Breslow breaks down Cubs' arm acquisitions

August 20th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian's Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Craig Breslow, an assistant general manager for the Cubs and one of the leading voices within the organization’s pitching infrastructure as the vice president of pitching, joined the ballclub on its recent trip to Washington, D.C. Before one of Chicago’s games against the Nationals, he chatted with reporters about a number of topics.

Within the conversation about the Cubs’ improved pitching depth in the farm system and steps being taken to enhance the team’s player development on that front, Breslow discussed three arms acquired at the last two Trade Deadlines.

The Cubs swung deals to net Hayden Wesneski (via the Yankees for Scott Effross) and Ben Brown (via the Phillies for David Robertson) this year after landing Caleb Kilian in the Kris Bryant trade a year ago. On the Cubs’ updated Top 30 list from Pipeline, those arms slot in at No. 7 (Brown), No. 12 (Wesneski) and No. 14 (Kilian).

Here are some highlights from the Q&A with Breslow:

Q: Scott Effross is a great story and showed great composure on the mound. So, what was it about Wesneski that kind of tipped the scales toward making the trade with the Yankees?

Breslow: He’s fairly platoon neutral -- the ability to handle righties and lefties. The emergence of a cutter against lefties that I think will be a useful weapon for him. The stuff has ticked up. The four-seam fastball's been a nice addition and the slider's kind of been wipeout for a while now. He profiles to handle righties particularly well. He was always a strike thrower who came into stuff, which fits some of the molds of guys that have been successful here.

And also, he’s pretty close to being big league ready, right? There's not a ton of development opportunities that punch you in the face, which I think is a credit to him and where he's coming from. But we see a guy with maybe some tweaks we can make around the margins. You know, we'll take a close look at usage and recommendations. But it's a guy that's easy to target, just given these things.

Q: What stood out about Brown when it came down to making the trade with the Phillies?

Breslow: Big fastball. Ability to miss bats for the fastball, which is a really good place to start. And a guy who, when he was on the field, we'd gotten great reports on. Obviously, we have in front of us the goal of keeping him healthy, keeping him developing, but we also saw some development opportunities. And we're not going to be the first organization to say, "Hey, he would benefit from adding a changeup or separating the breaking balls." But, I think we've demonstrated some success in those endeavors.

And also, we're right now just spending some time getting to know him, understanding what he's tried, what has worked, what hasn't, and what's important to him? I think there are a number of different paths that we can go in terms of, can we give him, say, another weapon versus lefties, right? Intuitively, a lot of people think changeup. But that doesn't have to be the only way.

Q: Kilian’s pitching lines have looked a lot better in his recent starts with Triple-A Iowa. Is that something in particular you feel has emerged for him in the last few weeks?

Breslow: He's in a great place physically and mentally. You know, there's pressure that comes with being a kind of highly touted pitching prospect and getting to the big leagues and maybe things not going as exactly as planned. But I think, even like the All-Star break gave him the chance just to catch his breath coming back. And it’s just getting back to kind of his identity. We tried to simplify things for him, and said kind of, "Caleb, when you're at your best, who are you?" And the answer was like, "I'm a guy who pounds the strike zone with a really heavy sinker."

OK, let's embrace that and let's build off it. And that's kind of become the backbone to his success over the last handful of starts. And obviously, our hope is that trajectory will continue. Because he's got all of the ingredients to be a legitimate Major League starting pitcher.

Q: Do you think it’s important that Kilian gets more big league innings before the end of this season?

Breslow: I think it's important that he continues to develop. And I think it's important that he kind of understands where he is on this path, and he understands why, collectively, we're making the decisions that we are. And if that leads him here, great. And if it doesn't, that's also fine.