The String Bean Slinger
If you are laying eyes on this baseball article – or if you have a pulse – you probably know the Cubs won the World Series this year. It was said many times this past year that the Cubs are the best team in baseball. It was true on paper all year, and now we find it to be true given the end result of this baseball season. Back at the trade deadline the Cubs knew they were good, but could they get better? The Cubs knew that, on paper, a pitcher hurling 105 miles per hour would likely help win some games. That is why the Cubs made the move for Aroldis Chapman this past summer.
Bringing in Chapman payed dividends this year, but the flamethrower is not guaranteed to stick with the Cubs and has expressed interest in returning to the Yankees. Hector Rondon could easily return to the closer role, but he struggled at times during the second half of this year. Pedro Strop does a fair job, but he will enter free agency soon and isn’t exactly the youngest option. This brings us to Carl Edwards Jr. (formerly known as CJ Edwards). It may be that the String Bean Slinger is just on the horizon of his reign over the MLB.
Edwards was touted as a solid prospect, but his ascension has picked up the pace upon converting from a starter to a reliever. In 36 innings for the Cubs this year, Edwards managed a decent 3.75 ERA, but with a 0.806 WHIP. Even better, over those 36 frames, Edwards struck out 52 of the batters he faced. Opponents batted a paltry .123 against the young right-hander. That’s the lowest batting average against any pitcher in the MLB with at least 20 innings pitched in 2016. That’s better than Kenley Jansen, Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, and, of course, Aroldis Chapman. Now that I have your attention, let me remind you that this is a guy that just turned 25 this September. He also plays on the best team in baseball and the only thing Cubs’ relievers have to worry about is their own offense ruining opportunities. However, with the Cubs bullpen where it is and the momentum Edwards has, it is hard not to see opportunity there.
Edwards is also a bit of an anomaly when it comes to the spin he can put on the ball. The 25-year-old has the second fastest spin-rate on his four-seamer in all of baseball. Aroldis Chapman led the league with the best in-zone contact rate. Can you guess who was second? You guessed right. Edwards has no lack of interesting peripherals and is already near the top of some lists. Feasibly he will continue to climb some more lists as he continues to develop.
Due to the Cubs running wild in the postseason (still feels weird to type), Edwards gained some invaluable experience in big games. He nearly closed out game seven of the World Series. Perhaps more so than at any other position, it is important that a reliever can be clutch and perform when you need it most. He didn’t pitch a ton of innings in the postseason, but he didn’t give up a run before the World Series either. This surely bodes well as his growth continues.
It’s a stretch to call him a top ten relief pitcher in a dynasty league – at least for right now. However, if the opportunity to snag Edwards arises, it might be tough to find many young relievers with as much upside. There are all sorts of strategies for relievers in fantasy baseball as well as opinions on when they should be drafted, but Carl Edwards Jr. is someone you may want to keep an eye on and reach a little for.