Cubs Righthander Caleb Kilian Makes Good First Impression

It will take years to fully assess the ramifications of the Cubs’ big sell-off at the 2021 trade deadline, but righthander Caleb Kilian has already made a good first impression during his brief time in the organization.

Kilian built off a strong Double-A performance by throwing six perfect innings in the Arizona Fall League championship game.  

The Cubs acquired the 24-year-old Kilian, plus 21-year-old outfielder Alexander Canario, from the Giants for Kris Bryant.

In leaving a San Francisco organization known for its progressive approach to player development and rich pitching history, Kilian will get an opportunity to become a rotation fixture for the Cubs’ next competitive window.   

The Giants drafted Kilian in the eighth round in 2019 out of Texas Tech and helped him develop a four-seam fastball, a different curveball grip and more swing-and-miss options.

Kilian also added more strength to his 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame, which resulted in a velocity boost that pairs well with his fluid delivery and arm action.

The Cubs were drawn to Kilian’s command, his ability to manipulate his fastball in different ways and create weak contact. Up close, the Cubs have been impressed by Kilian’s work in areas like pitch design, improving his breaking ball and refining his changeup.

Through 116.1 career innings, Kilian has notched 129 strikeouts while issuing just 15 walks. 

The Cubs’ lack of young, homegrown pitching contributed to the eventual breakup of the 2016 World Series team, forcing a re-evaluation in all aspects of baseball operations.

The organization believes 2021 first-round lefthander Jordan Wicks will be on a fast track. Righthander and 2019 first-round righthander Ryan Jensen advanced to Double-A Tennessee’s rotation last year and then pitched in the AFL.

As the Cubs experiment with different ideas about pitching instruction and audition players for the future, Kilian figures to be right in the middle of those rebuilding plans. 




— Hiring Greg Brown (hitting coach), Daniel Moskos (assistant pitching coach) and Danny Hultzen (pitching strategist) onto David Ross’ major league staff reflects the organization’s desire to fully integrate its system in hitting and pitching development.

Brown has a well-rounded background. He signed J.D. Martinez and Enrique Hernandez as an area scout for the Astros, won 300-plus games as the head coach at Nova Southeastern (Fla.) and spent the last two seasons as the Rays’ minor league hitting coordinator.

Moskos, a former minor league pitching coach for the Yankees with a Driveline Baseball background, was drafted by the Pirates with the No. 4 pick in 2007. Hultzen also pitched briefly in the majors after being the No. 2 pick in a loaded 2011 draft class.

— Given the proliferation of data, emphasis on game-planning and importance of developing young talent, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said, “We look at this as a hitting and pitching department more than a one-man show.”

To that end, the Cubs are also hiring Ed Blankmeyer, the longtime head coach at St. John’s who managed the Mets’ High-A Brooklyn affiliate last year, to be their minor league field coordinator. 

Kohl Franklin, who was sidelined during the 2021 season with a shoulder injury, received clearance for a full offseason ramp-up program that will take him into spring training, giving him a chance to make up for the additional lost time from 2020 and show why the organization still remains very high on his potential as a pitching prospect.  


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