Alright all you South Side Cubs fans, it’s time to pay tribute to one of your own. David Cales was drafted by the Cubs in the 24th round of the 2008 draft. He began pitching professionally that season, and in 2010 pitched 27 innings over 22 games for AAA Iowa. That is a fairly fast progression, even for a college pitcher.
There is no mistaking Cales for a starting pitcher. In his 125 professional games (not counting the 2010 AFL), he has racked up exactly one start. He has also finished 77 games and claims 30 saves. His numbers look pretty good for a right handed reliever. In his minor league career Cales is averaging a very nice 0.6 home runs per nine innings. He averages 8 Ks / 9 innings to go with just 2.9 walks. All in all, those are the numbers of a guy who comes into the game gets outs.
If Cales has struggled in the minors, and I really don’t think we can fairly say he has, it is in pitching at the AAA level. His ERA in 28.2 innings at Iowa is a disturbing 6.67, much higher than his career average of 3.25. His homerun, strikeout and walk per nine innings numbers show similar moves when we compare AAA to his career numbers.
I am reluctant to read into those number too much just yet, though. Pitchers in the highest level of the minors find themselves facing players who have been around the minors for several seasons and are just not quite able to hold down a major league job. These are guys who know how to work pitchers, attack the pitch they want, and can really be an eye opener for a young reliever on his way up the minor league ladder.
So in looking at his AFL numbers, we need to see that Cales has adjusted to a higher calibre of hitter and can pitch effectively even against some of the best prospects in all baseball. In particular, we need to see that Cales, as a reliever, can come into the game and get guys out without an excess of drama.
With 9.1 innings over 8 games in Arizona behind him, Cales has a tidy .243 batting average against and a gorgeous 1.93 ERA. He has yet to give up a homerun. His 2 to 1 K to BB ratio is within shouting distance of his career averages. His ground ball out to fly ball out ratio is 3.0, somewhat better than his career average.
And that’s not even the best part. With runners in scoring position, his batting average against drops to .133 with 6 strike outs against just one walk. That is exactly what I like to see. His numbers with the bases empty are less pretty, including three of his four walks, but he appears to have the ability to deliver his best when he needs it most. I like consistency in a reliever, but I like the ability to excel with runners on base more. I am liking David Cales.
The Cubs bullpen looks in good shape for 2011. There will be competition in the spring for a few of those positions, even without a free agent signing, and Cales could factor into that competition. The guess here is that he begins the year in Iowa, but he could be in Wrigley one or more times before the season is out. While there is a chance he could emerge as a closer one of these days, I think in the near term he projects as a fairly reliable right handed arm out of the pen.