The next great Cubs team may very well be built on pitching instead of a collection of homegrown position prospects like we saw six years ago. That’s not to put down guys like Brennen Davis and Pete Crow-Armstrong, but the sheer volume of arms the organization is running out lately certainly warrants our attention.
Of all the young pitchers to contribute for the Cubs this year, though, none have been quite as dominant as right-hander Hayden Wesneski, who came to Chicago in the Scott Effross trade back in July – a move that was widely questioned and second-guessed at the time.
Hayden Wesneski has been everything the Cubs hoped for – and more
He may have just 27 innings under his belt at the big league level, but Wesneski is quickly making a name for himself with his new team, working to a 2.33 ERA and 0.963 WHIP, while already accumulating 0.8 bWAR on the year. Oh, and let’s not forget he tossed an immaculate inning, as well.
"“It doesn’t seem like the heartbeat gets too high,” Cubs manager David Ross told MLB.com. “I watch a lot of the emotions after a big out or a big inning. Some guys get the third out … and there’s a huge yell or a fist pump or a glove pat — super emotional. Or there’s some guys that are just like, ‘I knew I had that all along. No big deal.'”"
Wesneski certainly carries himself more like a seasoned veteran than a 24-year-old getting his feet wet in the majors. That bodes well for his case for a spot in the 2023 rotation, which, at least right now, has at least 2-3 spots open – with only Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele locks for spots.
Seasoned presence Kyle Hendricks will have the inside track for a spot, assuming he’s healthy next spring. Recent comments from pitching coach Tommy Hottovy made it clear that the coaching staff and front office don’t believe the last two years are indicative of the pitcher he can be at this point in his career. He’s never going to regain the form that led him to the 2016 MLB ERA crown, but the hope is he can at least be a stabilizing arm in the back of the rotation next year.
Wesneski will duke it out with a lot of others in camp next year – but he’s doing everything he can here and now to separate himself from the pack. With guys like Keegan Thompson and Adrian Sampson likely ticketed for long relief or swing man roles, if the former sixth-rounder can carry the momentum he’s built to close out the year into camp next year, he’s definitely a guy to watch as the rotation battle takes shape in Mesa.