When it comes to what a team needs to make it through a 60-game season and earn a playoff spot during the COVID-19 pandemic, baseball insiders seem to agree on only one thing: How much pitching it will take.
So if there ever was a year for the Cubs to snap their eight-year pitching development drought and draft a pitcher with a chance to jump straight to the majors, maybe it’s this one.
And maybe second-round pick Burl Carraway, a power-pitching left-hander out of Dallas Baptist is that pitcher.
At least that’s the opinion of prospect reporting guru Jim Callis of MLB.com.
“I think Burl Carraway in a normal year would be your favorite to be the first guy in the big leagues out of the draft,” Callis said Friday on SportsTalk Live. “And I think that even might be more enhanced this year where it’s going to be all hands on deck from a pitching standpoint.”
The day the Cubs took Carraway with the 51st overall pick two weeks ago, Cubs scouting director Dan Kantrovitz called him potentially a “fast mover,” a 21-year-old junior reliever with an upper-90s fastball and advanced curveball.
“He was the best relief pitching prospect in the draft,” Callis said. “In terms of pure stuff standpoint, he might be the best lefty reliever the Cubs have right now.”
The Cubs already were facing a new-look bullpen overall this season with veterans Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler all gone from last year’s pen.
From the left side, Kyle Ryan, who became a reliable setup workhorse in his first year with the Cubs last season, is the top incumbent, producing a 3.54 ERA in 73 innings in 2019. And 6-foot-8 Brad Wieck is the other lefty back among the short-relief corps after a 14-game Cubs debut (3.60 ERA) following a trade from San Diego.
The Cubs already expected to have some of their best prospects among the taxi squad of extra players who will stay active at an alternate site as possible backups — if only to get valuable developmental time during a year with no minor-league season.
Carraway might be the one from that group to have a chance to debut this summer, depending on typical attrition and performance factors, compounded by the coronavirus minefield.
Also in his favor: He made only eight appearances with a total of 9 1/3 innings this year before the pandemic shut down the college season.
Carraway signed this week for $1.05 million.