Cubs Affiliate Update: Iowa Slugging Through Pitching Problems

I have said it before and I will say it again: Iowa exists solely to put the finishing touches on players headed to Chicago. After the month of April, it’s clear that there are several players who could step in at Wrigley Field if needed.

At 11-12, the Iowa Cubs are struggling to find their feet as a winning ballclub. The starting rotation has been getting battered and bruised quite often the past three weeks. Most of the starters have ERA’s over 8.00, which is just slightly less than ideal. On the other hand, this team is an offensive juggernaut that shows no signs of slowing down.

Headed to Chicago

It’s only been a month, but Eddie Butler and his 1.46 ERA in a pitcher’s league has been extremely impressive. He will more than likely get the first call if, God forbid, a starting pitcher goes down. Butler has only struck out 12 in a little over 20 innings, but he only walked eight for the month. However, he is currently on the 7-day DL with an undisclosed injury.

Ian Happ, Jeimer Candelario, and Victor Caratini have been crushing the balls all over the great plains and Rocky Mountain region. Happ recently hit the DL, but he’s also hit eight home runs for the month and Candelario and Caratini both batted over .300. Those top three prospects have MLB-ready bats and are currently working to polish other aspects of their game. Happ has been rumored to be working on playing some third base in the not-so-distant future, which would give him five positions to play in the majors.

Mark Zagunis, who has hit four home runs in the past 10 days, and John Andreoli are beginning to round into hitting form after a rough first two weeks. Chesny Young, meanwhile, is struggling through a .213 average. Everyone’s favorite singles hitters is best when he goes the other way. However, he’s been pulling the ball and striking out at a very un-Chesny-like 20 percent rate.

Relievers Zac Rosscup and Pierce Johnson have been very good in relief roles, along with David Rollins and Felix Pena. While there is no immediate need for bullpen help, it is good to know that these four can be counted on if and when the time comes.

On the other hand, Rob Zastryzny has struggled in his return to Iowa. He’s been used mainly in long relief, which I don’t think is a role he’s really suited for. I liked him better in short relief. It’s going to take him some time to settle in, but an ERA that was at 9.53 two weeks ago is now down to 5.65.

Looking Ahead

I have a lot of mixed emotions about the starts of some of these prospects. Deep down inside, I have an inkling that this might be the last season in the Cubs organization for some of these players. Some could be used this summer or winter to acquire starting pitching help for the major league club. It’s hard to sit and think about where or for whom they might be traded, but it’s more or less inevitable.

Not every prospect is going to make it to Chicago because there are a limited number of spots. What’s clear though is that there’s plenty of depth to fill in gaps should they arise. There are even a few players at AA Tennessee who might make it to Iowa later this summer and add to the list of players who could help the big league club. I hope that trend never ends for the foreseeable future, as that is what farm systems are supposed to do.

*Mark Zagunis card made from a photo by Dylan Heuer/Iowa Cubs Flickr account

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