Cubs Prospect Profile: Michael Arias
Photo courtesy: MiLB

Cubs Prospect Profile: Michael Arias

by - Senior Writer -

Every offseason, there comes a time within an organization when tough decisions must be made regarding their minor league roster. This is known as the Rule 5 draft process, where teams can protect players from other teams and risk losing them if not protected. The only way to protect those players is by adding them to the 40-man roster, while those not added are free for the taking.

This season, the Cubs were forced to make some of the more difficult decisions they have had in years, and they knew other teams would most likely swoop up the ones left off of the 40-man roster. You saw that with Yonathan Perlaza, who elected to sign overseas to make real money, but several other guys knew their future was in doubt.

One of those guys is the Cubs No. 12 prospect in RHP Michael Arias, as he has now officially been added to the Cubs 40-man roster. Initially signed as an International Free Agent by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018, Arias began his career as a shortstop before being let go in 2020. The Cubs pounced on the opportunity to sign him and added him to their organization ahead of the 2021 season, where they began his transformation to become a pitcher.

It was a move that brought many questions, especially when you look at how his first two seasons with his new organization went where Arias spent most of his time in Rookie ball, walking nearly a batter per inning. However, 2023 was a vastly different story as Arias not only went to full-season ball this season but dominated at times, as he may have some of the best pure stuff in the Cubs system.

When you look at his overall record, you will see him at 1-10, which is terrible. However, a 4.09 ERA is worth noting, as he wasn't as bad as his record indicated. With Myrtle Beach, Arias started 11 games with the Cubs and posted a 1-4 mark. His 2.55 ERA stood out as he quickly emerged as the team's ace throughout the first half of the season. The 24BB/62K ratio was promising, as was his .168 batting average, as teams couldn't figure out how to hit him.

His performance earned him a promotion to South Bend, where things were an absolute struggle. Not only did he post an 0-6 record with the Cubs, but his 5.77 ERA was also a concern as Arias got hit hard and often. His walk rate remained the same, but his overall strikeout numbers were well down, with the opponent's batting average going up more than 100 points. Still, despite his struggles, Arias started to figure things out toward the end of the season, and even with a 5-15 career mark, his ERA is still under 4.00.

Arias is a 6-0 155-pound fringy pitcher who resembles Carl Edwards Jr regarding his body type. However, Arias pitches much bigger than his frame would indicate and generates a ton of velocity from what is considered an arm slot close to sidearm. His fastball ranges from 94-98 MPH and has consistently sat at 96 the past two seasons. With that comes terrific run and sinking action, making it look like two different heaters.

Arias has started to redefine his secondary pitches, with his mid-80s change-up being his go-to secondary offering. This pitch also has a ton of sink and can be a real weapon once he irons everything out. His mid-80s slider can be tough on right-handers when he stays on top of it and creates some bite, though it can flatten out when he gets underneath it. Expect that to be the pitch he spends a ton of time working with this season, as that could be the key to unlocking his full potential.

While we saw how good he can be at times this past season, Arias is still very new to pitching, so his future role is unclear at this time. He has the pure stuff to be a front-of-the-line starter or back-end of the bullpen guy, but his command issues need to get ironed out before any defined role can be had.

His low slot and whippy arm action create deception and hamper his ability to throw strikes. He has the upside of a quality starter or a high-leverage reliever but will need plenty of innings to develop. Look for the Cubs to bring him along slowly, but also look for them to challenge him much more this season.

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