CJ Edwards: Durability Concerns Cast Shadow On Cubs Pitching Prospect
Chicago Cubs pitching prospect CJ Edwards is an unlikely prospect. Selected in the 48th round by the Texas Rangers in the 2011 draft, the Mid-Carolina High School (SC) product was a long shot to reach Double-A. Instead, Edwards became the centerpiece of a prospect package which landed the Rangers Matt Garza. His slender build (6-foot-2, 155 Ibs.) screams reliever unable to withstand the rigors of starting pitching. Yet, Edwards is a consensus top-100 prospect and the Cubs top pitching prospect. Can CJ Edwards overcome an injury plagued 2014 and contribute in Chicago next season?
The 23-year-old has a wiry frame, reminiscent of former Red Sox starting pitcher Oil Can Boyd. Slim and slender, Edwards’ body type isn’t ideal for added muscle mass. It’s a red flag given Edwards expends energy to fuel fastballs at 96 mph. It’s key for the right-hander to build up stamina and maintain strength through a full season. At present, it’s difficult to envision his becoming a workhorse capable of throwing 2oo innings at the MLB level.
Edwards’ delivery is uneven. Command depends on his ability to repeat during his delivery. With a controlled leg lift, the former 48th round pick will gathers at the balance point and keep his body behind the ball during the delivery, maximizing velocity. Other times, Edwards’ leg lift is herky jerky and he struggles to achieve balance in the delivery, the Mid-Carolina alumnus’ arm is forced catch up to the other moving parts. When this occurs, he flies open or short arms the pitch. Regardless, Edwards is effectively wild and the right-hander creates downward plane by maintaining height in his delivery. Edwards has excellent arm speed, but it comes with effort.
The former Rangers prospect throws two variations of the fastball. His workhorse is a 91-93 MPH two-seam fastball. Boring in on right handed-hitters, the pitch generated soft contact when commanded. The vertical movement of the pitch is flat. , but a downhill delivery creates the illusion of sink.
A 94-96 MPH four-seam fastball was difficult for him to harness. Thrown up in the zone with late tail, Edwards failed to command the pitch. Early on, hitters chased. As the start wore on, hitters adjusted and laid off the pitch. Edwards overthrew the offering into the fourth when he began to lose steam. Having already missed time due to a shoulder issue, the youngster needs to stop selling out for maximum velocity.
Edwards’ lankiness and extension helps the fastball play up. The Tennessee Smokies pitcher used his length to cut down the distance to home plate. This gave the impression four-seamers were on top of the hitter in an instant. Teammate Tony Zych (Scouting Report) also throws in the mid-90s, but hitters had less difficult with Zych’s fastball because he releases it further away from the target. This allows for added reaction time. A few extra milliseconds matters to hitters. It’s an advantage for Edwards over many pitching prospects.
The right-hander compliments his fastballs with the best breaking ball scouted this season. It is an 11-to-5 curve ball with late, horizontal break. At 78-80 MPH it’s a knockout offering to put away hitters. The pitch has tremendous depth and he throws it for strikes to the point curveball command is more advanced than his fastball. While Edwards throws the pitch from the same arm slot as the heater, his arm speed slows to maximize break. In Double-A, the added break works in spite of the change in arm action. In the majors, it will be a tell for the hitter to lay off the pitch.
Completing his arsenal is an 86-87 MPH change-up. Edwards had no feel for the pitch. Thrown sparely in the scouted start, his arm action slowed considerably Edwards stayed tall when delivering the pitch. As a result, the change was flat and left up-and-out of the strike zone.
Projecting CJ Edwards in an MLB starting rotation is difficult. It’s easy to point to his slender frame and write the 23-year old off. However, this isn’t the primary issue as fastball command projects as below average. After watching him tire in the fourth inning after pitching just 53 innings this season, Edwards’ future lies in a big league bullpen. And while his stuff screams closer, command dictates set up man until proven otherwise.
TOOL PRESENT FUTURE Projected Role MLB CLOSER Fastball 60 70 Curveball 55 65 Changeup 25 35 Control 30 40 Command 25 40
Owning CJ Edwards
Blue Jays pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez is a pitcher I’ve owned in fantasy baseball leagues for years. And while others questioned his durability and ability to throw strikes, it was comforting to know a closer in 5×5 formats is worth more than an average starting pitcher, unlike MLB. In fact, five of the top-20 pitchers in fantasy baseball are closers when using Ottoneu where teams play 10 pitchers over a set number of starters and relievers. For this reason, CJ Edwards makes a great buy low candidate this winter as off-season prospects lists downgrade the right-hander. Neil Ramirez had a strong season in Chicago and is an early favorite for Cubs closer of the future, but Edwards has the two-pitch mix to seize an opportunity and run with it.
4 Sep 2014 / Chris Blessing /
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