Thursday, April 18, 2024

Day After Disaster: Who Replaces Justin Steele?

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Remember when we were so excited for the start of the season, Justin Steele was cruising and the Cubs were beating the Rangers on Opening Day? Good times. The Cubs lost 4-3 in 10 innings, but more importantly they’re going to be without Steele for at least a few weeks. So, who’s going to replace Steele in the Cubs rotation?

The best-case scenario as of right now appears to be that Steele has a minor hamstring strain in his left leg and he’ll miss the minimum amount on the 15-day injured list. The 2023 All-Star was optimistic on Thursday night after exiting in the fifth inning after tumbling over when fielding a bunt attempt by the Rangers.

Steele allowed one earned run in 4.2 innings, surrendering three hits and a walk, while striking out six in his first ever Opening Day start.

Cubs manager Craig Counsell told reporters that a stint on the injury list is expected for Steele.

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Again, fingers crossed that it is only the minimum. We’ll know more definitively by tomorrow.

The Cubs are off on Friday in Texas, but they’ll play five games in a row beginning Saturday, which means they do need to fill Steele’s spot in the starting rotation on Wednesday in the series finale against the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field.

Of course, it’s April in Chicago, so maybe the Cubs get some help from Mother Nature.

Any reason to postpone Wednesday’s game would be ideal for the Cubs, as they could then skip Steele’s spot.

No matter what, the Cubs have to replace Steele on the active roster and here are the guys who are most likely going to get the call.

Via The Athletic.

Hayden Wesneski and Ben Brown are the likely candidates to make starts during Steele’s absence. Veteran lefty Drew Smyly, who has begun the season in the bullpen, could be stretched out if Counsell should choose to do so. It could also make sense to call up a reliever, perhaps Daniel Palencia, for the weekend until a starter is needed.

Hayden Wesneski

Right-handed pitcher Hayden Wesneski was one of the final cuts in spring training, as the Cubs went with rookie lefty Luke Little and right-hander Jose Cuas for the last two spots in the bullpen.

Wesneski had an up and down 2023 season, beginning the year in the starting rotation before he was optioned to Triple-A in mid-May. He was then primarily used as a reliever in the final three months of the season.

The 26-year-old did have success out of the bullpen, recording a 3.57 ERA in 40.1 innings, compared to a 5.51 ERA in 49 innings in 11 starts. Wesneski’s huge issue was facing left-handed batters, as he allowed a .298/.369/.617, slash line against them. Wesneski posted a 7.46 ERA vs. lefties and a 2.82 ERA vs. righties in 2023.

Wesneski had a few 3-inning outings in spring training, but his workload was reduced in the final week of spring training, throwing a total of 2 innings in his last two Cactus League appearances. We’ll see if the Cubs feel confident about his stamina to come up next week to fill in for Steele.

Ben Brown

Right-hander Ben Brown caught everyone’s attention with his spring training performance. He posted a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings, allowing just one earned run in five games. Brown struck out 12 and walked 5 and had a 1.07 WHIP for the Cubs down in Arizona.

Brown had a tough end to the 2023 season, as he struggled with command issues at Triple-A and then landed on the injured list in August. The righty returned to the Iowa Cubs in early September and made seven appearances out of the bullpen.

The overall numbers aren’t great, as Brown finished the 2023 season with a 4.27 ERA in 92.2 innings. However, there’s no doubt that Brown has a high ceiling thanks to his good fastball and secondary pitches. The right-hander struck out 130 batters last season in the minors, a 32.6 K%.

Out of the two, I’d love to see Brown up with the Cubs simply for the fact that I feel his ceiling is higher than Wesneski.

Drew Smyly

Pass.

As for the first roster move, the Cubs probably will bring up a reliever to take Steele’s spot just to have an extra pitcher in the bullpen. Then, when the Cubs need a starter they’ll make another move to bring up Wesneski or Brown. I hope that’s the case and the team doesn’t choose to stick with Drew Smyly in the rotation.

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BearCub30
Mar 29, 2024 12:33 pm

Bring up Thompson or Brown!! Let’s get these guys acclimated and see what we have!!!

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