Alzolay, Steele, and Underwood are the Answers to a Chicago Bullpen Conundrum

Every single year that the Theo Epstein lead Cubs have taken the field there have been fans, journalists, bloggers, and rival executives that raise the same exact questions. They have seemed to come across as two separate questions more times than not and are being discussed for multiple different reasons, but sure enough they find themselves in the headlines year in and year out.

Do the Chicago Cubs need bullpen help to truly be a World Series contender?

Is this front office going to continue to drop the ball on their pitching draft picks?

The first question is very common among all teams across the league. With the way relievers’ performance varies from year to year, month to month, and game to game, teams just never seem to have enough bullpen help. Every team in the league needs more high leverage relievers just like they need more bullpen depth.

As for the pitcher draftees, you know the drill. Since taking over the helm in 2012, pitchers drafted by Theo Epstein have struggled to make it to the majors. There has yet to be a single arm to make a significant impact under Theo’s watch and only 4 pitchers have even made their MLB debut with the Cubs: Pierce Johnson, Duane Underwood Jr, Rob Zastryzny, and James Norwood.

After watching big time bats make their way through the system such as Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ, people are anxious for the arms.

The idea is for college starters drafted in the first several rounds to eventually find their way into the Chicago rotation, but that might not always be the best route for certain guys to take.

The answer to both of these oft-asked questions may be the same thing. And their names are Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele, and Duane Underwood Jr. All three men find themselves among the top pitching prospects in the system and on the 40-man roster going into the 2019 season.

As previously mentioned, the shelf life of relievers varies. You never know what you are going to get from those guys from one year to the next. But you know exactly what you get with career starters turned relievers. You get a few extra MPH on fastballs, a greater focus on a lone secondary pitch, more strikeouts, and a chance to carve out a role in a Major League bullpen.

With the starting rotation in Chicago pretty set in stone for the next couple years, there is no immediate future as a starter for Alzolay, Steele, or Underwood no matter how well they perform in the minors. And while the starters have a stranglehold on their spots, the relievers have anything but.

Converting guys like Underwood and Steele into the bullpen allow for less general fatigue on three arms that have been shown to be susceptible to injuries in their minor league careers and allow them to get to the strikeout numbers they are capable of showing with high velocity fastballs and already plus breaking pitches.

By bringing those offerings to Chicago, Alzolay, Steele, and Underwood are able to answer both the question of ‘Where is the bullpen help?’ and ‘Where are Theo’s pitchers?’ Expect them each to play a significant role on the North Side this upcoming year if the Cubs want to solidify their bullpen.


July Has Been the Month of Promotions

The MLB All-Star break is typically the time of year where we tend to see the bulk of the Minor League roster shuffle. At this point, organizations have seen enough and the small sample size alerts are thrown out the window. Half of a season at any particular level is normally enough time for the front office to decide on moving a guy up or down a level in the Minor Leagues.

The 2018 halfway point has been no different. In fact, over the last month or so, we have seen a flurry of roster moves from South Bend all the way up to Iowa. While the number of moves has been impressive, the names that have been moved may be even more crucial to the organization.

Below I’ll give you a rundown of all the moves that have occurred since June 23rd with a brief explanation of why the move is important.

Continue reading

Minor League Hitting: First Half Leaderboards

The Minor League levels have made it to the part of the season that is often considered to be the halfway point for prospects across America. At the Triple-A level, the Iowa Cubs are preparing for their All-Star break as Alberto Baldonado was their lone selection to the All-Star game festivities. All three of the remaining full season teams in the Cubs system had their All-Star breaks last Tuesday.

As the second half of the season picks up with the seasons of the Eugene Emeralds and Arizona League teams getting off the ground, we can’t move forward until we recognize the best hitters in the organization to this point.  Continue reading

Draft Day 2: Covering the Cubs Selections Live!

Tuesday is the second day of the 2018 MLB Amateur Player Draft. Day 2 includes rounds 3-10 and begins at 1:00 Eastern. These rounds can prove to include some very valuable selections and guys that will make a serious impact at the Major League level in the future. I will be following along with each selection the Cubs make and giving you live updates as to who gets selected and a little bit about each guy. Continue reading

Draft Day 1: Cubs Make Four Picks in the First Two Rounds

It was a very interesting first day of picks for the Chicago Cubs on Monday for Day 1 of the Amateur Draft. Overall, the team had four picks on the first day, a day that featured rounds 1 and 2. It was the perfect opportunity for the organization to reload their farm system with some potential impact talent.

The front office followed a familiar trend of selecting a college bat with their first pick and continued with three more picks that meshed well with the type of players they like to feature in the Minor League system. Get to know a little bit about each of the four selections below! Continue reading