MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs will get a look at their future in more ways than one when top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards takes the mound against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night in his Cactus League debut.
Playing shortstop will be Chicago's top overall prospect, Javier Baez, who was sent down to minor league camp just days ago. Players sent down can still participate in Cactus League games, and the Cubs have a need for bodies due to a day/night doubleheader Tuesday.
All eyes, however, will be on Edwards, the minor league pitcher of the year in all of baseball last season after posting a 1.86 ERA in Class A last season pitching for both the Texas and Chicago organizations. The 22-year-old right-hander was traded from the Rangers with infielder Mike Olt and fellow pitchers Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm for Cubs pitcher Matt Garza in late July.
"I've watched C.J. Edwards pitch a lot," Olt said Tuesday morning. "Every time I watch him pitch I'm even more impressed. He has something pitchers don't have. Basically he has an invisible fastball. No one can hit it. It's pretty incredible to watch. He'll do well (Tuesday)."
It’s a trade Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told the Arizona Republic this week might be one that’s “got a chance to haunt us and haunt me." Garza was a two-month rental, going 4-5 with a 4.38 ERA as the Rangers missed the playoffs. He left as a free agent to the Milwaukee Brewers while the Cubs gained four prospects, including the dynamic Edwards.
"He's made a lot of good trades in the past; there's always one that can stick in his head more than others," Olt said. "Knowing I could be part of one that haunts him is a weird feeling I guess but hopefully we do."
Recently, Cubs spring instructor Rick Sutcliffe raved about Edwards' mechanics and his devastating cutter. He has put on about 10 pounds over the past year -- the lone criticism of Edwards having been his slight frame. He has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher after being drafted in the 48th round in 2011. Edwards will start the season at Double-A Tennessee, while Baez will be at Triple-A Iowa.
Also scheduled to pitch in the game is lefty Eric Jokisch, who is making noise in camp as well. He didn’t given up a run in either intra-squad action or Cactus League play this spring, and he’ll get another chance against big league hitters after Edwards throws his three innings.
“I’m looking forward to hitting,” Edwards said casually Sunday.
Baez, meanwhile, impressed fans and scouts with his monster home runs (five) this spring, but manager Rick Renteria was most happy with the adjustments he made at the plate within games and from game to game. If all goes well, by season’s end, Baez could be in the majors -- possibly with Jokisch -- while Edwards might get an in-season promotion to Triple-A Iowa.
Cubs brass says if a prospect “dominates” his league in the minors, he’ll move up. For a day, all three players will get a promotion to the majors.
How long until it’s permanent?