Ryan Dempster – I like Demp. I like him a lot. He’s got a great personality and he takes the ball deep into games just about every start. He’s been an incredible find by Jim Hendry when he took the chance on him coming back from Tommy John. Some may say that he’s over-priced, but you can say that about a lot of people in baseball. There are a lot of ways you can look at these report cards. You can choose to evaluate guys based on their contracts or their role on the team. There really is no right or wrong way to look at it. As for me, I tend to lean toward evaluating guys based on my expectations of them, which seems even more unfair.
2010 was a good year for Ryan. He saw his win total increase to 15, which led the staff, and saw a higher strikeout ratio. I wonder a little how all the issues with his daughter’s illness weighed on him and affected his pitching last year. Obviously it would still be an issue in his life this year, but the wound wasn’t as fresh as it was last year when she was just born. Ultimately, I think you’ve got to look at Dempster as a legit # 2 starter in the rotation, which leaves a pretty big hole at the top. I don’t see anyone on this report card list right now that is capable of filling that spot, so we’re either looking at Dempster again in that role or a big fish like Cliff Lee. Grade: A
Randy Wells – I think it’s safe to say that the league figured out Randy Wells in 2010. Now his career can take one of two paths. Either he makes the adjustments needed to pitch the way he did in 2009 or he’s unable to adjust and doesn’t really succeed that way again. What encourages me a little is the fact that he’s a converted catcher. Hopefully that will help with a different perspective in terms of what hitters are thinking. I don’t know if it will or not, but we have to hope it helps. He’s 27 years old, so he’s just coming into the prime years. At this point, it’s tough to count on him as any more than a back of the rotation guy. If we look for a positive from 2010, it’s got to be that he increased his strikeout ratio while still keeping the ball in the ballpark with some reasonable success. Grade: C
Tom Gorzelanny – I don’t know what to make of Gorzo. He shows sparks of brilliance, but at times can be hittable. The fact that he’s a lefty and keeps the ball in the ballpark is probably what keeps him in contention for a rotation spot. The truth is, he’s probably better served as a member of the bullpen, though I know that’s not what he envisions for himself. With Sean Marshall already a member of the pen, it’s tough to find a role for Gorzo in the pen, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s shopped in the off-season. Grade: D
Carlos Silva – In his first 17 starts, Silva earned the nickname “Batman” for far surpassing our expectations to the point that I found myself asking who he was. 9-3 with an ERA of 3.45 had people calling for an All Star selection (deserved) and proclaiming him one of the aces of the staff (undeserved). Unfortunately and injury came into play and as a result we saw the last four starts yield a 1-3 record with a putrid 11.12 ERA. The most disgusting number is that those four starts lasted a combined 11.1 IP. All things considered, I think Silva was very good considering what we were expecting. Grade: B
Carlos Zambrano – How do I loath you? Let me count the ways. I think I’ve made it quite clear my thoughts on Zambrano in his time here. He’s an overrated child. I’m sick of the speeches about how he’s changed his pouty ways and how he’s going to win the Cy Young award this year. He’s a fraud, will always be and fraud and needs to be off this team via trade. He’s a crook in the sense that he’s stealing money from the Cubs based on what he’s being paid versus what we’re getting in return and he’s been burgling money from this team for quite some time. The only thing I have to say that’s positive about his year is that down the stretch he posted an 8-0 record with an ERA of 1.41 in 11 starts to make himself marketable this off-season. Grade: C
Ted Lilly – Perhaps the best FA signing of Jim Hendry’s tenure as a GM in Chicago. In four years in Chicago, Lilly has been the most consistent starter in the rotation year in and year out. He’s not going to overpower you with his stuff, but he’s smart and makes the adjustments to get hitters out with what he’s got. I can honestly see him becoming the next Jamie Moyer, pitching effectively in the Majors deep into his 30’s and early 40’s. Time will tell whether or not we received enough back in the deal with the Dodgers to warrant letting him leave via trade, forgoing potential compensatory picks in the June draft. A lot will depend on what Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach do. We’ve seen what Blake DeWitt can do, and I’m satisfied giving him a shot at competing for the starting 2B job in 2011. Early returns on Wallach have been poor, but he only made a few starts. Smit was actually very good in his time in the Cubs system so I’m curious to see what we get from him and where he starts next year. My guess is that he’ll start in AA, but we’ll have to wait and see. Grade: B
Casey Coleman – I feel bad evaluating Coleman seeing that I only watched one of his starts. I liked what I saw from him and I’m curious to see where he goes from here. There are going to be a lot of guys to consider for next year’s rotation and Coleman certainly should be in the mix. Right now, you’d have to think we’d be looking at the names reviewed here along with Jeff Samardzija, Jay Jackson, Thomas Diamond, Mitch Atkins and perhaps even Chris Archer. Grade: B