Name: C.J. Edwards, P
Age: 23 (9/3/1991)
How acquired: Traded by Rangers with Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, and Neil Ramirez for Matt Garza on July 22, 2013
Prior to Cubs
Discovered by Rangers’ scout Chris Kemp in South Carolina’s ‘Bush Leagues,’ Texas made the high school product out of Prosperity, SC, their 48th round 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. 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 in 2013 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 for the D-Cubs, sporting a 1.96 ERA with 33 K 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. 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.
A starting spot in the Tennessee rotation awaited the righty at the start of the 2014 season. He made four starts in AA but after warming up one morning, was unable to throw hard and the Cubs shut him down with a shoulder strain. He flew to Chicago and was analyzed by the doctors, and was discovered he had a mild strain and everything else in the arm was great. The Cubs were cautious with their prospect and sent him to Mesa to rehab. He finally returned to the mound and made two starts in the Arizona Rookie League at the end of July before pitching the final month back in Tennessee. He showed some of his flashes of brilliance, tossing back-to-back shutout performances that tallied 11 innings, and followed that up with an eight-strikeout performance in five frames. Getting some of the innings back he missed during the regular season, the Cubs sent Edwards to the Arizona Fall League. He made six starts for the Mesa Solar Sox, tossing 15 innings with a 1.80 ERA and 13 K.
The “String Bean Slinger” challenges hitters with a 95 mph fastball and a knee buckling curve, and throws both for strikes. However, last year, Edwards struggled with his command, as the walk rate rose from just around three walks per nine to 4.2 BB/9. Hopefully that had to do with the shoulder issues although he walked eight in 15 frames in the AFL. Despite all the talk about his weight and size of frame, Cubs are going to give Edwards every chance to make it as a starter. Hitters don’t get comfortable or take many good hacks off Edwards as his BAA was .180 at AA and .154 in the AFL. Cubs may start Edwards back in AA just to get him on the mound every five days and into a routine but he will eventually settle into the rotation at Iowa before the season is over.