Cubs Prospect Focus: Hayden Wesneski
Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports

Cubs Prospect Focus: Hayden Wesneski

by - Senior Writer -

As much as it sucks to lose as much as this team has done the past few seasons, you have to give credit where credit is due. Jed Hoyer was put in a challenging position when he took over this team and has done a phenomenal job of helping rebuild this organization.

Not only did he trade away aging players on expiring contracts, but he also managed to acquire some of the best prospect talent in return to make this team a legitimate contender down the road. That process has made the Cubs a top-10 farm system while also stockpiling the system with a ton of depth.

One of the moves Hoyer made came last summer, and it could prove extremely valuable this season. With Scott Effross being one of the team's best relievers last season, Hoyer used that to his advantage and dealt him to the New York Yankees ahead of the deadline. In return, the Cubs received Hayden Wesneski, and the rest is history.

Sitting at No. 12 in the current prospect rankings, Wesneski will not be considered a prospect much longer and has the best shot to make the major leagues out of camp. You could even argue that he has the best stuff among all the pitching prospects, as he has already shown some success at the MLB level.

Like many pitchers nowadays, Wesneski has been pushed through the system faster than in years past as the 2019 sixth-round pick reached the majors after just two seasons in the minors. After struggling in his professional debut in 2019, Wesneski took the 2020 COVID season to work on a few things and then returned better than ever.

It was in 2021 when he put himself on the map making 24 starts in the Yankees system and going 11-6 with a 3.25 ERA across 130 innings. Not only that, but he recorded 151 strikeouts that season and walked just 36. Given the type of season he had in 2021, Wesneski was pushing for the majors last season but couldn't duplicate that success.

He still made 23 starts and posted a respectable 3.92 ERA, but he only went 6-9 while his strikeout numbers did take a hit. Following the trade that sent him to the Cubs, Wesneski was sent to AAA Iowa and immediately struggled to get going posting a near 6.00 ERA during his time.

Still, the Cubs felt his stuff was good enough to warrant an opportunity towards the end of the season and thus promoted him to the Majors in September. Although brief, Wesneski did appear in six games for the Cubs, four of which came as starts. He gave the team 33 innings and went 3-2 with a 2.18 ERA, 7BB/33K.

I get that it is a limited sample size, but those kinds of results have given the Cubs organization plenty of confidence in him as he will be given a chance to make the starting rotation in spring this season. Like many of the Cubs pitching prospects, Wesneski is a hard thrower as he sits in the 92-94 MPH range, but is closer to 94-95.

You have also noticed a second fastball to his repertoire as he has added a newly revamped four-seamer that can touch 98 occasionally. While that is all well and good, his slider continues to separate him, as that is one of the best breaking balls in baseball.

Not only does it sit around 82 MPH velocity-wise, but it has such an incredible break that it acts like a frisbee when it barrels toward home plate. Throw that in with an 84 MPH change, and Wesneski has the arsenal and the tools to keep anyone off balance which is all you can ask for from a young pitcher.

Wesneski pounded the strike zone throughout his college career and has continued to do so in pro ball, even as his stuff has leaped forward. He's deceptive, too, and hitters don't get good swings against him and struggle to lift the ball when they make contact. His competitive demeanor is another asset, and he could help Chicago in the big leagues soon.

Given the amount of depth the Cubs have in their starting rotation, it could be challenging for Wesneski to break camp with the team unless he completely wows them. However, that is what spring training is for, and he will be given every opportunity to prove his worth.

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