It has been a relatively quiet winter for the Chicago Cubs organization. Aside from bringing in a couple of complementary players, including reliever Kevin Gregg and outfielder Joey Gathright, the organization has been operating in a reserved manner – although retaining free agent starter Ryan Dempster was no small feat. The club made some much smaller waves when it added three pitching prospects – Mitch Atkins, Justin Berg and Marcos Mateo – to the 40-man roster early on in the off-season.
Drafted out of high school, Atkins has moved up the organization’s ladder relatively quietly. The right-hander has put up some good won-loss numbers, having gone 39-19 since 2006 – as well as 17-7 in 28 starts split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2008. However, his other numbers are not quite as impressive, including his FIP, which was 5.70 in 10 Triple-A starts in 2008. His K-BB ratio was also a modest 1.91, along with a walk rate of 3.81 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 7.29 K/9. Atkins’ repertoire includes a low-90s fastball, a curveball and a change-up – and he projects as more of a bottom-of-the-rotation starter despite his big win totals.
Berg is your typical frustrating right-hander. He throws a hard, sinking fastball that tops out around 94 mph, but he fails to strikeout as many batters as he should and the walks continue to be an issue. In 90.1 Triple-A innings in 2008, Berg posted rates of 4.78 BB/9 and just 4.88 K/9. That strikeout rate was his highest one since 2006 when he managed to strike out 6.42 batters per nine innings in High-A ball. Along with sharpening his command, Berg needs to improve his secondary pitches so batters do not sit on his fastball. The 24-year-old hurler has played around with both a slider and a curveball, favoring the former for much of 2008 with mixed results.
Mateo has the farthest climb to make up the organization’s ladder, as he spent much of 2008 in High-A ball. The right-handed reliever was originally acquired from the Cincinnati Reds organization in 2007 for minor league outfielder Buck Coats (now in the Blue Jays organization). In 2008, Mateo split his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen and allowed 87 hits in 88.1 innings of work. He also posted rates of 2.95 BB/9 and 6.62 K/9. Mateo spent the season working on developing a change-up to go with his 90-94 mph fastball and slider. Despite making some strides in 2008, he still projects as a MLB set-up man.