Cubs Midseason Report
This hard thrower is making it look easy. Righthander Andrew Cashner
, whose fastball has been known to hit the high 90s, was impressive in spring training but was sent to Double-A Tennessee for some seasoning. After posting a 2.75 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 36 innings in six starts, he was promoted to Triple-A Iowa, where he posted an 0.86 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 21 innings over five appearances, including three starts.
The Cubs needed bullpen help and the 2008 first-round pick was called up in late May. In his first eight games, he rang up an 0.87 ERA and seven strikeouts in 10 innings. While Cashner, 23, had plenty of relief experience at Texas Christian before Chicago used the 19th overall pick on him in 2008, the Cubs like the way he's handled himself as a starter in the minors. For now, he'll stick in the bullpen but could make a case in 2011 for a spot in the rotation.
Biggest Leap Forward:
Lefthanded hitting outfielder Tony Campana
has been scorching the ball for Tennessee. He hit .313/.374/.368 in 288 at-bats for the Smokies. While some may criticize his lack of power, Campana, 24, seems to get to second base quite often with 12 doubles and 28 stolen bases. Last year, he hit .284/.335/.312 in 108 games with Class A Daytona.
The Cubs figured there could be a few growing pains when third baseman Josh Vitters
was promoted to Tennessee from high Class A Daytona. Vitters' first 48 games in a Double-A uniform were frustrating as he hit .227/.292/.351 with four homers and 17 RBIs after hitting .291/.350/.445 in 110 at-bats with Daytona. To compound the frustration, Vitters committed 11 errors.
But Vitters has just 27 strikeouts in 154 at-bats so he is making contact. And he's known as a guy who can get hot for long streaks of time so if he gets in one of those grooves, the Cubs think the numbers should right themselves.
• It didn't take long for the Cubs to sign first-round pick Hayden Simpson for a reported $1.06 million. The plan was to send the righthander to the Rookie-level Arizona League and then to short-season Boise. The Cubs also inked a deal with third-round pick Micah Gibbs, a switch-hitting catcher from Louisiana State. The Cubs had signed 11 of their first 16 picks.
• Last year's first-round pick, outfieler Brett Jackson, earned a promotion to Tennesee after a torrid first-half at Daytona in which he hit .316/.420/.517 in 263 at-bats. Jackson then homered in his first two games with the Smokies.