Steele's Excellent Start, Iowa's No-Hitter and Walk-Offs, Davis's MVP, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Steele’s Excellent Start, Iowa’s No-Hitter and Walk-Offs, Davis’s MVP, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Day Two of the MLB Draft looms this early afternoon, and we’ll have much more coming. The Cubs went with lefty Jordan Wicks last night in the first round, and Bryan took his deep dive this morning. I think you’ll be happy with the Cubs’ pick, especially at 21. Rounds two through ten begin today at noon CT. And then we get the Home Run Derby tonight! It’s a good day!

•   Yesterday’s rainout meant the Cubs finished their first half having not won a series for a month. They are 44-46, 8.0 games back of the Brewers, and tied with the Cardinals for third place in the division. Jed Hoyer strongly intimated the decision to sell had been made over the course of the 11-game losing streak, but even if you had been hedging and thought maybe a great homestand could stave it off, that didn’t happen. So it’s full speed ahead on what probably should be a pretty dramatic movement of short-term players, and will probably accelerate this week after the draft, when teams move back into that mode.

•   Justin Steele’s first “start” – he’s sliding back into the rotation at Iowa to get stretched out to perhaps make some big league starts in the second half – went exceedingly well:

•   Going 3.2 innings on just 56 pitches some really strong pitch efficiency for a strikeout guy (do the math on notching five strikeouts over that stretch, and it’s well done). Giving up no hits certainly helps, and that won’t always be the case. I believe that’s where the sinker will have to come into play as a good 3rd/4th pitch to get some groundball contact at times. I’m still on the fence about Steele’s best role going forward – I’ll admit, I was on the train to convert him to the bullpen last year – but there’s no reason not to use the rest of this year to see how he looks. Moreover, you kinda want him to get exposed a little bit as a big league starter (Keegan Thompson, too) so they have more information to work with for their development in the offseason. Hitters weren’t fooled when I did X, they were jumping all over me when I did Y, maybe I should re-shape pitch Z, and so on and so forth.

•   That Steele start came as part of a 7-inning no-hitter, together with Scott Effross and Dillon Maples, AND it came as part of a walk-off win, AND it was one of TWO walk-off wins for Iowa yesterday:

•   Maples, by the way, is still there at Iowa on a rehab assignment, where he can stay another two-ish weeks before he would have to come back to the big league roster, hit waivers, or have his rehab assignment extended (though it’s not looking like there will be a plausible reason to seek an extension). That timing is going to be interesting because, absent some other bullpen injur(ies) popping up where Maples will just take a spot, the Cubs might want to wait until an inevitable trade or two happens and then Maples comes up. Of course, the flip side of that is if you wanted Maples to come back soon, make a few appearances, and then try to trade him. There is probably a team or two out there willing to bet on the extreme arm talent, and for the Cubs, they might already know they don’t want to use a 40-man spot on Maples all offseason.

•   Meanwhile, Brennen Davis won himself an MVP with his two-homer Futures Game performance:

•   There is still a CBA to be negotiated, so don’t take anything as certain, but USA Today reports that the current expectation is that full, nine-inning doubleheaders will return in 2022 in the new CBA. The possible rub there is that players may push to keep seven-inning doubleheaders if they prefer the rest, but we’ll see. For now, MLB prefers full games back.

•   Pablo Lopez broke a Jim Deshaies record, and HE WAS NOT HAPPY (just kidding):

•   Old friend alert:

•   Rea, 31, headed to Japan over the offseason, and it’s looking like a good decision, not only because he’s performed well, but also because it’s not certain he would’ve seen much big league time this year with the Cubs if they’d kept him on the 40-man roster at all. The Cubs got a cash payment for the transfer, Rea got more money than he would’ve made in the States, and he gets to pitch his way into possibly an even better contract in the NPB going forward. Win-win-win, and here’s hoping he keeps cruising.

•   Elsewhere, though, the KBO is shutting down for a week due to multiple positive COVID cases on multiple teams:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.