For all the hype the Cubs have regarding their position prospects, some of those are already in the show, and there are far fewer arm prospects in the system, with only CJ Edwards cracking most lists. The Cubs have tried to address the pitching shortage in the international market, and by investigating high draft picks the past few years. There are legitimate prospects here, but they are young, further down the minor league ladder, and their ceilings but not be as high as other organizations. Right now, there are a half dozen arms that bear watching. That's not nearly enough, and again, none will be arriving anytime soon, and it's questionable if any will become an ace.
1. C.J. EDWARDS
At the top of the prospect chain is clearly C.J. Edwards. The 23 year old prolifes as a number 2 bitcher in the bigs. Incredibly, Edwards wasn't drafted until the 48th round, follwoing 1,463 other selections. Razor thin and lanky at 6-2, 155, he was acquired from Texas in the Matt Garza heist. We're talking about a player with a career minor league ERA of under 2.0, a WHIP under 1.0, 294 strikeouts in 237 innings, and only two home runs allowed in his career. Those are astronomical numbers that would project as a number 1, but Edwards missed three months last year with a shoulder strain, and his body still needs to develop. He's got three quality pitches, fastball, curve and a major league plus change. His out pitch is the curveball. He did bounce back to pitch in the fall instructional league, but the Cubs will probably start him slow this season, perhaps at AA, with a mid-season promotion to AAA. If all goes well, he should contend for a roster spot next year. If all goes spectacularly well, he could be a late season call up and play a role in a pennant chase.
2. PIERCE JOHNSON
Johnson was the Cubs supplemental pick in 2012, from down the road at Missouri State. Like Edwards, he's also battled injuries, and was on the disabled list twice last year. But his problems were with his legs, not his arm. The 23 year old is 6-3, 170. hard thrower who sits in the mid 90's, with a dynamite curve ball as a strikeout pitch. 237 strikeouts in 232 minor league innings. He still struggles with his command and control, and walks remain an issue before he moves up. Johnson is an attacking pitcher. His curve ball is among the best you will see in the minors. He still needs to find a changeup. Like Edwards, he probably starts the year at Tennessee. His command will dictate his progress. At this point, he projects as a #3 in the bigs.
3. DUANE UNDERWOOD
Here is your physical speciman. The 20 year old is already 6-2, 205, and growing. In fact, growing has been a problem, as Underwood has already needed to shed 25 pounds. The Cubs took him with their 2nd round pick in 2012 out of high school after nabbing Johnson. He remains very raw, his mechanics need work, and any timetable should be met with caution. But he is a tremendous all-around athlete, and could easily have been drafted as either a pitcher or outfielder out of high school. Underwood is the power arm in the organization right now. Very quick and hard to the plate. Fastball, curve and change could all be plus pitches. The fastball is probably the best in the Cubs organization right now, yet his best pitch might be his his curve. All sorts of potential, but every other pitch needs work, as does his control, and of course, his weight. But this is a big, talented, athletic kid. He probably starts the year at High A Myrtle Beach. Impossible to project. He could be very high, or he could have issues at every stop.
4. JEN-HO TSENG
Few Cub prospects are as interesting as Tseng. Only 20, from Taiwan, Tseng is the opposite of most young pitchers in that he possesses tremendous control, without overwhelming stuff. He's 6-1, 210, already armed with a great changeup. His fastball sits around 90, which is not a ticket to the show. And he still needs an out pitch. But what he accomplished as a teenage pitcher in 2014 was remarkable, if not historic. How good? Tseng had the fewest walks per nine innings in his league last year. And by many accounts, he may have been the best teenage pitcher in the world. And this was for a pitcher in his first professional year. Tseng throws strikes and gets outs, with a wide array of pitches for someone so young. His best pitch is probably his changeup, then a slurve. Without dominating stuff, his advancement will probably be slower. At this point, he probably projects as a number 3. But with a microscopic WHIP at Kane County against older players, a great command of the zone, and combined with his age, he's going to get a long, long look. Fastball, slider, sinker, change. slurv, and probably a few more we cant name. He's composed and mature. The Cubs named him their minor leaguie pitcher of the year out of the box last year.
5. DAURY TORREZ
If any Cub prospect has been overlooked, it is probably Torrez. 21 years old, from the Domincan Republic. 6-3, 170. Mid-90s fastball, hard slider, changeup. Torrez threw nearly 150 innings at Kane County last year, had double digit wins, an ERA under 3.0, and a WHIP under 1.0. He was outstanding all around. He has a low 90's fastball, with an upper 80's slider. He still needs to develop an off spead pitch. He figures to start the year at Myrtle Beach. Torrez is another another strike thrower, with only 5 walks in 50 innings his rookie year, and not many walks again last year. He's the sleeper among the pitching prospects.
6. CARSON SANDS
Sands is the only lefthander among the top Cubs prospects. 6-3, 195, only 19, with a body that is still growing. He was the cubs 4th round pick last year out of high school in Florida. He's still way down the road, but there is a lot to like. Low 90's heater, and he already possesses a good change up and curve. How quickly the off speed pitches come will determine his ladder. The Cubs doubled their slot allotment to sign Sands away from Florida State, so you know they are all in here. He's probably targeted for low A Boise, but should see Kane County by mid-season. He can throw his breaking pitches for strikes, a key component for young lefthanders. Way early projections would put Sands as a #2 starter. The Cubs love his maturity at a young age, and he will be watched closely going forward as the organizations top southpaw.
Up next, the position prospects. Until then,
I'm the Lonesome Cub, living in a city colored red.
About the author......Bob Cyphers has 35 years experience as a journalist in newspaper, radio and television. Sadly, he has even more experience as a die-hard, heartbroken, beaten down Cub fan. And although he promises that his beloved Cubs, as Ernie Banks predicted, would be "Surpreme in 2015," deep down Bob understands that life, and the Cubbies, offers no guarantees.