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.

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Not Impressed With Chicago’s First Half? You Should Be

The second half of the season kicks into gear on Thursday with the Cubs taking on the faltering St. Louis Cardinals and that means that we get to kiss the unofficial first half of the season goodbye. But man oh man what a first half it was! Statistically the Cubs have been the best team across the board in the National League, with a record of 55-38 (1st in NL) and team stats of 476 runs, 106 wRC+, .265 AVG, .345 OBP,  .771 OPS, and a 20.8 WAR (all best in the NL). The team has proven to be able to hang with a pace that was set by the 2016 World Champion team, but for some reason, it just has not felt that way sometimes.

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Market Stays Ice Cold, Cubs Making Important Minor Moves

The free agent market has been ice cold this year, but that has not stopped the Cubs from making a flurry of minor moves to shore up their pitching depth going into the 2018 season. They may not be flashy transactions, but as we all know, it is much more than just the Opening Day roster that makes an impact throughout the season.

It is often the pitchers that start the season as the number seven or eight starter in the organization or the pitcher stuck in a middle relief role in Iowa that end up playing crucial roles for the team in the dead of the summer. Continue reading

How Pursuit of Ohtani Will Shape Chicago’s Rotation

It is no mystery to anyone that the Chicago Cubs front office will be on the lookout for starting pitching options to fill out the voids left in the rotation made by free agents Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. The real question is regarding the way in which Theo & Co. wish to fill out the back end of that rotation. Will it be with top of the rotation starters? Two middle of the rotation guys? Will they let guys come in on “prove it” deals? Continue reading