A middling Cubs offense + Paul Skenes could be a disaster on Saturday

With an offense that's been inconsistent and, as we saw against Dylan Cease, sometimes overmatched, the Cubs are in for a tough test against the game's best pitching prospect.
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates / Christopher Pasatieri/GettyImages

Learning the Chicago Cubs will face off against the game's most hyped pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg while being carved up by Dylan Case certainly checked the box of 'poor timing' on Wednesday afternoon.

But that's the card the Cubs drew, with the Pittsburgh Pirates announcing right-hander Paul Skenes will make his highly-anticipated MLB debut on Saturday at PNC Park. The matchup has the potential to be disastrous for a Chicago lineup that's been erratic, to say the least, and is working to get back to full strength.

In Wednesday afternoon's 3-0 loss to the San Diego Padres, Craig Counsell's club mustered all of one hit - a Yan Gomes single - as Cease, a former Cubs prospect, dominated his former organization, cruising through seven scoreless frames and striking out 12. Given Skenes' swing-and-miss stuff, it's hard to feel too encouraged by Saturday's matchup.

With Triple-A Indianapolis this season, the overpowering right-hander has piled up strikeouts, with 45 Ks in just 27 1/3 frames, en route to a 0.99 ERA. On the heels of a national championship with LSU in 2023, Skenes hasn't missed a beat since going pro, entering this season as the consensus top pitching prospect in the game.

Cubs hoping to find more consistency at the plate moving forward

The Cubs head into this weekend's matchup with the Pirates as a very middle-of-the-pack team in terms of offense, ranking 14th of 30 clubs with a .701 OPS. The biggest issue has been a lack of slug in the middle of the order, with Christopher Morel and Michael Busch providing most of the pop to this point, both of whom have already gone through cold spells at various points.

Cody Bellinger returned to the Cubs lineup on Tuesday night, immediately making his presence felt with a home run as part of a three-hit night, but the reigning NL Comeback Player of the Year is still not 100% healed from the rib injury that sent him to the IL. Fellow outfielder Seiya Suzuki could return this weekend and, hopefully, he can pick up right where he left off before hitting the shelf.

It's been all eyes on the Chicago bullpen, which has drawn much criticism in the season's first month. But the offense has been just as big of an issue but has somehow flown under the radar thanks to the otherworldly performance of the starting rotation over the last three-plus weeks. Skenes has all the tools to pitch at the highest level, and we'll quickly see if the Cubs can start to get back on track at the plate or if they prove to be the punch line on Saturday in the Steel City.