Since the start of the most recent offseason, fans and media alike have questioned the Cubs bullpen and whether or not it’s strong enough for a long playoff push.
With the addition of Aroldis Chapman and the continued excellence of Hector Rondon, many of those questions have been answered; however, the rise of Carl Edwards Jr. may be one of the most surprising, as well as welcomed, boosts to the relief corps.
After a decent cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2015, Edwards has been nothing short of dominant during his tenure in the majors this season. Through August 2, he has only allowed six hits and three earned runs in 16.2 innings, good for a .66 WHIP and 1.62 ERA this season.
Originally a 48th-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2011, Edwards was acquired by the Cubs in 2013 as a part of the Matt Garza trade. In 2013, his first year in the Cubs system, he was ranked as the 11th-best prospect in the Cubs farm system by MLB Pipeline.
Over the next two seasons, he progressed even further in the rankings, at season’s end being ranked as the fifth and third best prospect for the team in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
2016 started much differently for Edwards though, as his prospect status plummeted. He began the year as the 16th-ranked prospect in the system, then was placed in position 14 in MLB Pipeline’s midseason re-ranking.
Once given an overall scouting grade of 55, that dropped to 45 by 2016. To some, this looked like regression to an expected mean, while to others the rapid drop in status came as something of a major shock.
Whatever the case may be when it comes to his projections while in the minors, it’s nearly impossible to argue that Edwards hasn’t been successful in the major leagues. You can argue about the small sample size of his work as much as you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has become a crucial arm in the Cubs bullpen.
As previously mentioned, Edwards’ ERA so far this season is a dazzling 1.62. To better understand how strong his performance has been this season, his 39 ERA-, indicating an ERA 61% better than league average, is only equaled or surpassed by 14 other relievers in all of baseball, qualified by just 10 IP.
ERA is not the only metric by which Edwards is dominating this season. He’s allowing an opponent’s batting average of just .109, while allowing a BABIP of .156. That exceptionally low latter number does indicate a bit of luck, but with a defensive as strong as that of the Cubs, it’s not exactly a surprise to see.
It’s also important to note that his 2.17 FIP is currently the best on the entire roster, with the exception of Chapman and Joe Nathan, two pitchers who have yet to even eclipse the 5 IP mark for the Cubs this year.
From elite prospect to minor league afterthought, from roster placeholder to irreplaceable stalwart, Carl Edwards Jr. has made an unmistakable positive impact on the Cubs bullpen this season. As a run at the World Series heats up with every passing day, he will be counted on, and deservedly so, to be a contributing piece in a bullpen that will be heavily depended on.