As the Chicago Cubs gather for spring training, there are plenty of questions that will need to be answered, and plenty of players that will be looking to make an early impact.
One of those players is Tyler Chatwood, and we’re examining what he needs to do to set himself apart as the Cactus League schedule looms.
Chatwood, who signed a three-year contract with the Cubs during the offseason, was originally the centrepiece pitching acquisition that the team made, but now that has been completely overshadowed by pitcher Yu Darvish, who signed a six-year contract just before spring training began.
Now, Chatwood has been pushed down even further in the rotation, and although he’s likely going to earn the fifth spot in that rotation, he could be competing with Mike Montgomery if the team wants to add yet another lefty to the mix.
Chatwood’s numbers with Colorado were, in a made-up word, un-great. He had an 8-15 record with a 4.69 ERA in 147.2 innings a season ago, and he gave up 20 home runs and struck out 120 batters in that time.
A lot has been made about Chatwood’s home and road splits, but it cannot be overstated just how much the Cubs believe in a turnaround for him based on those numbers. His ERA was a full two and a half runs better in road games than it was at Coors Field, and his batting average against was a full 100 points better than it was on the road.
Simply put, Chatwood was victimized when he let the ball get hit in the air at home, and the fact that he pitches to contact exacerbated those issues.
This spring, fans should look for Chatwood to do two important things. The first is to keep the ball on the ground, as he had an excellent ground ball rate last season, and the second is to minimize hard contact, which was the name of the game for him when he was outside of the hitter-friendly environs of Denver.
Even if Chatwood struggles a bit in the early going, fans should keep their expectations in check. The ball doesn’t break as much in the thin Arizona air, and he may get hit hard at times during his spring training work. The key will be to see where those balls go, and if they’re primarily on the ground, then it portends good things about his potential with the Cubs in 2018.