Not sure any minor league team got more of an infusion of pitching talent in the second half than Daytona. Three trades and a promotion gave the D-Cubs a dominate rotation. And it showed, as they rolled through the FSL playoffs allowing three earned runs in 54 innings and the four "newbies" tossed 33 scoreless playoff frames in six starts.
Daytona also fired a pair of non-hitters in 2013. A nine-inning gem by Matt Loosen against Dunedin on July 8 and then Ben Wells, Kyler Burke and Zach Cates combined to blank Dunedin in a suspended game that lasted one inning in Dunedin and ended a week later at The Jack.
The pitching staff was really a tale of two halves. The season started with Ben Wells, Starling Peralta, PJ Francescon, Austin Kirk and Cates comprising the rotation and by the time the playoffs rolled around, Pierce Johnson, C.J. Edwards, Corey Black, and Ivan Pineyro were on the hill.
Despite all the acclaim, the final team stats were not that impressive. Daytona was sixth in the FSL in team ERA, despite leading the league with 16 shutouts during the regular season.The were 4th in strikeouts, 9th in WHIP at 1.35, and had the third highest number of walks. A total of 31 pitchers took the mound for Daytona, including 16 different starters. Pitching staff set a team-record with 20 shutouts, including the playoffs.
Here's a look at the 2013 arms for Daytona:
Ben Wells led Daytona with 21 starts and 112.1 innings, and finished fifth in the FSL with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP among qualified starters. Wells won nine games for D-Cubs and fanned 69 with 40 BB. After missing most of last year with two trips to the DL, the 21-year-old is back on track for a major league career. He had a solid year but went unnoticed for most of the year. Wells put his name in the record books as part of a combined no-hitter against Dunedin pitching the only inning at Dunedin as the game was finished in Daytona, with Kyler Burke and Zach Cates finishing off the Blue Jays.
Pierce Johnson joined Daytona in late June after making 13 starts for Kane County in the Midwest League (5-5 3.10 ERA, 69.2 IP, 74K, 1.29 WHIP). The 43rd overall pick in 2012 allowed three eared runs in each of his first two starts for the D-Cubs (11.1 IP), and then gave up six more over his next eight games in 37.2 IP. (6-0 1.43 ERA, 41 K). The right-hander got the win in the opening game of the FSL finals, delivering five shutout innings with six strikeouts in his only post season appearance. Johnson logged 118.1 innings in his first full pro season, making 21 starts, with two relief appearances, both in Daytona. He finished with a strikeout rate of 9.4/9 and walk a rate of 2.8. Johnson was named Cubs Pitcher of the Month for August.
C.J. Edwards fanned the first eight Palm Beach Cardinals he faced in his Cubs debut on July 28 after begin part of the Matt Garza trade with Texas. The "String Bean Slinger" didn't let his foot off the gas, challenging FSL hitters with a 95 mph fastball and a knee buckling curve. The 22-year-old made six starts with Daytona, sporting a 1.96 ERA with 33K in 23 IP and a BAA of .169. The right-hander won two games in the playoffs, tossing five no-hit frames in the division clinching game and then threw five one-hit innings in the FSL title clinching game. Edwards tossed 116.1 IP between Hickory in the South Atlantic League and Daytona with 155 K, 41 BB, and a BAA of .182.
Ivan Pineyro joined Daytona in early July after the Cubs shipped Scott Hairston to Washington for the 22-year-old right-hander. Pineyro established himself as one of the Cubs top pitching prospect displaying a nasty change-up in his eight starts. Pineyro went 3-1 with a 3.40 ERA in 45 innings and showed pinpoint command, surrendering nine walks. In the FSL finals, Pineyro worked seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts and a walk, earning the win in game 2. In his third professional season, Pineyro worked a career-high 125.2 innings with 111K.
No pitcher fanned more hitters in the Florida State League than Corey Black (116). Black began the season with Tampa and in late July was traded to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano. Fourth in the FSL with 24 starts, the right-hander made five starts for the D-Cubs going 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA. He had 28 punchouts and 10 walks in 25 innings. Black made two starts in the playoffs and was outstanding. He tossed five shutout innings with seven strikeouts against Dunedin in game one of the division series, and threw six more shutout innings in a game 4 loss against Charlotte in the finals. The 22-year-old finished his second year of pro ball going 7-8 with a 3.93 ERA.
Matthew Loosen arrived in Daytona after getting knocked around in the Southern league for two months (1-2 7.32 ERA, 35.2 IP, 12 HR) and it wasn't any better in Daytona, losing his first two starts as he surrendered eight runs in nine innings. A little help from pitching coach Storm Davis and the right-hander excelled going 5-0 in his next seven starts with a 0.60 ERA. The highlight of Loosen's season was a nine inning no-hitter against Dunedin on July 8 with nine strikeouts. He was named FSL pitcher of the week and Cubs pitcher of the month for July. The 24-year-old returned to AA Tennessee and still had command issues, walking 22 in 31.1 IP with a 4.60 ERA in seven starts. Loosen is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
Ryan Searle was dominating to start the season earning FSL Pitcher of the Week honors after 8.1 scoreless innings in April and a league leading 0.48 WHIP in the first two weeks. He allowed 12 runs in his next two starts and went on the disabled list, not returning to the D-Cubs until Aug. 15. Searle finished the year 2-3 with a 5.67 ERA in 27 IP. The 24-year-old Australian was dominating in the playoffs, recording two saves in both series clinching games. He fired four innings in the division series final and then tossed four no-hit innings, getting the final 12 outs in the FSL championship clinching game.
Austin Reed led Daytona relief pitchers with 66.1 innings in his fourth season as a pro in Cubs organization. The brother of White Sox closer Addison Reed got off to a tough start allowing 14 earned runs in his first eight innings. Reed was tough down the stretch for the D-Cubs with a 2.00 ERA over his last 27 innings, going 3-2 with three saves. He appeared in two playoffs games, working 1.1 scoreless innings. The 22-year-old features a fastball in the mid-90s.
After making 27 starts his first two season in the Cubs organization, Frank Del Valle spent the season working out of the bullpen for Daytona, appearing in 31 games with a team-high nine saves. The left-hander from Cuba fanned 11.3/9 but issued 5.2 BB/9 in 51 innings. In the playoffs, Del Valle earned a hold and a save in his two games, throwing four shutout innings. He was named to the FSL All-Star game.
Zach Cates went 0-9 with a 7.16 ERA last year, his first with the Cubs. This season Cates was 9-9 with a 4.12 ERA and was second on the staff logging 109 innings in 28 games, including 20 starts. Cates was part of FLS history as he combined with Ben Wells and Kyler Burke for a seven-inning no hitter against Dunedin. Cates pitched the final frame, fanning the last hitter of the game. The right-hander worked out of the bullpen the final month, earning three saves and allowed six hits in 53 plate appearances as a reliever. Cates, 22, was acquired from the Padres in the Anthony Rizzo trade.
Yao-Lin Wang was exactly what the Daytona pitching staff needed in 2013 with all the rainouts—a pitcher that could take the ball on a moments notice on short rest. "He would pitch every day if we let him," pitching coach Storm Davis said of Wang. He made eight starts and saved four games, working 71 innings (3rd on team) in 24 games. The Taiwanese right-hander was 3-5 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Still only 22, he had a BAA of .222 and fanned a season-high eight in 5.1 innings on Aug. 7. He ended the year with 8.1 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9.
Kyler Burke didn't join the D-Cubs until May 20 and made history on Aug. 21 as he was the major part of a combined no-hitter, tossing five innings with four strikeouts. The former outfielder-turned-pitcher, went 6-1 with a 3.35 ERA in 13 games, including eight starts. He threw 51 innings and had a BAA of .214. The left-hander fanned 40, issued 18 free passes and allowed four homers.
Jeffrey Lorick came to Daytona in early May and pitched in 26 games out of the bullpen. The 25-year-old left-hander went 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP in 43.1 innings. Lorick pitched in two playoff games, earning a hold in both.
Armando Rivero made a brief stop in Daytona in August appearing in three games. The hard-throwing Cuban gave up three hits and an earned run with five strikeouts and no walks. He was promoted to Tennessee and is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
Five pitchers worked their way out of Daytona, earning a promotion to Tennessee. Left-handed reliever Hunter Cervenka (1-0 2.91 ERA, 21.2 IP, 21 K) had a win and five saves before leaving town in late May. Yeiper Castillo (1-0 2.33, 27 IP, 27 K) began the year in the bullpen and made four starts before his promotion.
Austin Kirk went 6-2 in 10 starts for Daytona but sported a 4.50 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP. The left-hander threw 54 innings before heading to Tennessee. He made nine starts in AA, landing on the disabled list in late July, ending his season.
P.J. Francescon threw 71 innings for Daytona, starting 13 games with 5-4 record and 4.67 ERA. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed nine homers with 62 strikeouts before a promotion to AA. Francescon pitched in 16 games of relief for Tennessee, ending the year with 100 innings pitched.
Eduardo Figueroa was a reliable arm out of the bullpen the first four months of the season going 1-4 with a 4.10 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP in 52.2 innings. Figueroa recorded three saves before heading to Tennessee for the final two months of the season. (2-2 2.38 ERA, 34 IP).
Lendy Castillo was promoted to Daytona in late July, appearing in 11 games (2-0 1 SV, 3.60 ERA, 20 IP). The former Rule 5 pick fanned 21 and walked 7 after a 4.5 BB/9 in 64 innings at Kane County before joining the D-Cubs. Castillo was a late addition to the Arizona Fall League roster. Jeffry Antigua appeared in one game on July 27, throwing three scoreless frames. The lefty pitched at all four full-season Cubs' affiliates in 2013.
Sheldon McDonald appeared in 18 games for Daytona, all in relief and finished with a 0-1 record and a 3.68 ERA. He had trouble with his control (4.3 BB/9) and fanned 18 in 29.1 innings. McDonald, 24, was sent to Kane County on June 22 pitching in 17 games for the Cougars (2-0 2.41, 33.2 IP).
Starling Peralta, 22, made the starting rotation to begin the season but that only lasted two games, and after three poor relief appearances, went on the disabled list. In six games he allowed 20 earned runs in 14 innings and gave up six homers.The 22-year-old pitched for Mesa (0-0 1.35 ERA, 13.1 IP) in July and was promoted to Kane County on July 28, making six starts with the Cougars (2-3 6.06, 32.2 IP).
Three pitchers—Scott Baker, Chang-Yong Lim, and Carlos Gutierrez—all made rehab appearances for Daytona. Baker's trip to Daytona was counter productive as a series of rainouts forced a re-set of his rehab regiment, delaying his return to Wrigley. Baker made two starts in Daytona, three weeks apart, allowing two homers in 6.1 IP. Baker finished his rehab at Kane County, and made three starts for Chicago in September. Lim pitched five innings in his brief stay in Daytona appearing in four games. The 37-year-old right-hander was promoted to Chicago in early September and appeared in six games for the Cubs (0-0 5.40 ERA, 5IP, 7BB 5K). Gutierrez, acquired as a free agent from the Twins organization, pitched in two games, earning a save on July 2 despite allowing a run.
Catcher Taylor Davis made an emergency appearance allowing a run on four hits in one frame on April 16 in 15-6 loss at Clearwater.
Luis Lira (1-4 6.90 ERA, 20 G, 30 IP, 20 BB, 28 K, 1.83 WHIP), David Cales (0-0 2.92ERA, 8G, 12.1IP, 7BB, 16K, 1.45 WHIP), Dayan Diaz (0-1 2.45 1 IP, 5BB 14K, 1.36 WHIP) and Larry Suarez (0-1 3.86 ERA, 14 IP, 8B, 11K, 1.50 WHIP) all pitched for Daytona and were released. Cales signed a minor league deal with the White Sox, and pitched on Birmingham's AA title team.