Duane Underwood stands 6-2 and weighs 205 pounds and unless you're blind, you can see he's a right-handed pitcher. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 Draft (67th overall). He was rated by Baseball America as the 104th ranked draft prospect and was the Cubs fourth pick behind Albert Almora, Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn. He signed for $1.05 million. He turned 19 on July 20th.
He was able to get into five Arizona Rookie League games in 2012 and threw only 8.2 innings. It wasn't an impressive first impression, but it was just a few innings. Underwood stayed behind at extended spring training as expected and headed to short-season league Boise when their season opened in late June. He started 11 games and had 14 appearances overall. Like 2012, they were also unimpressive.
In 54.1 innings, he struckout only 13.9% of the batters faced and he walked 10.4% of them. He also hit 6 batters and threw 8 wild pitches, though the latter is also affected by the catcher of course. He gave up 4 home runs and ended the season with a 4.97 ERA and 4.67 FIP.
Duane Underwood has a really good fastball at times, but it's erratic and he struggles to locate it. He also struggles to keep his velocity the same. At times he's reached the upper 90s, but quickly dropped to the low 90s and even high 80s. He has two a curve and a changeup that have some promise, but need a lot of work. He was ranked 17th in the organization by BA, 12th by Sickels and 18th by mlb.com entering the season. I'll let the experts discuss this in more detail.
Underwood was one of the more enigmatic players in the 2012 draft. On some days, he'd hit 98 mph with his fastball and flash first-round talent. On others, he couldn't command his heater and would dip into the upper 80s quickly, looking more like a fourth-rounder. The Cubs split the difference, drafting him in the second round and signing him away from a Georgia commitment for $1.05 million. He's very athletic for a pitcher and would have been a two-way player for the Bulldogs. Underwood generally pitches at 91-94 mph with his fastball but it varies from 88-98 and he doesn't always know where it's going. His curveball is similarly inconsistent. He'll show some feel for spinning the ball, but he'll also overthrow the curve and wind up with a soft, loopy offering that's begging to be crushed. He controls his changeup better than his other pitches, but he throws it too hard and doesn't get enough separation from his fastball. The Cubs worked to get Underwood to stop rushing his delivery in instructional league, and they were pleased with the results. They'll probably keep him in extended spring to start 2013 before sending him to short-season Boise in June. – Baseball America
Any talk about Underwood is going to be about projection. The Georgia high school product is extremely raw, but very athletic. There is a lot of work to be done, but if it comes together, the Cubs will have an electric arm on their hands. His fastball is his best now, and future, pitch, one that can sit in the low 90s and hit the mid-90s, albeit inconsistently. He has the chance to have a plus curve and perhaps even an above-average changeup, but those secondary pitches are a long way off. It's really all about his delivery. If he can learn how to repeat well and be efficient, his arm works really well. Underwood finished off instructs with a flourish and the Cubs hope that carries over to 2013. – mlb.com
12) Duane Underwood, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+: One of my favorite players from the 2012 draft. He's erratic but was also one of the youngest guys in the entire draft class. When right, he's got upper-90s velocity and promising secondary pitches. Needs more consistency in all respects, as his velocity varies and his command is problematic. – Sickels
So far he's not fooling any hitters with the good velocity, but sounds as though he struggles to maintain it and doesn't offer good enough secondary pitches yet. He's still quite young though.
Underwood will be moved to Kane County at the start of next year and we'll see how he does with his first taste of full season league. He has to make some considerable improvements to make the promotion last long, but he certainly has the fastball to do it. The Cubs will take their time with Underwood. He'll be 20 next July and there's no hurry. Don't start penciling him into the Cubs rotation in 2015 or anything. That won't happen.