On Monday, the Cubs bullpen saw a major shakeup and fresh faces as a COVID-19 related injured list trip knocked out three guys who began the year on a solid note. Our fearless leader Jake Misener discussed the situation in detail and spoke on Pedro Strop’s return to the major league club, it is also something to note the two additional names – left-handers Justin Steele and Brad Wieck.
The hope, of course, is a positive script where the three can seamlessly transition into the open spots and make an immediate impact out of the gate. Steele has a strong, sturdy 6’2″ frame, while Wieck is a different specimen at a whopping 6’9″. As exciting as Strop is to have back, he is at the tail end of his career. If Steele and Wieck can harness their control, it could be a special spot for the Cubs.
Cubs: Big arms can translate to big numbers
Steele has been all over the map since the Cubs drafted him back in 2014. A couple years ago, he was seen as a top 10 prospect in the system. He is still in the top 30, but his status as a future starter is now bleak giving way to a possible impact player in the pen.
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The young left-hander has something to prove, having never pitched above Double-A Tennessee, his last season coming in 2019. His mid-90s fastball has life to go along with a relatively new biting mid-80s slider and a curveball which could play well at the major league level. Steele’s changeup is not overly impactful but is still in the repertoire as an option.
He has shown displays of big strikeout numbers and, as a fresh arm, could provide an excellent boon to a bullpen that has begun the year on a positive note. Wieck is the other focal arm, who, in his own right, has proven large strikeout numbers at the big league level.
Both Wieck’s fastball and curveball are both above-average pitches and then some. In his last substantial sample size, Wieck was one of the best pitchers in the pen’s core. His 14-game stint with the Cubs following his trade proved fruitful as the southpaw notched a 3.60 ERA and held opposing batters to a .063 average. He managed a 47.4 percent strikeout rate.
It will hopefully help things for the Cubs to have some fresh faces in the relief corps. The numbers have spoken for themselves at points, and although the real issue has been with the starting pitching, a strong continuation of positive numbers in the pen is something the Cubs need moving forward.