Epstein Patching Up Chicago’s Pitching


After a dismal 2012 rebuilding season, Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs got off to a fast off-season start.  Only days after the season ended did the Cubs acquire their newest rebuilding piece in pitcher Marcelo Carreno.  The right hander was the PTBNL in the trade that sent former Cubs infielder Jeff Baker to the Detroit Tigers.

Theo Epstein had a quick start to the off-season, acquiring Marcelo Carreno from the Detroit Tigers (Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE)

Epstein has done a decent job of revamping the bats on the farm.  He brought in power hitter Anthony Rizzo from the Padres system, signed Cuban defector Jorge Soler, and promoted long-awaited prospects Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters to the big league club to get the some major league experience.  However, the depth of Chicago’s pitching from the majors down to the lowest levels of their farm system is suspect at best.

During the 2012 regular season, the Cubs as a team ranked 24th in ERA, 29th in wins, last in saves, 26th in WHIP, and the list goes on.  Pitching has actually been a relative strong suit for the Cubs compared to offensive performance in recent years, but 2012 demonstrated that there are serious problems both at the plate and on the mound.  If the Epstein formula is going to turn things around on the North Side of Chicago, the Cubs will need to not only focus on bats, but also add some promising pitching prospects to the mix.  Let’s take a look at the two young arms—Marcelo Carreno and Arodys Vizcaino—who Epstein has added in 2012:

Marcelo Carreno (21) – Acquired via trade with Detroit in 2012

2012 – West Michigan: 3.23 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9 W, 8 L, 119 SO in 139.1 IP

Marcelo Carreno spent the entirety of his 2012 season as a starter in the Tigers organization before being shipped to the Cubs on 10/16.  The young Venezuelan was ranked the 11th best Tigers prospect—excellent value for the Cubs in exchange for utility infielder Jeff Baker.

Carreno is coming off his best full season in the minors to date.  He improved his SO/BB ratio from 2.80 to 4.25, and decreased both his H/9 and BB/9 by 1.2.  His strikeout numbers were down compared to 2011, but looking at his other peripheral stats suggests that he became more comfortable pitching to contact, rather than trying to make every out himself. His numbers point to a fast maturing player, even at the young age of 21.

Apart from the numbers, Carreno features a three pitch arsenal, all of which project to being major league quality.  His fastball is his dominant and most developed pitch, but all reports on his secondary and tertiary curveball and change-up say that both improved greatly during 2012.

Anytime you get good, young pitching in return for a part-time veteran, it is an organizational win.  In Carreno’s case, Epstein & Co. did a great job working the deal through to get a player that could be a mainstay in the middle of the Cubs rotation in two to three years.

Arodys Vizcaino (21) – Acquired via trade with Atlanta in 2012

Vizcaino became the Chicago Cubs top pitching prospect when he was acquired from the Braves at the 2012 trade deadline (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE)

2012 – Missed entire season due to injury

The first splash made by Theo Epstein to bring young, talented arms to the Cubs was right at the trade deadline. The Cubs acquired talented right hander, albeit injury-prone, Arodys Vizcaino from the Atlanta Braves. Vizcaino was rated the Braves second best pitching prospect prior to the trade, despite having Tommy John’s surgery in March.

Vizcaino is a young power arm with arsenal that would typically land him a spot in a starting rotation.  He has a fastball that can reach the mid-90s, complemented by two off-speed pitches in his curve and change-up.  He has a career 2.91 minor league ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, and a dominant 9.3 K/9.  Those are numbers the Cubs would like to see out of their future starters, though due to Vizcaino’s history of injuries, they may end up working him out of the pen.

Vizcaino is on schedule to join the club for Spring Training 2013.  He is already throwing off flat ground, and though the Cubs will take it slow with the 21 year old to ensure injuries are filtered out of the equation, they are eager to cash in on Epstein’s high-risk, high-reward move to acquire the righty from the Braves.

In Carreno and Vizcaino, Epstein adds two very young pitchers with high ceilings to the Cubs system.  At 21 years old, Carreno and Vizcaino will likely spend a season or two more in the grooming phase of their early careers before getting the call up to Chicago.  And though they alone cannot solve the Cubs’ pitching woes, they are proof that Epstein is doing what it takes to set up the Cubbies’ rotation and bullpen for long term success.


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