Cubs Reportedly Signing Righty Nick Neidert to a Minor League Deal

The Chicago Cubs specialize in finding fringy arms to work with in Spring Training and get a little something surprising out of in the following season. So you can presume there will be a lot of signings like the Eric Stout deal, the Roenis Elias deal, and now the Nick Neidert deal.

Neidert, a former Marlins prospect, reached MLB back in 2020, but bounced up and down between the big leagues and Triple-A for the next three seasons. As recently as 2021, FanGraphs had ranked him a top ten prospect in the Marlins’ system.

He generally had success at Triple-A, but struggled in the big leagues – he’s one of those guys who is right at the border, and the Cubs have had some success getting surprising results out of those guys. And Neidert did get great results at Triple-A this past season, posting a 1.96 ERA over 46.0 innings, with a 26.1% K rate and a 4.9% BB rate.

What’s interesting about Neidert is that he’s almost exclusively been a starting pitcher. Are the Cubs looking to convert him to relief and maybe try to coax a little more velocity out of his 92-ish MPH fastball? Or is he starting depth? At 26, maybe there’s just a little bit of upside left, even as a starter? Or maybe the Cubs really want him to work with Kyle Hendricks? Look at what FanGraphs wrote back in 2021:

Neidert has been a high-probability No. 4/5 starter for what seems like forever now, and he’s very likely to exhaust rookie eligibility in 2021. Any list of pitchers who might end up having a similar career trajectory as Kyle Hendricks‘ should start with Neidert, who has the plus changeup and command of, and some mechanical similarities with, the Cubs righty. I’ve seen him sit 86-91 at times but he’s been more 90-94 of late, aided by some mechanical funk and deception. Though his diving changeup is his best pitch, Neidert’s most-deployed offering during his short big league career is his terse, mid-80s slider, which he commands with sniper-like precision to his glove side. He’ll also dump in a mid-70s curveball on occasion, a pitch that has enough depth to work as a change of pace offering used to get ahead in counts. The Hendricks-level outcome is obviously at the far right tail of what’s possible here, and it’s much more likely Neidert ends up a pitchability No. 4/5.

It’s not hard to see part of what the Cubs like about Neidert, though. When it comes to these types of signings, the Cubs like to find guys who do one or more really weird or really extreme things. In Neidert’s case, it’s an extremely low spin rate (which can sometimes be as effective as high spin), which might mess with the hitters’ expectations on pitch movement. If the Cubs could find a way to harness that a bit, they might be able to further reduce the contact quality against him.

One caveat on Neidert: he hurt his knee in August, and his season ended with surgery. It’s not clear exactly what the procedure was, or whether it’ll impact his readiness for 2023. It’s a minor league deal, so it doesn’t matter for rostering purposes, for what that’s worth. But that seems to be what happened with his season: he was doing really well at Triple-A, he finally got the call later in the season to make a big league fill-in start (five successful innings), but then hurt his knee a little after that, and his season was over. Absent that injury, it’s possible the Marlins never would’ve DFA’d him.

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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