Cubs will use Toronto as an opportunity to get a look at young pitchers
The Cubs are making the most of a tough situation.
The team would obviously like to have Justin Steele and Adrian Sampson eligible to pitch in Toronto but with enough advance notice, they were able to work around the situation and restructure the staff.
As a result, the Cubs can use the series in Toronto to get a snapshot of what young pitchers like Brendon Little and Jeremiah Estrada can bring to the table.
The Cubs officially placed Sampson and Steele on the restricted list Monday afternoon and added Little to the roster as a substitute player. The Cubs can get a second replacement player (Estrada) for Tuesday and Wednesday’s games.
This represents the first big league experience for Little and Estrada and neither pitcher needs to be added to the 40-man roster spot as a replacement player. However, both players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter if the Cubs do not protect them on the 40-man roster, so this is a perfect opportunity to get a look at them against MLB hitters.
Little, 26, was the Cubs’ 1st round pick (27th overall) in 2017. He has a 4.15 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 29 games this season for Triple-A Iowa, working as a multi-inning reliever. He struck out 41 batters in 39 innings.
The left-hander split last season between Double-A and Triple-A and had solid results (3.24 ERA, 11.4 K/9 in 41.2 IP). He began his career as a starter but moved to a full-time reliever in the 2021 season.
Estrada made Lance Brozdowski’s Top 25 Cubs midseason prospect rankings and was a 6th round pick in 2017. He signed for $1 million out of Palm Desert High School in California.
The 23-year-old right-hander has been downright dominant this season with a 1.30 and 1.06 WHIP across 3 levels. He has not allowed a run in 6 innings in Triple-A.
Estrada has also racked up whiffs at an elite rate, striking out 78 batters in 48.1 innings to go along with 9 saves.
If both pitchers get into a game, it will mean each of the Cubs’ first 7 picks from the 2017 Draft has appeared in an MLB game.
Cory Abbott (2nd round) and Keegan Thompson (3rd) made their MLB debuts last season while Erich Uelmen (4th) and Nelson Velázquez (5th) debuted this season. Alex Lange — the Cubs’ other 1st round pick after Little — has made 92 appearances out of the Detroit Tigers bullpen the last 2 seasons after the Cubs traded him away for Nick Castellanos in 2019.