The Chicago Cubs should be better right now and one of the major reasons on the pitching side that they are not is because the bullpen has been a mess for most of the season. Well, it definitely looks like the front office is done waiting for some of the veterans to improve and are in the midst of transitioning a few of their starting pitching prospects into relievers with hopes that a couple will be able to contribute later this season.
We have already discussed 2020 draft pick Luke Little, who had put up good numbers in the lower levels of the minors as a starter, but ever since he was put into the bullpen in May, the big left-hander has been dominant. Meanwhile, Riley Thompson is also another well-known prospect that is now coming out of the bullpen at Triple-A and he is now going to be joined by maybe the pitcher with the best stuff to go from a starter to a reliever.
Right-handed pitcher Daniel Palencia had been on the development list since May 10, but now the 23-year-old is at Triple-A with the Iowa Cubs.
Palencia turned heads in 2022, when he ended the season with 98 strikeouts in 75.1 innings. Obviously any organization wants to see a promising pitching prospect stay as a starter to get the most value out of them, but after some struggles to begin this year, the Cubs have made the switch and when you see him pitch, then you can definitely see how Palencia can become a lethal weapon out of the bullpen.
The righty struggled with command this year at Double-A, making five starts for the Tennessee Smokies before he was put on the development list. But again, the talent is there and if he can harness that as a reliever, then watch out.
This isn’t a panic move either. The Cubs have been believers of Palencia being an MLB pitcher since last year. There have been reports that if the Cubs had been in contention last September, then they would have called up Palencia to pitch out of the bullpen.
Here is what Sahadev Sharma wrote in The Athletic Tuesday morning.
Daniel Palencia has been moved to the development list and is pitching in relief in Arizona. In five starts and only 15 1/3 innings this year at Double A, Palencia struggled with his command (13.6 percent walk rate) and was inconsistent in the execution of his secondaries. The plan now is for him to get used to a bullpen role and learn how best to prepare himself and his body for relief usage. He’ll be using a more limited arsenal with the hope that he can be added to a group of high-profile arms like Luke Little, Ryan Jensen and Riley Thompson who have all been converted to relief in the minors recently. There are some who believed Palencia could have impacted last season’s bullpen at the end of the year had the team been in contention, so it’s certainly not out of the question this year if he proves himself to be deserving of a call-up.
Little is still in Double-A, but now that Palencia is at Triple-A with Ben Brown, my plan of fixing the bullpen is getting just a little closer to happening.
Give me relief pitchers who can come in and just blow away hitters. It has been far too long since the Cubs have had anyone with that ability out of the bullpen.
Last Friday, Nick Burdi threw the fastest pitch for the Cubs since Aroldis Chapman in 2016.
It is definitely a frustrating time watching the Cubs, but there are guys on the cusp of breaking through into the majors that can be difference-makers. Daniel Palencia is now one step closer.