Chicago Cubs: Checking in on the Cubs top five pitching prospects

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Cubs are hopeful the lefty pitcher can successfully return from Tommy John Surgery. He is projected to reach the big leagues in 2020.

The Chicago Cubs selected Justin Steele in the fifth round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of George County High School in Lucedale, Mississippi. Steele played in the Arizona Fall League in 2014 and finished with just 18.2 innings. He struck out 25 batters but walked eight and finished with a 2.89 ERA.

He was assigned to the Class-A short-season Eugene in 2015 and pitched 40.2 innings to the tune of a 2.66 ERA while striking out 21.7 percent of the batters he faced. Steele moved quickly through the Cubs farm system prior to having Tommy John Surgery in August 2017. Originally projected to miss the entire 2018, he actually pitched 28.1 innings between High-A Myrle Beach and Double-A Tennessee. He struck out 26 batters and finished with a 2.45 and 3.60 ERA in Myrtle Beach and Tennessee, respectively.

Justin Steele has made just one start so far this season, pitching 3.2 innings. He did strike out four batters but he also walked three. Obviously an extremely small sample size, but hopefully Steele is just working out the kinks.

Something really interesting I’ve noticed is much of a flyball pitcher Steele has become as he’s moved up through the minors. In 2014, his groundball-to-flyball (GB/FB) ratio was 2/1. In 2016, it started shifting in the other direction with a GB/FB ratio of 1.4/1 and 2018, it was 0.6/1. Last season, he also had his worst home-run to flyball rate at 7.7 percent.

Scouts have determined that Steele has regained his fastball velocity, post surgery (via

"Steele regained his previous fastball velocity, sitting in the low 90s and reaching 97 mph with some sink, though he didn’t generate as many ground balls as he had previously and tired by the time he got to the Arizona Fall League. His upper-70s curveball has good depth and can be a plus offering at its best. His changeup still needs work but he’s committed to using the pitch."