AFL Review of Cubs' Pitchers

Joe Aiello from The View From The Bleachers has graciously written a piece for us taking a look at how the Cubs fared in the Arizona Fall League.


I am admittedly stealing this idea from Brew Crew Ball, but if you're not stealing, you're not really trying. Let's take a look, now that the fall league is over, at how our representatives performed and see what we can glean from it, if anything.

Esmailin Caridad

What we knew - Caridad came into the season unranked by the major publications when it came to top prospects in the organization after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cubs last season. He split time between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee as a starting pitcher. A 13-7 combined record between the two levels shows a lot of promise for the kid and warrented a fall league invitation to speed the development process due to his age (24 yrs old). We knew coming into the fall league that he wasn't a dominant strike out guy, but that he got his share and limited walks.

What we saw in Arizona - Caridad functioned as a member of the bullpen in Arizona and threw 16 innings over the course of the league. While there, Caridad increased his ability to strike out hitters, tossing 17 in the innings he worked. His WHIP stayed virtually the same.

Where do we go from here? - If Caridad can continue to improve his ability to get hitters out via the strike out and limit the baserunners allowed, there is no reason why he couldn't be a candidate for promotion to the majors in September of 2009 if not before then. The Cubs will want him to get innings under his belt as much as possible before seriously considering him for a spot on the active roster, but he should be on the radar for a top 30 prospect spot coming into this season after his great regular season debut and follow up in Arizona.

Arizona Phil had the following to say about Caridad in a recent top 15 prospect list:
"Like Alfonso Soriano and Timo Perez before him, Caridad is a Dominican
who signed his first professional contract with the Hiroshima Carp of
the Japanese Central League. Caridad spent a couple of years at the
Carp Dominican Baseball Academy before moving on to Japan and pitching
in a Japanese minor league (and briefly with the Carp) in 2007. Caridad
got released on a technicality after the 2007 season, and signed with
the Cubs a day or two after arriving back in the Dominican Republic
last Fall. He pitched (effectively) as a rotation starter at both
Daytona and AA Tennessee in 2008, and he is presently pitching very
with for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. Caridad is 25
years old and he's only 5'10, so there may not be much more there than
what's there right now. But from what I've seen of him, he will be
pitching in the big league within a year or so. He has a full array of
pitches, with a solid fastball, curve, and change-up."

Jesse Estrada

What we knew - Another non factor on the top prospect radar coming into the season, Estrada spent his season pitching for three different levels in the organization. He spent time in Daytona (A+), Tennessee (AA) and Iowa (AAA), primarily in AA and AAA. He functioned as a member of the pen while at those levels and hasn't been a consistent starting pitcher since his first year with the Cubs in 2005. He showed an above average ability to get hitters out via the strikeout while in Iowa, but saw his hits/9 ratio increase to over 10. Signed as a 34th round pick in 2004 by the Cubs, it's clear that the hopes aren't incredibly high for him. At 24, the fall league seemed to be a chance to put up or shut up for Estrada with the organization.

What we saw in Arizona - Estrada was curiously used as a starting pitcher for the Solar Sox by manager Rocket Wheeler. In that role, he tread water, making eight starts that spanned 28.1 IP. While the 4-0 record posted by Estrada looks nice, taking a look deeper reveals the same problems that have plagued him in the minor leagues. He gives up too many hits and doesn't strike out enough men. Estrada gave up 30 hits in the 28+ innings of work, which when combined with the BB allowed registers a 1.53 WHIP. That's unacceptable.

Where do we go from here? - He's eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but I don't expect anyone to bite. More than likely the Cubs will give him another shot to impress, but I don't see it coming as a member of the rotation until he proves he can dominate hitters.

Rocky Roquet

What we knew - Roquet came into the 2008 season ranked 26 on the Baseball America top 30 prospect list for the organization. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2006 out of Cal Poly. Oddly enough, he's not the only Rocky to grace the system at one point. Rocky Cherry, who got a brief cup of coffee with the Cubs a few years back was the other. Roquet, who was 25 years old this season regressed a little in his second go round in AA.

What we saw in Arizona  - Roquet was used out of the bullpen, but only found more of the same in terms of success. He made 10 appearances spanning 13+ innings of work and saw and ERA of 5.93 and a WHIP of 1.81. A rather disappointing showing overall for a kid that came into the season with some promise.

Where do we go from here? - It's hard to think of a way to see why he will improve if promoted to AAA off the bat, but at some point the Cubs may need to take that chance. I expect him to start the year in AA for the third year in a row and hopefully get back on the top prospect list track with a hot start.

Donald Veal

What we knew - Lots of hype. Comparisons to Dontrelle Willis. Lots of disappointment in performance. Lots of off the field hardships he's had to overcome. Veal came into the season as the # 6 prospect in the organization, partly because of his dominant 2006 season. His year in '07 was a bit of a let down. 2008 was supposed to be the year that he turned it back around and got back on track. Instead, Veal regressed in AA.

What we saw in Arizona - Veal pitched in 10 games, spanning 9 innings of work. In that time he beat himself with walks (13) and was hit hard when he wasn't offering free passes. When all was said and done, Veal finished with a ERA of 10.00 and was left unprotected for the upcoming rule 5 draft.

Where do we go from here - I go back and forth as to whether or not I feel someone will bite on Veal in the draft. I just can't see how he can stick on a roster for the year, given his extreeme lack of command. At the same time, pitchers can click into place out of nowhere and given his outstanding 2006, it may be worth trying for a low-budget team that doesn't plan on contending in 2009. A team like the Pirates, who recently drafted two pitchers out of India fits the bill. Ultimately, I look for him to either go undrafted and return to AA in 2008 or be drafted and then offered back after a month or even spring training.


Veal will never pitch a full season in the majors. Hopeless lack of control. If you're going to be a situational LOOGY--his only realistic shot at a big league job IMO--you simply MUST have the pinpoint control. Period.

Frankly, I'm kind of suprised the Cubs selected such non-prospects for the fall league this year. Surely they could have sent some more promising players than this bunch, right?

not a lot of teams that I know of send their best pitching prospects to the AFL, you don't want to be burning out arms. Usually it's decent prospects that you want to get some extra work in for whatever reason, whether they missed some time earlier in the year, or are going to try a new role.

What you'd like to know about Veal is what type of player he would have brought the Cubs before the 2007 season began. I know hindsight is 20/20, but his value today is that 29 teams will probably pass on him in the rule 5 draft next week.

All the more reason that I couldn't care less if Vitters goes in deal for Jake Peavy or a blue-chip RF who hits LH. I couldn't agree more with Rob G.'s comment in an earlier thread about the players on today's 25 man roster brought here from trades for Cubs 'prospects':

Submitted by Rob G. on Thu, 12/04/2008 - 2:36pm.

such a weird angle and thought process...

Soto, Theriot are starters from our farm system....2/8 of your starting lineup right there

Lee, Ramirez are byproducts of the farm system....that's half now

Fontenot, Cedeno, Pie, Hoffpauir are likely to be on the roster next that's 8/13 of our position players

Z is a farm system product

Harden is a byproduct

Marmol, Wuertz, Marshall, Samardzija are from the system

byproducts such as Gregg and Gaudin....

16 of 25 guys right there (and I'm sure I'm missing a few) are somehow related to this crap farm system the Cubs have been running for years.

I'm not going to go through every team, and I'm sure there are some low to mid-market teams that have more, but for a high payroll team, I'm guessing that's pretty high. Do we have a lot of blue-chip position players? Maybe not, but is Hendry suppose to sit around and wait for one to develop if it's not there or go and trade or sign for one instead and try to win? I vote option B.

Rotoworld: General manager Kevin Towers said Thursday that he plans to revisit talks with the Cubs about Jake Peavy.

According to the San Diego Union Tribune, the two sides "have discussed a five-for-one deal that could involve a third team" and "the Padres like their chance of getting the Cubs' best prospect, third baseman Josh Vitters, and major leaguers such as starting pitcher Sean Marshall and reliever Kevin Hart." After shedding Khalil Greene's salary the Padres seemingly have more ability to hang onto Peavy if needed, perhaps giving them some added leverage.

It seems unclear whether that 5-for-1 would include the player or two we'd have to send to a third team (Pie and Cedeno, for example, to Baltimore) or whether those are not included. A price of Vitters, Pie, Cedeno, Marshall, and Hart for Peavy is a lot, especially compared to what we have currently in the farm, but I'd still do it in a heartbeat.

WISCGRAD: So from reading the various reports, if the trade goes down it would be something like Felix Pie and Ronny Cedeno to BAL for LHP Garrett Olson, then Olson, Sean Marshall, Kevin Hart, Josh Vitters, and a 5th player still TBD (perhaps Tyler Colvin or Welington Castillo?) for Peavy.

I guess Hendry's string of good off-seasons was due to come to an end some time.

Disasterous is the only word that comes to mind when I think of that trade. Peavy will become the new Von Hayes.

Even if Peavy pitches well, if Hendry still wants a RF, he has to trade Marquis, and non-tender Wuertz and Cotts in order to find the cash. Without Marquis, Marshall, Wuertz, Cotts, Hart, Cedeno, the Cubs may have a phenomenal rotation (when healthy), but they've also got serious depth issues at SS, the rotation, and the bullpen.

I really just don't see this getting done anyway.

More often than not Hendry seems to get a lot out of these trades. Gaudin, although he struggled, was a great throw-in in the Harden deal last year. It wouldn't at all surprise me if the Cubs got say a second player, whom they'd keep, from Balitmore, or something creative like that. I've not heard anything to this effect, but it just wouldn't surprise me.

that does indeed sound dreadful....

trading away pitching talent makes some sense, you are gettitng Peavy back for 4 years, so other than if/when his arm blows up, you'r covered in that area.

Trading away Josh Vitters along with 5 other guys is way too much. If they're giving up Vitters and Marshall, they shouldn't need to add more than one or two pieces. Especially if they're going to take on the whole contract.

i like that trade except for marshall
do not trade marshall!

I like Marshall, he's okay, but Lou doesn't use him much because of the velocity, or lack thereof, on his fastball. If the Cubs get Peavy, they won't need Marshall and we won't miss him.

If only Rich Hill weren't a total washout......a lefty long-man/spot starter is a nice luxury to have in the bullpen. That's why I'd like to keep Marshall if possible. I'd move Gaudin before I'd move Marshall if given the choice, let's put it that way.

BTW, if we're giving up our #1 prospect plus two major league players, that should be PLENTY for Peavy. He's no better than Santana (worse, actually), and the Cubs are the ones that have the advantage in this supposed trade, Peavy only wants to come here.

If Hendry is willing to give up Vitters, fine, but don't add in another half-dozen prospects to boot.

It's just too many bodies to give up. Besides Vitters, all of those guys could contribute to the ML roster in 2009. We're going to have no organiztional depth when the injuries start happening.

Nice review Joe.

Submitted by WISCGRAD on Fri, 12/05/2008 - 10:15am.

More often than not Hendry seems to get a lot out of these trades. Gaudin, although he struggled, was a great throw-in in the Harden deal last year. It wouldn't at all surprise me if the Cubs got say a second player, whom they'd keep, from Balitmore, or something creative like that.

I've not heard anything to this effect, but it just wouldn't surprise me.


WISCGARD: OF Luke Scott will very likely be eligible for salary-arbitration as a "Super Two," and if the Orioles get Felix Pie, I would think Scott could be coming back to the Cubs in the deal, especially since the Orioles will be adding another arbitration-eligible player in Ronny Cedeno.

Scott is no Ibanez, Bradley, or Abreu, but he can play RF, and so he would probably be a decent (and far cheaper) Plan "B" in case Hendry is unable to sign Bradley, Abreu, or Ibanez.

So why not just trade to the Orioles for Scott and forget about Peavy? We still have one of the best rotations in the majors, maybe the best in the NL, and Scott could be an effective #5 hitter.

I guess I really just am not seeing the need for Peavy that makes him worth all our depth at the ML level and our best prospects.

Submitted by Jim Hickmans Bat on Fri, 12/05/2008 - 10:39am.

If only Rich Hill weren't a total washout......a lefty long-man/spot starter is a nice luxury to have in the bullpen. 


JIM H: I would think Rich Hill could very well be part of any deal with the Orioles, since Hill's one-time minor league pitching guru (Alan Dunn) is the Orioles Bullpen Coach and Assistant Pitching Coach.

Alan Dunn is the guy who (as AA pitching coach) turned Hill's career around back in 2005 when Hill was a struggling lefty in the Cubs system. Hill led the FSL in walks in 2004 and was even eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft in December 2004 (the same draft where Andy Sisco and Luke Hagerty were selected) and was considered a long-shot to ever put it together (Hill is something of a "know-it-all" who usually won't listen to anybody), but Dunn was somehow able to get through to him. So I would think if any club believes it can "fix" Rich Hill, it would be the Orioles.

Burnett offer supposedly $16M a year with a 5th year vesting option.

that's...a bit much.

And whats one of the top strikeout pitches in baseball worth? A bag of peanuts and bag of chew? It is Jake Peavy guys, he doesn't come cheap and teams like SD looking to rebuild want some talent back.

Vitters - see ya
Pie - Can't hit - goodbye
Cedeno - Dumbest player in baseball - good riddance
Sean Marshall - solid ML ready pitcher - Ok
Kevin Hart - nice arm - ehhh wont be missed.

None of those guys are gonna help the team more than Jake Peavy for the next 1-3 years. Which is the window we are looking at to try and win a WS.

We can't keep wating for Pie, and Cedeno to buy a clue. For Vitters to be good now, or trust Marshall and Hart to out pitch Peavy over that span. I do like Marshall but its still Jake Peavy. You got to give talent to get talent.

I think it can be argued that Marshall and Vitters could equal Peavy's ML contributions of the next three years. It can't be argued that they'll cost anything near as much as he will over the same time.

The thing that bothers me is 'Which is the window we are looking at to try and win a WS.'

Yeah, when you trade every top prospect that you have you will have a 1-3 year window for winning the WS. If you keep those players you can become a perpetual contender.

"If you keep those players you can become a perpetual contender."

Thank you. I'm sick of this "win now" mentality. There should be a winning franchise mentality, not a winning season mentality. If the Red Sox can figure it out, I don't see why the Cubs shouldn't aim to do something similar.

'Sick of this "win now" mentality'.

Yes, let's go back to the pre-Hendry approach. That was a smashing success.

I really don't see how Marshall, Pie, Cedeno, Hart, and say Castillo/Colvin make us perpetual contenders. There's some nice parts in there, but aside from a slight chance on Pie and a low chance on Castillo, none of those guys are going to be stars. Peavy on the other hand gives us a true ace for the next four years.

Yes, Vitters would be missed. No doubt. But as MikeC, it's Jake f***ing Peavy. I still don't quite understand Real Neal's certainty that he'll get injured and aside from that possibility he's a slam dunk. I think it's important to remember that, as a rule, every team values their own prospects much more than anyone else does. If Hendry were to make that trade, it'd be considered a very good trade for the Cubs and rightly so. Just because it's a lot of bodies and a lot of names that we're all familiar with doesn't diminish that fact.

I agree that the Cubs have a great rotation right now, maybe the best in the NL. Yet, with Harden, Zambrano, and possibly Dempster all as moderate injury risks, we lose one of those guys and we're back to being about average. Let's face it, Peavy is the ace we wish Zambrano were, and I don't think a very young Josh Vitters, a solid but unspectacular Sean Marshall and a couple of "names" should keep us from acquiring him.

I agree I believe Hendry does not trust Harden and Z and possibly Dempster for next year.

I really doubt Harden will make it through half the year.

I am talking about trading Vitters when I talk about being perenial contenders.

Peavy has a 3.80 career road ERA - that doesn't bother you? He has a 10+ career ERA in playoff games - that doesn't bother you?

You guys are talking about him like he's a 1990 version of Roger Clemens. He's pretty good, but he's also pretty small to be a power pitcher and he has a motion that makes mechanics experts cringe.

The fact is that we already have 4 playoff starters, what's the marginal difference between starting Peavy over Lilly? It's not that much.

So, we're going to get rid of our 5th (Marquis) and 6th (Marshall) starters, and our best prospect (the level of prospect the Braves would not trade), and our reserve middle infielder, and our best defensive outfielder - and throw in a couple of other guys possibly. What happens when Harden goes down? What happens when Harden, and Zambrano or Peavy go down? How many starts do you want Mitch Atkins or Carlos Pavano making for the 2009 Cubs? What happens if Fukudome doesn't hit and Johsnon can't hit right handers, or one of them gets hurt?

It's too much talent. Vitters is better than anyone traded for Santana. It's also too much ML depth. It's the kind of trade that haunts ML teams for years if not decades.

speaking of Santana, if this 5-for-1, or 6-for-1 happens, it's going to be way more in quantity and quality then the Twins got last year, and the Cubs would be getting a slightly inferior pitcher (imo).

So yeah, fuck that (if it happens).

I think I proposed Rich Hill, Felix Pie and a couple of others last season for Johan and I was mocked. Who's laughing now? Who's laughing now? 


The Santana deal isn't a good comparison at all in my opinion. The Twins way overplayed their hand and there were few teams that were ever really that interested, with the Mets being the ones with the most interest. After the Twins denied offer after offer the other teams backed out and the Mets were the only ones left.

Honestly, I don't think the quality of what we might give up for Peavy would be that much more than we should expect. Yes, the quantity is a lot but I'm not going to be that upset that Kevin Hart or Ronny Cedeno aren't around anymore. As I said, I think Vitters and Marshall are the only ones we'd really miss, and only Marshall would be a loss from last year's team. I'd rather have Peavy than Marquis and Marshall.

A 3.80 road ERA is pretty good, Neal. It's not as Cy Young caliber as his home ERA but it's nothing to sneer at. I have to think that not all of that is the park factors of Petco but also the home factor as well, so some of that might translate to Wrigley. And he's pitched in, what, 3 playoff games? Sample size. Saying that we have "four playoff starters" doesn't answer your own issue about the fact that several of them have flat-out sucked in the playoffs.

The injury thing I'm not really going to argue with you about, mostly cuz I don't think either you or I am qualified enough to speak on it. I understand his mechanics aren't perfect or even perhaps desirable, but how many pitchers' are? I look at results, age, and likelihood of continuing those results. I think they're pretty decent and you, for an unspecified fear of injury, don't. Fine. I think there's enough depth in what we already have and what Hendry can find cheaply to cover ourselves in case of any of our pitchers going down to injury.

This is pretty big head scratcher:

"The Santana deal isn't a good comparison at all in my opinion. The Twins way overplayed their hand and there were few teams that were ever really that interested, with the Mets being the ones with the most interest. After the Twins denied offer after offer the other teams backed out and the Mets were the only ones left. "

The Padres way overplayed their hand and there were few teams that were ever really that interested, with the Cubs being the ones with the most interest. After the Padres denied offer after offer the other teams backed out and the Cubs were the only ones left.

"Saying that we have "four playoff starters" doesn't answer your own issue about the fact that several of them have flat-out sucked in the playoffs."

That's not my issue. Try to keep up. That is your issue. What I am saying is that if you believe in the 'certain guys just choke in the playoffs' theory, than Peavy is prime example of such a choker. If you don't believe in that theory, he's only slightly better than what we have.

Put 2008 Peavy on the Cubs and get rid of Marquis and Marhall. What changes? What's the point?

I tire of this argument, but nonetheless.

The Padres way overplayed their hand...

Yes, they have, but not nearly to the degree that the Twins did last year, at least so far. We're in early December. The Santana deal wasn't completed until late January. If this Peavy thing somehow does drag on as long as the Santana thing did, I'm pretty sure that whatever team gets him won't have to pay as much then as they would now. Thus, the Santana and Peavy deals, so far, don't compare particularly well. Regardless, as I said, the quantity might be higher but I don't think the quality of the Cubs players mentioned is that much better than what the Twins eventually received.

If you don't believe in that theory, he's only slightly better than what we have. Put 2008 Peavy on the Cubs and get rid of Marquis and Marhall. What changes? What's the point?

Of course I don't subscribe to the "some guys choke theory." You're the one that brought up Peavy's 10+ playoff ERA. I merely mentioned that a lot of the Cubs pitchers have sucked as well.

Other than that, I'm not sure what to tell you. I think Peavy is demonstrably better than Marquis and Marshall combined. Yes, we lose a 6th starter but those can be had, either from the farm or for cheap next spring. I don't think that anyone other than you really questions that Peavy would be a big upgrade to the rotation, in terms of ERA, wins, WHIP, whatever.

Let me correct this for you:

I don't think that anyone other than you really questions that Peavy would be a big upgrade to the rotation, in terms of ERA, wins, WHIP, $ on DL, whatever.

It's funny how you guys make me feel like an old timer because I can remember way back to 2004, though.

It doesn't make any difference if Peavy is better than Marshall and Marquis. Marshall and Marquis get us to the playoffs.

I was thinking more of fans than the GM. Hendry has really done a good job, despite the fact that there have been a few ugly deals--he's taken other GMs as often as he's been taken. Jose Ceda for Todd Walker? Lee for Choi? Aramis Ramirez for Bobby Hill and scrap? These successes outweigh the mistakes of Juan Pierre, Steve Trachsel, etc. This doesn't mean complaints aren't justified in the case of these mistakes; just as complaints are completely justified for Pirates fans when they look back at the GM who gave away A-Ram for nobody.

Cedeno- Goodbye
Vitters-Too young for 2009....but already trading a #1 pick so soon?
Marshall-Not very "toolsy" just got the job done. ERA+ of 119 and 116 the last 2 seasons being yanked around from BP to rotation.
Pie- Will never get a full season to see what he can do, or to refine his game. .299/.355/.470 in the minors, and suddenly he can't play? He will be 24 this year. 24.

Can Peavy play RF? Bat left-handed?

Vitters is a raw guy and his 3rd pro season will only start in Low-A ball. He is atleast 3 years away from helping us win. Cedeno and Pie are defensive spealist who wont be able to hit MLB pitching. Hart is just a career middle reliever, Marshall is a nice player and should be in the rotation over Marquis, but if he is the best player we give up to get Peavy you do it. Its not like Lance Berkman or Josh Hamilton are out there for us to get in free agency to fix RF for us. So if have have enough money for 1 big name addition its not like getting Peavy cost us a shot at a good RF. Abreu, Dunn, and Ibanez all have their warts. If Jimbo plays his cards right he could get Luke Scott and Scott Hairston in the Peavy deal and that would be a great RF platoon.

Most people wouldn't be shocked if Vitters ends his year in AA this year.

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  • as a fan, he only "owes" us the game on the field and not getting in the way of others on his team being ready to play (imo).

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