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Cubs begin search for left-handed pitching

Cubs need lefties in organization

Its no secret, the Cubs haven’t enjoy the same success with developing pitchers as they have with position players. Yes, they haven’t used their top picks on arms but have admitted they need to do a better job developing young arms.

Currently the Cubs find themselves with a void of left-handers both at the major and minor league levels. Once you get past Jon Lester and Mike Montgomery, the list includes pitchers that are either unproven or returning from injury.

Rob Zastryzny had some success at the end of last season in Chicago—posting a 1.13 ERA over 16 innings while holding hitters to a .207 average in eight appearances. A starter for his entire Cubs minor league career, Zastryzny was the Cubs second-round pick in 2013  and started last season in back in Tennessee for the second straight year. After nine starts in AA, the 24-year-old was promoted to AAA and went 7-3 with a 4.33 ERA in 14 starts (81 IP). He made his MLB debut at Colorado on Aug. 19, recording his first big league strikeout in a scoreless frame of relief.

Jack Leathersich had Tommy John surgery during the summer of 2015 and made his return with the Cubs last year in the minors after being signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. The former Met who posted a 2.31 ERA with 14 K in 11.2 innings during his rookie year in 2015 as a reliever, made 10 rehab appearances in Mesa before heading to Tennessee in late July. Leathersich pitched in 11 games in AA (10.1 IP, 4 BB, 12 K) and finished the year with five games at AAA Iowa (5 IP, 0 ER, 6 BB, 6 K). The 26-year-old has pitched his entire professional career out of the bullpen, working primarily as a set-up man while in the Mets organization.

Brian Duensing is the Cubs latest acquisition, after agreeing to a one-year deal for $2 million. The 33-year-old was signed by the Royals last off-season and released in May. He then agreed to terms with the Orioles and only appeared in 14 games, missing time with an elbow injury that required surgery. He spent the first seven years of his big-league career with the Twins, making 61 starts while appearing in 354 games. His best season was 2010 as he worked out of the bullpen and as a starter posing career marks for BAA (.247) and WHIP 1.20 while going 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA, also career bests. 

Unfortunately, that’s where the list of southpaws abruptly falls off the chats, or roster in this case, The Cubs currently have no left-hander on either the Iowa (AAA) or Tennessee (AA) roster, including starters. Gone from the 40-man since the World Series include Aroldis Chapman, Travis Wood, Gerardo Concepcion, Giovanni Soto, and Zac Rosscup. The Cubs claimed lefty David Hollins off waivers from the Mariners but lost him on a waiver claim to Texas when they tried to sneak him through to the minors. Veterans that pitched in the Cubs minors last year but elected free agency include Scott Barnes, Brian Matusz and Joe Thatcher (All three remain free agents.) 

You need to go all the way to the Myrtle Beach High A list to find a pitcher that can throw a ball with his left hand—and there’s only two—Jordan Minch and Tommy Thorpe, both 2014 round picks. Minch only appeared in 29 games for the Pelicans (0-2, 2.88 ERA, 2 SV) before going on the DL for the rest of the season in mid-July. Thorpe threw 77.2 innings in his third season, all at Myrtle Beach, making five starts while appearing in 34 games in relief. He fanned 69 and sported a 1.31 WHIP and 3.59 ERA. Thorpe may start the year in AA but Minch is still expected to be recovering from his injury.

The majority of the Cubs’ young lefties spent 2016 in South Bend, including starters Ryan Kellogg, Justin Steele, Carson Sands, and Jose Paulino along with relievers John Williamson, Tyler Peitzmeier and Kyle Twomey. No one from this group will help Chicago in 2017.

So you can expect the Cubs to sign several left-handers before the start of the 2017 campaign and may still be adding lefties up to the trade deadline on Aug. 1. A look at those available leads me to believe their best bet would be to bring back Travis Wood and add a hand full of minor and MLB vets for depth at the upper levels.

Puerto Rican Winter League

RH Corey Black worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning of Santurce’s 1-0 loss to Mayaguez. Black lead the league with 10 saves and sports a 0.53 ERA in 17 innings (16 G).....1B Yasiel Balaguert (.280) was 0-for-4 with a walk in Carolina’s 3-2 win over Caguas. 

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