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Transformation complete: Edwards makes his MLB debut

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Carl Edwards, Jr. was once a future rotation piece for the Chicago Cubs. After a strong year in the Minors as a reliever, Edwards may have found a new calling.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Cubs fans finally got a glimpse of their future closer Labor Day when Carl Edwards, Jr (or is it CJ?) made his big league debut. The right hander pitched a scoreless eighth, locking down the Cubs fourth straight win in a 9-0 beat down of MLB’s best team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

His inning in 30 seconds (courtesy of MLB.com):

Edwards of course made a name for himself as a starting pitcher in the mnors prior to 2015. The now 24-year old lanky right hander was drafted in the 48th round — a round that no longer even exists — by the Texas Rangers in 2011. He would be one of the prospects the Rangers used to lure Matt Garza away from the rebuilding Cubs.

That 2013 season, split between the Rangers’ Crawdads club and the Cubs' Daytona squad, made people start to notice the right hander. He went a combined 8-2 that season, with a microscopic 1.86 ERA over 24 start while striking out 155 over 116.1 innings. He registered a 3.17% walk per nine while limiting opposing batters to a .182 average. The sky seemed to be the limit for the Cubs newest addition.

Edwards is built more like Pedro Martinez — coming in a bit taller at 6 foot 3, but weighing in at a similar, slender 170 pounds — than Roger Clemens. Like Pedro, Edwards lanky frame caused him some issues in his 2014 season. His numbers were pretty close to typical CJ numbers (although he posted the lowest K-rate of his career) but he was limited to 53.2 innings with shoulder issues all season long.

Thus the transformation began. Edwards, who made 50 appearances prior to 2015 in which all but one were starts, became a reliever in 2015. And he answered the call, impressing the Cubs with how quickly he was able to handle the move. 

After 13 appearances in Tennessee (Double-A) in which he went 4-for-5 in save opportunites while striking out 36 over 23.2 innings and earning his first trip to the MLB Futures Game, he was promoted to Triple-A where he pitched equally as strong. His first year as a reliever looked like this: 5-3, 2.77 ERA, 75 strikeouts over 55.1 innings while going 6-for-9 in saves, limiting opponents to a .139 average while posting a 1.21 WHIP. And now he is in the big leagues.

It is pretty safe to assume that Edwards’ Minor League career has come to an end. But where does he fit in to the future Chicago Cubs plans?

I think it’s safe to say that the Cubs renaissance came much more quickly than anyone expected. Edwards joins his fellow rookies Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell (amongst a few others) in one of the best stories of 2015. There is no reason to believe that with Edwards as an anchor in the bullpen that their success won’t continue for years to come.

With the injuries and frame the Edwards has, a career in the bullpen is a no brainer. He has three solid pitches, highlighted by a phenomenal curve. Just look at this thing drop:

His fastball settles in nicely in the low-90s usually topping out between 95 to 97 mph. Edwards also has that nasty curve and also possesses a solid change-up. The issue is commanding them.

Edwards doesn’t have stuff that simply blows you away, all three of his pitches have a lot of life to them. Most reports gush at the cutting action his fastball has and how his changeup seems to take the life of a splitter as it comes across the plate. It has led to some alarming walk rates — 41 over 55.1 in 2015 for example — but Edwards has shown the poise to get around those walks by limiting opponents to a .163 average and a mere three home runs over his four year career. 

The big leagues, however, are a much different story, but in Edwards debut it was the same results. He walked his first batter, but eliminated him on a double play in the next at bat. Stranding runners is what Edwards does best, leaving less than 71 percent of his runners stranded just once over his career. 

The Cubs seemed to be in flux in the bullpen this season. They have stuck with Hector Rondon thus far, but have not been shy in bringing in former MLB closer like Rafael Soriano and Jason Motte throughout the season. While Edwards once flashed the stuff of a middle of the rotation arm, it seems like he may be heading down a different road. 

What do you think? Is Edwards the closer of the Cubs future?