Long maligned and even ridiculed for its lack of results, the Chicago Cubs prospect pipeline on the pitching side may finally be showing up at the big league level after years of focusing on churning out position players.
While the organization has traded away several prospects over the last few years who have produced at the big league level for other teams, there have been limited innings logged by Chicago prospects for the big league club. That has changed this year in a big way.
No shortage of rocket fuel in Chicago Cubs pitching pipeline
So far this season, Cubs prospects have logged 68 1/3 innings out of 336 1/3 total innings, which is an astronomical number for a team who has either paid for veteran free agent pitchers, traded for established hurlers or dumpster-dived for spare bullpen parts on an almost-annual basis.
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Adbert Alzolay, Dillon Maples, Keegan Thompson, and Justin Steele have not only logged 20 percent of the team’s innings this season, they’re forming a nice little core of trusted arms David Ross seems to enjoy deploying. Alzolay has become an established piece of the rotation, starting six games thus far this season, and taking the loss in two games the bullpen came in and blew as he was taken out in the middle of innings.
Thompson recently started his first big league game and has yet to give up an earned run through 10 1/3 innings. Maples and the southpaw Steele have been electric out of the pen for the Cubs, appearing in a combined 20 games and tossing 25 innings with an ERA just above 2.00. The scary thing is that Thompson and Steele are used to being starters, with Maples the only guy who was used to coming out of the bullpen before this season.
While Maples (29 years old) has bounced around the minors trying to command his elite stuff, Thompson and Alzolay are just 26 years old, and Steele is only 25. If their ascension and production at the big league level this year is any indication, perhaps the Cubs pitching pipeline is ready to explode.
With Brailyn Marquez, Kohl Franklin, and Burl Carraway all flashing elite stuff and under 22 years of age, as well as Brendon Little, Riley Thompson and Cory Abbott all set to help in the next couple years, there’s a lot to be happy about and should be a lot to choose from.
If the pitching production is real and continues to excel, the Cubs may just be able to go after some free agent position players and finally extend their own homegrown guys; hey, we can all dream it’s gonna happen, right?