Hart Worth Keeping an Eye On

When the Cubs dealt Freddie Bynum to Baltimore during the Winter Meetings last week, they picked up minor league pitcher Kevin Hart from the Orioles. Both the Cubs and O's speak highly of the right-hander.

The 24-year-old Hart was a first base slugger throughout his college career at the University of Maryland and Navarro (Texas) Junior College, but also pitched in 14 games during his final season with the Terrapins. He made 11 starts and was 3-8 with a 5.16 ERA in 68 innings, fanning 75 and walking 24 en route to being selected in the 11th round of the 2004 draft.

Hart signed with the Orioles shortly afterward and would make 13 appearances, primarily as a relief pitcher between the short-season, Class Low A New York-Penn League and Class-A South Atlantic League. The following year in his first season as a full-time starter, he made 28 starts – the most in the league – in the SAL for the Delmarva Shorebirds.

And this past season with the Class High-A Frederick Keys of the Carolina League, Hart followed with 27 starts, logging a 4.61 ERA and going 6-11.

"Our scouts like his stuff," said Cubs Director of Scouting Tim Wilken.

A sinkerball pitcher, the 6'4" Hart features a fastball that generally registers in the upper 80s. His repertoire initially included a slider that was scraped in deference to a curveball, and Hart also features a changeup pitch that was still in the developmental stages with the Keys this past season.

Frederick pitching coach Blaine Beatty, who had a brief major league fling with the New York Mets in the late 80s and early 90s, described Hart as someone to keep an eye on.

"We've always talked about the guys that don't throw hard that go to each level and have success. Hart's a guy that you need to keep an eye on," Beatty told InsideTheWarehouse.com (the Orioles' equivalent to Inside The Ivy on the Scout.com network). "He's got a really good sinker, he's got deception and he's got really good command of three pitches."

While pitching at Delmarva in 2005, Hart finished second in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts (164 in 152 1/3 innings). He walked 54 batters for a three-to-one strikeout to walk ratio.

With the Keys, Hart would strike out 122 and walk 65 in 148 1/3 innings. He got off to a strong start, posting a 2.31 ERA in his first five starts and striking out a career-high 11 batters on April 30 in a start against the Potomac Nationals. But just as he did the previous year, Hart would struggle periodically from the end of the first half of the season on in to the second half, closing with a 5.41 ERA over his last three months.

The Cubs are nonetheless excited about one of their newest acquisitions.

Wilken noted, "It might be a very common term I use, but it sounds like another case of a guy with some upside left that was a late developer. Here's a guy with two to three average pitches. We really liked what we got to see from him. Hopefully, he just keeps getting a little better every year."

"These guys, they go to every level and they have success, and no one ever would have thought they could do it," Beatty said of Hart during this past season. "He's got great makeup and he's probably been one of the most dependable starters I've had all year at this level. He's had a couple of rough outings, but so have others.

"He would be the one guy to keep an eye on as far as having an outside shot," Beatty said.

Scout.com's Michael Hollman contributed to this report.

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