Chicago Cubs pitchers are dialing up the heat early in Spring Training
It's no secret that over the past few years, the Chicago Cubs have severely lacked velocity. Fans have been pining for a top-of-the-rotation ace with the power to blow pitches past opponents for some time now. They had a chance to get one of those guys in that realm with a Carlos Rodon or Jacob deGrom this year, but alas, nothing.
If Spring Training is any indication, however, the Cubs are about to start making a shift toward high-velocity power pitching. We're only four days in and already, the organization's young arms are lighting up the radar gun. Better yet, a lot of the guys that are throwing heat are also knocking at the door to the majors.
Monday in particular was an especially notable day for the organization. During the split-squad game against the Diamondbacks, Statcast says six Cubs pitchers threw at least one pitch at 96+ mph - Caleb Killian, Cam Sanders, Jordan Holloway, Ryan Jensen, Anthony Kay, and Jeremiah Estrada. Of that group, two of them - Sanders (one pitch) and Jensen (four pitches) - also eclipsed 98 mph. The velocity alone does not a pitcher make, but for the Cubs, whose M.O. for years has been pitch-to-contact types, it's exciting to see widespread pitch speed increases.
That trend stayed true in the other split-squad game. While Statcast wasn't tracking, those at the game noted the performance of Rule 5 draft pick Nick Burdi who hit triple digits five times per AZ Phil! It sure seems like he's finally healthy. There's also Julian Merryweather who dialed it up to 98 and could be a sneaky candidate to make the bullpen. Tuesday's game, meanwhile, featured the Spring debut of Ben Brown who showcased scary sliders and great life on his fastball which clocked in at 96 mph. Brown, who the Cubs acquired last year in the David Robertson trade, is also remarkably close to the majors.
The Cubs should sport far more velocity than 2022
All of these guys can't start in the majors of course, but between injuries and underperformance, a lot of this group should make it to Wrigley Field at some point in 2023. More importantly, this widespread velocity upgrade is something we just haven't seen in the organization in years. The Cubs have made a conscious effort to both nurture and acquire guys who can really dial it up and to see them throwing such consistent heat this early into Spring is a great sign for the future. The players mentioned above are also a far cry from all the firepower the team has. Daniel Palencia, for example, represents how the team has velocity coming up from further down the pipeline too.
Compared to 2022, this all stands in stark contrast to where the Cubs were. Codify recently posted a Tweet showing just how much of a power outage there was among Northside pitchers and it was almost comedic.
That number has to go up this year as more of these guys make the majors. Personally, I'm starting to get excited about Killian again after seeing his performance on Monday. It came out after the season that he was battling through a knee issue which seemed to cause his sudden command loss. He looked back in peak form on Monday though, retiring all six batters he faced, punching out two, and flashing some high velocity in the process.
Killian and the rest of the Cubs' burgeoning fireballers will be worth watching as Spring Training continues. For now, it's enough to make a fan dream about a future when the team can provide their own top-of-the-rotation and back-of-the-bullpen talent.