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Cubs reportedly calling up top pitching prospect Jordan Wicks for MLB debut

With rotation questions aplenty and Marcus Stroman on the IL, Chicago is turning to its farm system as it looks to hold on to an NL Wild Card spot.

Pitcher Jordan Wicks is interviewed after being selected 21st overall by the Chicago Cubs in the first round during the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft at Bellco Theater at Colorado Convention Center on Sunday, July 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With questions aplenty in the starting rotation and an NL Wild Card spot hanging in the balance, the Chicago Cubs are turning to their farm system for a boost, with multiple reports suggesting that Triple-A lefty Jordan Wicks — one of the team’s top pitching prospects and a 2021 first-round pick — will be joining the team in Pittsburgh this weekend.

It’s not yet known when Wicks might make his MLB debut, but whenever he does, it’ll likely be as a starter: The 23-year-old has served exclusively as a starter in the Minors this year, and given Marcus Stroman’s confounding rib injury and the struggling Drew Smyly’s shift to the bullpen, the Cubs have a pressing need in their rotation. Chicago has been searching for answers behind Justin Steele and Kyle Hendricks ever since Stroman went down last month, so Wicks should be given every chance to stick in the Majors while pitching in some very high-pressure games.

Taken 21st overall back in the 2021 MLB Draft after starring at Kansas State, Wicks profiled as a polished, fast-moving college prospect — and for the most part he’s been just that. He struggled a bit after a promotion to Double-A last season, but he’s been very solid so far in 2023, with a 3.55 ERA and 9.8 K/9 in 20 starts across Double-A and Triple-A. He doesn’t blow anyone away on the mound, but he boasts one of the better changeups in the Minors, with nasty fade and major velocity separation from his fastball.

That pitch has been MLB-ready for a while, and he pairs it with a slider and curveball that allow him to attack both lefties and righties. His heater isn’t anything to write home about — and he doesn’t command it as well as he needs to given his average velocity — and that, combined with the occasional change left up in the strike zone, has left him a bit prone to the home-run ball so far in his pro career. Still, he has a prototypical frame, a complete arsenal and plenty of Minor League experience under his belt, and he should be ready to step right into the back of Chicago’s rotation. (At the very least, it’s hard to imagine him not at least matching what Smyly and Jameson Taillon have done of late.)

After a tough 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh on Friday night, Chicago enters play on Saturday just a game up on the Giants for the third and final NL Wild Card spot, and they don’t have the luxury of punting games with non-competitive pitching options. Wicks will at least provide a higher floor, and give the Cubs’ revamped lineup a chance to compete every day.