AA and AAA are clearly the proving grounds for a minor league pitcher. Not only are the Carolina League and Midwest League historically friendlier to pitchers, but logically it's easier to work your way through a line-up with weaker and less experienced hitters populating their 1-9s.
In that vein, there have been some positive developments amongst Cubs non-premier pitching prospects this year. Michael Rucker, Matt Swarmer (previously mentioned by toonster in this thread), Keegan Thompson and to a lesser extent Duncan Robinson have all held their own in AA. Trevor Clifton put up great numbers in Tennessee earlier this season and earned a promotion to AAA where he's also held his own. He was also recently mentioned in a BA article about prospects who could
help their teams in a playoff run.
BA wrote:7. Trevor Clifton, RHP, Cubs
Even with trade acquisitions of Cole Hamels (2-0, 1.00 ERA in three starts) and Jesse Chavez (1.84 ERA in 10 appearances) aiding the rotation and bullpen, respectively, the Cubs are still struggling to pitch as a whole. They are 9-8 with a 4.59 ERA since July 27—the day they acquired Hamels—and are allowing more than one hit per inning. The physical Clifton touches 95 mph as a starter, and he’s handled himself well in Triple-A with a 3.69 ERA in 11 appearances (nine starts). While Clifton won’t be the sole solution, he certainly has the stuff and performance track record to help the Cubs in some capacity.
I don't see him being brought up with other options already on the 40-man, but hey, it's possible I guess. And then there's the ever enigmatic Duane Underwood.
The Cubs plan to develop pitching seems to be working albeit without any legit TOR candidates. Despite that, the AAA rotation next season should/could be entirely populated with decent homegrown options.
Alzolay, Clifton, Underwood, Swarmer, Rucker, Thompson and Robinson give the Cubs 7 options. Alzolay, with his time missed due to the lat injury this year, also is a candidate to start the season in the pen for Chicago, and, as we've seen, injuries and ineffectiveness can open a rotation spot at any time.
This group is in some ways diverse and quite similar. They're all middling BOR/MIR prospects, but some may have a ceiling a tad higher. Some are more consistent than others. Some have better velocity/stuff. Consistency is important especially to a team that is in it's championship window. But having the stuff to get major league hitters out is also important. Do any of these guys have the ability to help the Cubs win? Outside of Alzolay, who do you see having the best chance to contribute to the Cubs in '19 or '20 in a meaningful way?
For me, that guy appears to be Matt Swarmer. What say you?
”I do sincerely hope the Cubs win a World Series. After I die.” - Jerry Reinsdorf, January, 2015. Sorry you had to witness that, Jer...