Cubs pitching prospects closing out the season in style

Cubs pitching prospects closing out the season in style
August 15, 2013, 5:00 pm
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Tony Andracki

Six months ago, Cubs fans had little-to-no idea who Kyle Hendricks, C.J. Edwards or Eric Jokisch were.

Now, with the minor league season winding down, the three are the hottest pitchers in a Cubs system that suddenly boasts a solid collection of arms.

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Edwards, slated to start for High-A Daytona Thursday night, came over from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal. In three starts in his first go-round at Advanced-A ball, the 21-year-old 48th round pick has a whopping 17 strikeouts in just 9 2/3 innings. Over 103 innings this season, the 155-pound righty has struck out 12.1 batters per nine innings.

Hendricks also came over from the Rangers, but at last year's nonwaiver deadline and put the baseball world on notice with a sparkling start to the season at Double-A Tennessee, with a 1.85 ERA and 1.05 WHIP across 21 starts.

The 23-year-old right-hander was promoted to Triple-A earlier this month and has been up to the task through two starts in Iowa.

"He’s had an unbelievable year. A sub-2 ERA in Double-A and now to go up and throw seven innings, no earned runs (his first time out) in Triple-A, he’s been really good," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said.

"It shows you the value of command. Nothing is spectacular. It’s mostly fastball/changeup, but he locates everything down and to both sides of the plate. He’s had a terrific year. It would be hard to make a strong argument that he hasn’t been our best pitcher this year."

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When Hendricks was promoted, it was Jokisch that earned the start in his place at Double-A Tennessee and made history, recording the first nine-inning no-hitter in the Smokies franchise since 1985. He had some help from his defense in getting there, as shortstop Javier Baez and third baseman Christian Villanueva came up with some big plays late in the game.

"It was really a 'we' performance," Jokisch told Mick Gillispie of Smokies on the Radio earlier this week.

Jokisch attended high school in Virginia, Ill., before starring at Northwestern and has had a solid season with the Smokies, boasting a 10-10 record, 3.47 ERA and 1.30 WHIP across 23 games (22 starts).

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While the trio has dominated the headlines of late, Pierce Johnson has flown under the radar since his promotion from Low-A Kane County to Daytona.

Johnson, the Cubs' supplemental first round pick (43rd overall) in last year's draft, is 5-1 with a 2.16 ERA and 1.30 WHIP with Daytona and hasn't given up a run in his last two starts, spanning 10 2/3 innings.

Paul Blackburn and Duane Underwood, two raw prospects taken immediately after Johnson in 2012, are working on their control issues at short-season Boise along with 2011 14th rounder Dillon Maples.

Blackburn, 19, has a 3.09 ERA and 1.31 WHIP through 35 innings with the Hawks while Underwood, 19, sits at 2-3 with a 5.36 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. Both have BB/9 ratios above 4.0 (4.4, 4.3, respectively).

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Maples, meanwhile, has found his groove again in Boise after struggling at Kane County (8.31 ERA, 8.0 BB/9 in 11 games). With the Hawks, the 21-year-old righty is 4-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 1.17 WHIP and has walked just seven batters in 23 innings.