Between now and the end of the season, we're going to get a good look at some of the pitching in the Cubs' system.
This week alone we should see left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada and Kyle Hendricks in the five-game series in Cincinnati. Wada is a veteran of Japanese baseball, and he's scheduled to start the night portion of Tuesday's day-night doubleheader against the Reds. Although not technically a prospect, Wada should be intriguing.
The Cubs also figure to give top pitching prospect Kyle Hendricks a start later this week against the Reds. Hendricks, acquired two years ago from Texas in the Ryan Dempster trade, was pulled from Sunday's start for Class AAA Iowa after only 2 innings.
The weekend trade of top-line starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland has left the Cubs with a rotation of Jake Arrieta, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and whomever else the Cubs can throw in there. Jackson, whom Cubs fans have seen quite enough of because of his maddening inconsistency, started Monday night's series opener.
The real fun should be in watching what happens in the Nos. 4 and 5 spots. And it should be much more fun than watching what happened in the second half of 2012, the first year of the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer regime at the top of the Cubs' baseball operation.
After the Cubs dealt off Dempster and Paul Maholm two years ago, the Cubs patched it together with the likes of journeymen Justin Germano, Jason Berken and Chris Volstad.
The results were predictable and not pretty.
This year Cubs fans should have some real prospects to watch. Dallas Beeler, a right-hander acquitted himself well with a quality start June 28 against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field. Wada, 33, was 107-61 with a 3.13 ERA from 2003-11 in Japan. At Iowa this year he is 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA. If nothing else, he should give the Cubs some guile and experience.
Hendricks, 24, was the Cubs' minor-league pitcher of the year in 2013, as he went a combined 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA between Iowa and Class AA Tennessee. He is a smart kid -- a Dartmouth grad with a degree in economics -- who knows how to pitch. He's 10-5 with a 3.59 ERA at Iowa in this year.
Another prospect to watch is left-hander Eric Jokisch, a Northwestern product out of downstate Virginia, Ill. Jokisch is 5-8 with a 412 ERA at Iowa.
The Cubs have made it a practice in the last three years of drafting position players in the first round, taking Albert Almora, Kris Byrant and Kyle Schwarber with their top picks from 2012-14. They then went heavily for pitchers in subsequent rounds of each draft, loading up on arms and hoping that a few pan out.
The question came up over the weekend why the Cubs didn't seek more pitching help in the Samardzija-Hammel trade. The Cubs got two highly rated position players in shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney from the A's along with Class AAA pitcher Dan Straily, who has major-league experience.
"If you look at the organization, we're much, much deeper in position players than we are in pitching," Epstein said. "We would have been very open to getting back quality pitching in this deal. But there was no pitcher available who was even close to the caliber of player we feel Addison Russell is.
"There was no pitching package available that made us think twice on passing on this opportunity."