State of the Cubs: Where the Cubs starting rotation stands in 2022 and beyond
With the lockout over and Spring Training kicking into gear, the focus shifts to the Cubs’ roster. Jed Hoyer, Carter Hawkins and the rest of the front office still have some holes to fill before the first regular season game on April 7.
We break down the organizational depth chart at each position post-lockout and what to expect in 2022 and beyond.
Next up: Starting Pitcher
- Kyle Hendricks
- Marcus Stroman
- Wade Miley
- Alec Mills
- Justin Steele
- Drew Smyly
- Keegan Thompson
The Cubs made one of the biggest splashes in the offseason signing free agent pitcher Marcus Stroman to a 3-year deal. He posted a 3.02 ERA and a 1.145 WHIP in 2021 with the Mets. In 7 big league seasons, Stroman has a 3.63 ERA and a 1.266 WHIP.
In Stroman, the Cubs have a workhorse — he pitched 179 innings in 33 starts last year and had 16 quality starts. He averaged 5.42 innings per start last season and potentially gives the Cubs something they didn’t have in 2020 — length. Last season, the Cubs struggled to have consistency from their rotation and, early in the season when the Cubs were one of the best teams in baseball, the team relied on innings coverage from young arms Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson. This year, they’ll hope that the additions of Stroman and lefty Wade Miley and a return to form from Kyle Hendricks will give the Cubs length they sorely missed last year.
That’s another key element for the Cubs starting rotation in 2022 — a bounceback season for Hendricks. He pitched to a career-worst 4.77 ERA and a 1.348 WHIP last season. He believes he’s found a fix to that this season.
“Some was approach oriented — I just wasn’t seeing my stuff right during the season — [and] some was a little bit more mechanical. I just got a little more robotic, not as athletic-moving and free flowing, almost,” Hendricks said. “So I just had to get out of it, take a couple of weeks in the offseason and then put my focus back on being more athletic just letting it move and creating angle down in the zone again.”
Miley is another important part of the Cubs staff in 2022. He was claimed off waivers from the Reds and provides veteran leadership and the ability to pitch deep into games. He had the 5th highest bWAR among NL pitchers (5.6) and posted a 3.37 ERA last season with Cincinnati.
The last two rotation spots are a bit foggier for the Cubs. Manager David Ross said that both Mills and Steele are being stretched out in spring to be starters. But there’s other options, too. Drew Smyly was signed to a big-league deal and won a World Series last year with the Braves. Thompson was stretched out last season and made 6 starts in the big leagues.
The future of the Cubs’ rotation is a bit of a mixture of guys like Steele, Thompson and Adbert Alzolay — who will start the season on the 60-day IL — and prospects in the minor leagues. The Cubs have a myriad of pitchers in the lower to mid levels of the major leagues who could be big league starters, like 2021 first round pick Jordan Wicks, Caleb Kilian (who the Cubs acquired in the Kris Bryant trade) Kohl Franklin, DJ Herz and others.
On paper, the Cubs have dramatically improved their starting rotation from 2021. If Hendricks can return to his norm and Stroman pitches to the levels he has in the past, then the Cubs could have a potent 1-2 punch. The Cubs hope that the veteran stability of Miley can provide innings and coverage and Steele can continue to improve and become a capable big-league starter.