Chicago Cubs come in with an array of arms, although unproven. This can be advantageous to the team, especially the Cubs.
The Chicago Cubs have several pitchers that have disappointed, at least in recent years. Take Jeremy Jeffress. In 2018, he made his first All-Star Game while posting career-bests in ERA (1.29), WHIP (0.99) and strikeout rate (29.8). Last year, he had hip issues and was released last September. The Cubs had a high-upside and signed him.
Outside of Jeffress, the Cubs have nobody they can ‘count on.’ Now, Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan and Brad Wieck had better seasons. But it’s just one season, many half a season. The Cubs Craig Kimbrel had a ‘flat’ year, saving 13 of 16, good for and 81.2%. He blew the other three, and his seven ‘non-saves’ weren’t any better. Still, Tommy Hottovy was encouraged by it.
“One thing (in) this organization that we’ve lacked are these young, interesting arms with plus stuff,” Hottovy said. “Now I look around this room and we have 10 of those guys. Guys with really interesting pitch characteristics and interesting pitch mix.
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The one thing with the pitchers they have? Roles. It might be sometime before they can get them situated, and that takes time. Wick was rumored for a ‘closing’ role, but that’s passed because of Kimbrel.
So Kimbrel got the ninth, who sets him up? Wieck, who thanks to the Pitch Lab, has a curveball that supplanted the slider. So seventh? Maybe eighth? It’ll take manager David Ross and Hottovy a good bit of time to figure this out.
Speaking of the Pitch Lab, every pitcher starts with a bullpen session. Five pitches, whatever the pitcher wants–including pitches being worked on but not thrown in a game. This gives the Cubs to see what they want and go from there.
“When you have (big names in the bullpen), spring training is a lot more about keeping those guys healthy and getting ready for the season,” Hottovy said. “When you have guys like this that are competing hard, you’re going to take the best guys that are ready right out of spring training, for the most part. So being able to allow them to go to spring training and compete and then hopefully take the guys that are ready.”
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So will it not so much be who’s ready, but who’s prepared to go? The Chicago Cubs have a decided advantage in stocking the roster with unknown players. The team is going to go with who’s ready to go. Will it play out? Who knows.