Hayden Wesneski's Latest Outing Highlighted Where He Is Now, and Where He Could Go

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Hayden Wesneski’s Latest Outing Highlighted Where He Is Now, and Where He Could Go

Chicago Cubs

With both Jameson Taillon and Kyle Hendricks getting very close to a big league return, we are, in turn, getting very close to having to discuss what the Cubs should do with their rotation. They COULD go with a six-man rotation for a bit, but given the limitation on pitchers on the roster (max of 13), I strongly doubt they will.

So, the likeliest outcome is that rookie Hayden Wesneski – fair or unfair – would be the guy moved out. He’s got minor league options, which would be the main factor, but I would also say that his time in the big leagues so far this year has shown he still has some development work to do.

Wesneski’s start last night against the Nationals was a good example, because it featured heavily on the two things I think are his biggest issues at the moment: (1) he is not particularly sharp to open up the game, and (2) his fastball command is just not there.

To be sure, Wesneski had some success last night, and absolutely did have a few innings where he looked close to being locked in. But I also worry that a better lineup than the Nationals would’ve made him pay in the early innings, and also might’ve been better able to elevate all the hard contact he was allowing. He performed closer to a solid back-of-the-rotation type than a guy who allows only one run through six innings of work. I think his ceiling is more mid-rotation, so that’s why I think there is more work to do.

Which isn’t to say I’d option him to Iowa any time soon absent the coming rotation glut. There’s probably a lot of value in allowing him to work on his early inning issues and fastball command against big league batters. Batters who WILL pounce on him early if he’s not locked in. Batters who WILL sit on his nasty slider, knowing that he isn’t going to locate the fastball on them.

That, by the way, has been the trickiest thing as I’ve watched: I see so many batters either making good contact on sliders in the zone, or, more frequently, laying off good sliders that break out of the zone. I think Wesneski is actually executing a lot of those sliders really well in isolation. But if that’s the only pitch he can consistently execute well, batters can either key on it, or take it entirely off the table until they get to two strikes. I love seeing Wesneski incorporate the cutter and the changeup, which both have good shapes, but neither pitch is consistently there for him. I also loved seeing Wesneski using both the sinker and the four-seamer as his base fastball, but the sinker never quite looks like a fully-cooked pitch. And the four-seamer, for all its velocity gains, does not have great shape and he doesn’t locate it well.

I don’t know how you best deal with those issues other than to keep working on the secondaries and seeing if a mechanical tweak can improve fastball shape and location. Doing that in the big leagues, while the Cubs are trying to win games and stay competitive, is obviously challenging.

Again, it’s not hard to see how Wesneski could be a useful back-end starter, even with this profile. Outside of that Mariners implosion start, he’s had some really good outings overall. I feel like I’m being too hard on him, which isn’t my intention; it’s just that I can see the bones there for a guy who can be REALLY good, and I want to see him get there.

I want him to be so good that this trademark winds up making him a zillionaire:

OK, maybe a zillionaire is a bridge too far, but he absolutely has the raw stuff to make WEZNASTY gear sell out.

He may be an average fastball shape (either the sinker or the four-seamer) away from making the slider work so much more, making the cutter and changeup both play, and improving his command. Do that one thing, and he’s instantly a midrotation guy with his stuff. Transform one or two of those other secondaries into a plus offering? Then you’re really talking about WEZNASTY.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.