Following the signing of Marcus Stroman, the starting rotation for the Cubs is beginning to become clear. Fangraphs projects Marcus Stroman as number 1, followed by Kyle Hendricks, Wade Miley, Adbert Alzolay, and Alec Mills.
The new Cubs ace will be 31 years old, coming off of a year where he led the majors in games started with 33. His record was only 10-13, but his ERA of 3.02 was the 8th best in the National League. He threw 179 innings which was in the top 15 as well.
Stroman began his career with Toronto in 2014. 2016 and 2017 were his best years, pitching over 200 innings and earning a Gold Glove at Pitcher in 2017. Stroman pitched in 6 seasons for the Blue Jays, with a 1.14 WHIP. He consistently pitches near 200 innings pitched which will be great for the longevity of the bullpen as well.
Kyle will be entering his 9th season with the Cubs in 2022. Hendricks celebrated his 32nd birthday on December 7th and needs to bounce back to where he was pre-2020. Hendricks gave up a league-leading 200 hits in 181 innings pitched in 2021.
The 2021 season saw Hendricks’ ERA finish at a career-high 4.77. Hits, WHIP, and home runs were all at career highs as well. A pitcher who specializes in changing speeds, arm angles, and locations cannot give up hard contact as consistently as Hendricks did last year and be a number one starter.
A 3.36 ERA pitcher over his career, Kyle should still be able to return to that ability given that he does not rely on overpowering pitches. Returning to a number two starter similar to when he pitched behind Lester and Arrieta should yield much better numbers. In 2016 pitching third in the rotation, Hendricks led the Majors with a 2.13 ERA in 190 innings pitched with a WHIP under 1.
Another high inning, low ERA season needs to be on the horizon for Hendricks if the Cubs are going to have success.
The Cubs added Wade Miley in early November, and he’s projected to be the number three starter in the rotation. 2022 will be Miley’s 12th season in the majors, and he is coming off of one of the best in his career.
3.37 ERA in 163 innings pitched demonstrates the durability that the Cubs need in the middle of the rotation. His WHIP of 1.325 was an improvement from most of his career numbers, but it is still a little high and hopefully, his control can bring that number down. in 2018 with Milwaukee, he got the number down to 1.215 but was only able to start 16 games that season.
His fastball tops out at around 91mph, making him another member of the rotation that does not rely on dominating speed. Wade demonstrated that he has the stuff, throwing a no-hitter in May. Similar to Hendricks, if Miley is unable to get his control back to where it has been previously he could struggle in 2022. Still, coming off of a good previous 3 seasons I am optimistic about Miley in this mid-rotation role.
Adbert Alzolay had gotten some MLB time in 2019 and 2020, but 2021 was where he got noticeable time. Starting in 21 games, Alzolay went 5-13 with a 4.58 ERA in 125.2 innings pitched.
Alzolay has improved over his previous seasons however, his BB/9 dropped from 6.6 to 5.5 to 2.4 in 2021 and his SO/W improved from 1.44 to 2.23 to 3.76. This steady improvement in control and strikeouts show that the 27 year old Venezuelan could be ready for a breakout season in 2022.
Fangraphs grades his fastball at 55/55, slider at 60/60, and a curveball at 55/55. His fastball touches 94 and a slider in the mid-to-high 80s make up almost 90% of his pitches thrown. The putaway slider and curveball will be crucial in seeing Alzolay move up the ranks in the rotation. Hopefully in the next few seasons, Adbert will be up to number two in the rotation.
Alec Mills is projected as the number 5 starter right now but can expect movement at that spot this season. Mills is entering his 5th season with Chicago in 2022. He has experience starting games, but not the consistent success needed for a starting pitcher. September of 2020 saw Mills no-hit the Brewers at Miller Park, but 2021 was not as kind.
An ERA over 5 and WHIP of 1.437 helped demonstrate the clear need to improve pitching in the offseason. Improvements have been made with the additions of Miley and Stroman, but Mills needs to perform at a higher level if he wants to stay in the rotation.
2018 and 2019 showed signs of promise for Mills in a small sample size. His ERA of 3.17 in 54 innings pitched over those seasons was good. Unfortunately, he has not been able to return to that since. Another pitcher with a fastball under 90mph, Mills needs his slider and changeup to strike out hitters and prevent an overworked bullpen.
Brailyn Marquez and Cory Abbott are both knocking on the door to make the Chicago roster. Any slip-up from Mills or Alzolay and a move to get these prospects some major league time could be made.
Abbott was the 2nd round pick by Chicago in 2017 and made his debut last season. He relies on a hard fastball and an 84-mph curve to get his strikeouts.
Marquez was mentioned in an earlier article. The #2 ranked prospect is a tall, strong lefty which would add a weapon that the starting rotation currently lacks. He throws hard and 2022 could lay the groundwork for a long and successful Cubs’ career for Marquez.