Chicago Cubs: Justin Steele is a part of the future – but lacks a clear role

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Earlier this season, young left-hander Justin Steele excelled out of the Chicago Cubs bullpen. After being stretched out at Triple-A Iowa, he re-joined the team, this time as a starter – to very different results.

Out of the pen this season, Steele was lights-out, making 11 appearances and working to a 2.08 ERA. His showcased some real swing-and-miss stuff, whiffing more than 14 batters per nine. Of course, if you’re Chicago, you see that, look at a woeful starting rotation, and, immediately, the wheels start turning.

But success hasn’t come in the same way in the rotation – at least not yet. Friday marked Steele’s eighth start of the season and it didn’t go as planned. The surging St. Louis Cardinals, winners of 14 straight heading into action Saturday, hit him hard late in his start, smacking a trio of home runs to chase the southpaw.

"“The first thing I was doing is looking back at all the good I can take from it. That’s a good lineup. … They’ve been on a hot streak here lately. They’re swinging the bat well. I mean, yeah, there was a lot of good to take from that outing, for me.”"

On the year, Steele now has a 5.89 ERA as a starter. His strikeout rate has been slashed by half and the long ball has been a concern, as well. Getting deep into games has been an issue (which is to be expected given its his first year starting in the big leagues) – but it hasn’t dampened the team’s enthusiasm in the slightest.

"“Have they proven enough to know they’ll be a big part of next year’s team? Yes,” Hoyer told “In exactly what role? I think that’s what we have to determine.”"

Chicago Cubs: Justin Steele will find some type of role on next year’s team

Earlier this week, manager David Ross flat-out said the Cubs needed to add at least two starters this offseason. Kyle Hendricks will be back – but there are now questions surrounding him that we’ve never really seen before. From there, it’s anybody’s guess. Internally, a combination of Steele, Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay and Keegan Thompson will all vie for roles next spring.

Next. Weighing pros and cons of bringing back the former core. dark

While starts like Friday are rough, they’re important – for players and the organization. Steele took away a lot of positives from his start as his season winds down. Meanwhile, Chicago continues to evaluate their group of arms as plans start taking shape for 2022 and beyond.