So I Guess the Cubs Now Employ The World’s Currently-Hottest Starting Pitcher?

When the Cubs signed 34-year-old veteran Roenis Elías to a minor league contract a week ago, we noted the extreme success he was having in LIDOM (the Dominican Winter League). That success has now toppled over into that league’s historic territory, as Elías pitched another gem last night in the playoffs: six shutout innings en route to Aguilas’ 6-0 win.

It continued a pretty notable and amazing streak:

Yes, you read that right. It’s now 37.2 innings in a row for Elías without an earned run. He’s the hottest pitcher on the planet, you might say! Here are the game logs for this streak, as they can be pretty difficult to find:

12/27: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K

12/22: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K

12/14: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

12/6: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K

11/29: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K

11/23: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K (runs allowed in 1st inning)

It’s notable the Cubs signed Elías to a minor league deal during this streak, and probable that their international scouting team took notice of a jump forward in the lefty’s skills. While it would be very strange for a player to find new career heights in his mid thirties, Brett noted in his write-up of the signing that 2022 was Elías’ return from a torn UCL that, combined with the pandemic year in 2020, means he’d pitched very little since 2019. There’s not the same mileage on his arm as your average 34 year old.

So I think there’s two interesting questions to ask here: 1) what might the Cubs have seen in Elías to make him a priority minor league signing?, and 2) what role might they envision him for?

I made it a point to watch Elías pitch in last night’s playoff game to get a handle on what the lefty brings to the table.

Luckily, the broadcast offered some quick help in breaking down the arsenal:

The curveball is definitely the star offering, the pitch that he builds at-bats around. You can sense batters looking for it with two strikes, but they’re still helpful against its sharp, diagonal late break. It’s interesting the broadcast quotes the pitch around 82-85 mph, when it’s always averaged 77-78 in the Majors. Is that a misprint, or has the pitch evolved in a serious way? I do think Elías plays with the pitch a lot — it’s hard not to think of Cuban countryman Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez when you watch him — so I think I saw too many variances of the pitch to have an answer.

Elías throws his changeup more often. It’s a firm mid-80s offering that he has a ton of comfort with locating on the arm side corner. Its command and execution were more notable than its movement properties in this watch, but overall an above-average offering.

The fastball didn’t particularly impress me last night; he got away with a lot that ended up as lazy fly outs. The pitch’s combination of spin rate, velocity, and vertical movement suggest it should have solid life, but he didn’t operate as up in the zone as he’d probably like. It looks pretty darn good at the 0:14 mark in this, though:

The most interesting question for me is how the Cubs intend to use Elías in 2023. He pitched as a reliever for most of the 2022 season, but his move to the rotation started with the Mariners Triple-A team on August 21 and has continued in LIDOM.

Given the success he’s had this winter, it would not be a surprise if Elías and his agents searched for an organization that would allow him to continue to pursue the starting role. But when you look at the Cubs — flush with starting depth (Wesneski, Assad, Sampson, Kilian) but with just one MLB left-handed reliever (Hughes) right now — it wouldn’t seem they are that organization. So that’s interesting.

I’d guess we’re looking at three potential paths for Elías when Spring Training arrives:

  1. He works in camp as a starting pitcher before taking a place in Iowa’s rotation.
  2. He works in camp as a starting pitcher battling for a middle/long relief role. This is the role that I’ve expected Adrian Sampson to take, but Elías could battle him for it in camp.
  3. He works in camp strictly as a lefty reliever. He’d primarily serve as Brandon Hughes insurance, or give the Cubs a second lefty option for the pen (along with recent waiver claim Anthony Kay) if they don’t sign another to a MLB contract.

Whatever the role, you’ve gotta think the Cubs are very happy to have landed Roenis Elías when they did.

And while, yes, it’s unlikely that Elías is a meaningful difference maker for the 2023 Cubs, his status as Pitcher of the Winter does suggest enough upside that he’s one to watch in Mesa this February. And I’d certainly recommend keeping an eye on him the next time he pitches for Aguilas this winter. It’s quite the treat.

written by

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.

more cubs news

At Least Ian Happ Did Some Things, Baselines, Bullpens, and Other Cubs Bullets

May your Memorial Day be a restful, respectful day, surrounded by friends and family. And may the Cubs brighten the day by winning a dang game. Let's start with something positive at a time when it's getting easier by the...

What If We Try Winning Some Games? Cubs vs Brewers Series Preview

Cubs vs Brewers — On April 26, the Chicago Cubs were eight games over .500 and mostly cruising *despite* multiple significant absences/injuries to key players on the roster. One month later, they're mostly healed up, but are now just one...

Scary Moment, As Ronald Acuña Jr. Just Went Down Hard (UPDATE: Season Over)

When healthy, Ronald Acuña Jr. has been one of the brightest stars in Major League Baseball. By and large, he has been healthy, with an ACL tear in his right knee in 2021 standing as his biggest loss of time....

Enhanced Box Score: Cardinals 4, Cubs 3 – May 26, 2024

For the second straight night, the Cubs lost a one-run game in St. Louis with the tying run on third base. It is not an especially fun thing. This installment was a little different, as there were no blown leads...

Pre-Gamin’: Cubs at Cardinals (DELAY) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

UPDATE: The start of tonight's game has been delayed. New time TBD. *** If things turn south, tonight's game has the all the makings of a particularly depressing evening: a Sunday night game on ESPN (yuck) against the Cardinals and...

Disappointment Abounds, the Play at the Plate, Smyly, Hodge, Alcántara, and Other Cubs Bullets

I got to see a lot of friends yesterday, which felt like a very good use of the holiday weekend. Fill that bucket. Hope you have a chance to do something like that today or tomorrow. The Cubs have now...

Enhanced Box Score: Cardinals 7, Cubs 6 – May 25, 2024

After blowing the lead in the 8th, the Cubs tried to put together their own comeback in the 9th, but that Christopher Morel bouncer just didn't find the right spot. Worst fake rally ever. The Cubs were in that spot,...

Chicago Cubs Lineup: Versus Miles Mikolas

CUBS LINEUP — The first Cubs-Cardinals game of the season was banged on account of rain last night, which is a bummer, because it was Shota Imanaga night. The Cubs are using the unexpected night off to buy Imanaga some...

Could Red-Hot Blue Jays Catcher Danny Jansen Be a Cubs Trade Target?

For as clutch as Yan Gomes was at the plate last season, his offense output this year has been nothing short of brutal: .174/.183/.275 (26 wRC+). He can still call a game as well as anyone, but that's a blackhole...

Slight Rotation Shuffle, Smyly Coming, Big Night in Iowa, and Other Cubs Bullets

The Cardinals are cowards and they were afraid of Shōta Imanaga. It's the only explanation for last night's delay and then postponement. The only explanation. OK, I mean, I guess weather is also possibly an explanation, but who really believes...

Latest News

Celtics vs. Pacers: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

The Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers are meeting in the Eastern Conference Finals, with a decisive Game 4 next to come.The Celtics will seek another victory over the Pacers after a 114-111 win on Saturday. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics...

Padres vs. Marlins Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Monday, May 27, 2024

The San Diego Padres (28-28) are set to take on the Miami Marlins (19-35) Monday at 6:40 PM ET, airing on SDPA. The Padres are listed as -183 favorites by sportsbooks, while the underdog Marlins have +154 odds for the...

Bedard’s Worlds Experience, Czechia Celebrates, Dallas’ Build, and Other Blackhawks Memorial Day Bullets

It's Memorial Day, a time when we are supposed to take a step back amidst the barbeque invites and driving to/from lakes and boats to be thankful for those who have paid the ultimate price to preserve our freedom. As...

Padres vs. Marlins Probable Starting Pitchers – May 27

The San Diego Padres (28-28) host the Miami Marlins (19-35) on Monday to kick off a three-game series at PETCO Park. The matchup begins at 6:40 PM ET.The Padres will call on Michael King (4-4) versus the Marlins and Trevor...

What If We Try Winning Some Games? Cubs vs Brewers Series Preview

Cubs vs Brewers — On April 26, the Chicago Cubs were eight games over .500 and mostly cruising *despite* multiple significant absences/injuries to key players on the roster. One month later, they're mostly healed up, but are now just one...

Giants vs. Phillies Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Monday, May 27, 2024

The San Francisco Giants (27-27) and Philadelphia Phillies (38-16) meet Monday at Oracle Park, with first pitch at 5:05 PM ET on NBCS-PH. The Giants are -111 moneyline favorites for the contest, however, the Phillies are favored against the spread...

Today’s Best NBA Player Prop Bets – Monday, May 27, 2024

In a Monday NBA playoff slate that features just one contest, the Boston Celtics versus the Indiana Pacers is the only way to catch the NBA today.There are usually plenty of NBA player prop bets available for each and every...

Dodgers vs. Mets Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Monday, May 27, 2024

The Los Angeles Dodgers (33-22) stumble into Monday's matchup with the New York Mets (22-30) looking to break a five-game losing streak. The contest starts at 4:10 PM ET on MLB Network with the Dodgers listed as -151 favorites to...

Reds vs. Cardinals Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Monday, May 27, 2024

The St. Louis Cardinals (25-26) will lean on Paul Goldschmidt, following a two-homer game, to lead them in a matchup with the Cincinnati Reds (23-30) on Monday at 4:10 PM ET on BSOH. The Cardinals are +115 underdogs for the...

Guardians vs. Rockies Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Monday, May 27, 2024

The Cleveland Guardians (36-17) will vie for their 10th straight victory when they visit the Colorado Rockies (18-34) on Monday at 4:10 PM ET on COLR. The Guardians are listed as -132 favorites by sportsbooks, while the Rockies are +113...

more cubs news