Yesterday the Cubs traded Matt Garza to the Rangers for a package of prospects that included Mike Olt, CJ Edwards, Justin Grimm and at least one, but maybe two players to be named later. We already wrote about Mike Olt here and now it's CJ Edwards turn.
Before we talk too much about Edwards, the Cubs should speak to the Detroit Tigers to see if they could have Prince Fielder be his nutrition coach this offseason.
Edwards is a 6-2, 155 pound right handed starting pitcher who has been nothing short of dominating. He was drafted in the 48th round of the 2011 draft. Just a reminder, they only have 40 rounds in the draft now so this guy likely would have been undrafted using today's draft rules.
Edwards has struckout an amazing 32.6% of the batters he's faced in his young career. He's walked 9.3% of them. K-BB% is a great statistic as these two stats are probably the most important pitching statistics there are. You can tell an awful lot about a pitcher and his chances of success by simply looking at those two numbers. When your K-BB% is over 20%, you're off to an outstanding start to your professional career.
To top things off, Edwards has allowed 0 home runs. Since he's striking so many batters out, many fewer balls are put into play. This season for Hickory (A ball, South Atlantic League), he's thrown 93.1 innings and allowed only 62 hits. His BABIP has been a more than reasonable .284.
Jonathon Mayo currently has Edwards ranked 10th in the organization. Here's what he says:
It’s not often that a 48th-round Draft pick creates buzz in a system, especially one as deep as the Rangers’. But the improvement Edwards has shown since signing has been impressive. He made his pro debut in 2012 by tossing 20 scoreless innings in the Arizona League, earning a promotion to the more advanced short-season Northwest League. He wasn’t fazed by the challenge, striking out 11.49 per nine innings over his 47 innings of work. Long and lean, Edwards has some deception to his delivery, making his fastball, which already can be above-average, even harder to pick up. His secondary stuff needs to be developed more, but he’s shown an ability to spin a breaking ball and a feel for his changeup, giving him the chance to have three average or better offerings. He has a long way to go, but it’s hard to imagine a more encouraging start.
Keith Law has more to say about Edwards' stuff.
Edwards is the wild card of the trade, boasting a very high upside with a limited track record and pedigree that belies his actual talent level. He has easy plus velocity, 90-96, with an above-average to plus curveball with good depth and 12-to-6 break, and a developing changeup that projects as average to slightly above. The 21-year-old has a 1.83 ERA with 122 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings for low Class Hickory this year.
He's aggressive and throws strikes, with a little life on the fastball, and probably could go to high-A at this point given how well he's dominated low-A. The main issue with Edwards is that he's slight of build, atypically so for a starter, listed at 6-foot-2, 155 pounds. You have to develop him as a starter because of the chance for three pitches and the success so far, but it's fair to worry about his durability.
He's only thrown 160 innings and all of it has been in A ball or lower. High A will be a good test for him, but he lacks the size and pedigree to be taken with anything other than a hint of skepticism at this point. I think he has definitely improved since being drafted, but his size and draft round scare me.
The Cubs don't need Ewards to be awesome to make this a good trade for the Cubs, but if he can continue to develop, all the better for the Cubs.
Baseball Prospectus chimes in, too.
After signing for a luscious $50K, it didn’t take the slender righty long to prove he was more polished than the lacking name recognition suggested, as a combination of feel and stuff accompanied Edwards to the professional level. Standing a solid 6-foot-2 and weighing a flimsy ~160 lbs, Edwards has a fluid, whippy delivery and an easy ball release from the hand; his athleticism allows him to stay in his mechanics despite the immature build and awkward length. Right out of the gate Edwards was turning heads, working his fastball in the low-90s with comfort and flashing two promising secondary offerings. Despite making every effort to add weight, Edwards remains quite slim, but he has shown an ability to hold velocity with workload, and has seen the fastball tick up to the 92-95 range, showing the ability to touch even higher. The secondary stuff continues to flash above-average potential, with the curve showing a tight rotation and good depth, and the overall command of the offering is very mature.
Last, but sure as hell not least, Baseball America.
A 48th-round pick in 2011, Edwards may be the best scouting and player-development story in the minors. Little-scouted in high school, he thrived under professional tutelage, rapidly streamlining his delivery and adding velocity during his 2012 debut in short-season ball, where he ranked among the top 10 prospects in both the Arizona and Northwest leagues. Edwards sits in the low- to mid-90s and imparts a natural cutting action on the ball due to the unique nature of his finger position and arm slot. At the time of the trade, he led the South Atlantic League in ERA (1.83) and strikeouts (122) while not allowing a home run in 18 starts, which is more impressive than it sounds give Hickory’s home park. Edwards must continue to stay on top of a solid breaking ball and fringy changeup, but his athleticism and aptitude argue well for continued refinement.
So far, so good for the relatively unknown Edwards. I think we need to keep an eye on his walk rate. If he can keep it where it's been, while also still striking batters out, he's going to be good. It's highly unlikely he'll continue to strike batters out at the pace he has so far so we should definitely expect some regression in that area. Sooner or later a player or two is going to connect and take him deep, as well. It's safe to say he hasn't been too challenged so far so I'm excited to see how he performs the rest of the season at High A, Daytona.
I wanted to repost a poll that GW put together earlier today. It's available at the link and I'd suggest you read his article first, but if you really just want to vote and get it over with, here you go.
Which group of players would you rather have on the Cubs for the present and future?
- Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, and Neil Ramirez (64%, 107 Votes)
- Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, and Sam Fuld (18%, 30 Votes)
- Derek Holland and Engel Beltre (15%, 25 Votes)
- Matt Garza (contract expires at the end of the season) (3%, 4 Votes)
Total Voters: 166