Codi Heuer continues to rebuild himself with the Chicago Cubs

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Jed Hoyer’s decision to trade All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox has already paid off decently for the Chicago Cubs. Kimbrel did not factor in the Cubs’ long-term future, but the two assets Hoyer got back from the Sox surely do.

While Nick Madrigal is the centerpiece of the deal, reliever Codi Heuer will be another key guy in the Cubs long-term plans. Heuer, 25, has actually gotten decent playing time, while Madrigal will not suit up in blue until Spring. The results overall are good for Heuer, with more for him to build upon.

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The righty from Wichita State University features a mid-to-high 90s four-seem fastball, hard slider and changeup. After his rookie season in 2020 where he pitched to a 1.52 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 0.887 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9 and 9.5 K/9 in 21 appearances, his numbers with the Sox in 2021 were not quite as good on the surface. However there were still reasons to believe he has plenty of value going forward.

Despite posting a 5.12 ERA and 1.4 WHIP in 38.2 innings with the Sox in 2021, he posted a 3.68 FIP (1.44 difference), 3.70 xFIP, a 2.3 BB/9 (10 walks in 38.2 innings vs. nine walks in 23.2 innings in 2020) and a 9.1 K/9.

While his walks rate improved and he was still missing some bats, he was giving up more hits and more home runs. His H/9 (hits per nine innings) jumped from 4.6 to 10.5 from 2020 to his Sox tenure in 2021 and featured a BABIP against of .360. His surrendered hard hit rate of 38.8 percent and seven barrels (batted balls that have resulted in a minimum .500 average and 1.500 slugging based on exit velocity and launch angle).

Five of his 45 hits surrendered left the park. Overall a high percentage of what Heuer was giving up in terms of contact was falling in with some of it being hit hard and some just well-placed batted balls. His .360 BABIP against on the final day of his Sox tenure was ninth-highest among relievers in baseball.

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So far with the Cubs (through September 7), Heuer is pitching to a 1.00 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 0.889 WHIP, 5.5 H/9, 2.5 BB/9 and 5.5 K/9 in 18 innings (16 games).

Heuer has been getting outs via contact. His BABIP against with the Cubs is .196 with a 36.5 percent hard hit rate and one barrel surrendered. To his credit, he is pitching with solid command and getting the outs, but the one thing that’s certain is that he is going to want to miss more bats in the future. Back end bullpen guys only striking out roughly 16 percent of hitters allows more room for things to go wrong late in innings when more contact is surrendered and room for error is very small.

Right now he is working on continuing to adjust and getting his groove back with no pressure of a pennant race. Hopefully the strikeout numbers can improve as the season winds down and going into next year, but overall he has done an efficient job for the Cubs so far and he deserves credit.

Chicago Cubs: The future outlook for Codi Heuer

It is worth noting that on the year, between both teams, Heuer’s hard hit percentage is right in the middle in terms of MLB percentile rankings from Baseball Savant, while being in the 90th percentile in barrels against, 73rd in fastball spin, 88th in fastball velocity, 75th in average exit velocity, 69th in whiff percentage and 90th in chase rate.

While his hard hit and strikeout rates are both below average (33), there are plenty of reasons to like Heuer’s stuff. He throws hard and has some good movement on the pitches. In 2020 his strikeout rate was in the 69th percentile and he clocked in at the 86th percentile in whiff percentage (any swing and miss). So he has been able to miss bats at an above-average rate before.

Heuer next year will be under team control next season and then enter year one of arbitration eligibility in 2023. He will not be a free agent until 2026. Best case scenario for the Cubs is that he becomes an efficient high-leverage/backend arm for the next several years as the team tries to rebuild back into contenders.

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Next season there could be a competition of potential closers between Heuer, Rowan Wick, Manny Rodriguez and possibly others. Not sure Heuer is a closer, but a setup and/or multi-inning relief spot seems more likely. Time will tell, though. Regardless of his role, he is set up to be an important piece of the Cubs bullpen for the next few years.