Why Hayden Wesneski will win the last spot in the Chicago Cubs starting rotation

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

This weekend, Chicago Cubs manager David Ross offered some clarity when it comes to the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation. Over the next five weeks, Javier Assad, Adrian Sampson and Hayden Wesneski will do battle to see which of them comes away with the job out of camp.

All three guys played key roles for Chicago down the stretch in 2022, helping the club put up a surprising 39-31 second-half mark. But of the trio, there's no one who will play a larger role in the 2023 team - and beyond - than Wesneski.

"“I really appreciate being a starter. Not even just for all the benefits. It’s just one of those things where it’s where I’ve been most comfortable. And it’s kind of just my personality.”"

Hayden Wesneski, Cubs pitcher

Recently, Cubs president of Jed Hoyer mentioned Wesneski by name when asked about guys he expected to play larger roles and continue to make strides - and it's hard not to buy into the optimism.

Cubs hope Hayden Wesneski makes the most of opportunity

Across six big league appearances, including four starts, after being acquired in the Scott Effross trade last summer, Wesneski worked to a 3.20 FIP, 0.939 WHIP and 4.71 K/BB in a limited 33-inning sample size. His immaculate inning grabbed national headlines, but there was a lot more to like about what he has to offer besides that quirky accomplishment.

That's not to say Assad and Sampson won't have a role to play on this team because they surely will. But I want to see my young guy seize the opportunity rather than hand it to someone like Assad, who, despite success at a high level, offered up some troubling metrics (1.50 K/BB, 1.460 WHIP) or Sampson, who turns 32 this fall and is less likely to be a long-term asset than someone like Wesneski.

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Armed with a five-pitch arsenal, headlined by his wipeout slider that opponents hit just .119/.154/.310 against last year, the right-hander brings a bulldog mentality with him every time he sets foot on the mound. At just 25 years old, he could have a major role for this team not only as Kyle Hendricks recovers from a shoulder injury - but he could emerge as a weapon as the team turns the corner back into contention.