Chicago Cubs: Justin Wilson enjoying early spring success

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 20: Justin Wilson
MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 20: Justin Wilson /

After an abysmal 2017 stint with the Chicago Cubs, left-hander Justin Wilson is off to a good start for the North Siders in spring training.

Let’s not sugarcoat it–Justin Wilson’s 2017 stint with the Chicago Cubs could not have gone much worse.

The Cubs acquired Wilson, 30, ahead of last season’s trade deadline along with catcher Alex Avila. While Avila added a veteran presence at catcher for the team, Wilson struggled immensely.

In 23 games with the Cubs, Wilson allowed 11 runs (10 earned) on 18 hits in 17 2/3 innings. His 5.09 ERA was bad, but his 19 walks were an even larger issue.

Wilson has flipped the switch this spring

Fast forward to this spring, where Wilson is pitching like a new man. While the sample size is small, he has allowed no runs on just one hit with no walks in two appearances (two innings).

Wilson has needed just five and six pitches, respectively, to get through an inning in each of his two appearances. This is especially impressive considering he has struck out one batter in both games.

One should not use spring training success to determine how a player will fare in the regular season. However, seeing Wilson pitch well without breaking much of a sweat is still a positive sign.

Pressure and lack of control in Chicago

Wilson’s struggles with the Cubs in 2017 were strange. He was in the midst of a dominant season before the Cubs acquired him. In 42 games (40 1/3 innings) with the Detroit Tigers, he walked just 16 batters, pitching to a 2.68 ERA.

Wilson was pitching for a sub-.500 team in the Tigers, but fans should not discredit his success. However, one has to wonder if going from closing games for a fourth-place team to pitching in a pennant race in Chicago affected him.

Ultimately, Wilson flat out lost his control with the Cubs, walking multiple batters in seven of his 23 appearances. In fact, he walked two batters on a combined eight pitches against the Cincinnati Reds on Aug. 17.

Cubs need a successful Wilson in 2018

Initially, the Cubs were counting on Wilson to contribute in late-inning situations. After a busy offseason, though, the Cubs need him to be a reliable left-hander more than anything.

As things currently stand, Wilson and Mike Montgomery are the only southpaws on the roster. However, the Cubs have multiple options for late-inning situations, including new right-hander Steve Cishek.

Next: Chicago Cubs week 1 spring training report

Wilson could join this group, of course, but getting back to being a reliable reliever comes first. With 2017 behind him, he has a clean slate entering 2018 to prove his struggles last season were nothing but a fluke.