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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.