33-year old righty Ryan Dempster is going to head up the Chicago Cubs’ impressive starting rotation in 2011. Dempster started 34 games for the Cubs last season and he was 15-12 with a 3.85 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. He served as the Cubs’ closer for three years before converting back to starting and he has responded well as he is 43-27 for the Cubs the last three seasons. Dempster has now pitched in 324 games (104 starts) in his first seven years with the Cubs and he is 52-47 with 87 saves, a 3.67 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. Expect Dempster to have another solid year for the Cubs in 2011.
29-year old righty Carlos Zambrano started off last season poorly, but after he returned from anger management classes, he closed the year on fire for the Cubs. Zambrano pitched in 36 games (20 starts) for the Cubs last season and he was 11-6 with a 3.33 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. He has now pitched in 295 games (258 starts) in his first 10 years with the Cubs and he is 116-74 with a 3.50 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. Zambrano might have a huge season for the Cubs in 2011 both on the mound and at the plate as he has 21 career homers so far in his major league career.
27-year old righty Matt Garza came over to the Cubs in a deal with the Rays over the winter. He should fit right in. Garza pitched in 33 games (32 starts) for the Rays last year and he was 15-10 with 1 save, a 3.91 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. Garza has now pitched in 121 games (118 starts) in his first five years in the majors and he is 42-44 with 1 save, a 3.97 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. Garza has great stuff and a move to the N.L. likely means that he will be a darkhorse to lead the N.L. in ERA in 2011.
28-year old righty Randy Wells didn’t pitch too well for the Cubs last season. He started 32 games for the Cubs last season and he was 8-14 with a 4.26 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. Wells has now pitched in 62 games (59 starts) in his first three years with the Cubs and he is 20-24 with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. He probably isn’t as good as he was in 2009 for the Cubs but he’s likely better than he was in 2010 as well. Look for his ERA to be under 4.00 in 2011.
31-year old righty Carlos Silva got his career back on the right path with the Cubs last season. He started 21 games for the Cubs last season and he was 10-6 with a 4.22 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. Silva has now pitched in 316 games (180 starts) in his first 9 years in the majors and he is 70-70 with 2 saves, a 4.68 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. He is likely on the trading block due to the fight he got in with Aramis Ramirez earlier this spring.
24-year old righty Andrew Cashner would likely replace Carlos Silva in the rotation if he is dealt. Cashner pitched in 53 games (0 starts) for the Cubs last season and he was 2-6 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. He walked 30 batters last season but whiffed 50 in 54 1/3 innings which shows that he has a lack of control but good stuff. I think Cashner would likely be an improvement over Silva in 2011.
23-year old righty Casey Coleman pitched in 12 games (8 starts) for the Cubs last season and he was 4-2 with a 4.11 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. He walked 25 batters while whiffing 27 in 57 innings last season, so he needs to work on his control. Coleman also pitched in 20 games (all starts) in AAA-ball last year and he was 10-7 with a 4.07 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. Coleman has a nice upside like Cashner, so he will likely get some starts at some point in 2011 for the Cubs.
36-year old righty Braden Looper was semi-retired last season but he’s trying to win a job this spring with the Cubs. Looper last pitched in the majors in 2009 with the Brewers. Looper has pitched in 670 games (97 starts) in his major league career and he is 72-65 with 103 saves, a 4.15 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. He’s likely a better bet to win a job out of the pen.
32-year old righty Todd Wellemeyer is also trying to win a job in the rotation. Wellemeyer pitched in 13 games (11 starts) for the Giants last season and he was 3-5 with a 5.68 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP. He pitched for the Cubs from 2003-05 and it didn’t go too well. Wellemeyer pitched in 57 games (0 starts) in his three years with the Cubs and he was 5-3 with 2 saves, a 6.19 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP. He better be better this time around for the Cubbies or he won’t last too long.
26-year old righty Jeff Samardzija is also in camp trying to win a job in the rotation. Samardzija pitched in 7 games (3 starts) for the Cubs last season and he was 2-2 with a 8.38 ERA and a 2.12 WHIP. He has now pitched in 53 games (5 starts) for the Cubs in parts of three years and he is 4-5 with 1 save, a 5.95 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP. Samardzija might have a better shot winning a job in the pen.
27-year old righty Thomas Diamond pitched in 16 games (3 starts) for the Cubs last season and he was 1-3 with a 6.83 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP. He also pitched in 21 games (all starts) in AAA-ball for the Cubs last year and he was 5-4 with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. Diamond is a longshot to win a job in the Cubs’ rotation, but he was once one of the best prospects in all of baseball.
PROJECTED GRADE FOR THE CUBS STARTING ROTATION IN 2011: A-