Stroman nabs top spot in Cubs 2023 Rotation Power Rankings


It took Marcus Stroman two weeks in April to get his season on track, another two weeks in May to get back from a COVID bout and more than a month to come back from a sore shoulder that surfaced in June.

But on Sunday it took just one start — his final start of the season — to jump two spots into what many believe should have been his rightful No. 1 spot in the Cubs’ 2023 Rotation Power Rankings with three games left in the season.

Stroman’s dominant performance in the Cubs’ home finale finished off a 6-0 homestand with the Cubs’ seventh consecutive victory overall — an 8-1 win over the pitiable Reds.

“I thought I did a really good job of bouncing back from rough start,” said Stroman (6-7), who improved to 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 16 starts since returning from the shoulder injury — second only to Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff (2.53) among National League pitchers with at least 15 starts in that span.

“A lot of people can kind of cash it in mentally, physically, emotionally,” he said. “I had close to a 6.00 ERA after my first few starts. It’s just a product of all the work that goes into it. I’m someone who never gives up regardless of if I’ve had 10 bad starts or 10 good ones.”

All the Cubs’ success of late — including 38-29 mark since the All-Star break — has been driven primarily by a starting rotation that has produced a 2.95 ERA since the break (second only to the World Series-contending Dodgers and Astros).

Which is why NBC Sports Chicago is taking a closer look at the Cubs’ in-house rotation pieces as they head into a crossroads offseason targeting, among other pieces, at least one significant starting pitcher.

With that in mind, the latest installment of the Cubs’ 2023 Rotation Power Rankings, with an emphasis on  recent performance/consistency and health (so Kyle Hendricks, who hasn’t started playing catch since getting shut down last month for a capsular tear in his shoulder, doesn’t make the list):

1. RH Marcus Stroman (last ranking: 3) — Stroman won his final three home starts (20 IP, 2 ER) after going 0-5 with a 7.11 ERA in his first nine career Wrigley starts (all this year as a Cub). His final stat line for the first year of the first year of his three-year, $71 million free agent deal: 6-7, 3.50 ERA, 25 starts, 138 2/3 innings).

“I can’t wait for next year,” he said.

2. RH Adrian Sampson (last ranking: 1) — Sampson has one start left, in Wednesday’s season finale, after going 3-1 in six September starts with a 1.50 ERA in 36 innings — earning NL Pitcher of the Month votes and a vote of 2023 confidence from his manager along the way.

“Sampson’s definitely put himself in position to be able to help us next year,” David Ross said. “I think he knows that. I think he pitches like that.”

3. RH Hayden Wesneski (last ranking: 2) — The impressive right-hander acquired at the trade deadline from the Yankees for Scott Effross has one more start, Monday in Cincinnati, to build on a 2.33 start to his career through three starts and two relief appearances.  He has allowed four runs in 18 1/3 innings over three starts (1.96 ERA) against the Rockies, Pirates and Phillies.

4. LH Justin Steele (last ranking: 4) — Steele has spent the past month on the IL because of back soreness but appears to be fully recovered after throwing a bullpen session Saturday that Ross called “phenomenal.” The Cubs don’t feel the need to bring him back just to throw a couple of innings at the end of the season — especially after finishing off a 3.18 season that included a career-high 119 innings with a 1.49 ERA in his final 10 starts (to go with 10.8 Ks per 9 in that stretch).

5. (tie) LH Drew Smyly and RH Javier Assad (last ranking: tied 5) — Smyly, the veteran with a $10 million mutual option the club might try to renegotiate into a multiyear extension, has been one of the Cubs’ most consistent starters all season, albeit with six weeks lost to an oblique injury midseason and more recently two weeks lost to shoulder soreness. He also has averaged just under five innings per start, but with a 3.48 season ERA as he returns for a final start Saturday.

Assad has impressed at times since his debut, with a 3.62 ERA in eight games, but also has shown typical youthful tendencies in command and consistency. It’s a big offseason for him as he looks ahead to a 2023 as a likely second-five depth piece to start the season.

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