Chicago Cubs may have their future bullpen waiting in the wings

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Stockman /Allsport
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Stockman /Allsport /
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Chicago Cubs: Craig Brooks – Tennessee Smokies

The final player of the group is Tennessee Smokies reliever, Craig Brooks. Brooks is a compelling case as he doesn’t fit the mold of a promising prospect. Brooks is 26 years old, placing him on the back end of ‘prospect’ status. The team selected him in 2015, in the seventh round.

Brooks has had quite a minor league career, having not yet made it to the big leagues. In 2015, his first professional season, Brooks spent a sliver of time at Eugene, pitching to a 3.38 ERA in 10 games. The next year, he joined South Bend, where he pitched exceptionally in compiling a 1.39 ERA in 32 1/3 innings.

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After a promotion to Myrtle Beach, Brooks struggled mightily. His ERA jumped to 8.25 and both his walk rate, FIP, and xFIP all skyrocketed. The beginning to his 2017 season was completely different, as he finished with a 0.44 ERA in 20 1/3 innings with the Pelicans before being promoted once again.

At Double-A his first time around, Brooks posted a 4.46 ERA and an incredibly impressive 31.7 percent strikeout rate. Concerning his walk rate, Brooks struggled to keep it under control as it more than doubled from the year before. Last season, Brooks seemed to put everything together and posted a 3.44 ERA between Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.

This season, Brooks is on a tear. Through his first 12 games with Tennessee, he has six saves and a 0.61 ERA. The strikeouts are at a career-high 40.6 percent, and despite still struggling with command, Brooks has decreased his walk rate.

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Brooks is the definition of a real dark horse to make it to the show, yet is still someone to watch as the season progresses. The beginning to his season is encouraging, and with injuries or a myriad of other supernatural events, Brooks could get an opportunity. When it comes to the Cubs, you never know.