It’s Impossible Not to Get Excited About Caleb Kilian (Who Just Got Some Rankings Love)

For as good as Caleb Kilian was last year, for as much as he improved in the fall, and for as certain as it is that he will reach the big leagues, no one ever expected that he would be on the Chicago Cubs’ Opening Day roster in 2022. Though he was incredible in the Arizona Fall League and had the look of a guy who wasn’t at all far off, he still hadn’t pitched at Triple-A, where the Cubs would want to see him keep showing against more advanced competition the things he was doing last year.

Funny thing about the big league team’s Opening Day, though, eh?

No, I still don’t think it’s likely that Kilian would be there on the 26-man roster whenever the Major League season opens, but it’s now almost certain that Kilian WILL HAVE made starts at Triple-A Iowa before the big league season opens. It’s not necessarily crazy to think that, if the MLB season didn’t open until May or June, Kilian could have cut through Triple-A batters for a month+ by that point. Just sayin’.

Kilian was just ranked the 39th best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball by Baseball America – the only Cubs prospect on the list of 50 – which is certainly a nice feather in his cap, but is not necessarily reflective of the internal optimism you hear about his upside. We’ll see what the broader industry thinks of him after a month or so at Iowa. I really can’t wait to see how he looks.

In the meantime, Kilian, who is not on the 40-man roster, is at minor league Spring Training after an offseason full of continued work with the Cubs. Is it possible that he’s gotten even better than what he was showing in the AFL? Yes, it is:

We saw just how good the four-seamer could be in the fall (95+ mph with great ride up in the zone), ditching the slider in favor of a cutter (that still has great bite to it) seems like it was a good move, and then the transition to a spike (knuckle) curve was clearly a great move. And now if the changeup is finally working for him? That’s the potential for four plus pitches from a guy with superlative command.

I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, because we know it’s never this simple. But Kilian’s growth from a floor guy into an upside guy over the past two years is incredible, and it makes it all the more incredible that the Cubs got him as part of a rental trade. Credit where it is due, as Kilian clearly developed tremendously post-college because of the Giants and because of his own extreme work ethic. But it feels like the Cubs have done a lot in a very short time to really polish some things up.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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