More on the Joys of Hayden Wesneski Making the Chicago Cubs Rotation
I don’t want it to go under-celebrated that the Chicago Cubs have a rookie starting pitcher making their opening week rotation, and that the Cubs had no choice in the matter. By that I mean, it was NOT because there was no other option and they were thus forced to throw a un-ready rookie to the wolves, but it was instead because he was so dang good that the Cubs could not have justified going any other way.
It is a credit to the team having developed relief prospect Scott Effross and then spinning him off to acquire a starting pitching prospect, and it is all the more a credit to Hayden Wesneski for continuing to develop and dominant and put himself in this position.
We know that development is not linear, and that this might be a swell before a low period ahead. There’s a process yet to be played out, and it might even involve Wesneski, at some point, heading back to Triple-A to continue his work. But for this week, it’s a tremendous feather in the cap of the organization to have a rookie justify a spot in the rotation, and another credit to what Wesneski has been able to accomplish after being a 6th round draft pick in 2019, and then a relatively uncelebrated prospect in the New York Yankees’ system.
More on Wesneski making the rotation …
- Wesneski said he was speechless when he got the news, but he was pretty clearly very happy about it. Bonus: Wesneski’s parents were in town to watch him pitch, so he got to tell them that night over dinner – a belated birthday celebration for his mom – that he’d made the rotation. (Marquee)
- Not that he wants to stop competing – he previously told Marquee that he almost doesn’t like to think about it being a rotation competition that he was in, and that he might win the job and then get into preparation mode for the season. He just wants to keep competing. “That’s just the way I look at it and it gets my head in the right spot,” Wesneski said. “I’m not saying that it’s true or not true. It’s just one of those things where it keeps me in the right headspace cause all this stuff can get very distracting and I gotta remember that I have to throw a baseball over the plate, ultimately.”
- David Ross indicated that the decision was based on a combination of how good Wesneski looked last year in his debut, and also how ready to go he looks right now. “Piggybacking on last year and building up, he seems to be right where he left off,” Ross said, per the Tribune. “He’s throwing the ball really well, touched 97 (mph) the other day, so the arm strength is there, executing pitches. He’s earned it …. As much as we try not to judge spring training stats, (in) that competition (for the fifth starter job), Hayden pitched much better.”
- Speaking of the competition’s conclusion, Wesneski’s reaction when asked about it says a lot about his character. Via Cubs.com:
Asked about Sampson and Assad, Wesneski appeared to get emotional. The pitcher paused for eight seconds, collecting himself and organizing his thoughts, before answering.
“I’m glad to be on their team,” Wesneski said. “This is a tough spot to be in. I’ve learned a lot from Adrian and Assad. … Those guys are great human beings and they’re just as good of pitchers as they are people.”
- The decision in Wesneski’s favor definitely says more about him than it does about Adrian Sampson or Javier Assad, each of whom will be needed to contribute to this year’s big league team in one way or another.
- I do catch myself dreaming:
- The slider is obviously plus-plus. The sinker, cutter, and changeup seem to be playable, at least. But if he could get his four-seamer to plus … with his command? To pair with that slider and three other passable pitches? He wouldn’t just be a “made the rotation” guy at that point.
- I have to stop myself, though. Seeing that Wesneski has added velocity to his four-seamer is a great start, but we also need to know that he can locate it well and maybe has added a little more cut to it or something (and without its release point being too far off from the slider, which it was last year, and you could imagine teams starting to pick up his pitches on that basis). I do like to think about those developments, but I don’t want to create expectations.
- To the development point, here’s pitching coach Tommy Hottovy on what is yet to come (Cubs.com): “Last year, we saw just how talented he is and what he can do. He’s lived up to all the things that we kind of hoped he would be and put on his plate. It’s been fun to see him continue to grow. He knows there’s still a lot he wants to accomplish, and he wants to keep working on. This is kind of that first step for him.”
- And from Ross:
- For those wondering about the draft pick incentive tied to having prospects on your Opening Day roster, the Cubs won’t qualify to get one via Wesneski because he didn’t make two of the top 100 prospect lists. Which sucks, because (1) it seems pretty clear now that he’s one of the 100 best prospects in the game, and (2) the Cubs would’ve had the same incentive to hold him back (or not) for service time reasons, regardless of whether he was on the top 100 lists or not. It’s just that now, they had even LESS incentive to put him on the Opening Day roster. Good on the Cubs for proceeding all the same, but seems like an issue with that rule.
- Though Wesneski is nominally the “fifth” starter, that wouldn’t necessarily mean he has to appear in the fifth game of the season. I tend to think that’s how it is going to shake out, though, with the Cubs going Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, Drew Smyly, and then Wesneski in the first five games. That hasn’t yet been officially announced, though, and I’m not sure any of that group would necessarily care what order they go in – it’ll last about two weeks before it gets all mucked up by off-days or rainouts or injuries or whatever.
- More from Wesneski, Ross, and Hottovy on the decision: