Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cubs invite Gallagher, Pignatiello, Patterson, Colvin and seven others to big league camp

One of the things I enjoy most at Spring Training is seeing the minor league players, we hear so much about, get a taste of big league ball. It's usually early on in the spring and of course late in games that don't count. Still, what a thrill it must be for these youngsters (Lou Boudreau would be proud of that phrase!) to play in games with big league managers coaches and players in the dugout next to them.

As I started to look into my own travel plans for Arizona in a month and a half, I noticed the Northsiders have added several "future stars" to this seasons major league camp. Yesterday the Cubs invited 11 minor leaguers to be non-roster players in the big league camp this spring in Mesa. As Maddog points out at TCHLBC, 22 year old prospect Donnie Veal was absent from the list. Hmmm.

Here are the 11 players:

Sean Gallagher
Adam Harben
Ryan O'Malley
Carmen Pignatiello
Randy Wells

Jake Fox

Mike Kinkade
Casey McGehee
Eric Patterson

Tyler Colvin
Chris Walker

O'Malley was of course the toast of Cubdom on the afternoon of August 16, 2006, following his impressive major league debut in Houston. As great a story as O'Malley was in 2006 (let's face it there weren't too many good stories wearing the blue pinstripes), he's really not one of the players that interests me. I'm interested in four names that have popped up on Cub prospect lists in recent years: Gallagher, Pignatiello, Patterson and my favorite first round pick Tyler Colvin.

Outside of Veal, the Cubs most talked about pitching prospect this past season had to be 21 year old right hander Sean Gallagher. As a twelfth round pick in the 2004 draft, Gallagher has moved through the Cub system quickly. In his 2-1/2 seasons in the system Gallagher has put up impressive numbers. He's 26-12 with a 2.65 ERA in 65 games. According to Baseball Prospectus Gallagher found some needed speed in 2006:
He gained 2-3 mph on his fastball from 2005; reached Double-A and needed no adjustment period; now has a 91-93 mph fastball
But he lost the control he has displayed at lower levels. Gallagher could start the year at West Tenn or make the jump to Iowa. There is a good chance he could see big league action late in 2007 or sometime in 2008.

24 year old Carmen Pignatiello is probably of interest to me due to the fact that he's from Chicagoland and he's left handed. Pignatiello has been in the Cub system for seven seasons. His numbers are okay, but not great. Over his seven seasons he has compiled a 47-43 record in 190 games, 112 starts, with an ERA of 3.75. In the Arizona Fall League Pignatiello pitched out of the bullpen and had great success. In 10 games the lefty pitched 10.1 innings racking up 15 strikeouts and only 1 run. The Providence Catholic grad has proven he can pitch at AA. He will pitch at Iowa this season. The realistic hope for Pignatiello is that at some point soon he will contribute at the big league level as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen.

Second sacker Eric Patterson had an exceptional Arizona Fall League. Patterson hit .345 and was named to the 2006 All-Prospects Team. This past summer the Georgia Tech product hit .276 splitting time between West Tenn and Iowa. Unlike his older brother Corey, Eric is willing to take the occasional walk. He took 52 in 2006. Unfortunately like his older brother he strikes out quite a bit. Patterson will be 24 this April, he will start the season at Iowa and will be an injury away from playing second at Wrigley Field.

This past June was a big month for Tyler Colvin. He was Clemson's CWS Super Regionals hero and the Cubs surprising 1st round (13th overall) draft pick. While I question Tim Wilken selecting Colvin with the thirteenth pick, the Cubs have to hope the 21 year old, toolsy, left handed power hitter can make a quick trek through the Cubs minor league system. The issue that I have with Colvin is that he's just another player in the Cub system that doesn't walk and strikesout a bunch. In 64 games at Boise Colvin struckout 55 times while only taking 17 walks. He is young so hopefully he will find some patience. I imagine Colvin will start the season at Peoria, but that's nothing more than a guess.

As much as I look forward to seeing the Arizona sun this spring it will be fun to see these players make late inning appearances in early Cactus League games.

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