The writing has been on the wall for a few months now, that Andrew Cashner will be moving into the starting rotation for the 2011 season. After the Cubs signed Kerry Wood on Friday, it was a foregone conclusion that Cashner’s days in the bullpens were over. To confirm our suspicion, the Chicago Sun Times reports that Andrew Cashner will indeed transfer to the starting rotation next season.
When the Chicago Cubs originally drafted Cashner, they converted him from a reliever to a starter. Showing that they had the intentions of Cashner being a starting pitcher in the major leagues. While Cashner did spend his rookie season as a reliever for the Chicago Cubs, that was more so due to the lack of late inning relievers that the Cubs had when they called Cashner up. Now we ask the question, does Andrew Cashner have the makeup to be a successful starter in the Major Leagues?
No matter where Cashner has been, he has been very effective as a starting pitcher in the Cubs farm system. In 2009, Cashner spent time as a starter in high A, and double A for the Chicago Cubs. He started ’09 off in high A, and made 12 starts while consummating an ERA of 1.50. He then moved to Double A with the Tennessee Smokies, where he started 12 games as well and had a record of 3-4 with an ERA of 3.39.
Then in 2010, Cashner spent time with the Tennessee Smokies and Iowa Cubs before catching on with the Chicago Cubs. Cashner started six games with the Smokies before getting called up to the I-Cubs, in those six games Cashner went 3-1 with an ERA of 2.75. Cashner then was elevated to Triple A, where he appeared in 5 games (3 as a starter). With the Iowa Cubs, Cashner went 3-0 with an ERA of 0.86.
Cashner was thrown right into the fire when he was called up in late May, as he was immediately labeled the Cubs right handed set-up man. Despite having an ERA of 4.80 out of the bullpen for the Cubs, he really settled into his own during the last month of the season as he had a combined ERA of 1.80 in September and October.
The knock on Cashner moving to the rotation, is that he is only a two pitch pitcher up to this point. Meaning, he is in danger of having the same issues that Jeff Samardzija has had when he is starting games. Last season, Cashner for the most part only worked with his fastball and his slider. He threw a fastball 68.7% of the time and averaged 96MPH with hit( he hit triple digits on multiple occasions). Cashner threw a slider 23% of the time and averaged 85MPH. A changeup is in his arsenal as he used it 8% of the time last season, but it still needs a lot of work before it is effective.
Many scouts are skeptical of the idea that Cashner will be an effective starting pitcher in the major leagues. They all go back to his fastball, in which they say he does not have good control over it, and it lacks movement. Another thing that worries scouts about Cashner as a starting pitcher, is that he lacks an effective third pitch. As I stated in the previous paragraph, Cashner does have a changeup, but it is not effective enough in order to use it on a consistent basis. Also, last season Cashner struggled considerably against left handed hitters, as lefties hit .300/.404/.500 off him with an OPS of .904.
As you can see, there is plenty of reasons to question the move from the bullpen to starting rotation for Andrew Cashner. Cashner was projected by many to be a future closer for a team, and not a top of the line starting pitcher. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how exactly the Cubs work Cashner into the rotation. If you ask me, they should not force him into the rotation, instead base their decision off how he performs in Spring Training. If he pitches well, then obviously they should give him a spot in the rotation. However, if he falters, they should not be afraid to put him in the bullpen, where he may be best at in terms of long term value.