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The Cubs’ Fifth Starter Competition

With left-hander Shota Imanaga poised to sign up with Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, and Kyle Hendricks in the Cubs’ rotation in location of Marcus Stroman this season after the veteran righty signed with the Yankees last month, one area stays open in the club’s beginning rotation with pitchers and catchers set to report to camp for Spring Training next week. While it’s possible to envision a surprise trade for or finalizing of an arm such as Shane Bieber (who the Cubs were linked to previously this winter season) or Jordan Montgomery, all indicators point towards the Cubs turning their attention towards a reunion with Cody Bellinger at this moment in the offseason.

Should Chicago get in the 2024 project with just their internal rotation alternatives, here’s a take a look at who might be under factor to consider to sign up with the beginning 5:

The 34-year-old left-hander, in some methods, seems the apparent option for the last area in the Cubs’ rotation. Signed to a two-year, $19MM agreement last winter season, Smyly began 23 video games for Chicago in 2015 and delighted in a lot of success early in the season, consisting of a 10-strikeout video game in late April where the southpaw came fell simply 4 outs except an ideal video game. Through 15 starts, Smyly had a strong 3.38 period and a good FIP of 4.33, though his strikeout rate of simply 19.9% raised some eyebrows.

Unfortunately for Smyly, the wheels came off from there for him. He published a 9.00 period and 6.88 FIP in 35 innings of work throughout his next 8 looks and discovered himself benched to the bullpen, where he discovered some strong success in other words relief. In sixteen relief looks from August 13 onward, Smyly controlled with a 1.13 period in 20 2/3 innings of work and a 33.7% strikeout rate. Those strong relief getaways didn’t equate to much better efficiency out of the rotation, nevertheless, as Smyly gave up 10 runs in simply 4 innings of work throughout his last 2 starts of the season on August 22 and October 1.

Given Smyly’s superlative outcomes out of the bullpen late in the season and his noticable battles as a member of the rotation, it appears not likely that the Cubs would use Smyly the within track to the 5th starter function going into the 2024 project, though it’s possible he might make the function through a mix of strong efficiency this spring and injuries to other alternatives.

Wesneski won a camp fight for the club’s 5th starter area last spring, vanquishing veteran right-hander Adrian Sampson for the function. Wesneski’s chance in the rotation began the heels of an outstanding launching late in the 2022 season, quickly after Chicago obtained him from the Yankees at the trade due date in exchange for sidearming reducer Scott Effross. In 6 looks down the stretch for the Cubs that year, Wesneski controlled to a 2.18 period and 3.20 FIP while starting out 25% of batters dealt with.

Unfortunately, Wesneski’s 2023 audition for a rotation task did not go almost too, as he enabled a 5.33 period and 5.96 FIP throughout 50 2/3 innings of work over 11 looks (10 starts) to open the season. Wesneski was relocated to multi-inning relief quickly there after and would make simply one start (which lasted just 2 innings) the remainder of the season, publishing a reputable 3.72 period and 4.86 FIP in 38 2/3 innings of work over his last 23 looks. It’s not difficult to envision Wesneski going back to the beginning rotation at some time in the future, as the 26-year-old remains under club control through the 2028 project, though it appears likely he has actually been gone beyond by other children on the rotational depth chart for the time being.

The most knowledgeable arm on this list beyond Smyly, the 26-year-old Assad made his major league launching in 2022 and pitched decently in a nine-appearance cup of coffee where he published a 3.11 period and 4.49 FIP over 37 2/3 innings of work. Assad took on Sampson and Wesneski for the 5th starter function out of camp in 2015, though his quote for the function was made complex by a detour to take part in the World Baseball Classic for Team Mexico.

Assad’s time in the competition saw him impress with 5 2/3 scoreless innings of work as a multi-inning reducer. He started out 6 on simply 2 hits and a walk while touching 97 with his heating system. The strong efficiency in a relief function led the Cubs to get in the season with Assad because function, though he had a hard time to a 9.82 period in 7 1/3 innings throughout his very first 3 looks for Chicago in 2015, triggering the club to choice him to Triple-A.

Upon going back to the majors in early May, Assad controlled out of the bullpen for the next 3 months, publishing a 2.11 period in 42 2/3 innings of work throughout 16 looks in spite of a 4.01 FIP. The Cubs then moved him to the rotation for most of the stretch run, and the right-hander held his own in the function with a 2.88 period and 4.25 FIP in 59 1/3 innings of work throughout the season’s last 2 months. Assad’s quality operate in the rotation down the stretch with Chicago last summertime ought to offer him the chance to make the last area in the club’s rotation this spring, though its possible the Cubs worth his adaptability as a gamer who’s had success swinging in and out of the rotation throughout his young profession.

Chicago’s preliminary choice in the 2021 draft, Wicks has the most outstanding possibility pedigree of any of the club’s most likely 5th starter alternatives this spring. The southpaw has rapidly climbed up the minors ladder and reached the majors in 2015 with simply 48 starts in the minors under his belt, causing some leading 100 possibility buzz this winter season with ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel ranking Wicks as the #41 possibility in the whole sport, simply 5 areas behind Kyle Harrison of the Giants. That outstanding ranking is mostly supported by Wicks’ efficiency on the field. In 20 starts divided in between the Double- and Triple-A levels in 2015, Wicks published a 3.55 period in 91 1/3 innings of work while punching out 26.5% of batters dealt with.

The lefty’s big league launching went almost too, as he published a 3.00 period with a 3.95 FIP in 33 innings of work throughout his very first 6 starts in the major leagues, though he started out simply 17% of batters dealt with throughout that time. Unfortunately, Wicks suffered the very first blow-up start of his major league profession in his last start of the season, giving up 6 work on 6 hits and one walk in simply 1 2/3 innings of work versus the Brewers. That left him with a uninspiring 4.41 period and 4.70 FIP throughout his very first taste of major league action, though he did produce grounders at a strong 46.8% clip throughout that time.

Given the success he’s flashed in the majors and his possibility pedigree, it would barely be a surprise to see the Cubs hand Wicks the secrets to the last area in Chicago’s rotation this spring, though its possible his low strikeout rate in the majors and unsightly last start in 2015 lead the club to think the 24-year-old southpaw, who has actually pitched simply 33 innings at the Triple-A level to this point in his profession, requires more time to establish in the minors before signing up with the rotation full-time.


The abovementioned 4 arms seem the most likely internal alternatives for the Cubs’ 5th starter area to open the season, though there are at handful of dark horse alternatives worth a reference too. Top pitching possibility Cade Horton was the club’s preliminary choice in the 2022 draft and is typically related to even much better than Wicks after he controlled the lower minors to the tune of a 2.65 period in 21 starts in 2015. With that being stated, the 22-year-old has no experience above the Double-A level, where he made simply 6 starts in 2015, and has actually not yet been extended to the level needed for a major league beginning pitcher as he topped 75 pitches in a trip simply 3 times in 2015.

Ben Brown is another possibility who has actually gotten top-100 buzz for the Cubs. Unlike Horton, he’s currently on the 40-man lineup and has actually reached the Triple-A level, though he had a hard time to a 5.33 period at the level in 2015 while strolling 15.8% of batters dealt with at the level. Porter Hodge and Caleb Kilian are 2 other beginning pitching potential customers currently on Chicago’s 40-man lineup, though Hodge has actually yet to pitch above the Double-A level and Kilian has had a hard time to a 12.42 period throughout 6 looks in the majors, leaving each much more most likely to open the season in the minors.


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