After the Arizona Fall League Championship Game, Caleb Kilian has likely vaulted (back?) past Nelson Velazquez as far as a “front burner” Cubs prospect. If asked how the Cubs prospect pipeline is developing, many Cubs fans will look at their favorite publication listing (Baseball America, Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, or whichever) and base “how the pipeline is doing” by a raw number (ranked 17th, for instance) without doing any other specific homework. My look at Kilian will focus more on two aspects that many Kilian articles won’t navigate very aggressively.
Caleb Kilian, righthanded pitcher
Born June 2, 1997, Anaheim, California
2019 8th Round Pick (Giants) from Texas Tech (Lubbock, Texas)
Added in the Kris Bryant trade
My starting point is Lubbock. Kilian started 29 games over three years on campus, with 28 of those coming in 2018 and 2019. If a pitcher is a starting pitcher for a rather regularly ranked team, he’s probably a rather useful college arm. That his earned run average was between 3.24 (sophomore season) and 3.92 (junior/draft season) hints even further that he should have been considered a valid arm. Pitchers at good schools that get outs and win games (he won between six and nine games in each of his three years) are likely reasonable guesses to have relatively successful pro careers, if they stay healthy.
Yet Kilian slipped to the eighth round. Pitcher selection in the draft remains an inexact science. If following baseball is an important part of who you are, and the pending work stoppage lasts awhile, you’ll have an interesting conundrum coming. Toss the entire sport because business reasons, or focus on different levels of competition.
I like baseball far better than I like the Chicago Cubs. Part of the reason I preferred Cubs games to Sox games in the early 1970’s was that WGN had better video reception for me than WSNS or WFLD. By the time I made up my mind for myself, baseball had largely won. A few days ago, I listened to Harry Caray call an Oakland A’s game from 1970, because it was baseball. Be who you are, but I’m more interested in getting better at deciding for myself which pitchers like Kilian who are non-priority draft selections turn out to be useful, and there’s plenty like him in any season.
Despite how many will disagree, I still recommend that people consider selecting a college baseball team to follow. Part of that is that I have almost no interest anymore in any level of American football or basketball. I prefer baseball, and can’t fathom myself getting hung up on a Chicago Bears game, under much of any circumstance, especially when they’re so poorly run. And they used to be my team, so changing uniform colors isn’t really an option. Any of the Power Four Conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 12, and PAC-12) have plenty of useful baseball follows. Those are not the only legitimate follows.
Regarding buying into a publication’s rankings “just because”? I guess that’s permitted, but if you want to be well-informed regarding the Cubs, you should probably consider following a few people on-line who actually watch or listen to minor league Cubs games. Marquee Sports Network is ramping up its coverage. Bleed Cubbie Blue attacks prospects rather well, as do a few other blogs. If you’re content to look at a number from a source, with no further research, you might well be missing something.
Prospects develop regularly. Sometimes in a positive fashion, and sometimes less-so. Simply put, if Kilian’s progress matters to you, and it probably should, he’ll be pitching in games in April 2022, work stoppage or not, if he’s healthy. If he does well against Triple-A opponents, he’ll be creating a role for himself on the Cubs roster. Not because I say so, but because that’s how things work.
While this article has been on simmer for a few weeks, Fangraphs recently popped a more insightful technical article than I’m likely to write.
As I continue on with my debrief of the San Francisco trade, I can't tell you how impressed I am with Caleb Kilian. The RHP is a command+ pitcher who had a 1.14 BB/9 in AA (0.42 in HiA!) with a 26.2 K%. This is an advanced arm that can still get better with an improved changeup. pic.twitter.com/2u9VGi6ARi— Greg Zumach (@IvyFutures) July 31, 2021
Caleb Kilian caught him looking for his curve. He is through five innings on just 62 pitches, 44 for strikes! pic.twitter.com/8iEgr8qb5F— Todd ⚾️ (@CubsCentral08) August 21, 2021
Chatted w/ Caleb Kilian about the modifications to his curveball & changeup.— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) November 10, 2021
Spiking curve has led to minor velo ⬆️, pitch has gained vertical mvmt and lost some horizontal.
Changeup is more of an offseason project, hasn't thrown it much in AZ.
Full ️: https://t.co/P6FsAY1Qhj pic.twitter.com/xlCS6akbxh