Cubs News

Hayden Wesneski proving he belongs with Cubs

1 year agoTony Andracki

As the trade deadline approached last summer, it was apparent the Cubs were going to be sellers and they had several players that seemed likely to be traded.

Scott Effross was not one of them.

The 28-year-old reliever was in the midst of his first full big-league season and looked to be a major piece of the Cubs’ bullpen of the future.

Yet on Aug. 1, the rumor popped up that Effross was being dealt to the Yankees in exchange for a pitching prospect named Hayden Wesneski. The move was met with some understandable confusion from the Cubs fanbase.

Fast forward to this spring and Wesneski not only earned a spot in the Opening Day rotation but he’s also quickly becoming one of the team’s most popular players.

What a difference eight months makes.

Wesneski made his 2023 debut in Tuesday night’s 12-5 win over the Reds, allowing 3 runs in 4.2 innings of work. He entered spring in a battle with Javier Assad and Adrian Sampson for the final rotation spot and it became apparent that Wesneski was the obvious choice.

The 25-year-old right-hander posted a 2.12 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 17 innings in the Cactus League. This came on the heels of a strong 6-game debut in the big leagues down the stretch last season (3-2, 2.18 ERA, 0.94 WHIP in 33 innings). 

“He’s been really impressive,” Jed Hoyer said. “Seems unbelievably comfortable in a good way. He’s talking to all the veteran pitchers. Everything about the way he carries himself is that he belongs in the rotation; he belongs in the big leagues. That’s all we’ve seen.”

Hoyer also reflected back on the trade that brought Wesneski to Chicago. The Cubs front office opted to cash in a budding reliever for a young pitcher who has the potential to impact the team in a bigger way and throw more innings as a starting pitcher. 

The last eight months have been proof that the Cubs do not have buyer’s remorse.

“He’s been fantastic,” Hoyer said. “Obviously we traded a really good pitcher to get him but certainly glad we have him because it seems like he wants the ball every fifth day and is very confident that he’s gonna do well. There’s nothing I’ve seen in him that doesn’t believe he can stick in our rotation for a long time.”

Wesneski has a unique sense of self-awareness — even as a young big-leaguer — and also isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind. 

“I still don’t think I should be here,” he admitted after he was named the team’s fifth starter. “I know that sounds really — I don’t know — that’s just the way I look at it and it gets my head in the right spot.”

Wesneski believes that mindset has served him well to tune out the distractions and allow him to focus on proving what he can do. 

Wesneski pitched well throughout Spring Training but he also impressed the Cubs staff with how he conducted himself off the field. 

“What stands out to me is he does know a lot about how he wants to go about his business whether it’s in the weight room, his bullpens or competing,” David Ross said early in camp. “It’s just very much a veteran type of presence to how he goes about his business and what he wants to do.

“He works well with the coaches, he speaks the detailed language of some of the analytics and the spin and the shapes he wants to see out of his pitches. When you have somebody that’s aware of what they’re doing, it’s very easy for our coaching staff to work with him and be on the same page. 

“He’s been a real joy to get to know because it is all about how he’s setting up for success, which is gonna help us have success.”

At this time last year, Wesneski was getting ready for his season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate). He wasn’t even on the radar for Cubs fans and now he’s in a position where he could be a central part of the team’s rotation for years to come.

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