Chicago Cubs News: Caleb Kilian can still be part of the equation

St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs - Game Two
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs - Game Two / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages

Last season there were a lot of eyes on Chicago Cubs pitching prospect Caleb Kilian. The righthander from Texas Tech University came over in the Kris Bryant trade from the San Francisco Giants in 2021, and he would become one of the organization's top prospects. Since he got a taste of the majors last year, struggling with command, the hype seems to have fallen a bit.

Kilian made his debut last June against the Cardinals and would pitch in 11.1 MLB innings (three starts). The stuff itself looked promising, featuring a mid-90s fastball, sinker, cutter, and curve. He struck out six of the first 19 MLB hitters he faced. What stuck out like a sore thumb was his 12 walks surrendered in the 11.1 innings, equating to a 21.4% walk rate and 9.5 BB/9. Even after returning to Triple-A Iowa, the walks were still an issue, as it seemed he got the "yips".

Last year prior to his debut, he appeared in nine games in Triple-A and pitched to a 2.06 ERA, .309 OBP, 9.1% walk rate, and 3.4 BB/9. The command wasn't brilliant, but compare it to his final 16 appearances in Triple-A after pitching in the Majors. He pitched to a 5.37 ERA, .378 OBP, 14.6% walk rate, and 6.1 BB/9. He still missed bats, striking out 78 batters in 63.2 innings, but walks really hurt his performance.

Overall, Kilian will be entering his fourth professional season since being drafted by the Giants in 2019. He sports a career 3.11 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, and 3.0 BB/9 in 223 minor league innings. His body of work in the minors as a whole is impressive. The 25-year-old hurler currently sits as the Cubs' #14 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline and their 7th-ranked pitching prospect. His success does not make or break the Cubs' future, as they now have an abundance of arms in the system, but it would still be great to see him fulfill his potential. Having as many reliable arms as possible is important in maintaining success. His success can either give the Cubs rotation another arm to rely on or a valuable trade chip.

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It is very unlikely that Kilian's command will ever be elite, but cutting down the walk rate to being reasonable will be key to success. As mentioned earlier he can miss bats and be very effective when he locates his pitches correctly. If the Cubs pitching development is truly improved as we hope then one cannot rule out him fixing his issues and being a valuable asset. Teams fixing command yips is nothing that has not been done before.