Everyone knows the big hits from chart-toppers like Brennen Davis and Brailyn Marquez, but the real prospect hounds love grooving to deep cuts from Scott Effross and Ethan Roberts. Maybe they even dig on a little Max Bain. And while this website has done its level best to elevate the latter trio beyond cult status, there’s another interesting pitcher in the Cubs system who’s still very much underground for now.
Former first baseman and outfielder Jerrick Suiter was selected from the Pirates during the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft last December on the strength of 1.2 innings of mop-up relief duty. The 6-foot-2, 250 pound Valparaiso native has a cannon for an arm, logging 25 assists over 1,610 total outfield innings in the minors and in the Australian Baseball League. For the sake of reference, Bryce Harper’s MLB-leading 13 assists from right in 2019 came over the course of 1,318 innings.
That translates to an upper-90’s fastball, which wouldn’t be all that impressive in and of itself. But the Cubs also saw that the big-bodied hurler had a hammer befitting his Altoona Curve uniform and figured his future was brighter as either a pitcher or a two-way player.
( (> PLAYER
<) )> PITCHING
/ @jerricksuiter WHIFFS Dante Bichette Jr. to finish a scoreless eighth inning.
Better keep that ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/Y5zmhdKnRz
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) September 1, 2019
“Jerrick’s gonna get a little bit of an opportunity to continue to hit, so that’ll determine where he starts,” Bobby Basham, the Cubs’ director of player development told Cubs Insider back in January. “Keep in mind, it seemed like with the Pirates, they’d already started that process a little bit. He was even doing a little bit of that in Australia as well.”
It was difficult, if not entirely impossible, to get a read on what kind of work any prospects were able to put in during the shutdown, particularly if they weren’t at the alternate site or active on social media. Suiter was neither, so fall instructs offer the first and only look anyone outside the organization has gotten at his stuff several months.
What little they’ve seen so far is good, as Arizona Phil laid out in the comments of The Cub Reporter Tuesday evening.
And Suiter has looked very good so far at instructs, mixing a 95-97 MPH FB, a mid-80’s CH, and an 81 MPH CV, all of which he can throw for strikes. He is a “wide-body” type (6’3 250+) and he has the stuff you look for in a high-leverage and/or late inning reliever.
The 27-year old Suiter is eligible to be an MLB Rule 55 minor league 6YFA on the 5th day following the final game of the World Series (so in other words next Sunday or Monday), but the fact that he was invited to instructs and is pitching in AZIL games is a pretty good indication that he has signed a 2021 minor league successor contract.
If he has in fact signed a successor contract for next season he can’t be a free-agent post-2020 World Series, but he will be eligible for selection in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft if he isn’t added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster by 11/20. And he does fit the profile of the type of pitcher clubs like to take in the Rule 5 Draft (a “low-mileage” arm with nasty stuff).
There’s a lot of esoteric stuff in there, which is to be expected since AZ Phil is a prospectnik of the highest order and possesses an intimate knowledge of all the procedural intricacies of the sport. Even if you don’t have a strong working knowledge of the terms he’s using, you should still be able to make out the gist of the situation. The Cubs have probably prevented Suiter from becoming a minor league free agent, but he’ll still be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this December.
As unlikely as it is on the surface that he’ll be chosen, there are at least two factors that make it a greater possibility than in the past. First is the financial crunch in which MLB finds itself due to the pandemic. Even if you don’t believe the league’s claim that it operated at a $3.1 billion loss this season, the fact of the matter is that owners are going to cut their budgets and force front offices to find bargains. As such, the Rule 5 Draft could be a much more attractive option than usual.
That’s where we get to the second factor, which is Suiter’s potential to develop much more quickly than a typical pitching prospect. Because Rule 5 picks are immediately placed on a team’s 26-man roster and must be offered back to their old club if they’re removed from the roster via waivers or are not active for a minimum of 90 days, teams are looking for pitchers who can stick in the big leagues. Given his advanced age and experience, Suiter might be such a pitcher.
If it sounds odd to say that a guy who has only thrown two innings at Double-A could be part of an MLB bullpen, that’s because it is. But it’s not entirely impossible. Kenley Jansen spent his first five seasons in the Dodgers organization as a catcher before moving to the mound in 2009. Just one season and 56.2 minor-league innings later, he was in LA posting a 0.67 ERA over 25 appearances.
Suiter has logged about 55 fewer MiLB innings than Jansen had prior to his debut, but he’s also six years older and presumably has a greater understanding of the game as a result. The Cubs feel he’ll be able to ramp up quickly, particularly if he’s able to gain some confidence against a relatively low level of competition out in Mesa.
“I think with anyone, you want to make sure you keep them healthy because it’s a transition and there’s a slow build-up,” Basham explained. “Start them in the place where they can succeed right away or there’s a little bit less pressure under the lights and then — because they’re probably a little more advanced because they’ve been position players — once they get their feet under them you can let them run.”
The Cubs could render all this Rule 5 talk moot by placing Suiter on the 40-man, though that would be far more of a stretch than adding flame-throwing righty Manny Rodriguez last year. They probably aren’t too concerned about Suiter being plucked away, nor should they be, since it’d take a heap of faith for a team select him. That’s great for the Cubs, who could then bring him along through their new pitching development infrastructure.
It’s a long shot for sure, but isn’t it about time the Cubs hit on something like this and had one of those cool success stories national broadcasts love to talk about ad nauseam? Wait, that would basically make them the Cardinals. Oh well, I still want Suiter to succeed in spite of that.