It’s no secret the Chicago Cubs need rotation help.
Chicago’s rotation ranked 24th in ERA heading into Wednesday’s action, though there have certainly been positives.
Adbert Alzolay has been brilliant in his last five starts. He has a 3.72 ERA during that stretch, which isn’t spectacular, but also boasts a 3.12 xFIP. Kyle Hendricks has seemingly begun to right the ship, and Zach Davies has managed to be effective in five May starts.
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Still, the negatives are pretty easy to spot. Trevor Williams had an 8.78 ERA in four May starts, prior to a nice rebound start this week, with opponents racking up a 1.185 OPS against him. Jake Arrieta has been steadier, but also had the benefit of facing weak offenses in the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates in two of his three starts since he came off the injured list.
It gets even less encouraging when looking at some of the expected metrics. Davies has a fairly sizable difference between weighted on-base average (wOBA) and his .406 xwOBA. The same can be said for Arrieta, who has a .347 xwOBA as compared to a .327 wOBA..
So, the Cubs could use some more starting quality, or at least a guy capable of being an “opener” of sorts.
The trade deadline might present an opportunity, though Chicago could just as easily elect to sell depending on how the next couple months play out. In other words, internal options might ultimately be the route the organization takes.
Cubs fans should keep tabs on Brailyn Marquez’s progression
Marquez, the No. 1 prospect in the team’s system, made his debut at the end of the 2020 season. He struggled in a relief appearance against the Chicago White Sox, walking three and giving up five runs in two-thirds of an inning. Of course, the young left-hander should not be judged by that forgettable debut.
Marquez has a plus-plus fastball that can get over 100 mph. His slider projects as an out pitch, giving him the kind of power stuff to potentially be a front-end starter down the line.
Will the Cubs look to promote Marquez in 2021? That remains to be seen.
Obviously, the 22-year-old will have to make gains in the command department. It has been an issue for him even in the minor leagues, though he really cut down on the walks at the end of the 2019 campaign.
Marquez had spent the better part of the spring building up arm strength, but is expected to report to Double-A in the very near future. How Marquez performs early could inform his trajectory.
It seems foolish to suggest Marquez could get a rotation spot by the end of the season. That said, it’s not impossible to envision him getting a few innings as a spot starter or a small relief role.
Alzolay has thrived in part because he is gaining experience and learning how to get MLB hitters out. The Cubs will eventually need Marquez, another vital arm in the team’s future outlook, to attain similar experiences and even go through his growing pains. They have to cultivate their young pitching to maximize future potential.
Remember, this is a club that–while trying to win now–still has one eye toward the future. That makes Marquez a guy to watch. Cubs fans should watch how Marquez progresses this summer. Chicago might decide to give him another MLB opportunity come September if he has more success in the minors.