Eric Jokisch would probably like a “do over” for the 2015 season. Two DL trips, including one that stretched for a month and a half, have hampered his development. Without those injuries, it is possible that Jokisch may have gotten a look in the parent club’s rotation as they searched (and are likely still searching) for a fifth starter. Instead, Jokisch has scuffled along through a difficult year, posting respectable but hardly eye-catching numbers when healthy. Surely, the borderline top-20 prospect had far different expectations for 2015. He’ll be looking for a real bounce-back year in 2016.
Eric Spenser Jokisch was born on July 29, 1989, in Springfield, Illinois. After graduating from Virginia High School in Virginia, IL (Go Redbirds!), Jokisch was drafted in the 2007 amateur draft by the Cleveland Indians in the 39th round. The Indians knew, however, that Jokisch — who had already committed to Northwestern — was planning to attend college, which he did for three years. During his very successful run at Northwestern, Jokisch posted a 17-16 record with a 4.71 ERA. He was voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2008 and was named to the first-team All-Big Ten squad in 2010.
He took his education seriously, even though he had to change his major from engineering to psychology to account for the heavy demands of being a Division I college athlete. He noted the switch in majors not only lightened his academic load, but also allowed him to use his education to further his athletic career as well, or at least serve as a locker room therapist. In an interview with Northwestern magazine, he explained:
“A lot of guys on the team kept coming up to me in the locker room to talk and get my advice, even when I was a freshman. I’ve always been able to think about what other people are thinking and make them feel better.”
The Chicago Cubs made Jokisch their 11th pick in the 2010 draft (340th overall), and he made his professional debut on June 23, 2010 for the Cubs’ rookie team. After only one appearance with the AZL Cubs, Jokisch moved onto Boise, where he pitched the remainder of the season. His rise through the Cubs’ system has been slow but steady. However, as a 25-year old, he’ll be wanting to make his move sooner rather than later.
Jokisch’s early-career highlight came in early August of 2013, when he tossed a no-hitter for the AA Tennessee Smokies against the Jacksonville Suns. In 2014, he appeared in 4 games for the Chicago Cubs, making his Major League debut on September 7. He started one game on September 19 and posted a 1.88 ERA in limited innings.
Jokisch operates as a control-type pitcher. His velocity (running in the 88-92 range) is not going to miss many bats, though he has posted decent K/9 innings rates (8.1 in 2014 at Iowa, for example). As Jokisch neared his call-up at the end of the 2014 season, John Arguello over at Cubs Den gave us this scouting report:
Jokisch throws in the 88-92 range, but his best pitch is a circle change, which makes him as effective against RH hitters as he is lefties. He mixes in an average, but inconsistent curve though he has relied less on that pitch and more on his cutter. The cutter has helped him throw more strikes and gives him a more reliable 3rd pitch. It has been a go-to pitch when he needs to put the ball in play and avoid hard contact. He has shown pinpoint control, walking just 1.76 batters per inning [sic] (4.8%) while missing enough bats 8.13 Ks per 9 IP (22%) so that he is not overly reliant on his defense.
That’s what makes this season a little worrying. In addition to the injuries he’s suffered this season, Jokisch’s K rate has fallen significantly this season (5.1/9) while his walk rate has climbed just as significantly (3.5/9), making it nearly impossible for the parent club to take a chance on him in the major-league rotation even when he has been healthy.
It’s unclear what the long-range forecast is for a guy like Jokisch. A healthy 2015 might have given us a better glimpse of how the organization views his potential. There is every indication that the Cubs may make another significant starting pitching move in the 2015 offseason, and they may find Jokisch a surplus to their requirements. If that is the case, we may see him as part of a trade package, though it seems his trade value, such that it is, is at its lowest coming out of the 2015 season. In any case, 2016 will be critical to his overall development and career path. Let’s wish him the best of luck.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @jokisch24, though in over 5 years he’s only tweeted 162 times. I cannot find him on Instagram. Surely if he plans to play on the big league club, he’ll have to up his social media game.