Despite winning their last four series, the Chicago Cubs aren’t even close to sniffing the playoffs this year. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t positives to take away from a lost 2022 season. Multiple young players and prospects have shown that the Cubs could be taking productive steps in their rebuild. Two of those players are sophomore pitchers Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele.
A ‘Steele’ From the 5th Round of the 2014 Draft
After spending over six years in the minors, Steele showed he could play in the majors last season. After all, he put up a 1.32 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in nine games. Steele put up respectable numbers for a rookie pitcher. In 57 innings, Steele finished with a 4-4 record, 4.26 ERA, and 1.35 WHIP, while opposing batters only had a batting average of .233 against him.
This summer, Steele has shown that he deserves a spot in the Cubs rotation for years to come. In 22 games, the lefty has posted a 4-7 record with a 3.43 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, and 111 strikeouts. In his last seven starts, he holds a 1-2 record with an outstanding 1.66 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP with 44 strikeouts. He has not given up more than three earned runs in a game since June 23rd. The Pittsburgh Pirates tagged him for five earned runs that day.
Justin Steele is the best left-handed pitcher the Cubs have had since Jon Lester, Cole Hamels and Carlos Zambrano. Steele and Thompson are the two best homegrown pitchers the Cubs have had.
Thompson Gives the Cubs Versatility
Although his stats currently show that he is better as a long reliever, Thompson has also shown that he is a useful starter. He has appeared as a reliever in 26 innings this season. In that time, he has posted a 3-0 record with a phenomenal 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and batters only have a .184 average against him. While he is also useful as a starter, he’s still finding his way. He’s started 16 games this season with 74 2/3 innings. As a starter, he holds a 6-5 record while his ERA jumps to 4.46 with a 1.39 WHIP. His opponents also bat a much better average of .267 when he doesn’t come out also f the bullpen.
One former Cub that resembles Sean Marshall. Marshall, also a homegrown Cubs prospect, started as a starter but eventually found his success as a multi-inning reliever. For years, Marshall was a fan favorite in Chicago, and Thompson seems to be receiving similar love in his early years in the north.
There’s no question that the Cubs still need to make serious transactions to acquire more firepower this offseason. But receiving production from their young guys greatly speeds up the Cubs’ current rebuild process. If Thompson and Steele can anchor the back end of the rotation, with Marcus Stroman and, possibly, another high-profile arm at the front, the Cubs won’t be easy to score runs against.