Drew Gray – Picture by Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Examining Myrtle Beach’s starting rotation is getting to be a thing. In the first half of the season, I did an affiliate update in May and talked about how dominating that group of starting pitchers was. Michael Arias and Brody McCullough have since gone on to South Bend, along with Cade Horton, who was only a Pelican for a month. Still, that’s half the rotation from the beginning of the year have moved on

Those spots plus one more spot are now filled with a quartet of the youngest pitchers in the Cubs’ system.

Jackson Ferris turned 19 back in January. Luis Rujano just turned 20 in April, Marino Santy turned 21 in March while Drew Gray rolled over to 20 in April. Those four young arms are an intriguing mix of promise and potential who also happen to be producing in small stints. I would not be surprised if over the months of August and September that the Cubs start to stretch Gray and Ferris out to four innings rather than the current three. Santy and Rujano pretty close to actually being there.

Jackson Ferris

It’s hard to write an evaluation of Jackson Ferris when you’re only getting 50 pitches a night. You can see the potential for a top of the rotation type starter – probably a number two guy. You can just see the nastiness of his stuff and that he’s still working on how to get professional hitters out. When the average age of the league is 21/22 and he’s two plus years younger, That’s a bit of a head turner and examining his year shows that he’s actually thriving at Myrtle Beach. He’s made 11 starts with a 3.19 ERA and he’s struck out 40 in 31.0 IP.

Drew Gray

For Drew Gray, the Cubs are going to take it slow with him, considering that he is coming off of Tommy John surgery. Like Ferris, this truly is Gray’s first fall season as a pro. So, the Cubs are really going to micromanage his workload. What Gray does best is he has a mid 90s fastball and couples with a power curve that can be a knee buckler at times. He’s made three starts at Myrtle Beach with 11 Ks in just 9 innings. He has yet to allow a run.

Marino Santy

Marino Santy was outstanding for most of the month of April as a reliever. He flashed some kind of breaking ball that made hitters look silly all throughout the month. He still has that pitch but he’s not just pitching one inning at a time anymore. Santy was moved into the starting rotation when Horton moved to South Bend. So he’s been getting stretched out for three months now and he’s getting close to go five full innings. He has 70 Ks in 49.1 IP. WOW! His last start was his best as he tossed four no-hit innings with 6 Ks on Sunday.

Luis Rujano

Luis Rujano is the only right hander in the quartet. The 20-year-old made his third start last night for Myrtle Beach. Earlier this spring, he was outstanding in a relief. I was quite surprised that he got the call up since he was just drafted out of high school a year ago. Then again, that was pretty close to the time the Ferris came up, who was also in high school and drafted a year ago. Anyway, Rujano had a 3.25 ERA heading into last nights game and he flashes usually four pitches. What I like most about him is that he just attacks. He’s got a nice fastball in the low to mid 90s. He’s got a nice slider, but he’s not afraid to throw any pitch in the strike zone and dare batters to hit it. That’s rare to find at such an age and such experience.

Last night, he went three scoreless allowing 1 hit and striking out 3 lowering his ERA to 3.00 on the year and 2.80 in July.

What I like most about this quartet of young arms is that they’ve had success early and they’ve had setbacks, and yet they keep coming back and adapting. Now that they are making their way through the league several times, they’ve had to make adjustments as they get stretched out more and more and more. It’s one thing to go through a lineup one time and maybe see a couple hitters twice. It’s another thing to go through that lineup twice, and begin to see the top of the order a third time. Santy and Ferris are getting through the order almost twice now.

But for Gray and Rujano, we are still looking at barely getting through the order one time in three innings. 

When the playoffs come, the Cubs will have some choices to make. The quartet’s workloads have been managed enough that they should be able to throw well into the playoffs and will hopefully be at 5 innings by mid September when the post season begins.

It’s going to be fun finding out what happens with these three lefties and one righty once August gets here and the draft picks are assigned a place to play. Are they going to keep Grant Kipp and Nick Hull in Myrtle Beach for the rest of the year or move them up to South Bend? Will fourth round pick Will Sanders arrive and throw a couple innings at a time? Maybe Sam Armstrong from Old Dominion shows up and he pitches as well. Who knows? It’s pretty certain the quartet will be anchoring the rotation though.