Edwards, not Olt, is the real gem in Garza deal
By Jake Misener
February 23, 2012; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer (left) talks to president Theo Epstein (right) during spring training at Fitch Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas was the first major deal of the 2013 Trade Deadline season.
While the media has been covering Garza incessantly since he went on his hot streak six starts ago, the series of prospects Chicago received in return has been overlooked by many.
Everyone knows about Mike Olt, and the potential he has to be great. But truth be told, he hasn’t been great this year. Not even close. The former Texas Rangers’ top prospect is batting just .105 at Triple-A Iowa since the trade took place last week. Granted, it’s a very small sample size – five games to be exact, but prior to the trade, things weren’t looking any better for the man who entered this season ranked as the 22nd best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America.
In 65 games, he put together a .213 average and an on-base percentage of .317. More concerning is the fact that his eye at the dish has deteriorated rapidly. Olt struck out 89 times in those 65 games, and drew just 35 walks. In case you’re trying to do the math at home, that’s 2.5 strikeouts for every walk. His power numbers are solid, but it remains to be seen whether Olt will return to form that made him such a highly-regarded player in years past.
The real haul, in my opinion, comes when you look at the other players included in the deal.
Let’s just clarify something right up front, though. Justin Grimm will never be an ace. And that’s okay.
Grimm broke onto the big league scene last year with Texas, and went 1-1 with an earned run average of 9.00. He allowed 14 runs in 14 innings of work, on 22 hits. His control was respectable, issuing only three walks that year.
In 2013, Grimm is 7-7 in 17 starts for the Rangers with an ERA of 6.37. He hasn’t missed many bats, lately, allowing 116 hits in 89 innings pitched – 15 of which left the yard. Upon joining the Chicago Cubs organization, Jed Hoyer sent Grimm to Iowa to straighten out his mechanics, and get him back on the right track. The best part about Grimm is he is just 24 years old. There is time left to straighten him out, and turn him into a tail-end-of-the-rotation starter or a dependable long-relief man.
The diamond in the rough in this whole trade is C.J. Edwards. This young southpaw is hands-down one of the top two pitching prospects in the organization, and I would personally rank him above Pierce Johnson. Johnson has been working his way up through the Cubs’ minor league system, and is currently in the middle of a strong string of starts with Daytona, where he is 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA in five starts since being called up from Class-A Kane County earlier this season. He probably won’t ever be an ace, but could emerge as a middle-of-the-rotation presence for years to come.
Edwards, on the other hand, has a much higher ceiling. The 21-year old was a 48th round pick by Texas in the 2011 June MLB Amateur Draft, and has seen his stock skyrocket since then. Last year, between Class-A and Rookie Level ball, Edwards posted a 5-3 record with a 1.48 ERA in 13 starts. The lefty allowed just 32 hits in 67 innings of work, with a WHIP of 0.851. Furthermore, he averaged 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings, and 3.4 punch outs per walk.
Not too shabby for a 48th round draft pick.
This year, he picked up right where he left off with Low-A and Advanced Class A, with an 8-2 record and an ERA under 2.00 for the second consecutive year, coming in at 1.74. He has also kept his WHIP below 1.000 so far this year, another impressive feat for the young arm.
His first start with the Cubs organization was noticeable, to say the least. The first seven batters Edwards faced were set down consecutively via the strikeout. His final line was five scoreless innings pitched with just one hit allowed.
It’s easy to focus on the hype surrounding Mike Olt. Everyone knows his name from Texas to Toronto, and everywhere in between. But mark my words, Edwards is something special, and could prove to be the real gem in the Garza deal.