Prospectus Preview: Close to the Majors, Nick Struck


Other Prospectus Previews: Down the Pipeline/Jeimer Candelario

Who wants it? That’s the question being asked in the system’s upper levels, where opportunity knocks.

It was just one year ago that Triple-A hosted the system’s most exciting lineup—featuring Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters. The first two already have established themselves as big league starters, while Jackson and Vitters both got crash courses in what they need to do to stick. Lump in toolsy Junior Lake, and there’s still a trio of capable prospects who should make a push for Chicago this year.

But for all the promise at the plate, it’s the dearth of ready impact arms that has received the most focus. That’s why the front office recently debated whether to try Alberto Cabrera as a starter again, after a career year in relief. The development team saw the makings of a good secondary arsenal, and he’d be a power starter (something every organization covets) if it’s there. Whether it’s Robert Whitenack, Matt Loosen or some of the other intriguing arms in the system, everybody wants to know who will break out and answer the call.

At last weekend’s Cubs Convention, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush identified Nick Struck as a pitcher Chicago fans should keep an eye on. Struck is just one of more than 60 players covered in Vine Line’s annual Minor League Prospectus. The issue will hit newsstands in February, with single issues are available by calling 800-618-8377. It’s an exhaustive rundown, perfect for Spring Training and beyond.

Ht./Wt.: 5-11/185
B/T: R/R
Born: 10/7/89 in Damascus, Ore.
Acquired: 2009 Draft (39)
Tools: Pitchability, Fastball
2012 STATS (Double-A): 3.18 ERA, 155.2 IP, 140 H, 44 BB, 123 K

Struck, the Cubs’ 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, doesn’t have big stuff but pitches like he does, to paraphrase McLeod’s end-of-season report. Struck’s ultra-competitive approach helped him put together a phenomenal 155-inning year at Tennessee. He stands only 5-foot-11 but is big, strong and durable. His fastball touches 92 mph with heavy movement, and he’s not afraid of contact. He also mixes in a change-up and slider. A former 39th-round pick, Struck provides starting depth, though his best role may be as a swingman who can spot start or eat a couple of innings at a time from the bullpen.

Other players featured in this section: Infielders Junior Lake, Logan Watkins and Josh Vitters; outfielders Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur; and pitchers Alberto Cabrera, Trey McNutt, Brooks Raley, Rob Whitenack and Tony Zych.

Plus, tidbits on LHP Frank Del Valle, IF Justin Bour, OF Jae-Hoon Ha, LHP Austin Kirk, LHP Chris Rusin, RHP Marcus Hatley, RHP Dallas Beeler and RHP Matt Loosen.

Sean Ahmed


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