Chicago Cubs: Tyler Chatwood looks like the favorite for final rotation spot

Tyler Chatwood / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Tyler Chatwood / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /
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Based on what we’re hearing from Mesa, Tyler Chatwood seems to have the inside track on locking down the final spot in the Chicago Cubs rotation.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. The Chicago Cubs are getting things rolling in camp this week with pitchers and catchers reporting. With more questions on the pitching staff than at any point in recent memory, this spring will hopefully answer all kinds of questions.

According to Gordon Wittenmyer, the Cubs are leaning toward Tyler Chatwood as the team’s fifth starter in 2020. That may surprise fans who think about the right-hander’s 2018 showing, in which he lost that job down the stretch due to a complete inability to throw strikes in any way, shape or form.

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That season, Chatwood led the league in walks (95), posting a not-so-great 85/95 strikeout-to-walk ratio over that span. Thankfully, he managed to clean things up while serving primarily as a reliever in 2019.

He improved his K/BB to 74/37 and finished the 2019 season 3.76 ERA. He also had a career-high 8.9 K/9 and allowed a career low H/9. So you can tell by just those stats alone he has improved from being in the bullpen as he has shown he still can throw strikes which all in all leads into the picture for that starting role. Last season, out of the 324 batters faced Chatwood only gave up eight home runs and hit just five batters.

Four more candidates could make a run for that spot, Alec Mills, Colin Rea, Adbert Alzolay and the recently added Jharel Cotton, are all trying to either earn that spot on the starting rotation or trying to provide depth in the bullpen. Both Mills and Rea spent most of last year in Triple-A with Iowa while Alzolay bounced back and forth from Chicago. Cotton is a great addition but the Cubs could use him in a bullpen role instead of starting.

Ultimately it comes down to if Chatwood is healthy. If he isn’t healthy you’ve got four other options to choose from, but if he is 100 percent, you have to give him the spot because he was signed to be in the rotation back in 2018 and at just 30 years of age, he definitely has the stuff to make hitters look foolish every five days.

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We’re just approaching mid-February and it might feel like this doesn’t matter too much at the moment. But if you’ve got your eye set on Opening Day, it’s worth knowing that it seems likely we will see Chatwood as the final starter in the starting rotation. Unless something drastic happens between now and March 26, this seems like the direction first-year manager David Ross and the Cubs are headed as the season nears.