Cubs Prospect Profile: Ben Brown

Cubs Prospect Profile: Ben Brown

by - Senior Writer -

Over the past four seasons, the Cubs organization has made a dramatic shift from focusing on power bats and instead developing an influx of pitching. While that process has taken a lot longer than many fans would've liked, you started to see the process last season with Justin Steele and several other young arms coming up during the season.

That is only the beginning as the Cubs have a plethora of incoming arms ready to help this team and two of them land inside the Cubs top five prospects list and the top 100 list in baseball. Ben Brown is one of those men and checks in at No. 5 on the Cubs top 30 list and cracks the top 100 list for MLB Pipeline. Initially a 33rd-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies, Brown elected to skip college and remained in the Phillies system until he was traded to Chicago in 2022 as part of the David Robertson deal.

Signed to a 60K contract in 2017, Brown could have gone to college to make more money, but he trusted in his ability to turn himself into a reliable pitcher. I would say his hard work has paid off, as Brown is one of the most hyped prospects in the Cubs system, but he did go through some struggles this past season. Things didn't go well for Brown early on in his career as he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019 before missing the entire 2020 season due to COVID. That means before the start of the 2022 campaign, Brown had logged just over 25 professional innings, which was a concern for many people.

Brown quickly erased those concerns in 2022 as he made 22 starts that season, going 6-5 and reaching Double-A while compiling a 3.38 ERA with 149 strikeouts in 104 frames. Brown went 3-0 in his seven AA starts with the Cubs organization while posting a 4.06 ERA, 13 walks, and 44 strikeouts. The potential was there for him to be a frontline starter, but for that to happen, 2023 was going to be a huge year.

For the most part, Brown continued to produce with Iowa this past season, but did have to go through some injury issues during the second half. Even with that, he appeared in 26 games, 19 coming as starts, and posted an 8-8 record with a 4.27 ERA. If there was a concern from this season, it was the command issues he did have at times, as he walked 57 batters in 92 innings but also struck out 130. That was nearly as many walks in one season as he had his entire career, so it will be interesting to see how he responds next season.

Ideally, the Cubs would love for him to be a starter, but given what they have in the rotation right now, Brown may be headed to the pen to get to the bigs much quicker. That is why the Cubs did it last season, and despite him having up and down results, they seem happy with what they saw in a relief role. At 6-6 and 210 pounds, Brown is an imposing figure on the mound that can intimidate many hitters. He also uses a high arm slot with that height to blow his fastball by hitters as that pitch often sits in the 95-96 MPH range, but has topped out at 99.

However, his best pitch is a secondary offering, as the power curve may be the best pitch in the entire system and one of the best in all of minor league baseball. Typically sitting at 85, that curve generates a ton of swing and misses while offering an incredible downward break. He also has a hard slider/cutter that can reach 91 mph and stands out more for its depth than its horizontal action, and he's working on developing a more distinct break with it. He was working on that after going to the pen, as the Cubs wanted him to focus on being a three-pitch instead of the normal two he was accustomed to.

Given that he barely pitched his first three years as a pro, Brown never had a chance to develop his change, which often sits around 88. That could be the next step in his development stage, as four pitchers would make him a hitters nightmare. He keeps his long levers in sync but has inconsistent control partly because he tends to work at the top and bottom of the strike zone. The Cubs love his mound presence and could have a mid-rotation starter or late-inning reliever on their hands. Look for the 2024 season to be the most important, as he could be in the majors by next summer or be used as trade bait for a bigger player.

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