Cubs Prospect Focus: Ben Brown

Cubs Prospect Focus: Ben Brown

by - Senior Writer -

Following the COVID shortened 2020 season, the Cubs got off to a great start in 2021, and things were looking good. Then an 11-game losing streak ultimately sealed the team's fate as they turned into sellers at the deadline and got rid of their entire core. The same can be said about the 2022 season.

Granted, the team didn't have much success until the second half of the season; David Ross had to endure his third ten-game losing streak in a calendar year, while the ownership group continued to trade pieces from the MLB roster in hopes of rebuilding their farm system. One of those moves that has gone overlooked is the deal the Cubs made with the Philadelphia Phillies, where they sent closer David Robertson to Philly in exchange for RHP Ben Brown.

Ranked No. 7 in the Cubs system, Brown came out of nowhere once he was traded and has now firmly established himself as one of the better pitching prospects in the organization. Unlike most of the Cubs top-tier pitchers that were high draft picks, Brown was a 33rd-round pick in 2017 and has had to work extremely hard to get where he has gotten.

The 6-6 210-pound right-hander is an imposing figure on the mound that intimidates hitters the moment they step into the box to face him. Following the 2017 draft, Brown got off to a great start to begin his professional career as he posted a 2.57 ERA across 10 games in Rookie ball. The same can be said about 2018, where he made 10 starts and went 4-4 with a 3.65 ERA.

However, Brown would eventually have Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss the 2019 season and 202 as COVID took that season away from him. When the 2021 season got underway, no one knew what to expect from Brown as he was going nearly three years without throwing a pitch. It was not smooth sailing as the right-hander appeared in seven games (four starts) and posted an ERA north of 6.00.

While most people wrote Brown off to begin the 2022 season, he continued to work hard and finally had the breakout year he had been waiting for. He made a career-high 22 starts and was terrific across the board, going 6-5 with a 3.38 ERA. He walked 36 and struck out 139 as he overpowered hitters most of the season.

Once he found out he was traded to the Cubs, he made an immediate impact and made his presence felt during his first start with Tennessee. Not only did he toss five shutout innings with nine strikeouts, but he threw five no-hit innings and made quite an impression. For the season, Brown went 3-0 as a member of the Smokies and posted a 4.07 ERA in seven starts.

As expected, Brown is a hard thrower and consistently pumps his fastball up between 94-96 MPH. His high arm slot release does help generate that velocity, as he was seen touching 98 MPH several times with AA Tennessee. To go with that fastball comes a pair of breaking balls, including an 88 MPH slider. However, his sharp-breaking curveball is his best pitch, and that pitch comes in at 85 MPH.

For Brown to not only make the jump to AAA and eventually the MLB, but he also needs to develop another pitch to help him take on righties. That pitch is a change-up, as he is in the early stages of learning to throw that pitch. Once that comes around, you are looking at a four-pitch mix pitcher with frontline starting stuff.

Outside of his first season back from Tommy John surgery, Brown has provided consistent strikes, which is all you can ask for from a young pitcher. He has worked just 100 1/3 innings in his first five years as a pro, so he still needs innings to refine his stuff and command. Those innings started to tick upward last season, but look for the Cubs to stretch him out this season, as they want him to get in the habit of being a legitimate starting pitcher.

Brown has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter and could have the ingredients to become a late-inning reliever. When it comes to where he stands right now, Brown is being developed as a starter for the time being, but that could all change depending on the results this season. Either way, this is another strong arm for the Cubs to build around as they aim toward another World Series Title.

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