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2021 Cubs Pitching Rotation Outlook

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The 2021 MLB offseason has been beyond painful for the Chicago Cubs pitching rotation. The departures of Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood could prove disastrous for a Cubs pitching rotation that has struggled through parts of the last few seasons.

With the Cubs pitching rotation looking depleted and full of question marks entering the 2021 season, many fans are wondering who will round out the Cubs pitching rotation and how will this lackluster rotation fair throughout the season.

The Returning Two

Jumping from the 2020 MLB season to the 2021 season the Cubs have two full-time starters returning to the rotation, those being “The Professor” Kyle Hendricks (assuming he stays) and Alec Mills. However, to make matters worse, there are now confirmed rumors that the Cubs and Blue Jays have discussed a deal that would send Kyle Hendricks and Kris Bryant to Toronto.

Hendricks now the sole face of the Cubs’ pitching rotation after Darvish’s departure. Since his arrival at the 2012 trade deadline, Hendricks has been a bright spot in the Cubs organization. Since debuting in 2014 Hendricks has started 174 games, while compiling a 3.12 career ERA. Flashback to 2016 while playing a vital role in bringing a World Series Championship back to the north side, he finished third in Cy Young voting. In 2020 he would finish ninth in voting, thus making him a constant bright spot in the Cubs pitching rotation.

Unlike Hendricks, Mills joined the with low expectations. Prior to joining the Cubs via trade, Mills had never started a major league game In his first season in Chicago, he would appear in seven games while starting two and post a 4.00 ERA. Fast forward to 2020 where Mills started 11 games. Through 11 games he would post 4.48 ERA, with five wins, including a no-hitter against the division rival Milwaukee Brewers.

While the Cubs’ pitching rotation will look immensely different in 2021 things may not be as bad as fans believe. Towards the end of the 2020 season, Mills seemed to find his stride. While Hendricks has always been consistent, there is always room for improvement and Hendricks does not look ready to take a step back.

The Rookies

The Cubs’ pitching rotation could see two rookies step up. Cubs’ top prospect Brailyn Marquez looks poised to earn a spot, while Adbert Alzolay could very well be competing for one.

Cubs top prospect Brailyn Marquez signed with the Cubs in 2015, his debut was in 2016 with the Cubs Dominican club. He would start 12 games and post an ERA of 1.48. Prior to 2020, Marquez did not make it past Single-A ball, where he totaled 55 starts and an ERA of 3.19. In 2020 he pitched 0.2 innings with the Cubs, which was just a minuscule sample size for a 21-year-old. A jump to the Cubs pitching rotation in 2021 could prove to be catastrophic for a young pitcher like Marquez, or it could do wonders for the young pitcher.

The 2020 MLB season saw Adbert Alzolay appear in six games, four of which were starts. In six games Alzolay pitched 21.1 innings while posting a 2.95 ERA. Through seven minor league seasons, he would appear in 105 games and post a 3.63 ERA.

Neither Marquez nor Alzolay are major eye-popping pitchers and having two rookies in the starting rotation does not seem ideal, but giving both young pitchers meaningful MLB starts could help speed up their development. This could turn out to be game-changing in a few years, as for 2021. this may hurt.

New Faces

The Cubs will have a couple new faces this upcoming, one of which being guaranteed a spot in the rotation, while the other not so much.

The Cubs acquired Zach Davies in their trade with the Padres which sent Yu Darvish to San Diego. The six-year MLB veteran has started in all 123 major league games he has played in, 111 of which for the Brewers. Through his 123 games, Davies has posted a 3.79 ERA with 497 strikeouts. Davies is not known to eat up innings averaging around five innings pitched per start. With a below-average bullpen, this could prove costly for the Cubs.

The long-shot new addition to the Cubs pitching rotation is former All-Star Shelby Miller. The eight-year veteran right-hander has started 132 out of 150 career games, through his 150 appearances Miller has compiled a 4.11 ERA 622 strikeouts. Although the Cubs signed Miller to a minor league rotation there is a real chance he finds himself in the Cubs pitching rotation at some point in 2021.

Final Thoughts on Cubs Pitching Rotation

The Cubs pitching rotation may not be in great shape entering the 2021 season, but there is still time to add another starter or two to round out the rotation. If that fails to work the Cubs may be in some hot water needing to rely on their bats to heat up and bullpen to carry them into the postseason.


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