Its not easy to win games when you allow 5.24 runs per game but that's what the Kane County's pitching staff and defense surrendered in 2013. KC finished 15th in the Midwest League with a 4.50 ERA and were last in WHIP at 1.485, not a good recipe for success. Thirty-three pitchers took the mound during the season, including 18 different starters. Here's a look at the hurlers that took the mound for Kane County in 2013.
Pierce Johnson took the ball on opening day for the Cougars in his first full season of pro ball. The 2012 first-round supplemental pick made 13 starts going 5-5 with a 3.10 ERA. Johnson isn't going to overpower hitters throwing a fastball consistently in the low 90s but possess a wipe-out slider, which he throws with great command. He tossed 69.2 innings in the MWL with 22 walks, 74 strikeouts, and a BAA of .250. He earned a mid-season promotion to Daytona, and was outstanding in the second half going 6-1 for the D-Cubs with a 2.22 ERA and 50 K in 48.2 innings. Johnson also tossed five shutout innings in the opening game of the Florida State League championships. The right-hander could start 2014 in Daytona but will likely end the year in AA Tennessee, with a possible trip to Wrigley in 2015.
Tayler Scott (6-8 4.22 ERA/1.52 WHIP) was the workhorse of the Cougars' staff logging 130 innings in his first full season. The 6-foot-3, 165-pound South African didn't put up jaw dropping numbers but he did show the ability to take the ball very five days. In 24 starts, he pitched into the fifth inning 20 times but had trouble with is command, averaging 3.7 BB/9. He fanned 67 and after not surrendering a homer in his first two seasons, allowed six long balls. Scott, 21, is still relatively new to pitching so the Cubs will likely be patient with the right-hander. He should earn a promotion to Daytona in 2014 but when need to improve his command to succeed in the FSL. He was named to the MWL mid-season all-star game.
Michael Heesch (3-9 3.78) spent 2013 pitching at home as the former Prairie Ridge High School standout finished the year with 119 innings, second on the staff. The 6-foot-5 left-hander reached the fifth inning in 17 of his 20 starts, finishing with 60 strikeouts and 36 walks. The 23-year-old's best outing of the season came on May 5 as he blanked Dayton for 7.1 frames on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks. The 2012 8th round pick should earn the promotion to Daytona.
Kane County fans got a glimpse of the Cubs 2013 second-round pick Rob Zastryzny, a left-hander from the University of Missouri. Zastryzny made three relief appearances in August before being shut down for the season as he reached his innings limit. His line in Kane County was 1-0 0.93 ERA, 9.2 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 6 K. The left-hander is expected to be back in Kane County next year.
Felix Pena got off to a good start with a 2.15 ERA in his first six starts and was named to the MWL all-star game. But after an injury landed him on the disabled list, Pena, 23, never regained his early season form. In his final 12 starts his ERA shot up to 4.60 with 42 K and 19 BB in 60.2 IP. The right-hander finished the year third on the team in innings pitched (103.1) and led all pitchers with 77 K.
Cuban right-handed relief pitcher Armando Rivero made his professional debut for Kane County on June 22 after the 25-year-old signed for $3.1 million in March. Rivero was a little rusty after not pitching in game action for nearly two years allowing 14 hits and 11 runs in his first 8.2 innings. His final five games at Kane County a different story with 18 strikeouts in 9.2 shutout innings. He was promoted to Daytona pitching three games and then finished up the year with six games and 8.2 innings at AA Tennessee. I feel Rivero will get a shot at making the Cubs bullpen out of spring training and if he doesn't, will more than likely see Wrigley Field before the end of 2014.
Dillon Maples (0-2 8.31 ERA/1.85 WHIP) finally made it out of extended spring training and made his MWL debut on May 12 allowing six hits and three runs in five innings. It was his only start without a walk. The right-hander with the good fastball and a better breaking ball, struggled with his command walking 31 batters in 34.2 innings in 11 games. Maples was sent back to Boise, where he found his stride, going 5-2 with a 2.14 ERA while improving his command. Maples will likely start 2014 in Kane County but if he can throw strikes, may not be there for long.
The Cubs signed Scott Baker for $5 million and he spent most of his season pitching for Kane County. The former Twins standout made six rehab starts for the Cougars going 1-2 with a 6.17 ERA. Two other Cubs hurlers, Shawn Camp, who was released by the Cubs, and Rafael Dolis, also made rehab appearances in Kane County.
Another former Cub, Lendy Castillo, a Rule 5 pick from the Phillies in 2011, didn't have it as a starter for Kane County, allowing 36 hits (six homers) and 27 runs in five starts totaling 23.1 innings. He was moved to the bullpen but struggled with his command walking 26 in 41.1 IP with a .BAA of .253. Despite the struggles in the Midwest League, Castillo was promoted to Daytona. He appeared in 11 games for the D-Cubs, posting a 3.60 ERA in 20 IP (21 K/7BB) with a WHIP of 1.40.
Stephen Perakslis (1-3 2.93 ERA) led the Cougars with seven saves as the second-year right-hander appeared in 37 games in his first full season. He had two impressive streaks going 16.2 innings (8 games) without allowing a run and then tossed 12.1 scoreless frames in a 10-game streak. He pitched 58.1 innings with a 1.22 WHIP and a BAA .237. He was drafted in the 21st round in 2012 out of the University of Maine. The 22-year-old should head to Daytona for 2013 and is a bullpen arm to keep an eye on.
Justin Amlung, the Cubs 12th round pick in 2012, had a solid year out of the bullpen working 72 innings in 32 games. The right-hander even made one start ending the season with a 3.6 BB/9 and 7.5 K/9. He finished strong in his final 11 games with a 1.40 ERA with 19 K in 25.2 IP, picking up two wins and his second save. Right-handers hit .241 while lefties batted .283 against the former Louisville product. The 23-year-old went 5-4 with a 3.75 ERA and was fourth on the team with 72 IP.
If the Cubs organization learned anything about left-handed reliever Nathan Dorris in 2013, it was he could get left-hander hitters out as they went 6-61 (.098) against him. The Southern Illinois University product appeared in 36 games in the MWL going 7-3 with a 2.87 ERA and three saves. He tossed 69 innings and made two starts late in the season. Dorris averaged 3.9 BB/9 and 7.2 K/9. Looks like a summer in Florida is in his future Cub plans. Dorris was named to the MWL all-star game.
Michael Hamann joined Kane County in late June after the right-hander had three saves and a 0.00 ERA in 7.2 innings in six games at Boise. The 2012 16th round pick out of Toledo was even better his first nine games at Kane County not allowing a run in 12 innings with four saves and a win. The streak was finally snapped and the 22-year-old finished the year at 3-4 with a 2.49 ERA and a 1.2 WHIP. He averaged 7.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. Hamann is a relief pitcher to keep and eye on in 2014 as right-handers only hit .191 against him.
Brian Smith served a dual role for Kane County this summer as he made 16 appearances out of the bullpen (2-1 3.62 ERA) and started seven games (0-3 5.72). The left-hander went on the disabled list in July after making five straight starts and missed a month. Smith, a 40th round pick in 2011 out of Ontario Canada, is still only 20 and showed the ability to get left-handers hitters out with a .BAA of .217 and ERA of 1.17.
No player in the Cubs minor league system logged more travel miles than Jeffry Antigua, who had two stops in Kane County, one trip to Daytona, two to Tennessee and three more to Iowa, including his final five appearances of the season. The 23-year-old lefty (3-1 2.45 ERA) appeared in 13 games for Kane County striking out 30 in 25.2 innings while walking only five. He finished the year (four teams) tossing 82 innings, going 8-3 with a 3.73 ERA.
Tyler Skulina (0-2 9.31), the Cubs fourth-round pick in June, was promoted in early August and made four starts, totaling 9.2 innings. Skulina got hit hard allowing 14 hits and a BA of ,341 including a homer. He did strikeout nine and had his best outing on Aug. 15 tossing three shutout innings on two hits and four strikeouts. Skulina is a hard-thrower (mid 90s fastball) with an easy motion. Should begin 2014 back in Kane County.
Daury Torrez had a strong season for Mesa (4-2 3.31 ERA 49 IP, 5 BB, 49 K) and earned a late season start on Aug. 29 in Cedar Rapids. The 20-year-old gave up three runs on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts in five innings. Torrez may have a shot at making the Kane County rotation next season.
James Pugliese, a 21-year-old right-hander drafted in the 18th round in 2011, was another late season call-up making his MWL debut on Aug. 21. Pugliese made three starts going 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in 14 innings. He allowed 22 hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts. He was 4-3 with a 2.23 ERA in 12 games for Boise in 62 innings.
Matt Iannazzo has two stops in Kane County, joining the squad in late April for four games and then heading back to extended spring training. The left-handed free agent from the University of Pittsburgh broke camp with short-season Boise appearing in 14 games, with four saves and 18 strikeouts in 14 innings. He earned a promotion back to Kane County in late July appearing in six more games for the Cougars. Between the two stops, Iannazzo was 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 12.2 innings with 10 BB and 8 K.
Andrew McKirahan's road back from Tommy John surgery was a success in 2013 as the left-hander from Texas returned to the mound. After two rehab innings in Mesa in late June, the 2011 21st-round pick, made five rehab appearances in Boise and joined Kane County, pitching in his first game July 17. After missing most of last season, McKirahan threw the ball well for KC logging 20 innings in 14 games. He fanned 22 and finished with a 2.70 ERA and a .200 BAA.
Al Yevoli (0-0 3.15 ERA) was pitching for the Washington Wild Things in the Frontier League when the Cubs signed the 23-year-old in late July. The left-hander appeared in 11 games throwing 20 innings with 19 strikeouts. Eduardo Orozco, 24, started 2013 in Kane County (3-3 4.87 ERA, 20.1 IP, 13 BB 17 K) but an injury sent him to the DL and was assigned to Boise to rehab, and never left.
The MWL was not kind to Jose Rosario (0-7 7.38) as the right-hander really struggled with his command in his 14 games for the Cougars (5.8 BB/9). He also didn't miss many bats as the league hit .296 with six homers in 64.2 innings. The 23-year-old was sent back to Boise in August going 2-1 with a 5.38 ERA.
Jose Arias started two games for Kane County in April but went on the DL and didn't return to town until Aug. 28. Prior to his return, he pitched 10 innings in Mesa and Boise. The 22-year-old right hander only appeared in two games after the injury allowing five hits and three runs in 3.2 innings.
Starling Peralta arrived in Kane County in late July after starting the year in Daytona and rehabbing in Mesa. The 22-year-old right-hander made six starts, compiling 32.2 innings in seven games. He struggled with his command, walking 23, and finished 2-3 6.06 ERA.
Juan Paniagua is another Kane County pitcher that had problems finding the strike zone. The 23-year-old signed a $1.5 million deal last summer and had this season derailed by visa problems, not joining the team until July 17. He started three games, allowing 10 hits, 12 walks and seven earned runs in eight innings before being sent to Boise.
After starting the year in Daytona (0-1 3.68 ERA/ 29.1 IP), LHP Sheldon McDonald joined the Cougars in late June, appearing in 17 games with a 2-0 record and a 2.41 ERA. The 24-year-old fanned 27 in 33.2 innings for Kane County and was promoted back to Daytona for the final week of the season.
Ian Dickson (2-2 6.88 ERA), appeared in 11 games, including three starts, logging 35.1 innings before the right-hander was traded the Washington for relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez.
Position players David Bote (1G, 1IP, 3H, 3R, 2BB 0K) and Bijan Rademacher (3G, 3IP, 2H, 3R, 0ER, 4BB 0K) both saw action on the hill as did Kenny Socorro, coach turned pitcher the final week of the season Socorro appeared in two games with a line of 3IP, 6H, 3R, 1ER, 1B, 1K.
There's more on Rob Zastryzny, Tyler Skulina, James Pugliese, Matthew Iannazzo, Michael Hamann, Dillon Maples Eduardo Orozco, Jose Rosario, and Juan Paniagua in the Boise pitching recap