Cubs pitching prospect Hayden Wesneski gets the call, doesn’t waste it

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

One of the biggest prizes the Chicago Cubs came home with at the trade deadline wasted little time when it comes to making his big league debut. With Justin Steele going to the IL for his back, Hayden Wesneski took his spot on the roster and did not disappoint, tossing five scoreless innings of relief on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

The rookie notched his first win, getting it out of the way quickly, allowing just two hits and a walk, while striking out eight Reds hitters. He showcased a wipeout slider and it’s safe to say he couldn’t have made a much stronger first impression.

In case you forgot, the Cubs swung a deal for Wesneski with the Yankees in exchange for rookie super reliever Scott Effross, essentially sacrificing years of control over an elite multi-inning arm for even more years of a potential middle-of-the-rotation arm. It was a pretty tough trade to swallow at the time, but one that made a lot more sense with time and more context. He formerly slotted in as the Yankees’ seventh-best prospect, making it an unusually strong return for a non-closer and the fact that he was close to the majors made the deal sweeter.

Since joining the Cubs, Wesneski has picked up right where he left off with the Yankees. After about as rough a start as possible – 1 2/3 innings and eight earned runs – he was excellent in Iowa with a 2.37 ERA across his other four starts. He quickly settled in as one of the organization’s best prospects, now placing twelfth on behind four other promising pitching prospects – Jordan Wicks (5), Ben Brown (7), and 2022 draftees Cade Horton (4) and Jackson Ferris (8).

Cubs: Hayden Wesneski tracks to be part of the team’s near-term future

While projected to fit in on the lower end of the rotation, Wesneski has some truly nasty tools of the trade. He can pump up the fastball to 98 miles per hour, but the draw is the slider, a frisbee pitch that can reach 22 inches of break. That wild movement would land him in the same realm as pitchers like Michael King, Brooks Raley and Sonny Gray.

With that combination, he can really rack up strikeouts, as indicated by his 15 punchouts in his last 15 innings in Iowa (not to mention the eight on Tuesday night in just five innings). Beyond that, he’s also been great at limiting hard contact, coughing up only 10 home runs in over 120 innings at Triple-A. As he gets more comfortable in the majors and can continue locating his pitches, the hope is that those skills will carry over.

It’s possible he’ll get some spot starts in the near future with Steele out now, but bullpen use is reasonable as always. Considering Wade Miley is only just returning from injury, he could continue to piggyback off him while he builds back up. No matter what role he’s in though, the goal is to get Wesneski used to the bigs. We’ll probably see him in play for a rotation spot next year barring some disaster during his cup of coffee with the team this year. If he really excels down the stretch, that decision might become easier.

Next. David Ross has to find a new approach with the Cubs bullpen. dark

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In any case, with his upside, Wesneski will be exciting to watch. It seems like as good an opportunity as ever to give him a look, especially with him due to end up on the 40-man roster. The Cubs need more insight on some of the closer pitching prospects, like Caleb Kilian, to determine who’s got a shot to contribute out of the gate next year. Considering the impact he’s made already, there’s a lot to look forward to with Wesneski.