Right-handed pitcher Robert Whitenack took the mound for the Tennessee Smokies Wednesday, and continued a surprising run of dominance in the season’s first month. Making his Double0A debut for the Southern League affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, Whitenack struck out three, walked none and allowed only three hits over six shutout innings. Tennessee lost 2-1 to Jacksonville.
I wrote a post about Whitenack last week, suggesting he could be heir to a growing legacy of low-profile pitching prospects who strike it big. With this aggressive promotion–Whitenack, 22, pitched just 11 times at High-A Daytona in 2010 and 2011–the Cubs have lent tacit confirmation to that suspicion. Whitenack is on track to be a contributor at the big-league level in the next few years, for better or worse.
Whitenack throws hard, has grown nicely into his frame and could eventually be a starter, but my guess is that he will have more utility for the Cubs as a two-pitch relief guy, with mid-90s heat and a potentially plus curve. He and Sean Marshall would make a daunting pair of speed-changing platoon nightmares in front of Carlos Marmol around 2013.
Around the Minors
Outfielder Matt Szczur went 3-for-4 with a double and a walk Wednesday for Class-A Peoria, bringing his season averages to .310/.385/.379. Robinson Lopez, 20, got the win. Lopez came over in the Derrek Lee deal with Atlanta last August, and his arm may yet be electric enough to push him up the ladder.
In High-A, the Daytona Cubs lost 8-6, to fall to 13-6 on the season. Jae-Hoon Ha continued his hot hitting, though, collecting two hits and a walk to move his season numbers to .370/.381/.593 eith three home runs and three stolen bases. At 20, Ha has the world before him, and he has looked really good over the past two years. But he must prove he can make consistent contact without drawing walks (he had only 10 in over 300 plate appearances last year with Peoria) and develop usable speed or power before he becomes a real prospect.