When Chicago Cubs prospect Eric Jokisch threw a no-hitter on Tuesday night against Jacksonville in a 10-0 victory by the Double-A Tennessee Smokies, it didn't exactly change his status within the organization but it did make people take notice.
"It opens some eyes because of the rarity of it," Cubs scouting director Jason McLeod said Wednesday.
Jokisch is part of a group of Cubs prospects that fly under the radar. There are many highly touted names that a few are going to slip through the cracks who people are not talking about. Jokisch, an 11th-round pick out of Northwestern in 2010, might be one of them.
"He is that left-hander that has that three-pitch mix," McLeod said. "Eric fits the bill as a guy who can maximize his ability, and I think you'll see him make some major league starts in the next couple of years."
The less-touted prospects hear the chatter as well. Shortstop Javier Baez joined Double-A Tennessee and Jokisch says he's getting the attention he deserves. But that doesn't mean only the big names are going to make it. Players such as Jokisch, who is 9-10 with a 3.57 ERA this season, know there will be opportunities in the coming years.
"It's actually something you try not to think about," Jokisch said by phone on Wednesday. "The more things you put in your head the worse things can get. I try to minimize my thoughts about things like that. I just try to go out and pitch every game. If I'm able to impress someone in the upper brass and they give me a chance that would be great."
McLeod brought up several other names of players who are flying under the radar but are making an impact. Thursday's Triple-A Iowa starter, Kyle Hendricks, is one. He will make his Triple-A debut after going 10-3 with a 1.85 ERA at Double-A. Hendricks came to the Cubs in the trade that sent pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers last season.
"The month he just had at Tennessee, you just don't see often," McLeod said.
Cuban Double-A outfielder Rubi Silva is another name to watch, according to McLeod. Silva is hitting .288 with 13 home runs and 45 RBIs this season. At Single-A Daytona we all know about outfielder Jorge Soler and Baez before he was promoted, but McLeod says to keep an eye on corner infielder Dustin Geiger, drafted in the 24th round in 2010. And Matt Loosen, a 23rd-round pick in 2010, threw a no-hitter at Single-A Daytona in July before being promoted.
Hendricks and Geiger were named players of the month this season in the Cubs organization so maybe they're not as unknown as they once were.
Of course, there is a reason some fly under the radar and others simply garner attention wherever they go. Baez, who has 28 home runs between Single-A and Double-A this season, falls in the latter category.
"Every at-bat you kind of get on the edge of your seat because you know something special is going to happen," Jokisch said of his Baez. "He never ceases to amaze. He's impressive in the field. He's made some adjustments in the field and now he gets to everything and makes great throws.
"With his bat there is nobody more electrifying. He's cool to be around and watch."
Jokisch might not have the same cachet, but his no-hitter isn't something to be scoffed at. He knows it's hard to throw one in the minors because of strict pitch counts, and he finds it a little weird he dreamed about throwing one recently -- except he couldn't get out of the fourth inning in the dream.
"I had completely forgotten about that until our trainer brought it up to me after the game," Jokisch said. "He said 'Hey, you actually were able to make it past the fourth.' "
Jokisch knew it wasn't right but he started thinking about his no-hitter in the third inning.
"I had to tell myself you can't possibly be thinking about this right now," he said. "It's six innings away."