The 26-year-old Hart went 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA (27.2ip/8er) in eight games (four starts) this year with the Cubs. As a starter, he was charged with two earned runs or fewer in three of his four starts and won his final outing this afternoon after allowing three earned runs in 6.0 innings of work against the Astros at Wrigley Field.
Hart, who will immediately join the Pirates, entered the season rated by Baseball America as the Cubs’ sixth-best prospect. He began the year with Triple-A Iowa of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 3-3 with three saves and a 3.10 ERA (52.1ip/18er) and 57 strikeouts in 22 games (six starts). Hart made each of his first 16 appearances with Iowa in relief before going 3-0 with a 1.41 ERA (32.0ip/5er) and .157 batting average against in six starts. In 146 career games (100 starts) in the minor leagues, Hart struck out 575 batters and allowed just 224 walks in 604.1 innings pitched.
“We are pleased to add Kevin to our organization,” said Pirates GM Neal Huntington. “He is a right-handed pitcher with the size, pitch arsenal and make-up to be a solid major league starting pitcher or late inning reliever. He pitches as a starter with a live fastball in the low 90s and has been in the mid-to-upper 90s as a reliever. He also has the ability to complement his fastball with a quality curveball, solid slider and changeup.”
The 6-foot-4 righthander was originally selected by Baltimore in the 11th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft before being acquired by Chicago on December 6, 2006. During his first season in the Cubs minor league system in 2007, Hart was named the organization’s Pitcher-of-the-Year after going 10-1 with a 2.80 ERA in 17 games (10 starts) before making his Major League debut in September. During his first stint in the big leagues as a September call-up that year, he posted a 0.82 ERA (11.0ip/1er) in eight relief appearances.
Ascanio split the 2009 campaign between Chicago and Iowa. He went 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA (15.1ip/6er) and 18 strikeouts in 14 relief appearances with the Cubs while averaging 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. He posted a 2.38 ERA (11.1ip/3er) and 13 strikeouts in his last 12 relief appearances before being optioned back to Iowa on June 30.
The 24-year-old Ascanio was charged with a total of just three earned runs in his first eight starts (33.2ip) in two separate stints with the I-Cubs. He also did not surrender a home run in his first 11 starts with Iowa before doing so for the first time in his last outing on Monday night at Albuquerque. In 2007, Ascanio was ranked by Baseball America with the “Best Fastball” among Southern League pitchers while also being named to the league’s mid-season All-Star team. He posted a 2-2 record and 2.54 ERA (78.0ip/22er) in 44 games (one start) before being directly promoted from Double-A to the big leagues with Atlanta, where he made 13 relief appearances.
“Ascanio is a right-handed pitcher with a solid pitch arsenal,” said Huntington. “He possesses above average velocity on his four-seam fastball, a major league caliber slider and changeup, as a well as a solid sinker. He has the traits to pitch as a starter or out of the pen at the Major League level.”
Harrison hit a combined .327 (122-for-373) with 20 doubles, eight triples, five home runs, 42 RBI, 61 runs scored and 26 stolen bases in 97 games with Single-A Peoria and Single-A Daytona.
The 22-year-old Harrison began the season with Peoria, where he hit .337 (102-for-303) with 17 doubles, seven triples, four home runs, 33 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 79 games. He hit .373 (25-for-67) in 19 games in April, which was the second-highest batting average in the Midwest League and .342 (41-for-120) in May, which ranked 10th among all Midwest League hitters. He also was named to the Midwest League mid-season All-Star team before being promoted to Daytona on July 8.
Since joining Daytona, Harrison posted seven multi-hit games in his 18 contests while being named the Florida State League’s Player-of-the-Week this past week after going 11-for-26 (.423 average) with seven stolen bases.
Harrison was selected by the Cubs in the sixth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Cincinnati. During his first professional season, he was named to the Northwest League post-season All-Star team after hitting .351 (40-for-114) with 11 doubles, two triples, one home run, 25 RBI, 27 runs scored and 12 stolen bases in just 33 games with Boise.
“Harrison is an intriguing athletic player with a quality combination of makeup, hitting ability and speed,” said Huntington. “While he has the athletic ability to play multiple positions, we are interested in developing him as a second baseman.”
Ascanio will be assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League while Harrison will join Single-A Lynchburg of the Carolina League.