It is no secret that the Chicago Cubs now have one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have done a fantastic job of stocking the farm system with talent since they arrived in Chicago just last season. The product on the major league field is not inspiring, but the elite level of talent that the Cubs possess in the minor leagues makes the future look very bright.
The prospects in the Cubs’ system are headlined by position players Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora. All four of these guys are generally ranked as top 30 prospects in all of baseball, with Baez routinely being in the top 10. The Cubs have a ton of talented offensive prospects, but the general consensus is that they lack pitching.
The Cubs do have some talented pitchers in their minor league system. Guys like C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Paul Blackburn and Dillon Maples are legitimate starting pitching prospects that have a ton of talent. That being said, each of these pitchers are very raw and are a long way away from contributing at the major league level.
The Cubs do have one pitcher who has put up incredible minor league numbers and could be very close to competing in the big leagues. That guy is Kyle Hendricks, and he was named the Cubs’ 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year on Friday.
Hendricks is a guy that has gone under the radar the past couple of seasons. The 23-year-old right handed pitcher was acquired by Chicago from the Texas Rangers last season at the trade deadline in the deal that sent Ryan Dempster to Texas. Hendricks is not a guy that will blow you away with his stuff. His fastball sits at about 87-91 mph and he also throws a curveball, cutter and changeup.
Hendricks does not have elite stuff, but he does a fantastic job of changing speeds and locating his pitches. During his time in the minors, Hendricks has hardly walked anybody and does not give up many home runs. Obviously, both of those things are key for a guy that relies on locating his pitches.
While his stuff may not impress you, the numbers most certainly will. Hendricks spent most of his 2013 season pitching in Double-A, where in 21 starts, he went 10-3 with a 1.85 ERA. His 101 strikeouts are not that impressive, but the fact that he only walked 26 batters and gave up three home runs most certainly is.
Later in the season, Hendricks got the call to triple-A where he continued to impress. In six starts in triple-A, he has a 3-1 record with a 2.48 ERA, only allowing eight walks, two home runs and striking out 27 batters.
The strikeout numbers will never be impressive for Hendricks. He simply does not have the pure stuff to be an “ace” pitcher. That being said, the numbers prove that he has a knack for pitching. His ability to change speeds and locate pitches have continually fooled minor league batters.
With low walk rates, Hendricks has shown the ability to keep his pitch count down and work deep in to games. I think he has a nice future as a no. 3 or 4 starter in the big leagues. I believe he will be a solid innings eater for the Cubs in the near future.
Obviously, we love to see the pitchers with elite stuff, but guys like Hendricks hold an important role to a baseball team as well. The Cubs did a great job naming Hendricks their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
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