Ever pursuing pitching to complement their host of young bats, the Cubs have struck a deal with the Marlins, acquiring right-hander Jacob Turner from the Marlins in exchange for pitching prospects Tyler Bremer and Jose Arias.
It’s been rough a season for Turner, as he’s been lit up to a 5.97 ERA and owns a 4-7 record after 20 appearances (12 starts) and 78 1/3 innings. But at only 23 years of age, there is still reason to believe that his arm holds the potential of at least a #3 or #4 starter.
It was not long ago (July of 2012), that this former ninth overall pick was considered one of top young arms in baseball and was the centerpiece of a deal that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante from Miami to Detroit. Every winter from 2010, the year after he was drafted, to 2012, the year he lost rookie eligibility, Baseball America ranked him as between the 21st and the 26th best prospect in baseball.
More relevant to his present value, Turner’s 2014 season, when closely examined, doesn’t look as grotesque as his record or ERA might let on. He could afford to miss more bats, but his peripherals are otherwise solid: 6.2 SO/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 2.35 K:BB ratio that ranks 92nd out of 145 major league pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched this season, right ahead of a pitcher with a 3.55 ERA (Tommy Milone) and a hurler with a 3.48 ERA (Zach Wheeler).
His ground ball rate is a respectable 51.6%, well above the MLB average of 45%, and he has been victimized by the second worst Batting Average on Balls in Play (.368) of any big league pitcher this season (min. 70 IP). Ground ball pitchers allow a few more hits, but nevertheless, that number should creep back to the MLB average of .296 as he racks up more innings. The net result should be an ERA that more closely reflects his fielding independent pitching (FIP) of 4.01 and xFIP (FIP normalized for home run rates) of 3.93.
The two pitchers the Miami got in return lack the prospect pedigree of Turner, but could still be serviceable relievers or even set-up men down the road. Each of them are in the midst of successful seasons in the low-A Midwest League, but at 23, they were a old for the circuit.
Bremer owns a 2.43 ERA over 27 appearances, thanks primarily to his propensity to miss bats – 51 punchouts in 37 innings (12.6 SO/9). A 27th round pick from 2012, his control has been decent as well, with a 3.6 BB/9 this season. According to John Sickels of Minor League Ball 6’2 210 pound Bremer sits 87-91 MPH on his fastball, using a curve as his primary weapon. His ceiling is that of a middle-reliever.
Arias has rather similar numbers, as he’s posted a 1.77 ERA and a 1.008 WHIP with an 11.3 SO/9 and 3.8 BB/9. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, the 6’6, 235 lb Arias is a much more imposing presence on the mound and was actually listed by Sickels as a player who fell just outside of the top 20 Cubs prospects prior to the 2013 season. Now though, Sickels lists Arias as a “grade C arm” who is also unlikely to achieve much more than a middle-relief role. He reportedly touches 95 MPH on the fastball, with an erratic breaking ball serving as his secondary offering.
It remains to be seen how much any player in this deal will contribute at the major league level, but in terms of potential and upside, the Cubs clearly got the upper hand.