As expected, the Cubs are adding some of their upper-level pitching prospects to the South Bend portion of their 60-man player pool, both as depth for the big league club this year and also for their own development.
Officially, the Cubs today announced the additions of lefties Justin Steele and Jack Patterson, and righty Keegan Thompson to the 60-man player pool, which now stands at 54. As we recently discussed, after the intake process, we are expecting that righties Cory Abbott and Tyson Miller will also be added soon.
Among the trio now added:
Thompson, 25, was the Cubs’ third round pick in 2017, moving steadily up the system with a polished approach, until he hit a hiccup in 2019. After his first outing of the year – a dominating five-inning affair at AA – Thompson was shut down with elbow soreness that ultimately cost him four months (and a PRP injection). He came back for the Arizona Fall League, throwing 25.1 innings that very much impressed the eyes-on folks. A four-pitch guy with good command and a low-90s fastball, Thompson doesn’t get a lot of hype, but before the injury, he was a guy just about everyone expected to have a very good chance of at least becoming a back-end starter in the big leagues. If healthy, Thompson might be among the first options for the Cubs if they needed an emergency fill-in starter.
Steele, 24, is another year removed from Tommy John surgery, and quite clearly features a big-league-caliber fastball and curveball. The questions are whether he can command them well enough to have consistent success, and whether the changeup will allow him to keep starting, or if he’ll need to move into the bullpen. If the command were consistently there, he’s a big league contributor immediately out of the bullpen, in my view. But the Cubs don’t have to make that leap just yet, especially if they can be patient in the post-TJS window.
Patterson, 24, was a breakout lefty for the Cubs in 2019, putting up obscene numbers in his run from Low-A to High-A to AA, all in one season. Patterson, a 32nd rounder in 2018, throws his fastball in the low-90s, but pairs it well with a good curveball and a nasty slider. Nobody could hit him for boop last year. Not unlike Steele, you could see a future near-term reliever there, but you also kinda want to give him a little more time to see what he could be as a starter.