Ranking the best Chicago Cubs pitching prospects halfway through the season

The Chicago Cubs have some great pitching prospects and Ben Brown headlines the list of the best at each level midway through the season.
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Cubs Triple-A Pitcher of the First Half: RHP Ben Brown (23 Years Old)

12 G, 50 IP, 5.76 ERA, 74 K, 1.58 WHIP, .238 BAA

Ben Brown seems to have come back down to earth recently after a red hot April and a solid May. Brown was never a top-of-the-organization prospect when he was with the Phillies and he was traded for a half-season of a relief pitcher in his late 30s. He may not be the ace that we all hoped for when we saw the video game numbers he put up in Tennessee, but he’s still had a heck of a season so far.

As I alluded to, he pitched four games in Tennessee spanning 20 innings. In those 20 innings, he allowed one earned run and struck out 30 as he held opponents to a .186 batting average and only walked six hitters. 

That last number is going to be the one to keep an eye on as we go deeper into the season. When he arrived in Iowa in May he was almost equally dominant aside from one exceptionally bad start when he allowed seven runs. Across his other four May starts he allowed just three earned runs and it seemed like the Cubs had a real beast on their hands, even if he did walk twice as many batters in May as he did in April.

The wheels slowly started falling off in June. He had two different starts where he allowed six runs and only one scoreless outing. Even though he pitched nearly five fewer innings in June he saw his walks increase again to 16 in just 19.2 innings. That number hasn’t improved in his two July starts either. In just 6.1 innings in July, he’s given up six walks.

To say that Brown is the pitcher that he was in April would be inaccurate and unfair. To say that he’s the pitcher that he’s been in June and July so far would be equally inaccurate and unfair. The answer, as is almost always the case, is somewhere in the middle and if that’s the case with Brown’s trajectory then the Cubs still have a very usable piece that could be a difference-maker out of the bullpen immediately or a piece of the rotation as soon as the trade deadline passes or the next injury hits. 

I would have loved it if Brown would have forced his way to the majors and been an instant star, but development isn’t a straight line and there’s still every possibility that he could be a star eventually.