What is Caleb Kilian's future with the Chicago Cubs?

San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs
San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages

Chicago Cubs No. 17 prospect Caleb Kilian turned in his first scoreless start in nearly two months on Wednesday, but what does this mean for his future with the Cubs?

Kilian went six innings where he secured the win for the Iowa Cubs against the Memphis Redbirds, the St. Louis Cardinals' Triple A affiliate. This was the first time Kilian looked sharp in a while, as his tenure with the Cubs has been mired in command issues. Kilian's two-year anniversary with the team is approaching in July as he came over from San Francisco in the Kris Bryant trade in 2021. Although he looked like a top-tier pitching prospect with the Giants, Kilian has compiled a 4.32 ERA across double-A and triple-A since coming to the Cubs.

Kilian's handful of big league chances have also been pretty disappointing, with a 12.27 ERA over 4 starts in 2022 and 2023. As one of the main hauls of the 2021 trade deadline, Kilian was once thought of as a logical option for the big league rotation. But it is approaching two years since he has been a trustworthy arm and that future seems in doubt right now.

The Cubs' performance over the next month and a half will likely have a big impact on Kilian's career. If the team fails to convincingly plant a flag in the NL Central and make a run at winning the division, the Cubs could end up selling at the deadline to prepare for competition in the future. In that scenario, the Cubs could end up trading multiple starting pitchers like Marcus Stroman (opt-out after this year), Kyle Hendricks (club option after this year), and Drew Smyly (under contract in 2024). If this happens, there could be a path for Kilian in the big league rotation alongside Hayden Wesneski and Ben Brown.

But if the Cubs continue their current hot streak and become buyers/not sellers at the deadline, then Kilian's path forward remains murky. Right now you can't justify giving him big league innings if one of the starters goes down, especially with number 4 prospect Ben Brown looking fantastic at triple-A. Hopefully, he can build upon this start against Memphis to gain some momentum and become an asset for the team, whether that be as a trade chip or a member of Chicago's rotation. Either way, I hope the guy can turn things around and become a contributor to someone's major league team.

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