Let's face it, the Cubs pitching staff stinks again this year. The quintet of Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Jeff Samardzija, Paul Maholm and Chris Volstad is unlikely to strike fear in the hearts of opponents. Through 12 games, the Cubs starters are 12th in the NL in ERA (4.33).
One thing the Cubs sorely lack is an ace. Matt Garza is a fine pitcher and should be kept around if the Cubs can sign him to a reasonable extension, but he is no ace. He would probably be at best a #2 starter on a good team.
So, how do the Cubs go about finding an ace?
Well, trading for one is probably out of the question. The Cubs are rebuilding and are unlikely to trade what little minor league depth they have to acquire a true ace.
Signing an ace as a free agent is also becoming more difficult, as most of the best pitchers are signed to extensions before they reach free agency.
Where does that leave the Cubs? Well, thanks to last year's poor record, the Cubs get to pick 6th overall in this year's draft. It just so happens that, according to Baseball America, 5 of the top 7 draft prospects are pitchers. Thus, if the Cubs are ever going to find an ace in the draft, this is the year to do so.
Here is a quick breakdown of the top pitching prospects available in this year's draft:
1. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco (3-3, 2.79 ERA, 65K's, 10BB, 61.1 IP)
Ranked as the 3rd best draft prospect by Baseball America, Zimmer can reach the high 90's with his fastball and has seen his stock rise dramatically over the last year.
2. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford (4-1, 2.86 ERA, 68K's, 18BB, 66IP)
Ranked as the 4th best draft prospect, he is more polished than Zimmer (a converted infielder), with a fastball that tops out at 95mph and the makings of a plus curve and change.
3. Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU (6-1, 2.76 ERA, 77K's, 19BB, 62IP)
The 5th best draft prospect by BA, Gausman also possesses a high 90's fastball and has a plus changeup and two curves to go with it.
4. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, CA
The 6th best draft prospect can touch 100mph, but recently was declared out for his HS season with a strained UCL (no surgery needed, 6-10 weeks rest).
5. Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M (5-0, 2.42 ERA, 66K's, 11BB, 63.1IP)
The 7th best draft prospect throws in the low 90's, but has good command and polish.
As you can see, there are a lot of good arms available at the top of this years draft. Personally, I like Kyle Zimmer. As a converted infielder, there is less wear and tear on his arm than the other prospects (he only started pitching full-time last year as a sophomore). Problem is, his stock is rising fast and he is rumored to be the potential first overall pick. However, if he somehow makes it to the Cubs, they should grab him.
The opportunity is out there for the Cubs to draft their future ace this year. Let's hope their scouting department can figure out who that guy is.