The Cubs announced to reporters, including Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times, that Ethan Roberts will undergo Tommy John surgery. Roberts was already on the 60-day injured list due to shoulder inflammation, meaning no roster moves will be necessary.
This is yet another unfortunate setback for Roberts here in 2022, on the heels of a promising 2021. A fourth round draft pick from 2018, Roberts threw 54 innings with an ERA of 3.00 between Double-A and Triple-A last year. That came alongside an impressive 32.6% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate. On the strength of that season, he was selected to the club’s 40-man roster in November and then cracked the Opening Day active roster out of Spring Training.
His big league career got off to a good start, as he allowed just a single earned run through his first five appearances. However, his next four appearances yielded six earned runs, perhaps due to injury. He was placed on the IL on May 2 due to shoulder inflammation. He began a rehab assignment on Sunday, though was removed after just four pitches, presumably due to his elbow issues becoming apparent.
With this news of his imminent Tommy John surgery, Roberts will be out of action for around 12-18 months, the typical recovery window for such procedures. As such, this will wipe out the remainder of his 2022 and potentially his entire 2023 as well. Needless to say, that’s an unfavorable turn of events for a pitcher who previously seemed to be on a good trajectory. The 24-year-old will spend the rest of the year on the IL and finish the season with exactly one year of MLB service time. He’ll need to return to the 40-man over the offseason but can go back on the 60-day IL for the entirety of next season, assuming he holds his roster spot through the winter.
For the Cubs, they’re not in a competitive window right now, but it’s still unfortunate that they will be losing development time for one of their promising young pitchers. They will now have to wait until 2024 to get a better idea of how Roberts can factor into their future bullpen plans.