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Chicago Cubs: How have the young arms fared in the rotation?

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs are looking toward the future, and part of that process was finding some new starting pitchers. Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele were recently inserted into the rotation, and along with Adbert Alzolay, those three are fighting for rotation spots in 2022. So far, the results for Thompson and Steele have been a mixed bag.

Steele has made four starts and his longest outing has been five innings against the Brewers. He gave up three earned on just five hits in that start. Steele has done a good job of keeping the Cubs in the game when he takes the ball every five days, and in today’s game that’s all a starter needs to do. His velocity has decreased a few ticks, but that’s normal when making that transition.

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Thompson has made two starts since moving back into the rotation, and three starts overall. The right-hander has also lost a few ticks on the fastball, sitting around 90-91 and losing his ability to throw consistent strikes. Steele has also had a bit of a problem finding the zone, but to a lesser degree. That’s the biggest red flag of anything else, that these two have lost their ability to pound the strike zone. They’ll need to find it again if they want to be in the rotation in the future. If not, they have proven to be serviceable bullpen arms.

Steele has a better breaking ball than Thompson, and Steele still sits around 93-94 with the fastball, which still plays. The good bet is that Steele is the pitcher out of these two to take that step forward and be a Major League starter. Another problem for Steele is his pitch count. He has only gone five innings once as a starter and threw 70 pitches that start. The next two have been approaching 80 pitches in the fourth inning, but pitch count management happens over time and with more experience.

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Adbert Alzolay has made 21 starts and has been a bit of a mixed bag. He’s showed why the Cubs love him in spurts this year, and has also seen his share of issues. Left-handed hitters are torching him, but he has thrown 106 1/3 innings and can be durable over a full season. In an effort to control his innings down the stretch, David Ross said he’ll deploy Alzolay out of the pen for the rest of the year.

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Alzolay likely has his spot in the 2022 rotation locked up, and both Thompson and Steele are Major League-caliber pitchers. It’s possible they both end up as starters, it’s possible neither of them are starters, or just one of them fits the bill. The Cubs organization is in a good position to let these two see what they can do and deal with the growing pains.

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