Cubs: Homegrown arms are finally rounding into form

(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images) /

Pitching wins games. Without strong pitching, teams will struggle to win. That is why Jed Hoyer went and shocked executives around the league by signing Marcus Stroman last offseason. But this season, there have been two pitchers who’ve shown, without a doubt, they are ready to be major league starters.

Both in their second big league seasons, Keegan Thompson and JustinSteele are proving they belong in the majors and look likely to factor into the long-term pitching plans of the Chicago Cubs.

Cubs left-hander Justin Steele’s last 7 starts have been elite

Justin Steele was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 draft by the Cubs, and in 2021, the now 27-year-old made his debut. This season, Steele has a 3.63 ERA – but in his last seven starts, he carries a sterling 1.95 ERA across 37 frames, to go along with 45 strikeouts.

By Steele’s next start, he will double the amount of innings from his rookie season, and is having an even better year. Slotting Steele behind Marcus Stroman, or even if another starting pitcher is signed in free agency, having the left-hander in the middle of a rotation is something that any team would be happy to have. With the potential Steele has shown, he is someone that could be seen as a future ace for this team.

Innings-eater Keegan Thompson has done it all this season

As I said, Thompson is also in the second year of his career. The right-hander was drafted in the third round of the 2017 draft, and debuted with the team last season. This year, Thompson and Steele lead Cubs starters in innings pitched by more than 10 innings.

Seeing management having this much confidence in these young pitchers, even as they continue building up workloads, is certainly promising. Thompson has a 3.36 ERA in 99 innings of work, with a 1.242 WHIP, and has the second-most strikeouts on the team, 20 behind Steele’s 106. As Thompson started his career with the Cubs out of the bullpen, he is proving this season that he belongs in the rotation, likely as a middle-of-the-pack starter.

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As the Cubs have struggled for years to develop pitching, it is definitely a nice change to see homegrown pitchers having success. Despite their age, as they are both 27, they are both under contract until 2028, allowing them to continue to develop into strong starters for the team. And who knows, once Stroman’s contract is up, maybe of these two pitchers will be the new ace.