Trey Masek, righthanded pitcher, 6-0, 175
Drafted in fifth round, 2013
Probable 2014 landing spot: Kane County
Over the next two days, I will go over "placing" players in the minors. Probably more than I will go over the players themselves. The best place to start is Trey Masek. From Texas Tech, Masek was a starter. If a secondary option materializes, he looks like a starter for his early pro career. If not, he looks like a reliever. With that backdrop, let's look at his 2013 pro results.
When a team has a first-year player, particularly a pitcher, the first pro season resembles playing the game show "Press Your Luck." While you would love the trip to Oahu (Kris Bryant's 2013), the important thing is to avoid the Whammy. Masek had poor numbers in two Arizona League games, but kept his WHIP to under 1.2 in the Northwest League. In the final analysis, it was about what you'd hope for from a college arm, in that he looked like a pro pitcher, and stayed healthy.
All logic would indicate Kane County as his initial 2014 stopping point. The question would be though, for which role on the team. Masek would certainly move more quickly out of the bullpen. A solid beginning could have him in Daytona by August, if not sooner.
In college, Masek posted a K/W ratio of over 3/1, kept his ERA under 2, and completed three of 11 starts. He missed some time with arm maladies. Will Masek start or relieve in Kane County?
In the pro game, it takes three pitches to be considered a starter candidate. Masek was better than the Big 12 last year. His fastball is his best pitch, with the curve, slider and change all needing work. If Masek is representing three potential usable pro offerings, he will start. Even if it doesn't work out for Masek as a starter, to try but miss trumps not trying. If the tools are there. His fastball touches the mid-90s, so velocity isn't a problem.
There is no humiliation in a pitcher being considered "only" a reliever. However, if there is a whiff of "starter" in his game a team will usually expand or extinguish that flame first. One potential break the Cubs caught last year was that the Yankees, to all appearances, gave up on Corey Black as a starting option just before the Alfonso Soriano trade. Black would pitch well for an inning or two in High-A, but the second time through the lineup, his secondaries weren't reliable. Upon landing in Daytona, Black figured out his curve and change, and now looks more like a starter than he did in July.
With Masek, the Cubs would like him to be a starter for as long as possible. And they will likely give him the chance in Kane County. As to whether he will be able to remain viable in rotations the next few years will likely determine in which half of the second 10 of prospects he'll rank.