9:05am: The Cubs have now formally announced this set of moves, further specifying that Steele’s injury is a lower back strain. His placement on the 15-day IL is retroactive to Sept. 2, per the team.
8:12am: The Cubs are set to select the contract of pitching prospect Hayden Wesneski for his Major League debut, per the team’s transactions log at MLB.com. Righty Kervin Castro is being designated for assignment in order to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Left-hander Justin Steele, meanwhile, will be placed on the 15-day injured list. Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times tweeted yesterday that Steele’s next start — which had been scheduled for today — was being pushed to the weekend due to a nagging back injury. Now, it seems the Cubs will now give him at least a two-week break to heal up.
Wesneski, 24, was acquired from the Yankees in the one-for-one trade that sent righty Scott Effross to New York prior to the trade deadline. He currently ranks sixth among Cubs farmhands at Baseball America, 12th at MLB.com and 16th at FanGraphs.
The 6’3″, 210-pound Wesneski has appeared in five games in the Cubs organization, all coming with Triple-A Iowa. He’s posted an ugly 5.66 ERA in that time, although that’s due primarily to a disastrous eight-run clunker through just 1 2/3 innings in his organizational debut. Wesneski has bounced back with a 2.37 ERA and 21-to-6 K/BB ratio over his next four appearances (three starts, one relief outing, 19 total innings).
Wesneski has spent the entire season at the Triple-A level despite this just being his second full season after being drafted in the sixth round back in 2019. (There was, of course, no minor league season in 2020.) He’s turned in a 3.92 ERA with a 23.2% strikeout rate, a 7.9% walk rate and a 42.7% ground-ball rate. Wesneski works primarily off a two-seamer and a lesser-used four-seamer (the latter reaching the upper 90s on occasion), complementing those two heaters with a trio of offspeed offerings, all with at least average potential.
Even at the time of the deal, Wesneski was touted as a quick-rising, near-MLB-ready arm that could find his way into the Cubs’ rotation in the very near future. Whether this will just prove to be a spot start or the first step in a more permanent audition remains to be seen, but Wesneski figures to get legitimate chance to crack the rotation next spring, even if this is just a one-off promotion born out of necessity. The scouting reports at BA, MLB.com and FanGraphs all tab him as likely fourth/fifth starter. He’ll be controllable through at least the 2028 season.
As for the 23-year-old Castro, he was a waiver claim out of the Giants organization in early August who wound up throwing 10 2/3 innings out of the Chicago bullpen. Castro’s 92.7 mph average fastball was down nearly two miles per hour from his 2021 velocity, and he’s had considerable issues throwing strikes both in the big leagues and in Triple-A this season (with both the Giants and Cubs). He’s been tagged for 14 runs in 12 1/3 MLB frames this year (10.22 ERA) and also has a 5.19 ERA in Triple-A. He’s walked 15.1% of his opponents between Triple-A and the Majors this year. The Cubs will place Castro on waivers or release him within a week’s time.