing right-hander from Venezuela, who has spent the past two seasons in the Midwest League. The 21-year-old threw 264 innings for West Michigan striking out 234 while walking 69. I saw him pitch last year and was impressed with his velocity—along with his control—keeping the ball down in the zone. Carreno started spring training on the Rehabilitation/Limited Activity list.

The first pitcher the Cubs acquired by way of trade under Epstein was Zach Cates, who came in the Anthony Rizzo deal from San Diego. He started 16 games at the Class A last season, but went 0-9, including a 10.50 ERA at Daytona in seven starts. Cates has been assigned to the Daytona team in spring training.

And while its hard to predict if any of these deals will make a difference in the Cubs achieving their goal of the Fall Classic, its refreshing to see the Cubs’ brass is practicing what they preach.

NorthsidersReport will be tracking these 10 “traded for” pitchers this season and provide updates on their progress though out the 2013 season.

CUBS NOTES

• Manager Dale Sveum told reporters March 13 Junior Lake would miss 4-6 weeks with a broken rib. Its the second straight season Lake has missed time, as he didn’t get started in 2012 until early May at AA Tennessee. He wasn’t expected to make the big league club but was hitting .308 this spring in 23 at-bats with a homer and three RBI.



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