New Cubs manager Craig Counsell has high hopes for Hayden Wesneski

The first-year Chicago skipper singled out the right-hander in his panel with Boog Sciambi at Cubs Convention on Saturday morning.

Chicago Cubs v Minnesota Twins
Chicago Cubs v Minnesota Twins / David Berding/GettyImages
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Seemingly out of nowhere during his panel with Boog Sciambi on Saturday morning, new Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell called out young right-hander Hayden Wesneski as a player who 'intrigues' him - and someone he can't wait to watch this spring in Arizona.

This name drop was part of a larger discussion about Counsell wanting to wait to get eyes on guys for himself in Mesa next month and forming his own opinions about them. Wesneski, of course, headlined the Scott Effross trade with the Yankees at the 2022 deadline, and has experienced his share of ups and downs in parts of two seasons in Chicago.

Cubs wondering what version of Hayden Wesneski they'll get in 2024

On the heels of the trade, Wesneski was lights out for the Cubs, pitching 33 innings in a hybrid role, working to a 0.939 WHIP and 4.71 K/BB ratio. But in 2023, he ran into some hiccups, pitching 89.1 innings in a similar role, but seeing his strikeout-to-walk ratio head in the wrong direction and his home run rate more than double.

His Baseball Savant page went from almost entirely red to entirely blue during that span, and his struggles against left-handed hitters (a .986 OPS in 159 PAs in 2023) became a major issue. Still just 26 and under team control through 2028, it's far too soon to throw in the towel on Wesneski, but based on Counsell's comments, that's not remotely in the cards for the team.

With the team hoping to give starters more rest, it seems like Wesneski could get a look as a spot starter again in 2024. But that role will be decided by Counsell and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. One of the new Cubs skipper's biggest strengths has always been bullpen management, so seeing Wesneski as a relief piece more often than not can't be ruled out either.

Again, there's nothing concrete to report here - it just felt like a very specific callout amidst a peppering of topics and questions he fielded Saturday morning. Something for us all to keep an eye on with just over a month until spring training games kick off.

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