Cubs

/ by Tony Andracki
Presented By Cubs Insiders
Cubs

A cursory glance at the Cubs bullpen depth chart is all it takes to question if they have a reliable left-handed reliever.

Mike Montgomery is the first guy that jumps out, but he fills the role as the long relief option in the Cubs bullpen and is one injury away from re-joining the starting rotation. He also wasn't very good as a reliever last year, posting a 5.13 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 5.5 K/9 in 26.1 innings out of the bullpen.

Brian Duensing is also projected to make the Cubs' Opening Day roster since he's under contract for $3.5 million, but he also sported an unsightly 7.65 ERA and 1.885 WHIP last year in 37.2 innings. 

There's Randy Rosario, the 24-year-old affable lefty who went 4-0 with a 3.66 ERA in 44 big-league outings last year, but he also had a 1.48 WHIP and walked nearly as many guys as he struck out in 46.2 innings.

Beyond that, there's a group of southpaws the Cubs picked up on the scrap heap like Danny Hultzen, Ian Clarkin, Jerry Vasto, Conor Lillis-White...and Kyle Ryan.

The latter name is an interesting one, both for his low-key solid 2018 season and because the Cubs inked him to a big-league contract back in November, giving him a spot on the 40-man roster.

A host of talented, established big-league relievers were forced to sign minor-league deals with teams this winter, but the Cubs thought enough of Ryan to bring him back on a Major League deal.

Ryan turned heads in 2018, his debut season in the Cubs organization. He worked as a swingman, starting 8 games and appearing 14 times in relief for Triple-A Iowa. All told, he posted a 2.86 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and struck out 61 batters in 66 innings. 

 

Even more impressive was the low walk total (18 in 66 innings) after control issues ran Ryan out of the Detroit Tigers organization after the 2017 season. For much of the year, his command was even better than his final line indicated thanks to a 5-walk performance in his final outing of the season.

"He had a quiet good year last year," said Jason McLeod, Cubs senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting. "Our guys loved him [in Iowa]. They kept talking about him with the September call-ups and obviously we didn't bring him up. As we were looking at the team going into this offseason, we just felt like he was a guy that could help us this year.

"He's a guy that could really pitch, pitch off his fastball. He's shown he can get right-handed hitters out, so I don't think he's a LOOGY or a lefty specialist in any way. He just took the ball and kept getting outs last year and getting some swings and misses.

"If he shows Joe [Maddon] and Tommy [Hottovy] and the staff what he's capable of doing, I wouldn't be surprised if he's up here this year."

Successful big-league relievers pop up all over the place nowadays and the Cubs could certainly use some good fortune in that regard amid an offseason devoid of financial flexibility.

Ryan, 27, does have some big-league success to his name — going 4-2 with a 3.07 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 56 games as a reliever for the Tigers in 2016. 

He fits the bill as a new-age reliever capable of pitching multiple innings an outing and his versatility as a long man/starter can come in handy for the Cubs.

Couple that with a potential need for a reliable lefty in Chicago and Ryan is an underrated bullpen candidate to keep an eye on this spring.

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