2022 was a fun year for right handed relief pitchers. It began in spring training when Ethan Roberts made the big league roster. He would later undergo Tommy John surgery but his making the club out of spring training was an inspirational event that had every minor league reliever buzzing in the first couple months of the season. If he could make it, so could they.

After Ethan Roberts made it, another highlight came when my guy Jeremiah Estrada got all the way to Chicago. We also saw Erich Uelmen go up to Chicago and pitch very well before he was traded to the Phillies this offseason.

Last Year’s Rankings

Let’s get going!

1. Jeremiah Estrada

I was so happy to see my guy get it done in 2022. He dominated at 3 levels in the minors and got himself a cup of coffee in Chicago and he is on track to possibly break camp this spring with the Cubs. Armed with an upper 90s fastball with incredible movement, it will be interesting to see what Tommy Hottovy gets out of him this spring.

2. Ben Leeper

Leeper almost made it to Chicago in 2021 but he should at some point in 2023. Armed with an upper 90s heater and vicious breaking ball, Leeper had some issues last year but looked to right the ship in the last six weeks. If I were a betting man, I would bet we could see him in May in Chicago.

3. Cam Sanders

Cam probably has the nastiest of stuff of any pitcher in the Cubs’ system. It’s just a matter of control. When the “shimmy” makes its debut in Chicago, it will be a good day!

4. Jake Reindl

His frisbee slider is just unhittable. The issue for him is…just staying healthy. If he can, he will be in Chicago at some point next year, too! He likely begins 2023 in Tennessee.

5. Zac Leigh

The newlywed will be back in 2023 and will probably start the year in Tennessee. I am not expecting him to be there very long with his mid 90s heater and several types of sliders.

6. Danis Correa

He is close to ready as well. He can hit triple digits with ease and once he masters his secondaries, Chicago awaits.

7. Sheldon Reed

Sheldon should begin the year in South Bend. He is coming off a transformative season that saw his confidence grow along with his career path. He did not allow a run through April and May at Myrtle Beach before getting promoted to South Bend where he struggled at first. However, he did right the ship and was nails the last six weeks and unhittable in the playoffs.

8. Michael McAvene

After staying healthy for most of last year, Michael will probably breakout this year. Rather than rehabbing this winter, this newlywed can now focus on improving what he throws and should be much, much improved come 2023!

9. Johzan Oquendo

Drafted out of high school from Puerto Rico in 2019 with fellow prepsters DJ Herz, Porter Hodge, and Tyler Schlaffer, Oquendo started to put something together in the second half of the year and I am excited to see him improve even more in 2023 at South Bend.

Wild Cards – Blake Whitney, Max Bain, Saul Gonzalez, Eduarniel Nunez, and Yovanny Cruz

For all of these guys, they all need to take their game up a notch in 2023. From staying healthy to adding a new pitch or adjusting a pitch, it would surprise me to see one of them turn into a shooting star next summer.


There are a lot of unknowns as to who’s going to start and who’s going to relieve from last year’s draft class along with who will be well enough to pitch and when as a few underwent TJS. There are some names I could throw out there but it is all about who can handle advanced competition and who can actually throw strikes. There are a lot of big arms but not many who can fill up the strike zone.

The big guy who should be at Myrtle Beach is Matt Peters who can throw in the upper 90s but also has control issues. He might be joined by Elian Almanzar, another big arm, who also has control issues, which seems to be a theme with this group. 

Will Frisch could start or he could relieve after undergoing Tommy John last year and the same is true for JP Wheat and Shane Marshall. Fellow 2022 Draft pick Garret Brown is likely headed for Myrtle Beach along with fellow righty Jose Romero.

Angel Gonzalez also looks like a possible guy at times. He had his moments in Myrtle Beach last year. Frankie Scalzo had an up and down season and he might put it together this year at South Bend. Gregori Montano looks like he could be an arm. We might also see Yovanny Cabrera along with Oliver Roque in Myrtle Beach or South Bend. It is way too early to tell.

Last summer in the Arizona Complex League, it was not a good proving ground for most of the Cubs youngest relievers. There’s just a lot of roles that need figuring out between those two affiliates. And a lot of things can happen in an off-season when it comes to relievers as some add some muscle or add a new wrinkle or two to their arsenal.

I will give you one name to watch in Mesa, though….remember the name ……. Wilber Rodriguez.