What an all homegrown Cubs pitching staff could look like

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The Bullpen

The rotation isn't the only area seeing the fruits of the Cubs' pitching overhaul, as the bullpen is already sprinkled with homegrown guys and more are coming. Last year saw the debut of former outfielder turned lefty slider specialist Brandon Hughes, and in 57 games, Hughes excelled with a 3.12 ERA while racking up 68 strikeouts. As the only lefty projected to be in the bullpen, Hughes will play a huge role in the pen in 2023. Former starter Adbert Alzolay will likely be a candidate to close ballgames with his superb swing-and-miss stuff. Javier Assad and Keegan Thompson will be long-relief/swingman options and will start games should injuries hit the rotation. The rest is currently filled with free-agent signings like Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer, but there are legitimate lockdown arms in the pipeline.

Jerimiah Estrada will compete for a bullpen job this spring training, and he already made his major league debut last season where he showcased his blistering fastball. No. 8 prospect Ben Brown will likely spend most of his time in Triple-A this season, and his 6'6 frame coupled with a deadly fastball-slider combo projects to be a set-up man or closer at the big-league level. Brown was added to the 40-man-roster alongside Ryan Jensen to protect them from the Rule-5 Draft, and he is making strides this Spring Training as well.

Another left-handed option could be DJ Herz, who ranks 17th in the system and made his way to the Tennessee Smokies last year. Finally, Daniel Palencia (No. 14) boasts possibly the best fastball in the entire organization, giving him a massive ceiling as he continues making his way through the system after coming aboard in the Andrew Chafin deal.

Projected bullpen in 1-2 years:

Closer: Ben Brown/ Daniel Palencia

Set Up: Adbert Alzolay, Jerimiah Estrada, Ryan Jensen

Lefties: DJ Herz, Brandon Hughes

Long Relief: Keegan Thompson, Caleb Killian

Other options: Riley Thompson, Ben Leeper, Brendon Little, Brailyn Marquez

Next. Kris Bryant wishing nothing but success for the Chicago Cubs. dark

Again, saving money on a homegrown bullpen gives you the flexibility to spend big on the offensive side. And it's not like relief pitchers fetch a huge price, to begin with, aside from top-of-the-line closers. And when guys like that hit free agency, the Cubs will be able to float their competitive contract offers. All in all, this strategy of developing pitching seems to be the way to sustain success, as the Dodgers, Guardians, and Rays implement similar strategies with promising results. As time goes by, the Cubs get a little closer to their pitching prospects getting their big league opportunity.