I am one of those guys who believes that you can never have enough left-handed starting pitching. No matter what you do, you always need another guy or two. When I look at the Cubs’ system, they have a lot of good ones. In fact, five of them made our top 30 list a few weeks ago. They include Jordan Wicks, Jackson Ferris, DJ Herz, Drew Gray, and Luke Little. As for Jack Patterson, everyone at NSB has an affinity for him and his talents but injuries have sorely limited him and it will be interesting to see how he is used when he returns to full health in 2023.
When I looked back at last year’s left-handed starting pitching rankings, I was not surprised at how well they did this year. About the only thing that’s going to change between last year’s list and this year’s compendium is the inclusion of Ferris and the exclusion of the recently returned Brailyn Marquez.
Let’s get to this year‘s rankings.
1. Jordan Wicks is going back-to-back at number one and his addition of a slider to his arsenal looks to be a game changer for him. I mentioned in my prospect list that I could see him throwing that pitch at the major league level. About the only thing he needs to work on now is just being consistent from start to start.
2. DJ Herz – When I talked to DJ last year about his arsenal, he told me that he was on lockdown by the Cubs a couple of times throughout the year. He said that he was not going to be adding a pitch during the regular season and that he was just going to throw the three pitches that he had which were his fastball, a changeup, and what some call a curve, others call it a slider, while I call it a slurve. I am hoping Greg Zumach is going to interview him this winter to see what that pitch is before we get to spring training. The only concern anyone really has about DJ is his ability to stay in the strike zone. That’s been his Achilles’ heel the last year and a half.
3. Jackson Ferris – He might be the pitcher I am most excited to see at Myrtle Beach. Considering that he’s basically a first round pick that the Cubs got in the second round, I am really digging what he might be able to bring. How his stuff plays at the minor league level is going to be interesting but he has faced elite competition throughout the past three years. I am expecting him to be fine and by fine I mean excellent. Just how excellent is going to be determined. If he is as good and as polished as I think, he might be number one a year from now.
4. Luke Little – The Cubs really restricted his innings in 2022 and he was dominant even at South Bend. Little only saw the fifth inning twice and the fourth inning a few more times. The Cubs should pretty much let him go all out from day one and see if he can keep his pitch count down. Sometimes it’s hard for guys that have swing and miss stuff to avoid running up those counts.
5. Drew Gray – He missed all of 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He should be at Myrtle Beach with his former high school teammate Ferris and I’m excited to see what Gray brings to the table. He’s a big kid with a big arm and he says he has changed his mechanics a little bit and that will hopefully help avoid any further injuries. I am excited to see him but he’s probably not going to pitch more than 30 to 40 pitches a game for the first couple of months. I don’t expect him to see the fourth inning until June.
Two other guys I’m looking forward to seeing this year did not pitch at all in 2022.
Jack Patterson had a setback returning from Tommy John surgery. I don’t think he’s going to be a starter at this point. He was all set to head to Iowa and it looked like he was going to be an MLB guy fairly quickly. Being a bullpen guy might just be his future.
My final guy for the list actually broke out in 2021 in the Dominican Summer League. He failed a drug test last winter and missed all of 2022 but he has great stuff. Carlos Garcia can throw in the mid 90s with a jackhammer curve that ate up rookie league hitters. He was all set to come stateside before his suspension and he probably can find his way to Myrtle Beach when he’s ready to begin. Since he basically didn’t pitch in any games for a year, the Cubs might limit his innings to start the year. He might end up piggybacking for Drew Gray for all we know.
I also look forward to seeing if there are any breakouts late next summer in the Arizona and Dominican leagues that can throw from the left side. Who knows, the Cubs may go out and get themselves a few lefties in the 2023 draft.