Craig Counsell

Craig Counsell


Chicago Cubs Manager Craig Counsell will have to get creative with his rotation after All-Star Justin Steele went down on Opening Day.

The Chicago Cubs saw homegrown ace Justin Steele rack up six strikeouts in 4.2 innings on Opening Day before going down with a left hamstring strain that has now pushed him to the injured list.

In the wake of the injury, the team called up righty Ben Brown, the tenth-ranked prospect in their farm system, FanSided MLB insider Robert Murray reported.

Brown is now set to join the big-league rotation and make his MLB debut next week against the Colorado Rockies. As the team’s ace recovers, the promotion marks an astounding milestone for Brown, who has faced a tough road to the the big leagues.

“It would be quite the moment for the 24-year-old Brown, whose pro career began as a 33rd-round draft pick for the (Philadelphia) Phillies in 2017 when injuries contributed to his fall down the board,” per MLB Trade Rumors. “Brown has overcome a burst appendix, a Tommy John surgery, an elbow strain, and some time on the COVID-related injured list before finally getting healthy in 2022 and getting some extended time on the mound.”

Who Are the Chicago Cubs Promoting in Pitching Prospect Ben Brown?

In 22 starts across High-A and Double-A in 2022, Brown maintained a 3.38 ERA and racked up 149 strikeouts. In 2023, in Double-A and Triple-A, his ERA expanded to 4.27 with just 130 strikeouts. He had a strong performance in Spring Training for the Cubs, racking up 12 strikeouts with a 0.64 ERA.

Brown’s scouting report notes a plus fastball, curveball and slider to go with the physical profile of a frontline starter.

“There’s nothing subtle about Brown, who’s 6-foot-6 and can overpower hitters with three pitches coming out of his high arm slot, including a fastball that operates at 94-97 mph and reaches 99 with armside run,” per the report. “His breaking stuff can be even more devastating, highlighted by a power curveball sitting in the mid-80s with true 12-6 action.”

Without Justin Steele, the Chicago Cubs Rotation Might Struggle

Of course, no prospect has a real chance to replace Steele in the rotation. 

In an All-Star 2023 season that also saw him earn Cy Young Award votes, the southpaw had a 3.06 ERA and 176 strikeouts in 173.1 innings. His 0.7 home-run-per-nine-innings mark led the National League. Following that season, he signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Cubs to avoid arbitration.

As Steele heads to the injured list, the Cubs are dipping into their rotation depth earlier than they would have wanted to. Starter Jameson Taillon is also out as he deals with back issues and the team will now be counting on Brown as well as Javier Assad and Jordan wicks to prove themselves as big-league starters.

“Assad and Wicks have limited MLB experience, and Brown and (Nippon Professional Baseball) import Shota Imanaga have never pitched in the majors, leaving Kyle Hendricks as far and away the most experienced healthy starter in Wrigleyville,” MLB Trade Rumors added. “Veteran Drew Smyly was slotted for bullpen work rather than the starting rotation, and it seems like the Cubs will keep Smyly in that role even with Steele now sidelined.”

Peter Chawaga covers Major League Baseball for A writer and editor with more than 10 years of newsroom experience, his work has been published in newspapers, magazines and websites based around the country. His baseball reporting has been featured in Yardbarker, Last Word On Sports and more. More about Peter Chawaga

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