Cubs may need to clear a spot in rotation for Kilian
The Cubs' youth movement doesn't really show up in the starting rotation.
It's a mature group. Marcus Stroman, who got the win Tuesday in Cincinnati, is 31. Wednesday's starter Kyle Hendricks is 32, Drew Smyly 33 and Wade Miley 35. Justin Steele at 26 is the only current starter under 30.
The Cubs keep threatening to sort of stay in wild card contention. Their 11-4 victory over the Reds improved the record to 18-24 and was their seventh win in the last nine road games.
But it's also worth asking if they should put at least one of those veteran starters on the trading block to create a slot for rising prospect Caleb Kilian.
The right-hander was sent to the Cubs in last year's trade of Kris Bryant to San Francisco. This year, he's rolling at Triple A Iowa with a 1.31 ERA in eighth starts. He's likely to take the mound on Wednesday when Iowa plays at Memphis.
"After he pitched in the fall league till the very end, we took it slow with him in spring training and even into the season, we've tried to lessen his workload," Cubs president Jed Hoyer said last week. "He's been getting better and better, and we're really excited about him. I can't speak to the timetable, but certainly we're well aware of the success he's having. He's certainly putting himself in position."
Kilian, 24, wasn't considered one of the top prospects in the Giants' organization when the trade was made, so his success speaks well for the Cubs' ability to develop pitchers these days. Steele and Keegan Thompson have also outperformed their prospect rankings since debuting last year.
MLB Pipeline has Kilian rated the No. 5 prospect for the Cubs and the highest-ranked pitcher. He was an eighth-round pick of the Giants in 2019 out of Texas Tech.
Manager David Ross was asked what he remembers about Kilian from spring training.
"I just got to say 'hey' to these guys in the weight room, talk to them for a minute," Ross said. "Very down-to-earth, easy to talk to guy. Looking at him on the mound, he's got that switch that he can turn into that bulldog mentality it looks like. It looks like he knows what he wants to do with the baseball."
Ross talked about watching Kilian throw 6 perfect innings in the Arizona Fall League championship game last November. He was named the game's MVP.
The next two highest-ranked Cubs pitching prospects are still in Single A South Bend: lefties Jordan Wicks and D.J. Herz. The Cubs have some high hopes for 2018 draft pick Cam Sampson, who was promoted from Double A to Iowa on May 10.
But the Cubs could be straddling the line between rebuild and tepid attempt to compete until the trade deadline hits. A replay of last year, with Hendricks and catcher Willson Contreras being flipped for prospects, seems like a possibility.
The Cubs have tough choices to make in the field as well. Nico Hoerner (ankle) and Nick Madrigal (back) took batting practice in Cincinnati before the game. Hoerner should be ready to return soon, while Madrigal will likely go on a rehab assignment. Infielder David Bote (shoulder surgery) and outfielder Clint Frazier (appendicitis) continued their rehab assignments for Iowa on Tuesday.
So space on the active roster will need to be created, but there seems to be no reason to take Christopher Morel out of the lineup. He hit leadoff Tuesday, played second base and went 1-for-4 with a walk and RBI. Now seven games into his big-league career, Morel is hitting .304 with a .407 on base percentage.
The Cubs pounded out 15 hits against the Reds, led by a 2 home run night from Frank Schwindel. It was the first multihomer game in Schwindel's big-league career and he's hit 4 in the last four games. He and shortstop Andrelton Simmons collected 3 hits each.