In just a few months, C.J. Edwrds established himself as one of the Cubs top pitching prospects as the right-hander dominated hitters in the Florida State League, helping Daytona to the Florida State League championship. Edwards got the win in both series clinching games, allowing one hit in 10 shutout innings with 11 strikeouts. While his numbers are impressive, some scouts question his slender frame but he'll begin 2014 in AA as he edges closer to Wrigley Field.
C.J. Edwards, P
Age 22 (9/3/1991)
2013 Teams: Hickory Crawdads, South Atlantic League, (A); Daytona Cubs, Florida State League, (A+)
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking —# 5
Prior to Cubs
Discovered by Rangers' scout Chris Kemp in the South Carolina's "Bush Leagues," Texas made the high school product of Prosperity, SC, their 48th pick in 2011. Edwards signed late, and didn't make his pro debut (five shutout innings) until June 20, 2012, in Arizona Rookie League. Less than a month later, he was on the mound in the Northwest League, allowing an unearned run in five frames for Spokane. In 10 starts, he fanned nine twice and beat the Boise Hawks. Edwards threw 67 innings in his first pro season, fanning 85 with a .141 BAA and an ERA of 1.48.
Edwards continued his attack of minor league hitters in the South Atlantic League as he fanned 122 in 93.1 innings for Hickory. The SAL all-star went 8-2 with a 1.83 ERA and BAA of .186 and didn't allow a homer in 160.1 innings while in the Rangers organization. Edwards' life under the radar all changed on July 22 when he was traded to the Cubs.
It didn't take long for Edwards to gain national attention as he fanned the first seven hitters in his Daytona debut against the Cardinals' FSL team. The 22-year-old made six starts with the D-Cubs, 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 tilt.
The "String Bean Slinger" challenges hitters with a 95 mph fastball and a knee buckling curve, and throws both for strikes. Despite the high number of strikeouts, Edwards keeps his pitch count down by going right after hitters, one of his goals when his takes the mound. Hitters don't seem very comfortable in the box against Edwards, and don't get good cuts. Edwards tossed 116.1 IP between Hickory and Daytona with 155 K, 41 BB, and a BAA of .182. He was named MiLB.com's Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Scout.com's Kiley McDonnell saw Edwards during the FSL season and wrote this: "Edwards is very interesting case as a guy that signed in the 48th round out of a South Carolina HS for $50,000 and was completely unknown until this season, when scouts saw his full-season debut and the lanky righty was working 91-95 with three average or better pitches. His 77-82 mph curveball was plus at times for me, though it's break and consistency varied. He didn't throw a changeup his entire outing but threw a few in warmups that looked solid and other scouts that have seen him this year said they've put a 50 on the pitch. Edwards worked 92-95 mph in the first inning and toward the end of his outing was more 89-92 but had 94 in his back pocket when he needed it. He should still put on a few pounds and even with just modest improvements has mid-rotation upside that's attainable. Given the new velocity, athleticism, arm speed and looseness, all the scouts I talked to are very excited about where this could go."
Edwards will start the season at AA Tennessee and comprise one of the top minor league rotations with Pierce Johnson, Corey Black, and Ivan Pineyro. While some scouts think Edwards lacks the frame to stay a starter, his easy delivery and fluid motion allow him to maintain velocity throughout his starts. You also have to admire the way he attacks hitters, which helps kee his pitch count down. A solid start to 2014 could earn Edwards a trip to AAA Iowa, and Wrigley Field could be on the horizon in 2015 if the hard-throwing right-hander continues his development.