Chicago Cubs: Uncertainty will bring intrigue to the starting rotation
Just six years removed from a historic World Series championship run, the Chicago Cubs have been torn down to the studs. Following last summer’s sell-off at the trade deadline, the daily lineup became a game of musical chairs. However, it allowed us to get a look at some new faces and establish some level of a baseline, and expectation, coming into the 2022 season.
Gone are the days of dominant starting pitching and an electric offense. There is still intrigue, however, if we can look at things from a different lens, which can begin with the starting pitching. That will be difficult as the only remaining starter from that magical 2016 squad is veteran right-hander Kyle Hendricks. What is gone is gone, though, and isn’t it better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all?
The rotation is an area that will no doubt garner a lot of questions in the coming weeks will hopefully become a little clearer as we roll toward Opening Day. But, at the very least, we know that three spots are established in Hendricks, along with new faces Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley. Sure, a lot of starting talent is gone, but therein lies the intrigue and an established level of expectation.
Chicago Cubs: So what can we expect from the starting rotation?
There are already several candidates to slide into the last two spots in the rotation. So the first couple of weeks probably won’t tell us much, and we could be in for an interesting first month as the Cubs try to establish some semblance of normalcy.
In the immediate, the likeliest candidates are Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay. Alzolay was the better of the two last season, pitching to a 4.58 ERA across 125 2/3 innings. It was Alzolay’s third trip to the majors and probably the most realistic season we can expect from him moving forward. Of course, fans want more dominant performances from Alzolay, but we need to be somewhat realistic.
On the other hand, Mills rode the struggle bus to the tune of a 5.07 ERA across 119 innings. A bright spot for Mills, though, was his 10-game stretch between the beginning of July into the end of August, during which he worked to a 3.76 ERA. There is hope that he can build on that heading into his age-30 campaign.
One interesting thing to note is non-roster invitee Stephen Gonsalves. He was drafted in 2013 by the Minnesota Twins and spent his first six years in the minors with the organization before erupting onto the starting scene. Gonsalves is still just 27 years old and fresh off a year in which he posted an xERA of just 2.43 along with a 3.40 FIP in an extremely limited three-game sample size.
Lastly, we cannot forget the fact the Cubs had 12 different pitchers who made at least one start last season. Some guys will provide value in terms of spot starts and who could ultimately return a higher expected value. Keegan Thompson is someone who will be on the radar and can fit into that category of working in a more significant role.
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It will take time to figure out how the whole of the rotation will pan out, and with that, Cubs fans, patience is the virtue. Keeping the expectations realistic will help manage a lot of frustration and foreseeable heartbreak. However, there are some positives on the way, and before long, it would not surprise me to see some quality pitching talent back on the North Side.