Jed Hoyer shocked the world when he traded Yu Darvish to the Padres for Zach Davies and four prospects with practically no professional experience. Since then, he’s rebuilt an entire staff that also lost Jon Lester, José Quintana, and sometimes-starter Tyler Chatwood.
The Cubs executive had specific details in mind when selecting those replacements. None are considered big throwers but have exhibited command and good movement with their pitches and tend to keep runners off of the basepaths. Each has a minor flaw or two that seems correctible enough that Hoyer is relying solely on the professionalism of the players and the team’s esteemed Pitch Lab to correct or mask them.
The additions of Shelby Miller and Jake Arrieta could make or break Hoyer’s rotation. Were it 2015, adding those two toDavies and Kyle Hendricks would give the Cubs one of the best rotations in baseball. Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award that year while going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA. Miller somehow lost 17 games, but his peripherals were outstanding: 3.02 ERA with a 3.45 FIP; a 127 ERA+; and 171 strikeouts in 205 innings pitched. Miller was 5-5 at the All-Star break before losing 12 in a row with three no-decisions, allowing just 40 earned runs across 95.1 innings in those 15 starts (3.78 ERA).
Shelby Miller with two punchouts in the 1st. pic.twitter.com/YJtEwzfQSe
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 6, 2021
While Arrieta is a lock for the rotation, Miller seems to be slotted for a hybrid role of sorts if he breaks North with the team in a few weeks. He just wants a chance to help the Cubs, no matter how David Ross decides to deploy him.
“Whatever the opportunity is,” the 30-year-old Miller said. “However I can help this team win is what I’ll do. I’m really preparing to build up just in case that kind of opportunity [starting] presents itself. Coming out of the pen or starting, who knows?”
Kohl Stewart and Trevor Williams are also new additions looking to earn a spot on the big league roster, preferably as starters. Along with Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay, those two are competing for the team’s final rotation slots. If you were handicapping the race, it would likely be Alzolay, Williams, Miller, and Stewart. All are pitching well so far, though the situation may dictate they shuffle in and out of the rotation throughout the season.
Chicago’s starting staff could go as deep as nine or 10 if you consider that rookies Brailyn Márquez and Gray Fenter could be called on for occasional spot starts. Hoyer’s plan was to go quantity over quality, relying on a group of rookies and reclamation projects to produce 800-900 innings of starting pitching. It’s reasonable to expect 160-180 innings apiece from the top three, barring injuries. Everybody else will be counted on to make up that difference.
Cubs News & Notes
- Miller is among five under-the-radar players who have put up strong numbers this spring.
- Arrieta is quite confident that he is going to have a very good season.
- Joc Pederson is having the camp of his life and clubbed two more home runs yesterday, one in the 1st inning and another in his next at-bat in the 3rd inning.
- The Cubs beat the Rockies 8-6 yesterday, improving their Cactus League record to 7-3.
- Javier Báez also belted a home run in yesterday’s win, his second in exhibition play.
- David Bote has had a bit of a tough run so far. The backup infielder is slashing just .188/.316/.375 through seven Cactus League games.
- Backup catcher Austin Romine has been sidelined with a knee sprain.
- Jason Heyward is the team’s undeniable leader, a role he has grown into and genuinely relishes.
- The Cubs and White Sox have yet to meet in Cactus League action this year. That changes Monday and, of course, Dylan Cease and Eloy Jiménez will be there to needlessly remind all Cubs fans of the Quintana trade back in 2017. It’s just not as lopsided as some fans believe it to be.
Odds & Sods
“Well, Nuke’s scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man’s here. We need a live … is it a live rooster? We need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose’s glove, and nobody seems to know what to get Millie or Jimmy for their wedding present. That about right? We’re dealing with a lot of shit here.” – Crash Davis, Bull Durham
Trevor Bauer, what is the point my dude?
Trevor Bauer hits batter with one eye open 😂 pic.twitter.com/XnagqVFmbe
— Baseball Doesn't Exist (@BaseballDoesnt) March 12, 2021
Spring Training News & Notes
Major League Baseball will experiment with several rule changes in the minor leagues this season, including an automated strike zone, restrictions on defensive positioning, and larger bases.
Up until now, all teams have been using the DH in spring training games along with a host of other rules, but that will change as of Sunday. Relief pitchers again will be facing the three-batter limit under most circumstances and the length of games will mostly stretch to a full nine innings to give pitchers and hitters the necessary reps needed to prepare for the renewal of a 162-game season.
This season could be a last hurrah of sorts for some veteran Astros players. Shortstop Carlos Correa and right-handed starters Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. will be free agents after this season.
Mets starter Jacob deGrom is throwing some serious gas. He threw 10 pitches that hit triple digits last night and in one electrifying sequence, the Flushing ace went 101, 101, 100 to Steven Souza Jr., before striking out the Astros outfielder on a slider to end the 1st inning.
Out of Left Field
The same sock had previously sold in 2013 for $92,613. Who would pay that much for a sock?
The 2015 stats of some the Cubs’ veteran starters indicate a boatload of potential, especially since Arrieta is the only one 35 or older.
- Hendricks 8-7, 3.95 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 1.16 WHIP
- Davies (September call-up) 3-2, 3.71, 3.81, 1.20
- Arrieta 22-6, 1.77, 2.35, 0.86
- Miller 6-17, 3.02, 3,45, 1.25
It’s awkward seeing Kyle Schwarber in a Nationals uniform. It may be something we never get used to.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 11, 2021
They Said It
- “I think he [Shelby Miller can help us in different ways]. I think he could be a swingman. I think he could give us an inning of some real electric stuff out of the bullpen if we asked. Talking to him, he’s willing to do whatever to make the team and to be a part of this team. He’s had some bumps in his journey, but I feel like he’s in a really good place for us.” –David Ross
- “Do I think there’s 94 or 95 [for Arrieta] in there? I absolutely do. And once we clean up this delivery a little bit more and keep working, I think that [velocity] can move up a tick or two.” – Tommy Hottovy
- “That’s rewarding for me to know that, OK, I don’t need 98 [mph]. I don’t have to have that to pitch at an extremely high level. Do I still want a lot of velocity and to have these breaking balls with extremely high spin rates? Sure, of course, but it’s not always necessary to get the job done at a high level.” – Jake Arrieta
- “I just think it’s my responsibility. It’s my time.” – Jason Heyward
Friday Walk Up Song