The entire second half of the season for the Chicago Cubs is all about auditioning for the 2022 roster, especially when it comes to the bullpen. Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera were all traded, which has opened the door for younger guys to shine.
Codi Heuer, who was part of the return for Kimbrel, Manny Rodriguez, Michael Rucker and others have all made appearances in August. Some have shined, and some have shown they aren’t quite ready for the big leagues quite yet.
Codi Heuer has all the makings of a shutdown reliever for the Chicago Cubs
Heuer had a fantastic rookie season across town with the White Sox. He had a 1.52 ERA in 21 games with 25 strikeouts across 23 2/3 innings. 2021 has been more of a struggle, with a 5.12 ERA in 40 games with the Sox. After the trade, he has been dynamite on the North Side. In eight appearances, Heuer has a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings with a save.
A lot of players on the current roster will not be on the 2022 roster, but Heuer is almost a lock, and he may even close games going forward. That’s the beauty of the current roster situation, everybody is fighting for a spot moving forward. No spots are guaranteed, nor should they be.
In 2020, Heuer touched 97-98 but has sat pretty much 95-96 in 2021 to go along with a devastating breaking ball. If he can get back to 97-98 that could unlock another level for him, given he’s only 25.
Manny Rodriguez: Future Chicago Cubs closer?
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Manny Rodriguez is the flamethrower, and every bullpen has one. He has hit 99-100 numerous times already and has collected a save in Coors Field. Oh, and his breaking ball goes 91-92. In eight games, Rodriguez has a 4.50 ERA and has been scoreless his last three times out. Like Heuer, he is still young at just 24 years old. If he keeps having scoreless outings he will make the 2022 bullpen as well.
He dominated the minor leagues this year with a 1.31 ERA and had a 3.45 in 2019, so he doesn’t have much left to prove in the minors. The more experience he gets, the more comfortable he will get in the Majors. A Heuer/Rodriguez back end of the bullpen can be effective if that’s the route the Cubs choose to go.
Michael Rucker has work to do still
Rucker is here because he is intriguing. The numbers aren’t great but he has 17 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings. The 9.26 ERA is ugly, but pretty much all of that is based off two appearances, four earned in 1 1/3 against the Rockies and then six earned runs in two innings against Cincinnati. Other than that he’s given up just two runs in his other work.
Rucker is a little older than the other two at 27, but he has a fun story. He’s been working his way through the Cubs’ minor leagues for years, even going to the Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft before being returned to Chicago, and is now trying to earn his spot.
Aside from these three, Trevor Megill, Ryan Meisinger and Jake Jewell have also seen time, and it has not gone well. Justin Steele has moved into the rotation and has had two decent starts. Like the bullpen, if the Cubs can find a few more starters to go along with Kyle Hendricks the rebuild could be sped up.