All along, the Cubs insisted Kris Bryant wouldn’t be getting a September call-up, and he’s not walking through the door after a monster season at Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs activated seven more prospects now that Iowa’s season is over: pitchers Arodys Vizcaino, Brian Schlitter, Dan Straily, Zac Rosscup and Eric Jokisch; outfielder Junior Lake; and catcher Rafael Lopez.
Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field, the Cubs had already seen eight players debut in the majors this season.
Vizcaino hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since September 2011, when he was supposed to be a big part of the future with the Atlanta Braves. Tommy John surgery and a follow-up procedure on his right elbow wiped out his next two seasons.
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In the middle of that long recovery process, the Cubs acquired Vizcaino from the Braves in the Paul Maholm/Reed Johnson deal, part of the first deadline fire sale for Theo Epstein’s front office in 2012.
“He’s up here to showcase his stuff,” Epstein said. “Learn what it’s like to pitch at Wrigley Field with an eye on 2015.”
The Cubs have been cautious with Vizcaino, who pitched for three different affiliates this season and put up a 5.40 ERA in 18-plus innings at Iowa. He’s still only 23 years old. He showed flashes of triple-digit velocity in spring training.
The organization wants Vizcaino working with pitching coach Chris Bosio, trying to rediscover what made him Baseball America’s No. 40 overall prospect entering the 2012 season.
“The key for him this year was just that he went out there and established his health,” Epstein said. “He had his ups and downs. There are times where he’s fighting mechanics and it wasn’t elite stuff with location – which he’s capable of – but he fought through that and dialed it in a little bit towards the end of the season.”
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Straily – a piece to the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel Fourth of July trade – will work out of the bullpen now but could become rotation depth for 2015. Last season Straily notched 10 wins and made 27 starts for an Oakland A’s team that won the American League West.
Jokisch, a 25-year-old lefty, grew up in downstate Illinois and played at Northwestern University. He put himself on the map with a strong season in Iowa’s rotation (9-10, 3.58 ERA) and had to be added to the 40-man roster this winter.
Lake got sent to Des Moines in August for a 14-game tune-up after struggling with the Cubs, striking out 102 times in 305 plate appearances. Mike Olt responded well to a similar demotion – putting up a .933 OPS in 28 games with Iowa – but the third baseman has been sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Olt will be rehabbing with Class-A Kane County in the Midwest League playoffs. He’s expected to rejoin the big-league club and get playing time at first base with Anthony Rizzo sidelined indefinitely with a back injury.
Bryant looks like the industry’s minor league player of the year – 43 homers, 110 RBI combined – but roster/financial considerations will keep him down after his first full season in professional baseball.