September 27, 2022

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When will Cubs' top pitching prospect debut?

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This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO — Six weeks into this season, the Cubs’ rotation has already endured its share of trials. There have been health setbacks, multiple bullpen-led games and inconsistencies from a group still searching for its collective rhythm.

At some point this summer, a continuation of that trend could mean reaching down to the farm to take a look at a potential core piece. Specifically, given the Cubs’ stated approach of balancing building for the future with trying to field a competitive club now, prospect Caleb Kilian is undoubtedly on the club’s radar for 2022.

“He’s not too far away,” said Jared Banner, the Cubs vice president of player development.

In player development speak, that means the 24-year-old Kilian (MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 Cubs prospect) is nearing a point of having little left to prove on the Minor League stage. Acquired from the Giants as part of the Kris Bryant trade last summer, Kilian has done nothing but impress since coming to Chicago.

Last season, Kilian posted a 2.42 ERA with 112 strikeouts against 13 walks in 100 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A in the Cubs’ and Giants’ systems. He then put on a show in the Arizona Fall League, culminating in six perfect innings in the championship game. He has been off to a dominant start for Triple-A Iowa this year.

“Once you get to Triple-A as a pitcher, so much of it is about refining your craft,” Banner said. “He has the stuff, so it’s about hitting your spots, executing game plans, things like that. And he’s done a really good job with it. He’s in great shape, great arm, knows how to pitch, does everything we ask.”

Using an approach centered around a sinker, cutter and curveball (plus a changeup still in development), Kilian has turned in a 1.57 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks in 28 2/3 innings (seven starts). It is still very early in the season, and the righty is not currently on the 40-man roster, but the big leagues are only a phone call away.

What will it take for Kilian to get to Chicago?

“Keep dominating and make it obvious, you know?” Banner said. “That’s really the messaging. And he knows. He knows he’s close. So, it’s just a matter of going out and performing and getting a little bit better every day.”

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