Cade Horton – Pic via Oklahoma Athletics

When it comes to storylines for starting pitchers in 2023, there are plenty. And most of them will not have a shot to break camp with the big league club. But they will have a shot throughout the course of the year to either get a spot start or, through their performance, force their way to the major league club.

Here are some starting pitching storylines that we are going to follow in 2023.

Wesneski Looks Like a Done Deal

Hayden Wesneski looks to have gotten the job already. The young right-hander who came over in the Scott Effross deal has done nothing but pitch well since given an opportunity. His slider and changeup has baffled big league hitters and it’s going to be fun to see him pitch every fifth day next year.

Who’s Next?

This is the big question.

My money right now is on Riley Thompson. After missing two years due to the pandemic and then shoulder concerns, the 25-year-old right hander has come back stronger than ever and his playoff appearance in the Southern League championship series left no doubt as he went five innings and struck out eight in a scoreless performance. The Cubs took their time stretching him out this year. I’m excited to see him in Des Moines next summer and to see if he does get a shot at Chicago at some point.

Horton Assignment

It’s not like this is a big mystery, it just needs to be confirmed that Cade Horton is going to start his professional career in South Bend. The Cubs number one draft pick in 2022 did not pitch after signing, even in instructs. The starting pitching log jam really doesn’t begin until Double-A so there should be no problem with Horton starting in South Bend. If that’s the case, I’m going to get to see him opening weekend in the Quad Cities in less than six months.

Herz and Wicks

Both lefties are in the same boat developmentally. They both were dominant in June and July at class A South Bend and got promoted on the same day to Tennessee. That’s where things begin to differ. Wicks had a little Jekyll and Hyde thing going at Tennessee where he pitched very well one day and then get shelled next. DJ, struggled with walks. The Cubs did not allow Herz to change his arsenal at all this year and I am about 900% sure that he’s going to come out with a fourth pitch in 2023. What that pitch will be, I don’t know. Will it be enough to cut down on walks? He did end the year on a high note pitching well in the playoffs. Fingers crossed he figures it out.

Ben Brown

The one thing that I really like about Ben Brown is that he misses bats. The guy who came over from the Phillies on August 1 looks very promising. It’ll be interesting to see how different he is to start 2023 than he was to finish 2022. The Cubs will probably try to get him to use his bottom half a little more and see what that does to his velocity. He’s probably going to start the year out at Tennessee and then he’s not going to be there for long if he pitches like he did at the end of this season and misses a lot of bats.

Clarke and Powell

These two tall righties are heading to 2023 with a bit of a mystery about them. Will they both remain in the rotation and head up to Iowa? Will they head to the bullpen? They’re both a little similar in their size and how they go about pitching, so it will be interesting to see what their role is going to be going forward. 

Luis Devers

His storyline actually starts right now and that’s about whether or not he’s going to be on the 40-man come November 18. This year he was easily the Cubs pitcher of the year. My only concern going forward next year is how much his bag of tricks is going to play Double-A or not play. He has the best changeup in the system. But will his quick pitches and differing deliveries fool anybody in the Southern League? He dominated the Midwest League almost every game. He doesn’t need to go back there. But will that stuff work at Tennessee?

My Guy, Porter Hodge

I’m not sure where Porter Hodge is going to start 2023. Part of me says he should go up to Tennessee as he looks to be ready for that level. There is a little bit of a log jam at that level so we may see him back in South Bend to start the year. That would be fun to watch, but I don’t know if that’s going to make him a better pitcher down the line. I would not think so.

The Continued Comeback of Kohl

2022 was not easy for Kohl Franklin. It is very difficult to miss two years of your career. On top of that to take a kid who is naturally full of energy and to tell him he is going to throw 40 pitches…that was a mental cluster. However, by the end of May, he was getting more and more stretched out and we began to see glimpses of the type of pitcher everyone expected. In June, things got better and his first two starts in July were phenomenal as he went 9 innings with 12 Ks and 1 earned run. His monthly ERA splits showed a downward trend from 12+ in May to 2.89 in September. More than likely, he comes back to South Bend to start 2023. He got in a total of 69.1 innings this year. Next year, could we be looking at 110? Sounds doable.

The Myrtle Beach Rotation

The biggest mystery heading into the 2023 season is who’s going to be in the rotation at Myrtle Beach. As of today, most of those spots are going to be filled by the draft class from this year. We could see a couple of guys that were in Mesa this year like Kenyi Perez get a shot to start the year. But I think we’re going to see Grant Kipp, Connor Noland, Will Frisch, if he’s healthy, and if Drew Gray and Jackson Ferris are good to go, then they’ll be there. Those last two guys would be worth taking a trip out there to see it. But in all honesty, we’re not going to know until close to opening day

How Many More Pitchers Will the Cubs Take in Next Year’s Draft Class?

In a couple of days, there will be a separate storyline post for the draft for next year. This past year saw lots of starting pitching issues in the Dominican and in Arizona. I wonder if those things are going to influence the amount of pitchers the Cubs select again in the 2023 draft. They basically took 15 and a half arms with a few of them that will miss the part of 2023 season with Tommy John surgery. I am very curious as to how the 23 class is going to look when done.

Moving Up

I sort of talked about this already but when guys are ready to move up, they should whether it’s moving from Myrtle Beach to South Bend or South Bend to Tennessee or Tennessee to Iowa, I’m curious as to how that’s going to be handled at the level they’re going to because, barring injury, roster spots are going to be few and far between in the rotations at every level this year. By bringing in so many pitchers last year, the Cubs made it difficult to get from point A to point B other than by dominating. And maybe that’s what they want.

I am pumped to see all these stories get going!