Pitching prospects: looking toward 2017

The minor-league numbers are in for this year, so this is our final ranking of pitching prospects going into 2017.

Prospects are ranked according to the formula K9-(H9+BB9). That’s strikeouts per nine innings minus the sum of hits-per-nine and walks-per-nine. Thus we only look at four numbers–innings, hits, walks, strikeouts. What else is there? Well, age is a factor. The lower the age, the higher the upside. The years work against you when you’re 25 and over, because you won’t get better and thus won’t be as good in the majors as you are now. But in the spirit of keeping things simple, I would rather not try to quantify the age factor. The reader will be expected to keep two balls in the air, the player’s age and my rightmost-column number based on innings, hits, BBs and Ks.

According to this ranking, the ten top starting pitchers on the Cub farm are Matusz, De La Cruz, Paulino, Clifton, Morrison, Kellogg, Twomey, Bloomquist, Miller and Zastryzny, in that order. Matusz was mostly in rehab this season, and thus his numbers are drawn from four minors levels, so his name near the top of this ranking should probably appear with an asterisk (and not just for being a southpaw). Next year he’ll be thirty.

If we only looked at Zastryzny’s 81 innings at Iowa, he would place sixth (at -2.33) behind four low-minors prospects plus Matusz. So Zastryzny’s late-season call-up was earned. Zastryzny is the first Cub hurler selected in the annual June draft in the Epstein-McLeod era (2012-present) to pitch in the majors, and the first prospect at any position to play in the majors who was drafted lower than number 6 overall.

The top ten relievers on the list are Patton, Rivero, Leathersich, Pena, Farris, Araujo, Cheek, Sarianides, McNeil and Malave. Patton and Pena ended the season on the parent club. Leathersich is still rehabbing from TJ surgery. Rivero’s not getting a call-up could be due to his age, 28.

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