Justin Steele Was Stellar Again Yesterday, Continuing a Critical Development for the Organization

In season increasingly about development and the future, Justin Steele has quietly become one of the brightest spots on the Chicago Cubs (which is saying something, given the success of other longer-term players like Nico Hoerner, Keegan Thompson, Christopher Morel, Seiya Suzuki, and Ian Happ (maybe)).

We might not be all the way there just yet, but I’ve essentially stopped thinking about Steele as any sort of question mark to sort out in 2023. He’s going to be in the starting rotation. Full stop. The only question now is how high can he go?

By Game Score (73), yesterday’s effort against the Brewers was Steele’s best of the season, and second best of his career. Over 6.2 innings of one-run ball, Steele struck out 9 batters, walking just four (two when he was gassed). The only damage came in the 7th inning when David Ross and the Cubs were probably just trying to push him through for the purposes of development (in other words, if David Ross were strictly trying to win, I think he probably would’ve pulled Steele (1) after 6.0 scoreless IP, (2) after the walk with 6.2 IP, or (3) after the RBI double a batter later.

On his way to earning those 9 strikeouts, Steele posted an excellent 35% CSW and netted an impressive 14 whiffs, splitting them almost evenly between his four-seamer (7) and nasty slider (6).

Speaking of which, I love the shape of his slider. The bottom just drops out of it, almost like a curveball. And indeed, his 44 inches of vertical break ranks 6th highest among all pitchers with at least 250 sliders thrown this season. It’s a true strikeout pitch.

But it wasn’t all about the strikeouts last night. Of the 13 balls in play last night, only two registered as “hard” contact according to Statcast (over 95 MPH), and one of those was a routine flyout with a .020 expected batting average.

Throw in six groundouts and a popout and you can rightly say there was one ball in play in the entire outing that deserved to be much of anything. Naturally, it was the 7th inning Pedro Severino double he allowed when he was mostly out of steam.

That brings me to my next point. Can you believe just how much of a successful contact-manager Justin Steele has already turned into? Yesterday, the Brewers’ average exit velocity was just 82.1 MPH. They had ZERO barrels and a 15.4% hard hit rate. And Steele induced a groundball rate over 50%. That is all about as good as it can get.

But this isn’t just a one-time thing.

Among all pitchers with at least 70 IP this season, Steele’s 87.1 MPH average exit velocity is t-13th best in MLB. His 51.1% ground ball rate is 12th. His 33.3% hard hit rate ranks 10th. And his 2.7% barrel rate is the single BEST mark in MLB.

With batted ball data like that, Steele would probably be able to succeed even if he wasn’t striking guys out … but he’s struck out 6 or more batters six times this season, and, again, he K-d nine Brewers yesterday. This is just really impressive stuff.

Steele has now gone at least 5.0 innings in seven straight starts, a stretch during which he’s posted a 3.05 ERA (and that’s including the one in the middle with 5 ER (despite 8 K and 0 BB)). Steele is becoming more and more consistent in his ability to pitch deeper into games.

While we’re on the topic of length, I’ll add that Steele threw a season-high 108 pitches yesterday, which is something he does hope to continue: “Back in high school I’d throw like 120 in a start and I just never really thought about it as I’m out there,” he said via The Daily Herald. “I love getting deep into a ballgame, deep into my pitch count. That’s obviously a good sign.”

Justin Steele is really coming into his own and will be a key part of the Cubs’ immediate future. Huge, huge development this year, for both him and for the organization.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

more cubs news

Enhanced Box Score: Cubs 4, Rays 3 – June 12, 2024

The Cubs don't "win" games anymore. They survive them. So it was tonight, with Hector Neris called upon to close out the game again, after last night's fiasco. His pitches generally fell into two categories, either noncompetitive balls or absolute...

Cody Bellinger Gives the Cubs the Lead with a Three-Run Home Run!

THAT is the kind of big swing the Cubs needed with runners on base. Take any kind of batted ball luck out of the equation by just sending the ball to the seats. Cody Bellinger gives the Cubs the lead:...

Seiya Suzuki Sends One Out to Center

Need the guys who are here to supply power to, you know, supply power. So it was good to see Seiya Suzuki get into one. This fourth inning blast tied the game up (for now): https://twitter.com/WatchMarquee/status/1801037668530167867 https://twitter.com/Taylor_McGregor/status/1801037333396853052

Pre-Gamin’: Cubs at Rays (5:50 CT) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

CUBS LINEUP — If you aren't going to beat the Cardinals and Reds and Rays, who are you going to beat, exactly? At least Craig Counsell is significantly shaking up the lineup tonight. This is one hell of a different...

The Cubs Have Signed Jorge Lopez – Yes, That Jorge Lopez

Even as he was being punted quickly from the New York Mets organization following the glove-throwing incident, it wasn't clear that pitcher Jorge Lopez was done pitching this year. After all, the 31-year-old reliever had a long big league track...

Chicago Cubs 1st Round Mock Draft: Exploring Potential Picks

The Chicago Cubs are set to make their first-round selection in the 2024 MLB Draft with the 14th overall selection. Oct 1, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts (R) smiles next to Chicago Cubs President of Baseball...

Owen Caissie Just Hit a Monster 10th Inning Home Run (And Then Other Stuff Happened)

If the big league Cubs aren't going to supply us with many thrilling moments, at least the prospects can step up. This afternoon, the Iowa Cubs had played the Columbus Clippers to a 1-1 tie in regulation. In the top...

MLBits: Aaron Judge’s Hot Streak, Paul Skenes Standing O, Cubs Need a Spark, More

MLB Notes — Aaron Judge was incredible in May, hitting .361/.479/.918 with 14 home runs in 97 at-bats for the Yankees. He helped New York post a 21-5 record in May, taking them to the top of the American League...

My Reaction on Some of Jed Hoyer’s Comments Today — Offense, Potential for Trades, Internal Improvements, More

This morning, Jed Hoyer joined Mully and Haugh on 670 The Score to talk about his team and where things are headed. The conversation (which you can catch in full at the bottom of this post) was mostly a collection...

Something Has to Change, and I Have Some Suggestions

Last night, the Chicago Cubs lost the way they always lose this season: No timely hitting (1-7 w/ RISP) + a bullpen meltdown (3.0 IP, 4H, 5ER, 3BB, 4K). Only the Chicago White Sox have more blown saves than the...

Latest News

Cardinals vs. Pirates Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Thursday, June 13, 2024

The St. Louis Cardinals (32-34) and Pittsburgh Pirates (32-35) meet Thursday at Busch Stadium, with first pitch at 2:15 PM ET on SportsNet PT. The Cardinals are -110 moneyline favorites for the contest, however, the Pirates are favored against the...

Yankees vs. Royals Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Thursday, June 13, 2024

Two of the league's top hitters will meet Thursday when the New York Yankees (49-21) and Kansas City Royals (39-30) take to the field at 2:10 PM ET, live on YES. Juan Soto is batting .317 for the Yankees (-172...

Aces vs Mercury: Best Bets, Player Props & Computer Picks – June 13

The Phoenix Mercury (6-6) will look to Kahleah Copper (third in WNBA, 24 points per game) going up against A'ja Wilson (first in league, 28.3) and the Las Vegas Aces (5-5) on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at Footprint Center. The...

Best MLB Prop Bets Today, June 13, 2024

In one of the 11 compelling matchups on the MLB schedule today, the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals hit the field at Kauffman Stadium.If you're interested in MLB prop bets for today's games, we're here to assist...

Las Vegas Aces vs. Phoenix Mercury: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

A pair of the WNBA's best scorers face off when A'ja Wilson (first, 28.3 points per game) and the Las Vegas Aces (5-5) visit Kahleah Copper (third, 24) and the Phoenix Mercury (6-6) on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at 10:00...

Tigers vs. Nationals Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Detroit Tigers (32-35) will be out to avoid the sweep when they host the Washington Nationals (32-35) to complete a three-game series. Sportsbooks have listed the Tigers as -152 favorites for the series finale, while the Nationals are +128...

Orioles vs. Braves Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Baltimore Orioles (45-22) and Atlanta Braves (35-30) meet Thursday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, starting at 1:05 PM ET on BSSO. The Orioles are -114 moneyline favorites for the contest, however, the Braves are favored against the spread...

Yankees vs. Royals Probable Starting Pitchers – June 13

The New York Yankees (49-21) look to add to a four-game winning streak as they visit the Kansas City Royals (39-30) at 2:10 PM ET on Thursday.This contest's pitching matchup is set, as the Yankees will send Nestor Cortes Jr....

Orioles vs. Braves Probable Starting Pitchers – June 13

The Atlanta Braves (35-30), who lost their previous five games, face the Baltimore Orioles (45-22) at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Thursday. First pitch is at 1:05 PM ET.The Orioles will call on Cole Irvin (6-2) against the Braves...

Cardinals vs. Pirates Probable Starting Pitchers – June 13

The Pittsburgh Pirates (32-35) go on the road at Busch Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals (32-34) at 2:15 PM ET on Thursday.The probable starters are Lance Lynn (2-3) for the Cardinals and Mitch Keller (8-3) for the Pirates.Cardinals vs....

more cubs news