Cubs Tyler Chatwood pitching with arrogance this spring

Tyler Chatwood / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Tyler Chatwood / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Much has been made about the Chicago Cubs and Theo Epstein’s underwhelming free agent signings in the past few years.

The Chicago Cubs have gotten mixed results from lucrative contracts handed to the likes of Jason Heyward and Yu Darvish. Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel was a disaster when healthy last season.

Tyler Chatwood’s name might not have the same gravity or star power as the latter three, but he is approaching this spring with the confidence and arrogance of a star.

More from Cubbies Crib

Given he is in the final year of a three-year, $38 million deal, he needs every drop of that confidence.

Chatwood’s Cubs debut in 2018 was, to put it bluntly, a nightmare. He led the majors with 95 walks in just 103 2/3 innings of work. As a result, the former Colorado Rockies right-hander posted a 5.30 ERA and was the subject of criticism all season long.

A move to the bullpen seemed to help Chatwood last year. He posted a career-high 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings ratio, and he filled several holes for the Cubs. From pitching in middle or long relief to making the occasional spot start, Chatwood’s versatility made him an invaluable member of the staff.

The 30-year-old will be that much more critical this season. Chatwood is one of a few pitchers–including Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolaycompeting for the fifth and final spot in the rotation. But given Jon Lester’s age and Jose Quintana’s inconsistency, Chatwood can be an X-factor should he translate spin rate into success (subscription required).

No, the spin rate is not necessarily indicative of an effective pitcher. Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes had one of the highest spin rates on his fastball last season, but opponents teed off on that pitch, hitting .425 with 13 homers, per Baseball Savant.

But Chatwood is trending in the right direction. He has never been one to serve up gophers, and he slashed the walk rate last year. Chatwood was also barreled up less than three percent of the time in 2019, which ranked in the top two percent of the MLB.

His velocity has climbed steadily, pairing a good heater with a wipeout curveball. Those factors, in addition to the spin rate, make him a breakout candidate in the rotation.

Perhaps most importantly, Chatwood acknowledges this season as a proving ground, and he is pitching with a certain swagger early in the year:

These are not just blanket statements. Chatwood understands just how important he can be to this Cub team, and he is building momentum.

He threw a scoreless inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his first appearance, including a dominant sequence against 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts.

The understanding he has to earn a starting spot also bodes well for Chatwood, mainly because the general aura surrounding this Chicago team is they have been too complacent in recent years.

Next. Albert Almora off to a hot start. dark

Still, Chatwood is in a great position. Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said back in January; he feels Chatwood is in a “great place.

The Cubs cannot afford any more empty promises. But Chatwood’s early mentality of pitching with some arrogance should serve him well as he looks to claim the final rotation spot.