Michael Heesch, P
Age 23 (5/15/1990)
2013 Team: Kane County Cougars, Midwest League (A)
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking—Not Rated
How acquired—Drafted in the eighth round in 2012, #254 overall
Prior to Cubs
An all-stater at Prairie Ridge High School as a senior, Heesch helped the Wolves to the 4A title in 2008 throwing a four-hitter against the defending state champs in the state semi-finals. He went 10-1 with 107 strikeouts in 87 innings. The Crystal Lake native stayed close to home spending the next two seasons pitching for the University of Illinois-Chicago. He started four games as a freshman, making his college debut against Texas with an inning plus of hitless relief. Heesch pitched in 21 games allowing 54 hits in 53.2 innings with 32 strikeouts and 17 walks. He started 16 games as a sophomore for the Flames, going 6-6 with a 5.68 ERA but decided to transfer to South Carolina-Beauford to continue his career. He didn't take long to make a mark, setting the school record with 78 strikeouts, including 12 against Embry-Riddle. He continued to improve going 9-3 with a 2.21 ERA in 122.1 innings as a senior, earning second-team NAIA All-American honors. He had 118 strikeouts while walking only 13
The 6-foot-5 left-hander signed shortly after the draft and made his pro debut on June 23 in the Arizona Rookie League, allowing one hit in a scoreless inning of relief against the Royals. Heesch got a save in his next game and was promoted to Boise in the Northwest League for the final two months of the season. He pitched shutout ball in his first 12 innings of his pro career and ended the season with three straight wins in relief. He pitched in both NWL playoff series, allowing two runs in two innings against Yakima in the semi-finals and then pitched 3.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts against Vancouver in the deciding game of the finals. Heesch ended his first pro season with 25 strikeouts and only one walk in 25 innings, leading all 2012 draft picks with a 1.05 WHIP.
Returning to the Chicago area where he played his high school ball, Heesch was one of the workhorses of the Kane County staff, second in games started (20) and innings pitched (119). Heesch reached the fifth inning in 17 of his 20 starts, and ended the year with 60 strikeouts and 36 walks. The 23-year-old's best outing came on May 5 as he blanked Dayton for 7.1 frames on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He was 3-9 with a 3.78 ERA and only allowed three homers.
Heesch will head to Daytona with pitching coach Ron Villone to continue his development as a left-handed starter. Despite his size, Heesch is not a power pitcher as his fastball sits in the high-80s, low 90s, depending on the day. He throws a change-up and an occasional curve. He does a good job repeating his delivery and release point, making it hard for hitters to judge speed on his pitches.
Corbin Hoffner, P
Age 20 (7/30/1993)
2013 Team: Boise Hawks, Northwest League, (SS)
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking—# 47
How acquired—Drafted in the 14th round of the 2012 draft, #434 overall
Prior to Cubs
Hoffner was a two-way player in high school helping lead Sebring High School to a district final in 2011 when he hit .356 with 21 RBI while playing first base and earned Class 5A all-state honors going 6-2 on the mound. He was selected to play in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association All-Star Classic. After high school, he enrolled at St. Petersburg Junior College and caught the eyes of scouts in his 14 games. Hoffner went 5-5 with 72 strikeouts in 73 innings posting a 2.50 ERA. He walked 16 and gave up 60 hits. The Cubs are no strangers to St. Petersburg as in 2010 they scouted and drafted Jacob Rogers, a 2012 re-draftee, who plays first base in the Cubs organization. Hoffner worked out for the Cubs before the draft in Clearwater.
After signing on June 16, the 19-year-old made his pro debut on July 11 against the Padres in the Arizona Rookie League working a perfect inning with two strikeouts. He pitched in seven games for Mesa, including one start, and finished his first pro season at 0-1 with a 0.70 ERA in 12.2 innings. He surrendered nine runs but only one of the runs was earned. He finished with a WHIP of 1.50 and fanned 13, including five in his final outing in 2.2 innings.
After a stint at extended spring training, Hoffner broke camp with Boise and spent the entire season in the Northwest League. His year was highlight by 16 straight shutout innings as well as his first career win and save. He tossed 46.2 innings in 16 relief appearances, going 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA. Hoffner had a 2.5 BB/9 but did hit six hitters and threw three wild pitches. He led Boise pitchers with a 0.90 WHIP to go along with 42 K (8.1 K/9)
The education of Corbin Hoffner will continue at Kane County this spring and if he proves he can get MWL hitters out, could find himself back in his home state of Florida by the end of the summer. Even though Hoffner has worked primarily out of the bullpen his first two years, there's no guarantee he'll stay there as he routinely made three-inning outings and twice worked four frames.