Predicting the Cubs Opening Day 2024 Starting Rotation
Steele is the clear ace of the Cubs (David Banks - USA Today Sports)

Predicting the Cubs Opening Day 2024 Starting Rotation

by - Senior Writer -

When the 2023-24 offseason began, the Cubs and their fans learned quickly that Marcus Stroman wouldn't be exercising his player option, but would instead be hitting the free agent market. Given the rough season he had, what came as a shock to some also has to be a sigh of relief, as Stroman didn't do any favors with the fans or media in Chicago.

With his departure, the Cubs knew they would have to address the starting rotation at some point in free agency, both for the long and short-term fixtures. They did that by adding Shota Imanaga, but apart from him, this rotation will look virtually the same minus a few tweaks.

There are still some reports floating around that the Cubs are still in on Jordan Montgomery, and should they find a way to get him, this rotation is much deeper and will be in a better position heading into this upcoming season. As things currently stand, the Cubs have their starting five set for opening day, as four of the five starters made at least seven starts in 2023 and will be looking to build on last season.

Justin Steele:

Although not your typical ace when you look at some of the aces around the league, Steele quickly emerged as one of the National League's best pitchers for five months before falling off in September. That saw him land in the CY Young conversation most of the season, but given his high workload, you knew he would fall off eventually.

Like Jon Lester in terms of velocity and how he pitches, Steele will enter the season as the Cubs Ace, but that may not be the case as the season goes on, depending on how certain guys perform. Look for Steele to continue to develop into a better pitcher this season, as he remains the go-to guy in the Cubs' rotation.

Middle of the Rotation arms: Kyle Hendricks, Shota Imanaga, and Jameson Taillon:

The middle of the Cubs rotation is where things get interesting as you could make a case for having either one of these guys pitch in different orders. When you look at Imanaga, granted, he has yet to pitch on an MLB mound, but from an overall potential side, he may be the best of these three and should be positioned behind Steele.

Craig Counsell won't do that as he likes to split left-handers up, so look for Imanaga to settle in at the No.3 spot for now and go from there.

The Hendricks and Taillon debate is where things get interesting, and it could come down to overall spring performances to figure out who is No. 2 and who is No. 4.

When you look at Hendricks's body of work over his career, there is a reason why he was the Ace of the staff for three seasons, although injuries have caught up to him in recent seasons. He did return from shoulder surgery last year and looked the best he has since 2020, which could be enough to trust him against some of the better pitchers in the game.

Apart from Steele, Taillon was the Cubs most consistent and arguably the best pitcher during the season's final two months as he turned his season around after a rough start. Taillon looked like an ace at times and was dominating hitters from start to finish, as it took the Cubs roughly four months for that version to show up.

Now that it has, Taillon must continue to pitch as well as he did late in the season as his success could be the X-factor in the Cubs entire rotation. If you go based on how things finished in 2023, Taillon should be the No.2 arm on this staff, but look for the Cubs to maximize him by putting him No. 4.

Back end (No. 5 starter) Jordan Wicks:

While some still think the back end of the rotation will be decided during camp, it is Jordan Wicks spot to lose after reaching the Majors in August last season. The 2021 first-round draft pick from Kansas State, Wicks had a great season in the minors last year as he went a combined 11-0 across AA and AAA with an ERA around 3.6.

That alone earned him a call-up to the majors, where he not only set a Cubs record for most strikeouts in a first career start but also started his MLB career without a loss in five starts.

Like most rookies, Wicks hit a wall and went through a rough patch over his final three starts, but he will be given as many opportunities as anyone to hold down that final spot unless a guy like Cade Horton and others can prove otherwise.

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