Following Oakland's blueprint for building a thrifty but perennial contender, the Cubs have invested heavily in young arms, with Kerry Wood (the fourth pick in the 1995 draft) and Mark Prior (No. 2 in 2001) foremost among them. "When I got here, there wasn't much [pitching] in the system," says second-year G.M. Jim Hendry, who has served the team in player development and scouting roles since '94. "But we've had good drafts and done well in Latin America."
How successful has Chicago been in the draft? To acquire righthanded starter Matt Clement and setup man Antonio Alfonseca in a trade with the Florida Marlins in March 2002, Hendry had to include a 2000 eighth-round draft pick, promising Class A prospect Dontrelle Willis. " Florida has to get somebody back in the deal," Hendry says of Willis, who as a rookie this year was 8-1 at week's end, "We have enough pitching so that if somebody like that has to go in order to help us, we can still make that trade."
Like the aces on the parent club, many of the Cubs' top minor league prospects are strikeout specialists. Here are four on the horizon:
ANGEL GUZMAN, Double A West Tenn. The 21-year-old Venezuelan has a mid-90s fastball and through Sunday was 3-3 with a 2.81 ERA and 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He was selected to play the All-Star Futures game on July 13. Last year at Class A Lansing and Daytona he struck out 123 in 156 innings.
JAE-KUK RYU, Double A West Tenn. The 20-year-old Korean went 6-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 72 innings at low Class A Lansing to earn his promotion to Double A.
BOBBY BROWNLIE, Class A Daytona. The 21st pick in the 2002 draft, he throws a high-90s fastball and a nasty curve. He was 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 62 innings.
ANDY SISCO, Class A Lansing. The 6'9" 265-pounder was a second-round choice in the 2001 draft. Last year he led the short-season rookie league with 101 strikeouts in 77? innings for Boise and had 25 K's through Sunday.