Daniel Palencia – Picture by Todd Johnson
Welcome to Episode 8 of the Offseason Mailbag. We still have plenty of questions left to answer this winter and lots of time to get to them.
Let’s get going on this week’s question!
Cory Alan@cdub1519 asked : “2024 is likely the year the Cubs are “A team to beat” again. What homegrown SP are in that rotation?”
What a great question. The Cubs could lose Stroman, Smyly, and Hendricks after this season and while it would be ideal to immediately backfill with pitching prospects that rarely happens for competitive clubs. but the team already has Justin Steele in tor rotation and Keegan Thompson, Caleb Kilian, and Javier Assad all qualify and all made SP starts last season. This may rub some the wrong way but I’m less bullish on those three carving out a Cubs rotation spot. I view Keegan as an impact reliever and I think if Kilian and Assad end up as SP by 2024 it would be on another club.
Then there is Hayden Wesneski and I’m all on board the Wesneski train. I don’t think he replicated the sheer brilliance of his 2022 debut, but he’s a dang good starter who knows how to let all of his pitches play up. I believe (hoping for health), he’s in the 2024 rotation. I’d still consider him “homegrown”.
I’ll continue this by saying that one more pitching prospect makes the cut by 2024 as a rotation mainstay, Jordan Wicks. Many more will make starts for the club but just a total shot in the dark rotation in 2024 (don’t worry about the order): Tyler Glasnow, Justin Steele, Hayden Wesneski, Yoshinobu Yamamoto (NPB posted), and Jordan Wicks. That’s three homegrown SP in my book.
This is a great question! Just based on recent developments, most people would say 3 guys could be ready this year including Hayden Wesneski, Caleb Killian, Javier Assad, and maybe one other wildcard. But if you’re talking a year from now, the door is wide open as lots of guys could be ready.
The most likely candidates who could have their arsenal in order in a year’s time could include Jordan Wicks, DJ Herz, Ryan, Jensen, Ben Brown, Walker Powell, and Daniel Palencia. Of those five, Wicks is the most likely, but Palencia would be the player whose stuff would translate best at the MLB level. With a 100 mile an hour heater, a 92 to 95 mile an hour slider, and a new change up, this guy is just going to be amazing if he can command his pitches this year.
You could even reach down as far as a Luis Devers, Porter Hodge, with an outside shot of Kohl Franklin and Luke Little being ready at some point in the season. We are at that point where there could possibly be wave after wave after wave of pitchers who are MLB ready. And I didn’t even mention Cade Horton and Brandon Birdsell from last year’s draft class. The list is deep!
2024, huh? My answer: all of them. No but really, there are so many arms that can be considered for the 2024 rotation so I’ll limit myself to dudes that have the best shot for Opening Day. Let’s use the assumption that Smyly, Stroman, and Hendricks are all with other teams by that point and Sampson has found a home as a long reliever. That leaves Taillon and the homegrown Justin Steele manning two of the five/six spots in the 2024 Opening Day rotation. Time to fill the openings with three or four homegrown dudes.
Hayden Wesneski is one. He might be in there come Opening Day 2023! Jordan Wicks feels pretty no-brainerish to me. I think he’ll get enough big league time in ‘23 to warrant a starting role the following year. How about Ben Brown? He’s already on the 40-man, already in the upper minors, and is a man built for the rotation. Now it’s time to play it safe with my final pick so I’ll go with a guy that’s already debuted in Chicago and that’s Caleb Kilian. Granted, there are pitching prospects I’m higher on than Kilian, but the big righty already has too many roster advantages in his favor to bet against him.
My guys that I omitted because they might be in the Keegan Thompson multi-inning reliever role that early in their careers: Ryan Jensen, DJ Herz, and Daniel Palencia. The pitcher who was closest to overtaking Kilian in my picks: the man, the myth, the shimmy, Luis Devers.
If you would like to get a question in, you can tweet at us on Twitter, you can send us an email, or you can just put one in the comments down below. We will be back with Episode 9 next week. In the meantime, check out our previous episodes!
Offseason Mailbag Series
Episode 1 – Canario and Davis to Chicago
Episode 2 – Cade Horton in 2023
Episode 3 – Nazier Mule
Episode 4 – Who’s Your Guy in the Draft
Episode 5 – Rule 5 Predictions
Episode 6 – Is the System for Real
Episode 7 – Weakness
Episode 8 – 2024 Rotation Arms
I’ll say something else currently unpopular: Kilian > Wesneski
I don’t expect either to hold down a rotation spot anytime soon
Wicks, yah…and I’ll throw out Richard Gallardo as a surprise
Your comment isn’t very helpful. Can you tell us WHY you think that Kilian is better than Wesneski, and why you don’t think either will hold down a rotation spot in the near future?
Short answer to the first question is that Kilian throws harder, gets more groundballs, and avoids the HR better. Wesneski’s 93.4 during his callup was solid but below a more ideal 94+ from a prospect SP, low 80’s breaking stuff isn’t overpowering these days either. The top 10 or so rotations, loaded with top and playoff teams, were 94+, and 93.5 pretty much covered the entire playoff pool
Second question is maybe most that full time ML starting is hard. Wesneski’s a flyball pitcher without power stuff or impeccable control and command. Kilian’s got better command and more overpowering stuff but just posted a very reliever-y season on it’s face walking 12% of AAA hitters. Tbh unless the performance is extraordinary, I’d be pretty into dangling whoever has the better 2023 in offseason trades