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A Quick Tour Around the Minors

By Garrett Monaghan

With some of their biggest stars ailing, August could turn out to be a long month for the Cubs. Erstwhile staff ace Zambrano is going to miss at least a couple more starts; and even with Ted Lilly predicted to be back on Monday, there aren't any guarantees as to how effective he'll be. Aramis Ramirez' left shoulder is going to keep him out of the lineup sporadically; and a number of the Cubs' more useful roleplayers, Reed Johnson and Andres Blanco, are also hurt.

The Cubs have been unexpectedly lucky in the help they've received from the farm system so far, but they may need even more as the year goes on. Randy Wells has been the best rookie pitcher in the National League this year, Jake Fox has been a pleasant surprise, and Andres Blanco has filled the role the Cubs expected Aaron Miles to play for a good part of the year.

Even with the productivity they've gotten out of some of their young players, the Cubs' young relievers haven't been anywhere near as effective. Jeff Stevens and Jeff Samardzija have shown flashes of dominance, but have also been extremely hittable at times. Stevens had his brains beat in against the Rockies yesterday, and Samardzija has been hammered thus far in August. Stevens has been racking up the frequent flier miles between Iowa and Chicago so far, and it's safe to that he probably doesn't figure prominently in the Cubs' late season plans.

Here's a sneak peak at a few names from the minors that we might see in Chicago before the end of the year, either as roleplayers in August, or as some extra help when Septembers rolls around.

Blake Parker, Iowa

A converted catcher out of Arkansas, Parker has been a lights-out reliever for both AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa this year. Parker has posted a 2.15 ERA in 50.1 innings, with 26 walks and 58 strikeouts. Most impressively, Parker has posted a 1.57 GB/FB ratio, and only surrendered 1 home run all season. Parker is surprisingly advanced for a converted position player, and if keeps up his success, it's not out of the question to see him following the same path that Samardzija did last year.

John Gaub, Iowa

Gaub, like Jeff Stevens, came over from the Indians in the deal for Mark DeRosa; and like Stevens, he's posted excellent numbers in the Cubs' system. Gaub has a 1.96 ERA in 46 innings this year, split between AA and AAA. He's fanned an eye-popping 59 hitters in that span, to go along with 23 walks and only 3 home runs. He's more of a flyball pitcher than Parker, but he may have a better chance of seeing the majors this season due to the fact that he's left-handed.

Darwin Barney, Iowa

Barney had a good showing in spring training and got off to a good start at AA this year, prompting a midseason promotion to Iowa. A slick fielder, Barney hasn't hit particularly well since his promotion to Iowa. He's a bit like Ryan Theriot in the sense that he's gutsy and smart rather than outright toolsy, and the Cubs love his makeup. Barney won two College World Series titles at Oregon State, and he's the kind of player the Cubs might love to have around in the middle of a pennant race.

Andrew Cashner, Tennessee

The Cubs' 2008 first-round pick out of Texas Christian, Cashner started the season hurt but has been nearly unhittable when healthy. A closer at TCU, the Cubs seem determined to use him as a starter. He's posted a 2.19 ERA this year in 74 innings between Hi A and AA. He's fanned 63, walked 28, and only given up 1 home run all season. He's a sinker/slider pitcher, and generates a lot of ground balls. The Cubs have been careful with Cashner all season, so he might be a long shot to even get a September call-up, but the Cubs might not be able to resist the temptation to see what he can do.

Tyler Colvin, Tennessee

The Cubs' 2007 first-round pick out of Clemson, Colvin's professional career has been dogged by injuries. After playing all last year at AA, Colvin started off the season a level lower, but is back in Tennessee now. After a slow start, he's started to pick up steam, and just set a Southern League record with hits in 11 consecutive at bats. His .281 batting average and .476 slugging percentage are good, but like most Cubs prospects, he can't take a walk. If he keeps hitting, the Cubs may give him a shot as a left-handed outfield replacement in September. Teams like showcasing their first-round picks, and given the struggles we've seen out of Milton Bradley, it wouldn't surprise me to see Colvin in Chicago at some point this year.

Whoever the Cubs decide to bring up the rest of the way, it seems clear that they're going to need some more help before the season's over.


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