1 Cubs pitching prospect to keep an eye on in 2022

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

Acquired at last summer’s trade deadline in the Kris Bryant deal with the Giants, right-handed Cubs pitching prospect Caleb Kilian turned heads in the Arizona Fall League and will head into 2022 with plenty of eyes on him.

The former eighth-round pick enters the year as the third-ranked pitching prospect in the Cubs organization, trailing only left-hander Brailyn Marquez and 2021 first-round pick Jordan Wicks. Obviously, it’s been years since the team drafted and successfully developed a starting pitcher – but the hope is that will change sooner rather than later.

Last season, Kilian made 24 starts between High and Double-A, working to a 2.60 ERA, 10.0 K/9 and a 0.877 WHIP. But, like I said, where he really shone was in the AFL – when he was perfect through six innings in the championship game.

He stuttered a bit with Double-A Tennessee following the trade, but seeing him return to form in the Fall League was promising, to say the least. He’s got a plus fastball that regularly sits in the mid-90s and since joining Chicago, he’s continued to hone his secondary stuff. Obviously, continuing that trend will be a big focal point for Kilian, especially as he works his way into the upper levels of the organization.

Cubs: A hot start could see Caleb Kilian in the bigs sooner rather than later

The 24-year-old may very well be knocking on the door if not for the impact of the COVID-canceled 2020 Minor League Baseball season. Even so, MLB Pipeline has him projected to make a big league debut as soon as this year (assuming there is a season). Here’s what they had to say about him in their profile:

"Kilian added strength during his layoff and showed increased velocity in short stints at instructs, topping out at 98 mph after usually ranging from 90-95 with his four-seam fastball in college. After battling inconsistency with his breaking balls at Texas Tech, he has added some power to his curveball and scrapped his slider in favor of a shorter, harder cutter. He also exhibits feel for an average changeup."

The top three spots in the big league rotation are spoken for with Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley penciled in. But the back end of the staff is very much open to debate – with an array of young arms battling for the final two slots. Kilian will get his chances, sure, but I suspect Adbert Alzolay and Justin Steele are the front-runners at this point.

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It’s been a long time since pitching prospects garnered this level of attention from Cubs fans. But that’s changing under Jed Hoyer – and there’s no one with more intrigue around him than Kilian, who’s ready to build off his standout AFL showing in 2022.