Daniel Palencia – Pic by Todd Johnson
We decided to do something different this year.
Rather than have a full six-man rotation and eight bullpen guys, we decided to shorten it up to just five starters and three relievers, mostly back end closers.
Our list starts with a trio of arms, who could all be in Chicago by the end of the year.
Jordan Wicks, who might be the most underrated Cubs prospect, was a unanimous choice to make the squad. Wicks really came on strong in the second half of the year. Early in the year, he often spent some games fiddling around with certain pitches and grips while developing rather than trying to strike every guy out. Once he turned it on, Wicks, found his way to Tennessee quickly where he had an injury concern that was rather minor. We are looking forward to seeing him begin 2023 at Tennessee and, if all goes well, he could be in Chicago at some point this fall or early next year.
The next unanimous arm was Ben Brown, who came over from the Phillies on August 1. He flashed an upper 90s fastball with a deadly curve and he looks like he’s going to do big things this year as he seems to be a workhorse on the mound. He should also start out the year at Tennessee,
Our third unanimous starting pitcher is none other than Daniel Palencia. Armed with 100+ mph heater, Palencia also has a mid 90s slider and has been trying to work on his changeup this winter. It all just sounds so nasty and so great!
The final unanimous pitcher is last year‘s number one draft pick, Cade Horton. Horton has not thrown a lot of innings and his arm is still fairly young. So the Cubs are going to be pretty cautious with it this year. The Cubs have been tinkering with a his curveball and changeup this winter and he should be at Myrtle Beach to start the year.
Porter Hodge rounds out our starting rotation. He’s likely to begin the year at South Bend and his slider is just nasty as it has one the latest breaks I’ve seen. That makes it extremely hard to hit. After pitching very well last year at Myrtle Beach, Hodge dominated at South Bend the last six weeks of the season and will probably pick right up where he left off in the Midwest League.
Cam Sanders was one of two unanimous relievers. Everybody here at North Side Bound has just fallen in love with him in this relief role. He pitched well in spring training, and he still has a chance, although it is a long one, of making the club next week.
My guy, Zac Leigh, was also unanimous, and he probably will start the year in Tennessee. I do not expect him to be there that long as he did not seem to have too much trouble dominating that league in 2022.
The last member of our Preseason All-Star team is Ben Leeper. The former Oklahoma State cowboy had a rough first half in 2022, He seemed to figure some things out in the second half after checking out some video. He’s looked good this spring and all he really needs is a 40-man spot to get called up.
On Monday, the three of us will be back with our Hitter of the Year. Tuesday will see the Starting Pitcher of the Year, Wednesday gets the Reliever of the Year, and Thursday is the Comeback Player of the Year. We also have some draft content getting ready to roll as I have some time off the next week as it will be spring break for me. And starting next Friday, it will be affiliate preview time as I breakdown the Iowa Cubs.