Projecting what the 2023 Cubs starting rotation looks like
Opening Day of the 2023 MLB season is more than eight months away, but that isn’t stopping us from projecting what the Cubs’ rotation might look like to begin next year.
On Wednesday’s Cubs Live! pregame show, Rick Sutcliffe put on his Nostradamus hat and penciled in the team’s starting five.
A caveat: Sutcliffe acknowledged off the top that this list does not factor in any offseason additions via free agency or trade.
Here’s what “The Red Baron” came up with:
1. Kyle Hendricks
2. Marcus Stroman
3. Keegan Thompson
4. Justin Steele
5. Caleb Kilian
Kilian, 25, is the Cubs’ top pitching prospect and the right-hander made his MLB debut earlier in the season. He struggled over his 3 starts with a 10.32 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 11.1 innings.
But Kilian has legit stuff and has been good in Triple-A Iowa this season (2-1, 3.83 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 10.7 K/9) and Sutcliffe has liked what he’s seen from him.
“I’m real happy with just looking at this young right-hander,” Sutcliffe said. “This guy was throwing 98 in spring training. He was throwing his secondary for strikes.
“I think maybe he got to the big leagues and decided, ‘I have to be a little bit better.’ No you don’t. Just keep filling it up with that good stuff and his confidence will come. This guy has a chance to be like a 1-2-3 type starting pitcher in that rotation.”
Sutcliffe also had a great story on Thompson, who pitched a gem against the Dodgers last week in Los Angeles (8 Ks, 2 Hs, BB, 1 unearned run in 5.2 innings).
Sutcliffe was working that series as an analyst on the Marquee Sports Network broadcasts and the day after Thompson’s outing, he rode the ballpark elevator with Cubs catcher Yan Gomes (who caught Thompson).
“I go, ‘Yan, tell me what you saw last night,'” Sutcliffe said. “He goes, ‘Sut, I’m not one to exaggerate. I’ve caught a lot of aces. I’ve caught a lot of No. 1 pitchers in Cleveland with Corey Kluber. Last night, I caught a No. 1.’
“That’s how good he was against the best lineup in the National League. This guy was outstanding. He continues to get better. We know he’s a shutdown type guy in the bullpen. Now we know he can be a shutdown type guy in the starting rotation. That’s a solid No. 3 right there.”
Not only has Gomes caught Kluber, but he has also been behind the plate for aces like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg during his time with the Nationals.
That’s some pretty high praise from Gomes and would bode very well for the future of the Cubs if Thompson indeed develops into an ace.
For now, the 27-year-old right-hander is a very valuable pitcher. He’s been arguably the most consistent arm on the Cubs staff this season with a 7-3 record, 3.04 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 19 games (11 starts).
Stroman and Hendricks are the big question marks at the top of the 2023 rotation mostly because of health. Stroman is in the rotation now but has made just 10 starts and accounted for 51.1 innings this season.
Hendricks is currently on the 15-day IL with a shoulder injury and David Ross said Wednesday the veteran right-hander won’t throw at all for 2-3 weeks to rest and recover. That means Hendricks may not pitch again until September — if at all this season.
“Sucks for Kyle, stinks for us but we’ll go about our business and he’ll be back as soon as he can,” Ross said.
The 32-year-old had an inconsistent start to the season before missing a couple weeks in early June due to the shoulder issue. He looked like he was righting the ship at the end of the month but had to leave his start in Milwaukee early on July 5 and headed to the IL.
Hendricks will be a big key to the Cubs rotation in 2023. Before the up-and-down last couple of seasons, he had a career 3.12 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. If he can stay healthy and return to that form, that would be a huge boon to the team.