While it is true that the Cubs are a bit thin on left handed starting pitching in the minors, the opposite is true of major league relievers. Even with the trade of Gorzelanny and the possibility that Russell could win a starting job, that still leaves the Cubs with Marshall and Grabow in the pen with both Maine and Gaub looking to join them.
And if something goes wrong and the Cubs need another arm, there is another lefty pretty much ready to go in Iowa. Another week, another Cubs minor leaguer looking to take a job in spring training.
The Cubs drafted Luke Sommer fairly late, getting him in the 30th round of the 2007 draft. Initially he was an outfielder / first baseman, but his bat wasn’t up to that role. In 2008 the Cubs dedicated him purely to relieve pitching, and the change of position worked very well. After two seasons relieving for the three A level franchises, Sommer rocketed from Daytona to Iowa in 2010, pitching effectively at every stop.
His numbers for 2010 are very nice: 2.41 ERA with just 2 HR allowed in 67 total innings. While his H/9 is high at 10+, he showed some proficiency with the strikeout. Ideally, we would like to see his control improved, but I suspect he could effective in a specialist role at the major league level today.
Sommer has been pitching this winter as well, and his GO/AO ratio deserves some special attention. As we’ve all read in the analysis of the Garza trade, the small ballpark of Wrigley makes a fly ball pitcher a bit more of a risk for the Cubs than he would be for a team like, say, the Rays. Until this winter, Sommer had a career GO/AO ratio of 1.64. Pitching in the Dominican this winter that ratio stands at an even 7. The 13 batters has faced have been evenly split between left and right, and he’s been fairly effective against both. While he has a much lower BA against versus right handers, most of his strikeouts are against lefties.
Luke Sommer has plenty of work to do earn his way into the Wrigley field bullpen for 2011. The Cubs bullpen is already young, good, and getting better. There are plenty of left handed relievers ahead of Sommer on the depth chart, and to be honest, he could benefit from a full season working in Iowa, possibly as a closer. I do think, however, that Sommers has a great shot of making his major league debut at some point this season.