Chicago Cubs 2023 Season Preview: Starting pitcher Hayden Wesneski

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Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

Continuing with more season previews for the upcoming Chicago Cubs 2023 campaign, we come to one of the more exciting prospects in Hayden Wesneski. After a fantastic showing at the end of 2022, Wesneski landed on Fangraph's top 100 prospects list at #88. Wesneski already has a solid chance to make the roster out of spring training, but his role will be determined based on his production as we are set to start games in just three days. Let's take a look at his projections for this coming season:

2023 Fangraphs ZiPS projections:  7-8, 4.58 ERA, 106.0 IP, 90 Ks

Baseball-Reference 2023 projections: 4-4, 3.32 ERA, 65.0 IP, 63 Ks

We've seen this common trend of both sites projecting radically different players, and Wesneski's case is no other. Admittedly, he did fly out of the cannon in 2022 at the end of the season, and almost no one expected him to record an ERA of 2.18 in the majors after posting a career 3.68 ERA in the minors. If you saw Wesneski pitch at the end of last year, you saw the full potential on display in terms of the movement he was getting on his pitches.

Wesneski allowed a line of .198/.258/.322 to opposing hitters last season in the MLB, which was on par with the likes of Max Scherzer (.207/.254/.319) and Gerrit Cole (.209/.260/.390) in an obviously smaller but intriguing sample size of 33.0 IP. Let's take a look at a quick breakdown for Wesneski by individual pitches thrown in 2022:

  • Slider (31.92%): .119/.213/.310, .150 BABIP, .190 ISO
  • Fastball (25.86%): .120/.154/.200, .167 BABIP, .080 ISO
  • Sinker (22.42%): .300/.382/.367, .310 BABIP, .067 ISO
  • Cutter (12.12%): .250/.250/.438, .273 BABIP, .188 ISO
  • Changeup (7.68%) .375/.333/.375, .375 BABIP, .000 IS0

Chicago Cubs: What can we expect from Wesneski in year two?

The numbers for his slider and fastball are elite, and improving on the other three will help Wesneski take the next step forward. If he can, having a compelling five-pitch mix will see him turn into a dominant starter year-round. If hitters eventually adjust and he can only utilize his slider and fastball, his role may be limited to bullpen duties. Even improving one of the other three to can give him tremendous success.

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Considering he stayed under the 50.0 inning limit, 2023 will qualify as Wesneski's official rookie campaign. David Ross has already informed us that Wesneski will be in contention for the 5th starting spot in the rotation, so that will be one of the more important stories to watch as it develops in spring training. With any success that he earned last season, he should be nearly a lock for the final rotation spot this Spring.