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2023 Cubs player profiles: Justin Steele

Fifteenth in a series. Justin Steele is the Cubs’ most potent homegrown in years. And he won’t be the last.

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Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Justin Carl Steele, the pride of Lucedale, MS., was born July 11, 1995. He bats and throws left He is one game over .500 as a Major Leaguer, at 12-11. Four of those wins have come this year, a year in which he is perhaps on the way to fulfilling his vast promise.

He hasn’t always been counted on to deliver this kind of results — Steele was selected by the Cubs in the fifth round of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft, out of high school, and he has spent years in the minors.

Justin Steele was first brought up to the Major Leagues on April 12, 2021. He was 4-4 that year, with 59 strikeouts in 57 innings, and that was impressive enough for him to join the rotation in 2022, with some success, belying his 4-7 record. Indeed, he was tremendously impressive during the second half of the year, and has carried that into this campaign, where he is emerging as the ace of the staff and one of the best pitchers in the National League.

Catcher Yan Gomes says Steele throws a ‘country-boy’ fastball.

I’m not entirely sure what he means, but I’m sure it’s a good thing. Baseball Savant says good things also. Sahadev Sharma says Steele’s ‘unique fastball’ makes him one of the better starters in baseball {$}.

The results so far speak for themselves. Steele’s personal renaissance dovetails with the increasing competitive capability of the team, as the front office’s draftees and acquisitions evidence more and better tools and approaches, though the results are not yet entirely there, as the team is barely over .500.

Steele, however, is on track for a 6 WAR season, perhaps an All-Star berth, and another year to point to (in 2024) when he approaches his first arbitration, should the Cubs not extend him before then. He’s under team control until 2028, when he officially becomes a free agent, but his value is proving to be high enough that extension is a very real possibility.

I’d do it if I were them, or at least, buy out the first few years of arbitration, until 2026, when the CBA expires.

In any event, Steele promises to be in the middle of any winning the Cubs do as a team, for the next few years, as the anchor of a young and mostly homegrown staff, some of whom are still in the minor leagues learning their craft. The Iowa Cubs and Tennessee Smokies have some excellent young players at every position. Steele, Adbert Alzolay, Keegan Thompson, they’re just the advance guard. Caleb Kilian, Ben Brown, Jordan Wicks, Cade Horton, they’re on the way.