In the 8th round of the 2005 draft the Cubs took a catcher from Washinton named Jake Muyco. Over the next three seasons, Jake was a light hitting catcher who did a nice job throwing out runners. Defensively, things looked great. Offensively, he struggled to stay above the Mendoza line. Ultimately his low batting average ended his career as a catcher, but not his career with the Cubs.
Early in the 2008 campaign the Cubs sent him from AA Tennessee down to extended spring training to begin converting him into a pitcher. As a pitcher, by the end of 2010, he had fought his way all the way back up the ladder to Iowa.
For a guy who has only been a pitcher for a few years, his numbers are respectable. With a career ERA of 3.61 and a WHIP of 1.388, he has been decently effective coming into games as a reliever, but so far has had little opportunity to start. He doesn’t strike many guys out, but he doesn’t walk many either. His home runs per nine innings number is less than 1, and in nearly 180 innings as a pitcher, he has thrown exactly 3 wild pitches. Add all that up, and we see a guy who doesn’t shy away from hitters. He is hittable, but not overly so. He won’t blow you away with his stuff, but he won’t give away hits either. Muyco does not appear to be a star in the making, but he shows the signs of being a quality pitcher.
In Arizona, unfortunately, his numbers have been awful. In 20.1 innings over 6 games, all as a starter, batters are hitting .400 off him. He has coughed up 5 home runs, all with runners on base, to go with his nine walks and nine strikeouts. His ERA is a worrisome 8.85, and his WHIP is over two.
And I don’t buy it. Something is going on here.
In 19 innings at Iowa last year batters hit just .247 off him. But in Arizona that almost doubles? His strikeout rate is about the same from Iowa to Arizona, but hiw walk rate has jumped by nearly a third and his home runs per nine innings number is soaring. The Jake Muyco numbers in the 2010 AFL don’t look much at all like the Jake Muyco numbers for the rest of his career.
If I were in Arizona watching him pitch, I might have a reason for the oddity we’re seeing, but I’m not and I don’t. I will hazard a guess anyway.
Remember that this is a guy who has a grand total of one start in his career before going to Iowa. Not only was he new to professional pitching just three seasons ago, he is new to starting pitching right now. Starting is a different game from coming out of the bullpen. He has the ability to use more of his pitches, has to respond differently to runners on base, and has to work himself out of his own jams much more often. The pregame preparation is different, the between games routine is different, and so is almost every aspect of what he does as a baseball player.
I think what we might be seeing is Muyco simply struggling as he tries to learn a new roll. Now whether he stays a starter long term or not remains to be seen. His Arizona numbers won’t tell us one way or another. In 2011 he will most likely go back to Tennessee or Iowa, but it could be in the rotation or in the pen. That the Cubs are trying to stretch him out a little now in Arizona makes me think they intend for him to start next year.
As for his major league future? Randy Wells and Carlos Marmol were both former catchers that have been succesfully converted to the mound. The Cubs know what they’re doing here, and the fact that they invested an AFL roster spot in Muyco means that the Cubs see something here worth developing. I won’t put a projection on this guy, but I won’t pass an opportunity to see him pitch in the minors.