Chicago Cubs News: 3 positions battles to watch in Spring Training

Chicago Cubs v Miami Marlins
Chicago Cubs v Miami Marlins / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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Hayden Wesneski
Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

3 position battles - 1. Starting Pitching

Candidates - 3. Keegan Thompson

Keegan Thompson is an exceptional piece for the Cubs and will certainly be in contention for a starting pitching role in the back end of the rotation. Interestingly, however, Keegan has been an elite bulk reliever for Chicago, recording a 1.47 ERA in 36.2 innings vs. a 4.83 ERA in 78.1 innings as a starter. At the least, he is a viable spot starter if he doesn't earn the role in Spring Training. There is at least one spot up for grabs with Kyle Hendricks presumably starting on the IL, so keep an eye out for Thompson this Spring.

Candidates - 2. Drew Smyly

Drew Smyly was brought back by the Cubs this winter and is the closest to a lock for the rotation after Stroman, Taillon, and Steele. Unless he bombs in Spring Training and numerous others outperform him dramatically, he will likely operate a back end of the rotation spot in the fourth or fifth starter spot. Last season, according to Fangraphs, Smyly recorded a 3.47 ERA in 106.1 frames while notching a 1.3 WAR. The ERA is great for the role he will play, but upping his innings to that 2021 range (126.2) and perhaps beyond, if efficient, will make his signing a fantastic deal for the Cubs.

Candidates - 1. Hayden Wesneski

Hayden Wesneski is the most exciting piece in the pitching staff heading into 2023. Pitching at the major league level is a challenging thing to do. Still, in a small sample of 33 innings, Wesneski was surgical. He posted a 2.18 ERA (3.20 FIP) while striking out 33. He utilized a slider at 31.92%, followed by a fastball which averaged out to 93.1 mph at 25.86%—after that, mixed in a sinker (22.42%), cutter (12.12%), and changeup (7.68%), which all yielded different results. His sinker was thrown 111 times, allowing a slash of .300/.382/.367, so perhaps a fine-tuning there is in order, or he can mix up his pitches further and use the sinker more of a keep-hitters-honest type of pitch.

Next. 3 Cubs who will improve in 2023 and 2 more who won't. dark

If Wesneski carries his 2022 production into Spring Training, he should be a no-brainer to be given a chance to pick up where he left off. The Cubs are looking to compete this season, and they can ill-afford to allow prolonged time for pitchers to figure it out this season. If Wesneski looks just as sharp, he must immediately start games for the Cubs in 2023.