Although I’ve been using the Adrian Sampson prepare for some time now, it’s turn into exceedingly clear that Hayden Wesneski is the one actual option to be named the Cubs’ fifth starter. That quantity is just indicative of his inclusion within the group of 5 rotation members as a result of he’s in all probability extra like No. 2 or 3 at worst proper now. With 4 excellent innings in opposition to the Dodgers Saturday afternoon, the 25-year-old righty out-dueled Noah Syndergaard and all however ended any competitors with Sampson and Javier Assad.
This can be a state of affairs during which spring outcomes do matter, particularly when Wesneski has been absolutely conscious of the gravity of his efficiency. Along with the strain coming from opposing hitters, the load of expectation lies on his slim shoulders with each outing. But every time he steps onto the mound in Cactus League motion, he shrugs all of that off like a warmup jacket and goes about his enterprise.
It’s that apparent swagger that makes his unbelievable stuff play as much as such a excessive degree. Many younger pitchers might simply get caught up in making an attempt to make issues occur, however Weneski seems to let his recreation unfold with an ease bordering on nonchalance. Whether or not it’s actually that easy for him, and I believe it’s not, his means to excel because the stakes rise is admirable.
“It’s a kind of issues, it’s bizarre, since you’re in a spot the place you even have an opportunity now,” he shared with reporters not too long ago. “It’s a unique mindset, however I form of return to only doing [my] job, proper? I’ve received to make a pitch at a time. After which if I don’t make it, it’s, ‘I did what I might.’”
I’m very a lot trying ahead to seeing his signature Okay-strut with nice frequency each fifth day through the common season. One other pitcher I’d prefer to see in Chicago is Cam Sanders, son of former Cubs nice Scott Sanders. Okay, “nice” is doing a little heavy lifting there, however the elder Sanders did throw his final MLB pitch in a Cubs uniform again in 1999.
Now the doting dad is cheering his son’s exploits as he makes his personal strategy to the Present. If all goes properly, the 26-year-old righty can be there quickly.
Cam has grown up a lil!!! @camsanders24 @Cubs @LSUbaseball @NWFRaiders_BSB #butta pic.twitter.com/9Y5BnKrU99
— Scott Sanders (@yosandman27) March 12, 2023
The youthful Sanders has made 4 Cactus League appearances this season, the latest of which closed out Wesneski’s begin with three consecutive strikeouts of left-handed batters. The final of these got here on a full-count changeup that he shook to get to, displaying supreme confidence, however I’m actually loving the bowling ball laborious stuff that kisses triple digits. He’s additionally received a slider he likes to bust in on the arms of lefties.
Or is it a cutter? Each? Is the change really a splitter? Sanders can name any of his pitches regardless of the hell he desires so long as they’re as nasty as he’s been displaying thus far. He has clearly figured some issues out this spring with seven strikeouts in 5.1 innings, however the true enchancment has been the lone stroll. His stroll proportion has at all times been in double digits and a 14.9% at Triple-A final 12 months didn’t encourage a ton of confidence.
That’s an enormous a part of the explanation why Sanders was on the periphery of the bullpen image heading into camp. Properly, that and never being on the 40-man roster. However every day that passes with out the Cubs including a lefty reliever in free company means Sanders has a greater shot of breaking camp with the large membership. Although he’s clearly not a southpaw, that efficiency on Saturday confirmed that he could not have points with platoon splits.
Together with dialing in his repertoire, a whole lot of Sanders’ success stems from embracing a reduction position after spending most of his profession as a starter. He began 20 of 21 appearances for Excessive-A South Bend in 2019, then began all 18 video games he performed with Double-A Tennessee in 2021. After six extra begins to open the ’22 season in Kodak, Sanders was promoted and began 11 video games at Triple-A Iowa earlier than being moved to the arm barn.
There wasn’t some form of lightbulb that went off or something, no discernible shift in outcomes that confirmed he was born to be a reliever. However now it seems working shorter outings actually permits him to let it eat, which is nice for somebody who’s nonetheless received a starter’s full bag of methods. Although this isn’t as clear a case as Wesneski’s for the rotation, Sanders appears like he could possibly be a invaluable member of the 26-man roster.
And that, of us, is how you realize the Cubs have finished a wonderful job of boosting their pitching infrastructure over the previous few years. That neither of those pitchers has a definitive position secured with the large membership is proof that an abundance of expertise is coalescing on the highest ranges of the group, and that’s actually rattling enjoyable to see.