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BCB After Dark: Who will take the fifth?

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks who will be the Cubs’ fifth starter.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s another evening here at BCB After Dark: the swingin-est spot for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Whether you are a regular or a first-timer, all who want to groove are welcome here. And even those who don’t. The dress code is casual tonight. Grab any open table. Bring your own beverage. (One day we’ll get a liquor license.)

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.

Last night I asked you about your thoughts about signing free agent Justin Turner. Since news broke early this morning that Turner had signed with the Blue Jays, for many of you this became an exercise as to whether the Cubs should have offered more.

In the end, only 25 percent of you were in favor of it and 47 percent were against. That’s actually a lot more “Yay!” votes than I was expecting, although the 47 percent “Nay!” was about what I thought. I just figured that “meh” would get a lot more than 28 percent.

Here’s the part where I put the music and the movies. Those of you who skip that can do so now. You wont hurt my feelings.

I got a good reception the first time I pulled a song off of the new Joshua Redman album Where Are We. The album all about various places in the United States. Last time, I grabbed a tune called “Chicago Blues,” which was a mashup of Count Basie and Sufjan Stevens.

I don’t know if I’m going to do better than Chicago with this crowd, but here is saxophonist Joshua Redman, with vocalist Gabrielle Cavassa doing Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia.”

Aaron Parks is on piano, Joe Sanders on bass and Brian Blades on drums.

This is just a reminder that you still have time to vote in the BCB Winter Western Classic matchup between Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and Winchester ‘73 (1950). The vote is still close enough that either film could win as I write this.

Up next is our first matchup of the third round, the number-four seed Red River (1948) and the number-five seed Shane (1953).

Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.

The Cubs’ Opening Day starting rotation is almost set. Justin Steele, Shōta Imanaga, Jameson Taillon and Kyle Hendricks are guaranteed to be the first four starters, assuming they are healthy.

But who is going to be the fifth starter? There are several candidates at the moment, as outlined in this article by Jordan Bastian. (Which, ironically, is about the bullpen. But it does make sense to talk about the rotation there.

The four candidates mentioned by Bastian are Javier Assad, Drew Smyly, Hayden Wesneski and Jordan Wicks.

Assad shuttled in and out of the starting rotation last summer, making ten starts and 22 relief appearances. His basic numbers—5-3 with a 3.05 ERA look very good, but his underlying stats weren’t quite so good. He had an expected ERA of 4.61 and a Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 4.29. Also, Assad showed that he could be an effective middle reliever, which might recommend him there instead of the rotation.

Smyly had a disappointing season last year, going 11-11 with a 5.00 ERA over 23 starts and 18 relief appearances. But he’s not that far away from a much better 3.47 ERA in 22 starts in 2022 and his underlying numbers in 2023 weren’t that much worse last year. He’s also the only one of the four pitchers who has demonstrated that he can throw 120 innings. Smyly threw 142 1/3 innings last year.

Smyly’s also got the biggest contract, which shouldn’t make a difference but sometimes it does.

Wesneski was a disappointment in 2023 after a strong first impression in the majors in 2022. Over 11 starts and 23 relief appearances, Wesneski was 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA. But Wesneski wouldn’t be the first promising pitcher to struggle as a rookie. The stuff he showed in 2022 is worthy of another look.

Finally there is Wicks, who impressed everyone in his first taste of the majors last September. Although he did fall off in his final three starts and finished with a record of 4-1 and an ERA of 4.41. That’s really not any better than the other three pitchers in this group. Wicks is also the only pitcher here that probably can’t pitch out of the bullpen, so he may get sent down to Iowa if he can’t claim that fifth starter job in Spring Training. Or if the Cubs send him to Iowa in order to keep another pitcher who doesn’t have options left.

So which one of these four pitchers will make the most starts for the 2024 Cubs? One is definitely going to be in the rotation to start the season, but none of them are guaranteed a spot for the rest of the season. Even if they do win the job, prospects like Ben Brown and Cade Horton could push them out of the rotation by midseason.

(Of course, at least one of the “guaranteed four” starters is going to get hurt this season. That’s what pitchers do. They get hurt. So more than one of these four pitchers could pitch out of the rotation for much of the season.)


Which pitcher will get the most starts for the Cubs in 2024?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Javier Assad
    (80 votes)
  • 9%
    Drew Smyly
    (42 votes)
  • 12%
    Hayden Wesneski
    (56 votes)
  • 59%
    Jordan Wicks
    (266 votes)
444 votes total Vote Now

Thank you to everyone who stopped by tonight. We enjoyed hosting you. Please get home safely. Tip your waitstaff. Tell your friends about us. And join us again tomorrow for more BCB After Dark.