The Cubs Have a Type: Get to Know Pitching Prospects Acquired at Trade Deadline

Last year, it took a rather lengthy post to introduce all of the prospects acquired during the mass exodus of beloved Cubs. I had mentally prepared for something similar this year with the expectation that the front office would send away big-time talent in Willson Contreras and Ian Happ to go along with at least five other players.

Instead, it was a relatively measly five players — including one that hasn’t seen the light of day in Chicago — that got shipped out, bringing back a whopping *checks notes* three prospects. While it might not be as extensive as previously expected, let’s learn a little bit more about those three guys, shall we?

Hayden Wesneski – (Acquired from Yankees for Scott Effross)

This post is dedicated to the prospects, so I shouldn’t go off on a tangent about how sad I am to see Effross leave and how his work ethic, personality, and genuine passion for the game are something that is supremely valuable to an organization…so I won’t. But I will say that his breakout season, paired with the fact that he is under team control for the next five seasons, brought back the best prospect of the bunch this season.

Wesneski is a nearly MLB-ready starting pitcher who has been skyrocketing up prospect rankings thanks in part to a pitch Cubs fans should be growing all too familiar with — a sweeper slider. The 6-foot-3 righty spent time at three different levels in the Yankees system in 2021, including 15 starts in Double-A working with current Cubs assistant pitching coach Daniel Moskos when he was the pitching coach for Somerset.

Moskos helped Wesneski with two very important things that have caused his stock to soar since he was drafted in the sixth round in 2019. He worked on that patented slider that is a true plus pitch and one that can be used to get both righties and lefties out. It immediately becomes one of the best singular pitches in the organization. Moskos also helped Wesneski improve his mechanical efficiency, which led to an increase in fastball velo.

Those two elements of Wesneski’s story play directly into the organization’s recent strategy of high upside thanks to developmental tweaks centered around a fastball/sweeping slider combo. Throw in his lightly-used but potentially advanced changeup and you’re looking at a really solid middle-of-the-rotation starter in Chicago.

Given Wesneski’s proximity to the bigs already, we could see some fruits of this trade package as early as later this year.

Ben Brown – (Acquired from Phillies for David Robertson)

Well, the Cubs certainly have a type, huh? Brown is a 6-foot-6 righty who is preparing for his first taste of Double-A as a 22-year-old. He already has the two-pitch mix the Cubs like to develop, but in looking at his stats, he is even more impressive than the nasty stuff would indicate.

Brown throws an absurd amount of strikes. In fact, his 68.5% strike rate is now the best in the Cubs farm system (no min. IP). Unlike other pitchers who throw lots of strikes, Brown’s are missing bats. His CSW% (Called Strikes + Whiffs) of 33.7% is the best in the system with a minimum of 40 innings pitched, meaning he is generating his fair share of swings and misses even when he is in the zone with his offerings.

That’s a profile that you’d love to see in the starting rotation long-term and I think it’s possible for him to hold up for multiple-inning outings. The snag will be whether or not he is able to separate his breaking pitch into two distinct offerings — a slider and a curveball — and keep tabs on a changeup that he can use to get lefty batters out.

Brown was promoted up to Double-A in the Phillies system literally the day before he was dealt to the Cubs, so expect to see him finish out the year in Tennessee.

Saúl González – (Acquired from Mets for Mychal Givens)

González seemed to be a bit of a forgotten man through all of the chaos Tuesday because he was announced as the return for Givens at nearly the same time as news broke about Contreras and Happ sticking around. Fortunately, his mound presence forces you to not forget him as he stands 6-foot-7 and 288 pounds.

While you would assume he brings the heat on the bump given his size, he actually sits more in the lower-90s with his fastball out of the bullpen. Working strictly a reliever this season at the Mets’ Single-A affiliate, González has proven he has the ability to work multiple innings by exceeding one inning in nine of his 14 outings this year.

We have the least amount of info on González among this trio, but something worth pointing out is his impressively low 16.4% fly ball rate. That number is good for fourth best in the system this year. Where González matches up with the other two higher-rated prospects acquired is in his strikeout and walk rates, sitting at 27.6% and 6.7%, respectively, a combo that is surely good enough for him to get a taste of South Bend before the year is complete.

Like both Wesneski and Brown, González is Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason and will have to be added to the 40-man roster in order to be protected from other teams. But unlike the other two arms, he is less of a sure-fire addition.

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