On Monday, the Cubs acquired highly touted pitching prospect Hayden Wesneski from the Yankees in exchange for Effross in a surprising deal on the surface. It was an opportunity for Chicago to add an up-and-coming starting pitcher who was ranked No. 7 in New York’s system by MLB Pipeline.
“He’s the consummate professional,” said Cubs assistant pitching coach Daniel Moskos, who was Wesneski’s pitching coach with Double-A Somerset last year. “He’s like Scott Effross in a lot of ways, in that he’s going to do whatever it takes to make himself the best version.”
What the Cubs are getting in Wesneski
Wesneski immediately becomes one of the Cubs’ best pitching prospects, slotting in at No. 8 on Pipeline’s Top 30 list for the club. Righty Caleb Kilian (acquired from the Giants in last summer’s Kris Bryant trade) and lefty Jordan Wicks (first-round pick in 2021) are in the two slots ahead of the new addition.
The 24-year-old Wesneski features a sinker (92-94 mph) and four-seamer (can touch upper 90s), and he has a slider that is his best secondary offering for hunting strikeouts. The right-hander also has a hard cutter and a changeup, giving him a deep and developing starter’s repertoire.
“For me,” Moskos said, “maybe the best swing-and-miss pitch he has is the slider. That’s kind of his put-away weapon.”
This season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Wesneski posted a 3.51 ERA with 83 strikeouts against 28 walks in 89 2/3 innings (19 starts). Moskos had him in the previous season with Double-A and was also assigned to work with the pitcher via remote training during the 2020 pandemic shut-down period.
It was during that stretch of lost games that Moskos saw Wesneski — a sixth-round pick by New York in the 2019 MLB Draft — take some major leaps forward. Wesneski spent time doing velocity training in ’20 and focused on his weight-room routine. Then in ’21, Moskos saw the pitcher spend his down days charting pitches to study sequencing and other in-game elements.
“He capitalized on everything during the pandemic lost year,” Moskos said. “He just went and said, ‘What do I need to do to really separate myself?’ He really busted it.”
What the Cubs gave up in Effross
The cost of landing Wesneski as one of the future rotation pieces was Effross, who was an organizational success story for the Cubs. A few seasons ago, Effross saved his career by converting to a sidearm style and he swiftly grew into one of manager David Ross’ most trusted relievers.
“He’s been that bridge guy to the back-end,” Ross said recently. “You don’t want to overuse him, but when you have a guy like that that’s young and feels good, you want to try to run him out there.”
Effross is 28 years old and still in his pre-arbitration years. The righty heads to the Yankees with a 2.66 ERA and 50 strikeouts versus 11 walks in 44 innings, and his 47 appearances were tied for second in the Majors, entering Monday. Effross was used in a variety of situations, logging time in each inning from the first through the 10th this year.
“It is super, super sad to see someone like Scotty go,” Moskos said. “I love Scotty. I wish all my pitchers could be like Scotty. But the fact that we’re getting Hayden in return, I am really genuinely excited, not just because I know him, but because I know the caliber of pitcher that we’re getting in return. It makes it feel worth it.”