Chicago Cubs pitching prospect (still 17.0 innings shy of losing rookie eligibility!) Hayden Wesneski never did have a really bad outing in his taste of the big leagues this year. HOW IS HE GOING TO LEARN NOW?!?!!?
I kid, of course. But like I said after pretty much every single one of his outings, it would’ve been fine if there had been some issue that popped up, torpedoed an outing, and then Wesneski would add it to the list he needed to work on this offseason. That never happened because he was just too dang good. The results he was getting was not the product of smoke and mirrors, or pure baseball randomness. He has multiple big league caliber pitches, a plus (maybe plus-plus) slider, and he showed exceptional command. It was everything you’d want to see in a front-end starter, quite frankly, even if his minor league development and trajectory didn’t suggest he was QUITE that caliber of prospect.*
There will still be things to work on this offseason – he and the Cubs will be sure of that (improving the changeup and/or cutter against lefties is probably a big one) – and he’ll still enter Spring Training without a guarantee of a big league job. That’s not a knock on him, of course. It’s just a recognition that the Cubs SHOULD be creating tons of additional depth this offseason, including impact pitching at the top of the rotation, and then a guy like Wesneski would either force his way in, would back-fill from start-to-start, or would eventually find his way into the rotation by way of inevitable injury. Whatever the case, the Cubs are probably going to want to mange the innings anyway, and it’s not like they would throw him out there for 32 starts and 220 innings next year from day one.
Wesneski’s season wrapped with a great outing last night against the Reds:
Overall, it was a tremendous development year for Wesneski, who got better and better as the year went on, even as the level of competition increased:
Comments from Wesneski himself:
And if you want to get really nerdy, you can go down a rabbit hole with Wesneski and Lance Brozdowski on more advanced pitch characteristics:
I just love the way Wesneski talks about this stuff, thinks about this stuff, works on this stuff, and tries to optimize. That’s going to help him this offseason, I’d imagine.
Also, did you catch that little bit in there in the middle video about Keegan Thompson? It was quick, but when Wesneski was talking about his unique slider – it moves more like a sweeper – he says he commands it so well because he’s been throwing it for such a long time, unlike Keegan, Wesneski says, who is still working on it. Sure enough, Thompson added his (little-used) slider at midseason, and it has much more horizontal movement than average. Thompson must’ve been working to add a sweeper, and it must be that he and Wesneski have talked about it. Would be pretty fun if Wesneski’s emergence actually wound up helping Thompson refine a new pitch!
*(Stray note on that, which I’ll bury here at the bottom in an asterisk’d parenthetical: while it’s very clear that Wesneski is a very good pitching prospect and has a Major League future, I’ve been hesitant to fully buy in to what my eyes have shown me in this small sample for one big reason. Why did the Yankees trade Wesneski in the first place? Yes, Scott Effross is awesome and controllable and the Yankees needed a relief arm, but in no universe are they trading a number two starting pitcher for Effross. So that means either the Yankees BADLY misevaluated Wesneski (something they just don’t do all that often with their own pitching prospects), the Cubs unlocked something at the margins (maybe, but that wasn’t the suggestion when they acquired him), Wesneski himself took a step forward in the Cubs organization for unspecified reasons, OR he’s showing out a little more here in September than he would/will in future, competitive seasons. Any of those are possibilities, and I’ll go ahead and root for the one that combines a Yankees whiff with a Cubs development success story. It happens. It’s just really rare. And it at least makes me cautious to want to see more next year before I say for sure that Wesneski’s ceiling is front two, rather than mid-rotation (which, by the way, would still be really valuable!).)