Cubs

Effross' 2nd chance among promising Cubs pitching storylines

Cubs

After the Cubs called up Brandon Hughes from Triple-A Iowa, he credited Scott Effross for helping him during his conversion from outfielder to pitcher.

“I think he's giving me too much credit,” Effross said of Hughes. “He's done all his work. He's taken care of his business since he got switched.”

Just like Effross has since going through his own switch on the mound — capitalizing on the “second chance” the Cubs gave him a few years ago when he was in the minor leagues.

If the Cubs are going to go anywhere the next few seasons, producing success stories from their pitching pipeline will be a big reason why.

Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele are current members of the rotation. And in Effross, Hughes, Caleb Kilian and Matt Swarmer, the Cubs have a handful of promising developmental storylines this season.

Four pitchers who had different paths to the big leagues.

“Where you're drafted doesn't matter and all those things, right?” manager David Ross said. “The first rounders, you think you've got a better idea of how that's going to play out. You also root for the underdogs.”

Effross struggled in Double-A in 2018 and by June 2019 held a 5.88 ERA. The Cubs approached him about converting to throwing side arm.

He took a week to talk things through with his family and agency and decided to go for it.

“The organization really presented me with a second opportunity to attack this and give them a different look that they didn't have in the minors,” said Effross, one of Ross’ go-to relievers this season who holds a 2.84 ERA through 26 appearances. 

 

“For me, a second chance to prove myself. It was one of those decisions that, at the time, it was obviously hard to hear. Like, ‘Hey, we want you to switch because of these reasons. It's not working out.’

"In hindsight, obviously, I couldn't be more grateful for where I am and the second chance to compete in a new fashion for the Cubs."

Effross said he wasn’t sure what to expect but attacked the change head on. He spent the next two months in Arizona establishing the new arm angle in a way that was both comfortable and that could maximize his abilities. 

He returned to affiliate ball that August with Single-A Myrtle Beach and quickly climbed the Cubs’ organizational ranks after the canceled 2020 season, earning a promotion to the big leagues last August.

Said Effross: “The timeline they gave me saying, ‘We want to do this right. We're not going to rush you. We want to give you everything you need to make this successful,’ was the biggest confidence booster at the time when we were switching.”

Player development isn’t linear, and the cases of Effross, Hughes, Kilian and Swarmer exemplify that.

Hughes struggled offensively as an outfield prospect and the Cubs gave him two choices in 2019: convert to pitching or get released. He made the switch the same time Effross converted to sidearm, and the two crossed paths in Arizona at that time.

MORE: How one career-altering move led Cubs’ Hughes to MLB

Three years later, they’re both in the Cubs’ bullpen. Hughes has struck out 13 batters with only two walks in 10 innings, holding a 3.60 ERA.

Swarmer, the Cubs’ 19th round pick in 2016, was the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2018. He had a rough 2019 and pitched in an adult rec league to stay sharp in 2020.

He's thrown quality starts in his first two career outings after the Cubs promoted him from Iowa last week.

Kilian, acquired last summer in the Kris Bryant trade, has a lot of promise as the organization’s top pitching prospect. He threw five solid innings in his big-league debut Saturday.

“I think they're all different and they all have to come up with something to prove,” Ross said.

“You love so much about the underdog, like I said. Also the first rounder that comes up or the high prospect that comes up and proves like, ‘Yeah, there's a reason why they put that label on me and I'm gonna make sure that that's who I'm gonna be.’ 

“There's a lot of strength in all that. You love players that work their way through the minor leagues and get to the big leagues, no matter what the path is. It's hard to get here.”

 

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