The Cubs have new pitchers, yes, but do we care? They opted for the better prospect bat as they traded away their two best pitchers, and it doesn’t even look like the best arm they got back — Dan Straily — is going to be promoted to the big leagues right away. So what’s going on in the Cubbie rotation, and should mixed leaguers care?
First up, it looks like Tsuyoshi Wada is going to get the call. Wada has been pitching excellently in the minors, with a strikeout per inning and an excellent walk rate, but at 33 years old (and with a 39% ground-ball rate), he isn’t the prospect arm we were all hoping for.
Instead, we get a guy who came over to the Orioles, blew out his arm, and never made it out of Triple-A because of mediocre results. Because all of his experience has come in the minors, and in Japan, it’s hard to get a read on his arsenal. But we do have this game report from NPBTracker:
This chart is now five years old, so the fastball velocity might be off. Even with a fresh ligament, we’re talking “lefty soft-tosser.” But I like forkballs (think splitter, pushed deep in the hand for more movement), and it looks like he throws enough sliders that he believes in the pitch. That’s an arsenal. And that he credits his success this year to a grip change makes me like him more.
Still, he’s an arm, he’s in the bigs, he has control, his forkball is getting whiffs — he’s surely a deep league play. If he doesn’t work out, up comes Straily.
Hendricks hasn’t been on Marc Hulet’s Top 25 Fantasy Prospect lists so far, and he was the fourth pitcher listed in Hulet’s Cubs prospect list coming into the season, but he’s the one that’s the furthest along, and so he gets the call.
So far in the minors, Hendricks has given us a lot to dream upon even if his strikeout rates have been meh. Given that he’s only pushed his strikeout percentage north of league average for the first time this year, we shouldn’t expect much better than six or seven strikeouts per nine.
But the rest of the package looks like a legit big leaguer, if perhaps middle of the rotation. He’s burned worms in the minors (52.7% ground-ball rate), and has had minuscule walk rates at every level. Here’s Sahadev Sharma on his repertoire going into this season:
Hendricks sits at 88-91 mph with his fastball, has a developing slider and a plus changeup. Hendricks won’t blow a hitter away with his stuff, so his ability to execute his pitches and being able to exploit a hitter’s weaknesses are the reasons he has been able to consistently deliver strong performances. … The key to Hendricks’ future success will be the continued development of his slider. If he can command it to the point where he keeps major league hitters off balance and away from sitting on his fastball, he’s got a chance to have a long career as a back-of-the-rotation starter. However, if he can’t get any consistency on the breaking ball, he’ll likely be no more than a pitcher who yo-yos between Triple-A and the majors, making spots starts here and there.
We’ll have to watch the breaking pitches. For now, it’s interesting to note that he has a great sinker, a good change-up, and his velocity is up this year — and he’s a big leaguer. That makes him also a deep league play, and possibly even an interesting bench pickup in most dynasty leagues where he’s available.
Hey, what did you want anyway? C.J. Edwards has only been in Double-A for twenty innings and this Cubs team does not need to start his clock.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.