Three Pitchers to Tennessee


When the Cubs pared down their roster, some players were sent to minor league camp and some were optioned to specific clubs. The two optioned to Iowa, Robert Coello and Thomas Diamond, are both likely to get called up for a stretch at some point this season. Coello came over from Boston in the Tony Thomas trade, and Thomas Diamond spent time both starting and relieving with the Cubs last season.

But what about the three sent to Tennessee? What can we expect from Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, and Kyle Smit?

I am somewhat surprised Kyle Smit is going to Tennessee. I had thought he was just about ready for the majors, but if the Cubs expected to use him this season I think he’d have gone to Iowa. It could be that he is just too far down the “likely callups” list, or it could be the Cubs want him to spend another full season in the minors. Smit projects as a pretty good middle reliever, one who should make it to the majors sooner rather than later.

Rafael Dolis drew some press this offseason when his name came up in the Texas trade rumors. I probably haven’t given this guy enough time on CubbiesCrib, as Baseball America ranks him behind just Trey McNutt, Chris Carpenter, and Hayden Simpson in terms of pitching prospects. Dolis is a former shortstop who throws in the mid 90s. His control isn’t quite there yet (4.4 BB/9 Innings last season), but the guy has only pitched 281 innings… ever. With that little experience, his 7.3 K/9 rate last season is pretty encouraging. Dolis should continue to start for Tennessee in 2011, and if the Cubs decide to keep him as a starter, he could compete for a starting job in the majors as soon as 2012. If they move him to the bullpen, he could be in the conversation for a late season call up.

If Dolis has been neglected here, Alberto Cabrera has been positively ignored. Baseball America slots him just behind Dolis on the Cubs prospect rankings, and both would be in the Top 10 after the Tampa trade. Cabrera is easy to over look given that hiis career has been marked by injuries. 2010 was the first time he threw more than 100 innings in five years as a professional, and a brief trip to Tennessee resulted in his walk rate going way up and Cabrera going back down to Daytona. That said, when he’s healthy and pitching well, his numbers look pretty good. With a hard fastball and two additional pitches in development, he could have all the tools he needs to compete for a starting job. If the secondary pitches never show up the fastball alone should be good enough to allow him to move to the bullpen. With a good season starting in Tennessee, he should be in the 2012 starting rotation conversation. If he gets moved to the bullpen, he could quickly become one of the best relievers in the system.

Both Dolis and Cabrera are likely to appear in trade conversations during the summer, and the Cubs are so deep in pitching that either could be moved. However, the Cubs are not likely to just give either of them away. They both have an excellent shot to be an important part of the Cubs roster for several seasons.