Finally Healthy, Gaub Has High Ceiling

One of the new faces at Cubs minor league spring training in Arizona is left-hander John Gaub. Along with right-handers Jeff Stevens and Chris Archer, the 23-year-old Gaub was one of three minor league pitching prospects acquired from the Cleveland Indians in the off-season trade of second baseman Mark DeRosa. Gaub looks to make his Cubs debut this season.

Gaub was a 21st round Indians draft pick in 2006 from Minnesota. In his first full minor league season a year ago, he appeared in 34 games for Class-A Lake County of the South Atlantic League and finished with a 3.38 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 32 walks in 64 innings. He held opponents to a .195 batting average.

Although Cleveland was the team that ended up taking a chance on Gaub in 2006, the Cubs' scouting department had also had their eye on Gaub during his final season with the Gophers and kept tabs on the pitcher's progress with the Indians over the next few years. (Incidentally, Chicago passed on Gaub in the 21st round of the '06 draft for another college left-hander, Missouri's Taylor Parker.)

Gaub's college scouting reports were promising, recalled Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken, but there was one concern: Gaub was an injury risk.

He underwent shoulder surgery and didn't make his professional debut until August, 2007—more than a full year after he was drafted.

But in the months since then, Gaub appears to have made a strong recovery, and it is for that reason that the Cubs expressed interest in the pitcher as one of the three prospects they acquired for DeRosa.

"He has established himself as pretty healthy in the past year and a half," Wilken said. "We're happy to have him."

Stan Zielinski is one of the Cubs' area scouts in the Midwest region and filed a positive report on Gaub's performance at Lake County a season ago.

"Stan's report [had] him with an average to plus fastball with a chance to have an average major-league slider down the road," said Wilken. "He does dabble in a changeup, but basically he's a two-pitch pitcher for the most part."

"The left-hander's want no part of this guy," added Wilken. "He's got decent velocity and his strikeout numbers are pretty good."

Gaub's velocity ranged anywhere from 89-95 mph with Lake County, according to Wilken and Chuck Murr, a beat writer for Indians Ink magazine.

Murr said he was "stunned" when he learned the Indians had included Gaub in the trade for DeRosa.

"The Indians had worked with Stevens and seen improvement, but likely felt that while he will pitch at the big-league level, he could be considered expendable," surmised Murr. "Archer is a project and the rewards could be high with him, but so many pitchers like that never quite pan out.

"But Gaub, having gone through his surgery and then posting those kinds of numbers appeared to me to be a true bullpen prospect. In my humble estimation, he has the highest ceiling of the three, despite being the lowest draft pick and the most overlooked."

Murr added that from the Indians' perspective, it was not a case of giving up on Gaub, or any of the three pitching prospects Cleveland parted ways with to get DeRosa.

"By losing CC Sabathia last year, the window really fell down on them and I think that they think getting Mark DeRosa gives them a better chance of winning now, rather than any of the three pitchers potentially helping at some point in the future," he said.

As with many pitchers this time of year, where Gaub begins 2009 is still up in the air. It's also unclear whether he'll continue pitching in relief or if Cubs Minor League Pitcher Coordinator Mark Riggins will attempt to push Gaub into a starting role for the time being to get a better look at the pitcher.

Wilken said the Cubs are being careful to temper their excitement over Gaub, but added that it was hard not to be impressed with the southpaw's dominance a season ago.

"Naturally, he was at a younger league, but you have to feel pretty good the way our scouts described him," Wilken said. "To get a semi-power to power pitcher from the left side, if we can get a healthy one, we might have something."

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