Castillo was a Rule 5 pick from the Phillies last winter, even though he had never pitched above the single-A level in the minors. Predictably, he wasn’t very good, and the Cubs were highly limited in ways they could use him. He went long stretches between appearances, and spent a good chunk of the season on the disabled list, and all told he only pitched in 13 games. To me, it looked like he had reasonably good stuff, but simply wasn’t good enough to pitch at the major league level yet.
Now that he’s been DFA’d, it’s hard to say what will happen to him. I don’t doubt that the Cubs would like to keep him in the organization. There would have been no reason to keep him around last season if they didn’t. They’re no doubt counting on his inexperience to prevent another team from claiming him off waivers, since any team that does so will have to keep him on the 40-man roster, and frankly he’s probably not worth the trouble yet for most teams. Still, if I ran a bad team and was looking to take a chance on a wild-card bullpen arm, Castillo might be the kind of guy I’d try out.
EDIT 2/6/2013: Castillo has been outrighted to Iowa, and so stays in the organization.
Concepcion was signed by the Cubs with some fanfare last offseason, but he was absolutely awful in 2012 while pitching for low-A Peoria:
12 G (all starts), 52.1 IP, 7.39 ERA, 6 HR, 12.0 IP, 5.2 BB/9, 4.8 K/9
There’s just nothing good to say about that, and it’s no surprise that he was able to clear waivers. Even if he was playing hurt he should have been better than that. No doubt the Cubs were hoping he’d be claimed by another team, since his signing at this point looks like an obvious mistake.
The Cubs switched their Midwest League affiliate from Peoria to Kane County during the offseason, so I assume that Concepcion will repeat that level in 2013. Short of some truly amazing improvement, though, this will probably be the last time he’s mentioned on this blog, because it’s hard to see him rejoining the 40-man roster, much less making the majors.
The Cubs needed to clear a roster space to make room for Scott Feldman, and Coleman is a logical guy to cut. He seems like he’s been around forever already, after making his big-league debut in 2010, but he’s never really been any good. He’s posted a very poor 70 ERA+ in 165.2 major league innings, and he’s struggled with his control, walking 4.5 batters per 9 innings, an unacceptably high number for a pitcher like him, without dominant stuff. If a guy is walking that many hitters, he better be striking out more than a man per inning, but Coleman isn’t even close to that with a 6.4 K/9 rate.
He doesn’t have a very distinguished minor league track record, either, so there’s really no downside to cutting him loose as far as I’m concerned. I imagine that the Cubs would prefer to keep him around, just for the sake of AAA depth, but he seems to be slipping further down the depth chart with every pitcher the Cubs acquire. And deservedly so, since he’s never shown that he’s actually any good.
EDIT 12/1/2012: Coleman has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Iowa.
The Cubs have selected the contracts of P Trey McNutt, INF Christian Villanueva, INF Logan Watkins and P Robert Whitenack
The deadline has passed for teams to add players to their 40-man rosters in order to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 draft, and accordingly the Cubs have added these four players to the 40-man roster.
McNutt is a big, tall righthander (listed at 6’4″, 220 lbs) and has been high on the organization’s top prospect lists for a couple of years now, but the results have yet to justify the hype around him. He spent his second straight year pitching for AA Tennessee last season, and once again struggled. His 2012 numbers:
34 G (17 GS), 95.0 IP, 4.26 ERA, 12 HR, 8.8 H/9, 4.3 BB/9, 6.3 K/9
That does not represent any improvement from his 2011 season. I assume that he’ll start the year in AAA, but he’s now coming off of two bad years in the advanced minors after dominating A-ball in 2010. I can see why the Cubs wouldn’t want to lose him in the Rule 5 draft, and they probably would have, but at the same time, he’s 23 already and has to show significant progress before becoming an option at the major league level.
Villanueva was acquired in the Ryan Dempster trade with Texas, and since the Cubs have very little talent at third base, he immediately became an important factor in the Cubs’ long-term plans. He’s still young, not turning 22 until this coming June, and figures to start the season in AA. He’s definitely one to watch.
Watkins, who turned 23 in August, was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year for 2012, after spending the entire season with Tennessee. His numbers from 2012:
588 PA, .281/.383/.422, 9 HR, 97 K, 28 SB in 35 attempts
He’s an interesting player, having been drafted by the Cubs in the 21st round in 2008. His climb up through the minors has been slow but methodical, being promoted one level each year, and playing mostly 2B but also occasionally SS and CF. Frankly, he looks like a better prospect than Darwin Barney ever did, with very good on-base skills, possibly developing power (his 9 HR in 2012 beat his previous career best of 5 in 2011), and the ability to steal bases. I don’t know how good he is defensively, but it’ll be interesting to watch him in AAA this year, especially if he’s able to add some more power to his bat. Even still, he looks like a useful player; he even bats lefty, which is nice.
Whitenack, a tall (6’5″) righthander, is the least interesting of these four players to me, and his promotion to the 40-man roster was a big surprise to me. He missed most of 2011 after Tommy John surgery, and struggled mightily upon his return in 2012:
15 G (all starts), 51.1 IP, 5.96 ERA, 4 HR, 12.3 H/9, 4.7 BB/9, 5.4 K/9
Yikes, that’s awful across the board. Before being hurt, he was off to a good start in 2011, with a 1.93 ERA over 60.2 IP split between Daytona and Tennessee. Up until that point, though, his minor league track record is unaccomplished, and specifically he’s had trouble striking people out throughout his minor league career with a career 5.9 K/9 rate. His surgery really set him back, and now he’s 24, with only 37.2 IP in the high minors under his belt. I’m not altogether sure why the Cubs wanted to use a roster spot on him, but they’re smarter than me. Still, I think it’s unlikely that Whitenack becomes a good major league pitcher.
When Gutierrez was claimed off waivers last month, I wrote that it was “probably 50/50 at best that he even stays on the 40-man roster until spring training starts.” Now he’s been demoted off the 40-man roster, so that’s that. He figures to start the season as AAA depth.
More shuffling of marginal talent, as these three players are removed from the 40-man roster.
Germano was a worthwhile pickup, aquired essentially for free, but it just didn’t work out. He managed only 1 quality start in 12 tries, although his peripheral stats suggest that he pitched a little better than his 6.75 ERA suggest. I think he’s a pretty good player to have hanging around in AAA, but he does have 322 major league innings under his belt, and has yet to have any substantial success at that level.
I said during the spring that I’d prefer Dave Sappelt to make the Cubs’ roster instead of Joe Mather, a preference that didn’t exactly make me look smart when Sappelt struggled all year in AAA. Mather was pretty awful himself, though, posting a 58 OPS+, playing highly questionable defense, and posting the lowest WAR on the team. Sure, Mather gave them more “versatility”, but here as in most cases “versatility” seemed to simply mean the ability to suck at more positions. The true measure of Mather’s versatility came when Ian Stewart was put on the DL, and Mather seemingly wasn’t even considered to take his spot at third. At that point, his versatility compared to Sappelt was moot, and sure enough, the Cubs have for now elected to keep Sappelt on the 40-man roster and demote Mather. Who knows how long that will last, but I feel vindicated in some small, petty way.
Tough break for Blake Parker, who pitched well in AAA only to find himself hurt upon being promoted to the Cubs. He didn’t really get the opportunity that he had earned, and now will have to start all over again in the spring. Nonetheless, the Cubs’ bullpen situation may not be any more settled in 2013 than it was in 2012, so if Parker is healthy and productive again, he’ll figure to get another chance. I would have liked to see more of him this year, so good luck to him.
EDIT 10/31/2012: Joe Mather has elected free agency, and is no longer in the organization.
EDIT 11/1/2012: Justin Germano has followed suit, also electing to become a free agent.
The Cubs have outrighted P Jason Berken, INF Adrian Cardenas, P Marcos Mateo and P Miguel Socolovich to Iowa
As expected after a 101-loss season, it’s looking like the Cubs’ roster will have a high degree of turnover this offseason. This was a roster without a lot of above-average talent but a lot of marginal major leaguers that have little potential for development.
Berken was acquired very late in the year when Jeff Samardzija was shut down. He’ll be 29 next season, and has thus far posted an ERA+ of 81 in 248.2 IP in the major leagues. He did not make a strong impression in his four starts with the Cubs, pitching less than 5 innings in 3 of those starts. With his track record, I think the best that a team (whether the Cubs or otherwise) gives him a look in spring training.
Cardenas, as I’ve said repeatedly, simply did not have a role on this team, and I’m surprised he spent as much time on the major league roster as he did. That said, he still only amassed 60 plate appearances, and spent very long stretches of time on the bench without playing at all. It’s hard to see where he might fit in the organization’s long-term plans in any scenario, since the general perception of him is that he’s not good enough defensively to have much value as a reserve infielder, and he’s not a good enough hitter to put at a corner spot. Some other team might have more use for him – he has decent on-base skills – but with Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney entrenched at their positions for the time being, Cardenas is superfluous for the Cubs.
Mateo spent the entire 2012 season on the 60-day disabled list with elbow problems after making 44 combined appearances for the Cubs in 2010 and 2011. During that time, he struck out a bunch of hitters (10.3 K/9) and gave up a bunch of homers (8 in 44.2 IP). It’s too bad for him that he was hurt, because he would have likely gotten an extended opportunity in the bullpen this season. I have not seen any reporting on the status of his elbow, however, so it’s hard to know what his future may hold.
Socolovich was acquired late in the season in the front office’s neverending search for bullpen help, and to be honest I’m surprised that he’s at the top of the cut list in the offseason. His track record in the minors, or at least since hitting AAA, is pretty impressive, even if he issues a lot of walks. Yet he hasn’t really gotten much of an opportunity at the major league level, and he’ll still only be in his age-26 season next year. Of all the random waiver claims and low-level acquisitions this season, Socolovich seemed like one of the most promising. Still, he’ll probably get a chance during spring training to make the team, but I’m surprised to see him removed from the 40-man at such an early juncture.
Like most other Cubs fans, I can vividly remember when I heard about Wood’s 20-strikeout game. I was a sophomore at the University of Florida, and unfortunately I didn’t get WGN in Gainesville. In those days, I pretty routinely watched Headline News for their semi-hourly sports updates, and I’m sure it’s easy to imagine my astonishment when they reported that Kerry Wood, in his fifth major league game, had struck out 20 batters in a 1-hit shutout.
In my lifetime as a Cubs fan, Ryne Sandberg was universally beloved, Sammy Sosa amazed with his power, and Greg Maddux was the one that got away. Kerry Wood, though, captured fan imagination in a way that only a true fireball pitcher can. I saw Sammy Sosa hit a number of homeruns in person, including 3 in one game, and as much fun as that was, in the end it’s still just a number of homeruns. But a guy like Kerry Wood, when he was starting games … well, if a guy like that is pitching the day you go to a game, you might get to see history.
As we all know, Wood never duplicated the dominance that he had that day that he struck out 20 Astros – how could he? – and he never ended up throwing that no-hitter that a lot of us assumed he someday would, but for several years, it seemed on any given day that he might. I, for one, never rushed to check the box score like I did on the days he was pitching. His legend grew impossibly large, despite or perhaps even because of the problems he had with injuries, and the expectations around him were impossible to fulfill.
And yet, he was a fine pitcher for a long time, in the rotation and later in the bullpen, and it seemed to me that he was always a credit to his teams and to the game he played. Unlike with Mark Prior, the fans never seemed to hold his injury problems against him. His reputation has remained strong, and the fans’ support for him unwavering. I could recap the struggles he’s had this season, and the dire outlook of the Cubs’ bullpen without the possibility of Wood regaining form, but those things seem beside the point right now.
The point is, I can’t imagine anyone being a Cubs fan over the last 14 years without being a Kerry Wood fan. I’m grateful for all the times I got to see him pitch, both in person (this game was the best) and on TV. And I’m proud to say that I’m a Cubs fan, because that was Kerry Wood’s team.
Rounding out the 25-man roster, the Cubs have added INF Blake DeWitt to the 40-man roster and called him up, and have optioned OF Tony Campana to Iowa.
I’ve written enough about DeWitt here to make my feelings clear; I think he’s the best option for 2B that the Cubs currently have. We’ll see how Luis Valbuena (in the majors) and Adrian Cardenas (in AAA) do, but DeWitt is better than Barney and better than Baker. Still, he seems stuck behind both on the depth chart, for reasons that are not clear to me.
As for Campana, he’s very fast, and that makes him a huge asset on the bases and in the outfield. But he’s a poor hitter, to the extent that he’s really only useful in a pinch-running or defensive replacement role. All things considered, I’d rather have him on the roster than Reed Johnson, but at the same time, I can see why they’d rather have Johnson’s bat on the bench. Campana is an exciting player for what he offers, and what he’s good at, he’s really good at. But he’s a luxury better suited for a team that has better options on the bench than this year’s Cubs. Still, it’s reasonable to expect him back at some point of the year.
So here, for posterity, is the final 25-man roster for Opening Day 2012:
The following players have been added to the 40-man roster and called up for Opening Day:
P Shawn Camp
OF Joe Mather
And the following players have been optioned to the minors:
P Casey Coleman (to Iowa)
P Gerardo Concepcion (to Daytona)
Camp was picked up last week, and I said at that time that “I’d rather see someone like Rafael Dolis and/or Lendy Castillo win the open bullpen spots than Camp.” Well, it turns out that Dolis and Castillo both made the team, and so did Camp. So, fine by me.
I already said what I wanted to say about Mather in this post, in section 4 about Dave Sappelt. Long story short, I’d have rather Sappelt made the team.
We’ve seen a lot of Coleman the past two years, and I just don’t think he’s a very good pitcher. His major league numbers have been rather poor, including a 74 ERA+ in 141.1 IP, and peripheral stats that indicate to me that he’s not much better than that. He’s still young, only 24 this season, so it’s possible that he might still be decent somewhere down the road, and in fairness to him, he was OK in Iowa last year. But I think Iowa is where he belongs for now.
Concepcion was not expected to make the team, of course, and the 20-year-old Cuban prospect will begin the year in Daytona. That’s exciting, but I think that will be a challenging assignment for him; there were only a handful of 20-year-old pitchers in the Florida State League last year, and the only one with the Cubs was Aaron Kurcz, since sent to the Red Sox as part of the Theo Epstein compensation deal. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on him, to see how he handles it.
EDIT (5/12/12) – Concepcion was originally assigned Daytona, but has actually begun his season pitching for low-A Peoria.