One2Watch4: Cubs P Tom Gorzelanny

The expectations are high for the Chicago Cubs entering the 2010 season. The championship drought continued in 2009, but the team returns a majority of its veteran core for another go-round. And while much of the focus will be on 3B Aramis Ramirez, OF Alfonso Soriano and SP Carlos Zambrano, the real key could be a lefty pitcher acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates last July 30. No, not John Grabow, who signed a 2-year, $7.5M deal this offseason to stay with the Cubs. Rather, it will be former top prospect Tom Gorzelanny.

Once upon a time, Gorzelanny was the young stud arm upon whom the Pirates were placing their future. After a very promising start to his career, things went south for Gorzelanny, which is how he ended up as an afterthought in a trade deadline deal. And while he might still be under-the-radar, the fact remains he flashed significant potential in a starter’s role last season. His 10.2 K-per-9 rate would have been best among lefty starters if he had qualified for the ERA title:


While Gorzelanny fell well short of the innings pitched threshold for the ERA title, it shows what he can do – no lefty starter who DID qualify reached 10.0 K/9, with Jon Lester leading the way with 9.96. And while his OPS against was noticeably higher, that is likely at least somewhat caused by the clearly elevated batting-average-on-balls-in-play. Most BABIP regress towards .300 – such a treatment for Gorzelanny would likely make his OPS against much more palatable. Regardless, the strikeout potential is there.

While it’s been a few years since Gorzelanny flashed the type of production that made him one of the assumed cornerstones of the next great Pirates team, the fact that he has at least shown the ability to be an above-average starter is more than most pitchers can say. In fact, in the last 5 years, only 4 left-handed starters age 24 or younger have posted a season with at least 200 innings pitched, 14+ wins, an ERA under 4.00. Needless to say, Gorzelanny’s potential is unique:


200+ IP, 14+ wins, ERA under 4.00
By a left-handed pitcher age-24 or younger, last 5 seasons