TD: Answering Your Questions

Recently, we received a question on why this year's 1st round pick, Andrew Cashner, was starting for the Boise Hawks when the Cubs have said he projects as a reliever. I replied with a short statement, but since then, I have felt I slighted our loyal TD fans. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to expound upon my answer.
The short answer (the answer I provided) is that teams often start guys to build up their arm strength. But that's really only a part of it. In fact, that usually has more to do with guys on the Big Club who go down to AAA to build up their arm strength because they are middle relievers who may need to go 3 innings or make a spot start. Relievers who are in the low levels and are starting usually see the benefit of building their arm strength, but there's more to it.
A guy who goes 3 innings is going to see a lot more...more batters, more bad counts, more situations. If you bring a young guy in and he faces 3 guys, blowing them all away, it may not mean much. It could be the 7-8-9 hitters and all could be righthanded to the righthanded reliever. Putting a guy in for at least 3 innings at the start of a game means that he will get to see the entire team's lineup. He will learn how to pitch a lot more instead of relying on beating people with one pitch. Not only does it help the pitcher, but it helps the coach ID what needs to be worked on and it gives the scouts and player personnel a better look at how a guy is progressing.
In addition, putting a guy in the rotation gives the coaching staff a chance to work more with the pitcher. If you have a guy like Cashner throwing 2-3 days in a row, the next day he's going to need off from throwing. He's not going to get a lot of time to "practice" his craft. A starter gets the chance to throw a side-session with the pitching coach, which allows the player to develop more.
You can also rotate guys in and out of the rotation, allowing them to experience the 'pen and the rotation, which again, helps their development. They get to throw side sessions, build up arm strength, but also work on getting warm to come into games and allow the player personnel to evaluate them as both a starter and reliever. The Boise Hawks have used 11 of the 18 guys who've pitched for them this year in a starting role; the Peoria Chiefs, 10 of 16. The Hawks don't have a single guy who has started in every game in which he's appeared. The Chiefs have only one guy who hasn't come out of the 'pen and that's primarily because he's been on the D.L. since the end of June.
All in all, there are a number of benefits to having a guy start early in his career. But, not all clubs choose to follow this philosophy. Some clubs will keep a top prospect who projects as a reliever strictly in a relief role. That line of thinking is that a player will develop the tools and skills necessary to do the job he projects to do better if he hones his craft in only that role.

Comments (2)


August 21, 2008 at 12:49 PM

wow, im glad someone finally gets how pitchers are handled in the minors.

Jacob Detroy

August 21, 2008 at 3:24 PM

Thank you for your thorough answer . . .

To change the subject a bit I have been wondering who will be considered the Cubs top 10 prospects going into next season seeing that a few of this years top 10 are either underperforming or no longer with the organization. With that said, who would you consider the Cubs top 10 prospect if the 2009 season were starting today?