While they have an impressive stock of young position player talent, it is no secret that the Chicago Cubs lack potential top-of-the-rotation starting pitching prospects. In an early season trade last year with the Baltimore Orioles that sent Scott Feldman out east, the Cubs landed a talented bullpen arm in Pedro Strop and a potential impact starting pitcher in Jake Arrieta.
He has yet to prove his worth, but Arrieta has obvious raw talent and at only 27-years-old, he is just entering his prime years.
Arrieta quickly rose through the minor leagues before making his big league debut with the Orioles in 2010. Arrieta always had impressive strikeout numbers and good a ERA in the minors, but he constantly struggled with walks. Even with the control issues, Arrieta had obvious raw pitching talent. Before the 2009 season, Baseball America ranked Arrieta as the 67th-best prospect in baseball, but he fell to 99th a year later after an unimpressive season at triple-A.
Arrieta has continued to walk too many batter in the big leagues, and that has caused him to struggle. He did have some success in nine starts with the Cubs in 2013, going 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA, but he did not strike very many batters out (6.4 K/9) and he continued to issue far too many walks (4.2 BB/9). While the success was certainly nice to see, it is fair to wonder whether Arrieta got lucky in his short time with the Cubs.
Some scouts have also questioned his ability to handle pressure on the mound, as he seems to let one mistake lead to another. Almost everybody agrees that the stuff is legit, but Arrieta is no longer a prospect, and it is time for him to show his talent by getting people out.
He is just entering his prime, so it is certainly possible that he turns things around this season. When things are going right, Arrieta is a sinkerball pitcher. Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio has a history of success with sinkerball pitchers. I believe that Bosio is one of the best pitching coaches in the league, and he just may be the right guy to turn Arrieta’s career around.
This is a make-or-break kind of season for Arrieta. He entered Spring Training with a bit of shoulder soreness, but it is apparently not serious and he is expected to be ready to go at the start of the season. The impressive stuff could lead Arrieta to a career in the bullpen, but he would become much more valuable if he can put it all together in the rotation.
Arrieta has the talent to turn things around quickly. Only time will tell whether he is able to do so and become a top-of-the-rotation starter that the Cubs desperately need.