3 underrated Cubs non-roster invitees to watch at Spring Training
#1: Ben Leeper
The Cubs have had a number of under-the-radar pitchers that are starting to show a lot of promise. Max Bain, Ben Leeper, and Danis Correa all represent the pitching depth the team is building at every level of the minors. While Correa and other pitchers of this ilk are among the invitees, I want to focus on Leeper in part because of how close he is to the majors.
Correa brings some eye-popping velocity and is sure to be a blast to watch in the World Baseball Classic, but Leeper is almost a lock to reach the majors this year. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020, he's leaped through the minors with little effort thus far and he got his first full shot at Triple-A last year. A 4.50 ERA and 5.57 FIP in 46 innings may not seem all that inspiring, but, as Cubs prospect aficionado Greg Huss pointed out, that's not the full story. That ERA is inflated by two particularly awful outings, including one where he recorded no outs. Without those outings, his performance looks more like a 2.58 ERA with an impressive 31.8% strikeout rate. Oh yeah, and he has a fastball in the mid to upper 90s with a ton of movement.
Leeper should be at the top of the list of potential future bullpen pieces for the Cubs. His Spring Training could even determine whether or not he starts the year in the minors. An injury or underperformance could open the door for him. Even if he doesn't got a shot in Chicago off the bat, it should be fun to watch him show his disgusting stuff in Arizona.