Chicago Cubs: Tyler Chatwood looks like he’s ready to break out this spring

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

This spring, Tyler Chatwood looks like he’s finally tapped into his elite arsenal and is ready to become a force at the back of the Chicago Cubs rotation.

A little over two years ago, when the Chicago Cubs inked Tyler Chatwood and his career 4.58 FIP to a three-year deal worth just under $40 million, I have to admit – I had some questions. Then, I dug into the numbers, saw he had some elite-level stuff in his bag of tricks and had some pretty stark home-road splits.

So maybe he was simply another on a long list of victims to pitching in Coors Field. But then he came out and led all of Major League Baseball in walks, despite hardly pitching down the stretch. He was another big swing-and-miss for Theo Epstein in free agency. At least, that’s what most thought.

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You have to give the guy credit though. At no point did teammates question his work ethic or his attitude. He kept his head down and put in the work. Last season, that paid off – with Chatwood serving in a critical swing man role, starting and eating valuable innings in the pen.

This spring, though, he’s in contention for a full-time return to the rotation. Having him fill said void would undoubtedly make it easier to swallow the $13 million he’ll make in 2020 – and he just might be ready to be an answer for first-year manager David Ross.

In Cactus League action, the right-hander has been nothing shy of dominant, cruising to a 1.83 ERA across 9 2/3 innings of work. He struck out four in his last outing, coming against the San Francisco Giants, and boasts an incredible 11:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio to boot.

Ross commented on his performance after his outing, saying he’s ‘in the lead’ to round out the rotation – a battle with another impressive right-hander in Alec Mills. But, in typical Chatwood fashion, he’s focused on executing each and every pitch – and doing his job.

"“It’s good, but I’ve still got to go out there and pitch,” said Chatwood. “It’s cool to have him say that, but I’m still going to go about my routine the same way I’ve been doing.”"

With an aging Jon Lester and an inconsistent Jose Quintana slotting in behind Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish in the rotation, Chatwood has a chance to emerge as a top-tier arm – not only on this team, but in the entire National League.

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I know, I know. Crazy talk. It’s still spring training. But the results have been there, the focus is as unwavering as ever and Tyler Chatwood might be a dark horse candidate to put the team on his back and ride his new-look changeup to some big-time starts this season.