When the Cubs traded Matt Garza, most of the inches on the deal surrounded Mike Olt, who had been linked to the Cubs for quite some time. Olt was an intriguing prospect on the way down…but he's not the focus of this article. C.J. Edwards was the real gem of the deal. In 3 years, when people think of Olt the way they think of David Kelton, people won't even remember that Edwards wasn't the centerpiece of the deal. Drafted in the 48th round of the 2011 class, Edwards has done nothing but blow the competition away.
Edwards was acquired on July 23, 2013, in a package with Justin Grimm, Mike Olt, and Neil Ramirez. He had a 1.83 ERA in A class Hickory; he was sent to Daytona when he reached the Cubs' organization. Used exclusively as a starter on the season, Edwards pitched 116.1 innings in 24 starts, with 155 strikeouts (!!!) and 44 walks. His WHIP was 1.006. That's incredibly nasty.
|Brett Jackson, 2013||33.0%|
|C.J. Edwards, 2013||33.1%|
He walked 8.8% of batters, but that's not a real issue. What could be an issue, however, is his questionable durability. He went an average of 4.2 innings per start this year. I'll get to a few reasons why that is the case in the next section, but lets focus on his 2013 performance (there's still more to gawk at).
Edwards has surrendered only 1 HR in his entire minor league career. That, combined with his freakishly low BABIP (.260 with the Cubs) meant that opponents hit .167 against him this year. That's just an insane number, and it tells you that there's no reason he should see A+ next year. He's never had a FIP of 2 or higher!!!
The reason that the Rangers parted with Edwards is simple; he's 6'2" (good!) and only 155 pounds (bad!). He just can't put on weight, and his troubles there are well documented. He's really lanky, with a high effort delivery, which means that it's an open question whether or not he could ever pitch 200 innings in a season, both due to injury or just overtaxation of his body.
Here's a good video of C.J.
The first I notice are his huge legs. He's essentially all legs, and it's what allow him to generate that low to mid 90's fastball while only weighing 155. It's a long pitching motion, and he doesn't hide the ball very well, but those aren't deal breakers.
He's got a fastball that has easy velo, but his delivery is fairly erratic. It probably needs to clean up a little bit. People say that his delivery is deceptive, but it didn't look it in that video. He's got a curveball and a changeup that are both works in progress; it's important to keep in mind that changeups usually don't finish developing until you've been in professional baseball for a few years; you don't throw one very often in high school or college (as Parks pointed out in the FA podcast last week). The curveball in that video looked pretty juicy (go to 3:39; clearly, the catcher sets up away, but it's still a nice curve that falls in late for a strikeout), though it's one thing to throw it to A+ hitters and another entirely to throw it at a real hitter.
— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) September 13, 2013
It's an open question whether or not his frame supports even 160 innings, and he has had trouble bulking up. If he can put on even 10 pounds of good weight, he has the stuff to be a legit #2-#3 starter. That's upside that just doesn't exist in our system. If the Cubs decide that's not going to happen, he's got the ability to be like a Craig Kimbrel or Kenley Jansen if it all works out. The heat tops out at 98, reportedly, and he's got some natural move to it.
I'm always afraid to get excited about a pitcher, doubly one that doesn't have the frame to start as it is. However, Edwards has one of, if not the, highest ceiling of any pitching prospect we have. He'll start the season at AA, and the only thing I care about is getting to 150 innings. If he can do that, he could be one of the top 2 or 3 prospects on the team. He'll be in the Top 100 this year (as will Soler, Baez, Bryant, and Almora). I think the Cubs will be slow with Edwards because there's no sense in rushing him with his body, but C.J. should have a very bright future, wherever on the Cubs' staff he ends up.
Jason Parks responded personally to Brett's article about C.J. Edwards earlier today. It's a pretty worthwhile exchange.