#2: Drew Smyly
Drew Smyly started off this season looking like the third head of a monstrous Cubs rotation with Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman at the top. Throughout the season, though, things took a turn for the worse and he lost his spot in the rotation after posting a 5.62 ERA as a starter. He was giving up way too much hard contact, giving up a .265/.337/.478 slash line to opposing hitters and 26 home runs.
Despite those apparent struggles, Smyly's expected ERA was 4.16, far better than his overall 5.00 ERA, right in line with his expected results from 2022, and more like his career ERA. His 4.96 FIP also drops to 4.71 when looking at xFIP. That's still not good, but it's an improvement. Statcast echoes the sentiment that he wasn't actually that bad. His xBA and xSLG of .240 and .400 aren't just better than what he gave up - they're an improvement on last year. Part of that can be attributed to a strong 33.6% hard-hit rate, nearly three points better than a league-average pitcher.
All of this suggests exactly what you'd want Smyly to be - he's a suitable, albeit not spectacular, back of the rotation arm. He'll likely make more appearances out of the bullpen in 2024, but there's still enough promise in the data to feel comfortable using him in a spot start when needed. Especially with his much better numbers out of the bullpen, he's sure to be a valuable piece of the team as a swingman who can give the Cubs plenty of innings and save their more powerful bullets when needed.