As the Cubs muddle through the 2014 season, cobbling together the worst regular-season record through the 1/3 mark of the campaign at 21-34, we continue to focus on Cubs’ minor league prospects. Here we focus on several pitchers who could represent hope for the future, most of whom are pitching at the lower levels of the Cubs’ system.
Let’s get to work.
RHP Duane Underwood: A second round pick in 2012, Underwood, still just 19, is fashioning his best season in his third year in the Cubs’ organization. In nine starts covering 40.2 innings for the Class A Kane County Cougars, Underwood has yielded 40 hits (two home runs) and 17 walks while fanning 27. His WHIP is a career-best 1.402, as are his HR/9, BB/9, K/9 and K/BB ratio.
In his first full season pitching for short-season Boise of the Northwest League, Underwood made 14 appearances (11 starts) and produced a 4.97 ERA and 1.638 WHIP. The youngster with the mid 90’s fastball, solid curveball and above-average change-up needs to avoid the kind of prolonged slumps that tarnished his previous seasons.
RHP Justin Amlung: A 12th round selection in 2012, Amlung was recently converted to a starting pitcher for Kane County after a dominant stretch for the Cougars as a reliever. He had a decent season last year with the Cougars, pitching almost entirely out of the bullpen. However, he’s enjoying a dominant campaign thus far.
In 12 appearances, the last four starting assignments, Amlung, has pitched 46.2 innings and allowed only 34 hits and a seven walks. Meanwhile, he has 40 strikeouts. Both his ERA, 1.54, and WHIP, 0.879, are exceptional.
Last season, Amlung made 32 appearances (one start), covering 72 innings, and allowed 71 hits and 29 walks while fanning 60. His ERA of 3.75 and WHIP of 1.389 were much higher.
Amlung throws a fastball between 90-93 MPH with an evolving slider and changeup that induces a high-percentage of groundballs.
RHP James Pugliese: An 18th round selection in the 2011 draft, Pugliese, 21, flies under the radar next to the bigger name Cubs’ prospects. But he’s been a dominant member of the Kane County bullpen this season after leading Boise’s rotation last year. In 12 appearances covering 23.1 innings, Pugliese has yielded just 12 hits (no home runs). He has walked only six while fanning 28. His ERA and WHIP are a microscopic 0.77 and 0.771, respectively.
In 2013, he made three starts covering 14 innings and allowed 22 hits (two homers). He walked two and fanned twelve. His ERA was 7.71 and WHIP 1.741.
For Boise last season, Pugliese made 12 appearances (11 starts) in 62 innings and allowed 55 hits (two homers) and only twelve walks. He fanned 47, while compiling an ERA of 2.32 and a WHIP of 1.081.
Pugliese’s success has been characterized by pinpoint control and minimizing home runs. He throws a fastball between 90-92 MPH with a developing curveball and changeup.
RHP Zak Hermans: A 30th round pick in the 2013 draft, Hermans is amid his second successful season pitching in the Cubs’ system. In four relief appearances for Kane County covering 10.1 innings, he has yielded 10 hits (no home runs) and four walks and stuck out nine. His ERA is 3.48 and WHIP 1.355.
Last season pitching for the Arizona Rookie League Cubs–he bypassed Boise this year–Hermans, 22, appeared in six games (one start) covering 8.2 innings. He yielded ten hits (no home runs) and fanned ten. His ERA was 3.12, but his WHIP was markedly higher at 1.615.
Hermans does not boast an overpowering fastball, currently sitting in the high 80’s, but he also has an above-average changeup and cutter.
LHP Eric Jokisch: Jokisch, 25, an 11th round pick in the 2010 draft, is the closest prospect in this report to contributing at the major league level, as he is currently pitching for AAA Iowa. In 11 starts covering 68.2 innings, Jokisch has yielded 66 hits and only 11 walks while fanning 56. His ERA is 3.28 and WHIP an exceptional 1.121.
Last year for AA Tennessee, Jokisch made 27 appearances (26 starts) and produced an ERA of 3.42 and a WHIP of 1.232. He tossed 160.2 innings and allowed 144 hits and 54 walks and struck out 137.
Jokisch has been producing consecutive successful seasons since 2010 and has been used exclusively as a starting pitcher since 2012.
He sports a low 90’s fastball to complement a changeup and curveball and yields a lot of groundballs.
If the Cubs part with pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, as expected, before the trade deadline, Jokisch could debut with the Cubs later this season.
Check back with us next week for more Cubs prospects analysis
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