Chicago Cubs may have decision to make with Keegan Thompson

Feb 15, 2023; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Keegan Thompson (71) throws during a
Feb 15, 2023; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Keegan Thompson (71) throws during a / Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

After finding success as part of the Chicago Cubs starting rotation and also as a multi-inning reliever last season, Keegan Thompson figured to be an important piece to the Cubs' bullpen in 2023 as the expectation was that he would serve as the bullpen ace for the team.

Thompson's Spring has been unusual to say the least as there was a delay before he appeared in a Cactus League game during Spring Training and since making his Spring Training debut this season, Thompson has yet to pitch more than one inning.

Even more concerning for Thompson is the dip in velocity he has show during his Spring Training appearances.

Part of the reason why Thompson was so effective with the Cubs' pitching staff last season is that he offered something that the other pitchers on the staff did not have--velocity. Thompson's fastball averaged nearly 94 mph last season and that is a mark that he has yet to hit in Spring Training.

Fortunately, the Cubs have assembled a plethora of arms that are capable of stepping into the "bullpen ace" role. Adbert Alzolay is pitched exclusively out of the bullpen this season and there is a strong chance that he could emerge as the "bullpen ace" during the season. The same can be said for Adrian Sampson or Javier Assad. Sampson and Assad began Spring Training as part of the mix for the final spot in the Cubs' starting rotation but that is a spot that Hayden Wesneski appears to have secured.

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While Sampson has struggled this Spring outside of his most recent Cactus League start, Assad has thrived between his time with the Cubs in Spring Training and Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. The success that Assad has had this Spring may allow for the Cubs to utilize him out of the bullpen while Thompson begins the season with Triple-A Iowa.