Next Up: Duane Underwood – A Big Decision Is Coming

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Underwood 75 2016 tennThere is no doubt Duane Underwood has one of the most talented arms in the Cubs’ system. Last year, I often saw his fastball sitting in the upper 90s and sometimes touching 100. The problem for him the past two years is that he cannot stay healthy. While he has avoided surgery, the injury concerns have caused enough consternation to the point that in 2017 he could be moved to the bullpen and he would no longer be a starter.

Next year will be Underwood’s fifth full season in the Cubs’ system. Yet, he is still no closer to Chicago than he was a year ago. Currently, the Cubs are more in need of bullpen arms as well as keeping Underwood healthy. I would not be surprised to see him in a reliever role in spring training. To me, he has MLB quality stuff, but Underwood has not been able to tame himself and his arsenal.

Current Info
6’2” 210 pounds
RHP
Still only 22 years old

Strengths
Upper 90s fastball
Plus curve
He has a changeup he needs to use more
Can “pitch” his way out of jams

Areas of Concern
Injuries the past 2 years
Command issues – Keeping the ball down in the zone
He has never thrown 100 innings as a Cub

Next Up in 2017
I think it would be best if he was in Tennessee to start 2017. If he is a starter, 140 IP would be a great target. If not, 60-70 IP in relief would be outstanding. He could work in 1-2 inning stints like most relievers in the system.

What I would like to see
Underwood 70 2016 tennTo be honest, I would just like him to be healthy all year long. I honestly don’t care if he’s a reliever or a starter, his value is as a pitcher who can throw in the upper 90s in either role.

If he is a starting pitcher, I would like for him to be able to move the ball down in the zone which he struggled to do, especially in 2016. I saw him pitch a few rehab starts for South Bend last year. His fastball easily overpowered hitters, but it looked liked he was working on getting low. He also looked good in rehab starts for Myrtle Beach. He was assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League after his rehab. The month off did not agree with him as Underwood made only 2 starts. He was lit up in both.

Underwood is still young, but he is not developing from what seems to be injuries. He’s still the same pitcher he was in 2015. The Cubs don’t want that guy. They want someone who can dominate at AA, AAA, and make it to Chicago. That’s his next step. It’s not as if this is a do or die season for him, but I think that season is close. He’s still young enough that Cubs have time to solve some of his issues. Sometimes, it seems like he has been around forever.

Underwood has yet to be “The Guy.” He has the talent to do it. He has the pitches to do it. He just needs to do it.

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