Cubs Minors: Keep an eye on these two young pitching prospects in 2021

Over the past few seasons here at Cubbies Crib, we have done our best to cover prospects up and down the board extensively. Many of the front-line faces have been discussed in-depth, and while it is fun to imagine their Cubs debuts or return to the big leagues, there is much satisfaction in those guys who ride the thin gray line of obscurity.

An area of focus for the Cubs this year, especially and beyond, is their pitching makeup and, most importantly, the starting rotation. Nobody knows the overall scope of what will be this season, but there is hope moving into the future with Adbert Alzolay and Brailyn Marquez, and others.

Diving much deeper into that line’s system exist two additional right-handed youngsters — Josh Burgmann and Tyler Schlaffer. Both products of the 2019 MLB amateur draft, Burgmann was the Cubs’ fifth-round selection, while Schlaffer was selected a few rounds later in the ninth. There exists an age gap between the two only because Burgmann was established out of college, and Schlaffer was a prep selection.

Cubs Prospects: A tale of two arms and futures

The Cubs have been a team to find value in the draft, and with Burgmann and Schlaffer, it was seemingly no different. Burgmann was initially drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016 however forewent his 30th round selection and chose the college path instead, landing at the University of Washington, where the 23-year-old pitched for the better part of three seasons.

His collegiate career started on a rocky note as he notched just 13 2/3 innings and an ERA of 7.90 before a partially torn UCL ended his year and required Burgmann to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery. However, he bounced back the following season, posting a 3.19 ERA in 31 innings, most of which came in relief.

In 2019, his draft year, Burgmann started 14 games, garnering a 3.99 ERA and improving his strikeout numbers from 6.1 K/9 to 11.51 K/9, continuing to lower both his WHIP and walk rate. As a fifth-round collegiate selection, the Cubs felt it prudent to begin his pro career at what was formerly Class-A Short Season Eugene. In nine starts for the Emeralds, Burgmann continued a positive trek and finished with a 3.79 ERA and a 27.8 percent strikeout rate.

Burgmann ranked No.145 on Baseball America‘s top 500 draft prospects leading up to the draft that season. He was scouted with a low 90s fastball which can jump to the mid-90s and an above-average changeup. Both are expected to be his bread and butter.

Schlaffer, meanwhile, is a product of Homewood-Flossmoor high school in Illinois — just a quick trip up Interstate 94 to Chicago. Like last year’s first-rounder Ed Howard, Schlaffer has a lifelong fandom with the Cubs. Schlaffer said it had been a “dream to pitch at Wrigley Field.”

Like Burgmann, Schlaffer has a fastball and changeup that should play in the future as above-average pitches. The 19-year-old appeared in just three games at the rookie-level, notching a 3.38 ERA in his small sample size. Schlaffer also managed a robust 20.8 percent strikeout rate to just a 4.2 percent walk rate.

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Schlaffer has a ton of time to continue his development. Burgmann, too, is still in that pocket where he can progress into his prime and hopefully grow into a reliable arm. This upcoming minor league season will be critical in how the development goes for both players.