Today we look at the lone left-handed reliever the Cubs have in the bullpen: Neal Cotts.
Originally drafted by the Oakland A's in 2001 and traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2002, Cotts joined the Cubs prior to the 2007 season, as he was traded to the Cubs in exchange for right-handed reliever David Aardsma.
The Cubs acquired Cotts, who was coming off a disastrous 2006 season (5.17 ERA in 70 games), with the hopes he would revert back to 2005 form in which he posted a 1.94 ERA in 69 games.
The Cubs' acquisition did not look too promising during Spring 2007, as Cotts got shellacked pretty good. He did not make the roster out of Spring and would spend the majority of his year in Iowa.
However, Cotts was determined to make it back to the big leagues and ended up appearing in 16 games for the Cubs, going 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA.
While his numbers did not look good at all, he showed good pop on his fastball, hitting 92-94 mph and used a nice changeup when located properly.
In other words, the arm strength and talent were still there, therefore the Cubs re-signed him to a one-year deal.
Just like the previous season, Cotts began the 2008 season in Iowa when he failed to beat out Scott Eyre as the team's left-handed specialist, but he would not stay in Des Moines long.
When Eyre ceased being effective, Cotts got his shot.
He came up in the early part of the season and never went back to Iowa. Cotts ended up pitching 35 2/3 innings, striking out 43, and posted a 4.29 ERA.
Against lefties he posted a 3.63 ERA while striking out 22 in 17 1/3 innings.
As it stands right now, Cotts will begin the 2009 season as the primary left-handed specialist for the Cubs out of the bullpen. If Cotts can do his job effectively, he will be a big-time component to the Cubs' success.
Rolf's 2009 prophecy for Neal Cotts: 43 innings pitched with a 4.24 ERA overall and a 3.49 ERA against left-handers. Cotts will strike out 47 and record a save...Write that down.