Steele: Cubs have ‘dudes' in farm system to silence critics


It’s no secret the Cubs have failed to develop homegrown pitching since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the front office nearly 10 years ago, let alone starting pitching.

Might the current batch of up-and-coming arms finally break that trend?

“I would say it's a little undervalued,” Justin Steele said Tuesday of the pitchers in the Cubs’ pipeline. “I think we have some really good arms in our system.”

The failure to develop homegrown pitching has been the Cubs’ Achilles heel over the last decade. Since 2012, only five pitchers they’ve drafted and developed have made a start at the big-league level. 

Those five pitchers — Rob Zastryzny, Duane Underwood Jr., Jen-Ho Tseng, Tyson Miller and Adbert Alzolay — have only made 13 starts combined, Alzolay accounting for eight of them — two this season. 

In fact, Alzolay’s career 44 innings pitched is No. 1 among Cubs pitchers drafted and developed under the Epstein-Hoyer regime.

That failure is why the Cubs wound up at the luxury tax threshold in recent seasons, as they had to buy pitching on the open market, from signing Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood in the 2017-18 offseason to picking up Cole Hamels’ $20 million option for 2019.

But there may be hope for the next wave of homegrown arms to silence all the critics.

“It’s incredible, the kind of arms we have in our system,” Steele said. … “I mean, we got a bunch of dudes."

Alzolay is sitting in the rotation now, the latest homegrown pitcher to offer hope to buck the negative trend. He looked dominant through five innings in Monday’s start, allowing one hit, before fatigue hit in the sixth inning.

Steele — a 2014 fifth-round pick and starter by trade — made his big-league debut Monday in relief, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings. 

"[Monday] night was a good example of the guys that we have down there that are on the 40-man roster," Alzolay said Tuesday. "They can come out and do a pretty good job out here."

Miller, a 2016 fourth-round pick, made two appearances in 2020, one start. Brailyn Marquez, the lefty with a 100 mph fastball, debuted in the 2020 season finale out of the bullpen.

There’s others in the wings, including 40-man roster players Cory Abbott and Keegan Thompson, 2019 first-round pick Ryan Jensen and 2018 sixth-rounder Kohl Franklin.

With those dudes and others going forward, will the Cubs become a team that consistently produces homegrown pitching?

“Yes, for sure,” Alzolay said.

Time will certainly tell.

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