The first of four first-round Cubs selections from the 2002 draft, Bobby Brownlie came to Big League Spring Training a year ago with high expectations only to quickly find himself back in minor league camp and eventually Triple-A Iowa for another season.
He struggled right out of the gate at Iowa, yielding 15 runs and four home runs in just 11-plus innings en route to a demotion to Double-A.
Things went from bad to worse as the right-hander then dropped 11 decisions at West Tennessee while posting a 5.64 ERA in 33 games spanning 75 innings. As a starter last season, he lost six of nine decisions overall.
For a short while, the Cubs had even demoted Brownlie again (to Class-A Daytona) before rescinding that decision just hours later.
All throughout the year, Brownlie never quite caught any sort of a break. His role seemed to fluctuate back and forth between the rotation and bullpen and he admitted to being frustrated with the constant shuffling.
Claims that his velocity was down in both 2005 and 2006 from previous years were also frequently reported and to some degree confirmed.
Heading into camp this spring, it was again unclear what Brownlie’s role would be (and where). Both the Cubs’ Triple-A and Double-A starting rotations appear somewhat easy to project and at 26, Brownlie would have been over the average age of the Florida State League and Daytona.
In four seasons with the Cubs, the Rutgers alum was 23-24 with a 4.30 ERA in 400-plus innings. He was released Tuesday morning.
“It’s not easy and it’s the toughest thing in this business to tell someone they’re no longer with this organization,” Cubs Player Development Director Oneri Fleita assures us. “You can’t keep everyone and as you get better and more competitive, the decisions become more difficult.”
After a nine-month holdout following the draft, Brownlie signed with the Cubs on March 5, 2003, for a signing bonus of $2.5 million.