Chicago Cubs bullpen ranked seventh by’s Anthony Castrovince


Each year,’s Anthony Castrovince rolls out his Top 10 lists of lineups, rotations, and so on. in his recent list of top bullpens, the Chicago Cubs were ranked seventh on the list. That may be a surprise to some, but most Cubs’ fans know how effective this group was. But when you’re in last place, there isn’t a lot of love for the guys out there.

The group isn’t likely to see a lot of changes outside of the addition of former Cardinals’ closer Jason Motte. No a full-year removed from Tommy John surgery, the Cubs are banking on him returning to a form similar to when he save 42 games in 2012 for the St. Louis.

Hector Rondon was the breakout star for the pen last season. After being hidden away in 2013 as a Rule 5 pick up, toiling along in low-pressure situations most of the year until the last month, Rondon would get his shot early in the year.

When Jose Veras absolutely bombed out of the gate, the Cubs needed someone to step in to close games, no matter how few they would be. They turned to Rondon, and his start was a little shaky. He saved 8-of-10, but also lost a game that entered with the score tied. On Aug. 12, he picked up his 15th save of the year, and never looked back. From there to the end of the year, he went 1-0, a perfect 15-for-15 in saves, with a 0.47 ERA.

After the rollercoaster of Carlos Marmol, the “smooth sailing” of Rondon was a welcome addition. But he wasn’t alone. Pedro Strop struck out 10.5 batter per nine innings while carrying a 2.21 ERA. Justin Grimm (9.1) and Neil Ramirez (10.9) joined those two striking out nine or more batters per nine.

Brian Schlitter was an early season surprise, carrying a sub-3.00 ERA for most of the year. Injuries near the end of the season seemed to have an effect, as his ERA would finish at 4.15. But he still showed potential for the Cubs in middle-relief.

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With waiver wire deals, the Cubs added several capable arms, including Felix Doubront and Jacob Turner. Tsuyoshi Wada, who saw most of his action in starts, could be the lefty to slide into the role vacated by Wesley Wright‘s departure.

The bullpen entering camp in all likelihood has the least assurances of anywhere on the roster, but not for the lack of talent. With the late-inning guys intact, it will simply be a matter of seeing who claims the last rotation spot, and who will join the bullpen group.

With a rotation of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel – it won’t be about damage control this season. If things go as we hope, this group will get their due from the rest of the league.

Next: Was Lester the right choice for the Cubs?