Cubs come away impressed with Javier Assad's WBC dominance
By Jake Misener
Although fellow right-hander Hayden Wesneski seems like the front-runner for the final spot in the starting rotation, Javier Assad certainly gave the Cubs plenty to think about with his showing for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic this month.
Assad, 25, was lights-out, striking out six and allowing just a pair of hits over 5 2/3 scoreless frames - showcasing improved velocity on his fastball and secondary pitches that looked better than what he had during his impressive 2022 stint with Chicago.
"He’s been really, really good, proving that last year wasn’t just a flash in the pan. His velocity is up. He’s commanding the ball really well. He’s throwing some great off-speed stuff and then certainly is doing it on the big stage. So at the end of the day, we’re really excited about him. It looks like he’s going to have a good chance to impact us."- Carter Hawkins, Cubs GM
In his first taste of big league action last summer, Assad worked to a 3.11 ERA across eight starts and one relief appearance. To see him follow that up with a strong WBC performance this spring is certainly encouraging. That's especially true with his fastball velocity, which has sat in the mid-to-upper 90s early on this year.
As Jordan Bastian noted, the Cubs have always loved Assad's control - but it's that added velocity that's really helped him gain a leg up in the battle for innings, both in 2022 and in Cactus League action here in 2023. We're all too well aware of the team's lack of overpowering arms in recent years, so having a guy like this, whether he wind up in the rotation or the bullpen, who can sit in the mid-90s with ease is a huge plus.
Again, I think the rotation spot goes to Wesneski - but Assad could wind up playing a valuable swingman role for the team, especially as Keegan Thompson works through noted velocity issues that have plagued him all spring. There's a spot open and Assad seems like a man on a mission to claim it as his own.