Well that was wild timing. We were just talking about Iowa Cubs closer Erich Uelmen yesterday as a likely second-half call-up … and the Cubs beat that prediction by a day.
Uelmen is coming up now, and he’s taking Daniel Norris’s spot:
Uelmen, 26, was the Cubs’ 4th rounder in 2017. He’s got a 2.79 ERA at Iowa this year, with a 29.1% K rate, a 12.8% BB rate, and a 55.3% groundball rate. He’s definitely got big league relief potential. The Cubs really needed a fresh arm, too, after yesterday’s 21 innings of baseball.
Iowa Cubs closer Erich Uelmen was not fully converted to relief until midway last year, so this season is his first full year in a full-time relief role. In it, he’s seen his velocity spike, his pitches sharpen, and his strikeouts explode. pretty much everything you’d hope to see from a guy who has a couple great pitches, but just not quite enough to be a starter. His strikeout rate at Iowa is approaching 30%, and while the 12.8% walk rate is not ideal, he’s also got a groundball rate over 55%. The guys who can register a big strikeout rate AND a big groundball rate are a rare bird, and Uelmen is doing it at rates that are reminiscent of Pedro Strop at his peak.
As a Rule 5-eligible player, the Cubs were likely going to have to put Uelmen on the 40-man roster by November anyway. So it makes a lot of sense to give him the look now, and see how his stuff plays at the big league level before you make that decision.
As for Norris, it was a reclamation signing that was worth a chance and didn’t work out. Almost by definition, most of them don’t. He could get strikeouts at an impressive clip, but the wildness – and the hard contact in the zone – was just too much. The Cubs will have seven days to trade, waive, or release Norris. I could see it going a couple ways, but the most likely is that he is waived, clears waivers, and then he and the Cubs decide whether it’s best for him to move on, or if they want to keep him at Iowa.