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Eric Jokisch: Wrong Place, Wrong Time

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Why is lefthander Eric Jokisch still in Iowa?

Dylan Heuer

One of the maxims of baseball is that a team can never have too much pitching. Another is that a team will keep pushing a player up through their system until he reaches a level that's clearly better than he is. The Cubs have a pitcher in Eric Jokisch who hasn't found that level yet. His best year yet has been in Triple-A this season. Why isn't there more of a clamor to call him up?

Jokisch was an 11th-round pick in 2010. As that was before the new draft rules, the 11th pick didn't have a specific meaning as it does now. Today, the 11th round is just after the rounds with values attached to the selection. An 11th-round pick now would be mainly for a college player who fits a particular need, but would probably sign for the permitted amount (Anything over $100,000 complicates things, as anything over that goes against your bonus limits.).

Nonetheless, Jokisch fits that pretty accurately. he was a veteran of a mid-major baseball college (yes, the Big Ten is a mid-major in baseball) and has moved up through the system with all deliberate speed. He's never had a tremendous season, or a really bad one either. His numbers are rather similar year-to-year, especially his HR/9 numbers, where his numbers at the three highest levels are all 0.7.

His WHIP this season, at the highest minor-league level there is, and playing quite a few games at high elevations, is a very solid 1.145. He's gotten better as he progressed. He's a left-hander. His walk numbers have never been better. So, why isn't he in Chicago already?

Jokisch has horrible timing. Had he put up those numbers two years ago, when Jason Berken and Justin Germano were getting the ball every fifth day, calling up Jokisch would have been an easy call. However, the Cubs' rotation now is full. Even if the Cubs shut down Kyle Hendricks or Tsuyoshi Wada, Felix Doubront and Dan Straily will be happy to claim those innings. Jacob Turner looks like a proper option for a "piggy-back" option, throwing two-to-three innings twice a week. Arodys Vizcaino might get some late innings as well.

There isn't a need to get Jokisch any September innings. As he is 15 innings from his career high in innings pitched, it might be a bit counter-productive to call him up, anyway. So, he will likely sit.

The next question is, what to do with him in November? November is the deadline for submitting a Rule 5 roster. As Jokisch is definitely Rule 5-eligible, and some teams may be interested in him. Should he be added to the 40-man roster, exempting from being selected in the draft? That is a really tough call.

Articles on the November list will be more plentiful as the time approaches, but Jokisch's name will be an interesting proxy on system depth. He will be in the same category as a number of other coin-flips, not only in terms of making the list, but also being sent off in trade before or after the December draft. If Jokisch is selected in the Rule 5 draft, that might not be a bad thing for him hanging around the system.

A player off the 40-man has more value than a player on the 40-man, all other things being equal. If Jokisch is not selected, he has more value to other teams, as well, since he doesn't have to stick around the major leagues all season. He could, for instance, stay in Triple-A until June (or whenever) and be added after injuries or trades create a spot for him. To that end, he would be a reasonable pull for Boston (as the PTBNL for Doubront) if un-selected.

If he is added to the list, that will be one less veteran that can be given a 40-man roster spot in the winter. Pegging the least valued 40-man member is much more difficult than it used to be. And it will get harder.

The Rule 5 Draft exists specifically for players like Jokisch. General Managers would prefer, with talents like Jokisch, to leave them in the minors until their six full seasons are complete. (After six full seasons, a player can declare himself a free agent if not added to the 40-man roster.) Every December, players good enough to be in the major leagues, though not with their present team, have a chance to get sprung to a new system. However, the roster price tends to be more expensive than the financial cost.

I'm glad the Cubs have pitchers like Jokisch who look like they belong in the major leagues, even though they haven't been able to prove it yet. It beats the terrible September results from the recent past. It's a sign that the coaching is working, and the players are developing. These trends will pay big dividends soon. The success of Hendricks already may be a precursor of what's to come.

Whether Jokisch stays or goes, that there seems to be more pitching than the club has room for is an occurrence I'm frankly not used to. I'm looking forward to it being the standard into the next few decades.