Cubs bolster depth with Brad Wieck, Ryan Borucki
Jeff Curry - USA Today Sports

Cubs bolster depth with Brad Wieck, Ryan Borucki

by - Senior Writer -

Lost in the shuffle of the Eric Hosmer move, which became official on Wednesday, the Cubs were very busy on the pitching front. This time it was not a starter, but instead, not one, but two relievers being added to their organization to provide them depth along the way.

Both are left-handers, which this team could use, and both have the potential to contribute in a big way eventually.

Brad Wieck

The first of those lefties is a name that most Cubs fans should be familiar with in Brad Wieck. The tall and imposing 6-8 figure Wieck has been in the Cubs system for several years now, but has only seen minimal action at best. That is because he has dealt with a series of injuries, including an irregular heartbeat, shoulder injuries, and the latest of them, Tommy John.

That is not something you like to hear regarding a 31-year-old pitcher, but when he was on the mound, Wieck was dominant to the point where the Cubs gave him a rare two-year minor league deal. You have to wonder if that is primarily knowing he may not pitch this season and instead are hoping he returns with a vengeance in 2023.

The last time we saw Wieck was in 2021, when he was the Cubs best reliever for the better part of a month. During that time, Wieck threw 17 scoreless innings while posting an eye-popping 39.4% K rate. That is primarily due to his 12-6 curve that starts behind a left-handed hitter's head and drops to the middle. Wieck has always been a big strikeout guy, even if the velocity is not what you would expect it to be.

Given what the Cubs saw from Wieck before his surgery, you can see the potential and the high upside he brings to the table. That is the main reason the Cubs are keeping him around, and hopefully, he can return to the mound at some point this season in preparation for an eventual MLB return.

Ryan Borucki

The second addition is a name far less familiar to Cubs fans, lefty Ryan Borucki. At 28 years old, Borucki has far more experience than Wieck and saw action in 21 games with the Mariners last season after spending five seasons with the Blue Jays. Borucki posted a 4.26 ERA last season, but the 6-4 210-pounder brings plenty of upside.

Not only is Borucki a big dude, but he is also a big dude that can throw hard, averaging better than 95 MPH with his fastball. Not to mention that fastball has tremendous sink associated with and he could become a lethal ground ball specialist. No doubt the Cubs want an infusion of possible velocity from the left-handed side, and given that Brandon Hughes is the only sure-fire lefty reliever in the big league mix right now, this is as good a place as any for Borucki to try to break out.

Given that Anthony Kay, Eric Stout, and Roenis Elias are other left-handed options in the minor leagues, Borucki will be given every chance to impress in camp to prove he is worthy of a roster spot at some point. His best year came in 2018 when he posted a 3.87 ERA as a soft-tossing starter before moving to the bullpen.

Once he made that move, you saw his stuff significantly improve, including having his fastball jump by an average of three MPH. While most Cubs fans want to see Andrew Chafin or a high-quality lefty come into Chicago, Borucki will come to Spring Training to compete for a bullpen job. Though the bullpen limit of eight pitchers, plus the overall volume of options the Cubs have available, could squeeze him out initially, even if he’s looking good.

With the addition of these two guys, you had to expect someone, most likely a pitcher, to be the odd man out. That man was Erich Uelmen, who saw action with the Cubs in the second half of last season. A reasonably hard thrower himself, Uelmen lived off his sweeping slider that saw him post a 2.81 ERA in Iowa across 34 games.

Those numbers could have been better in the majors, than Uelmen often struggled with command and posted a 4.67 ERA during the second half. He was sent to the Phillies for cash considerations after spending several seasons in the Cubs minor league system.

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