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Pitching prospect heating up during Arizona Fall League

There’s nothing greater than homegrown pitching. For the Chicago Cubs, there’s plenty down on the farm and a lot to look forward to in the future.

In 2018, Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs found themselves without Yu Darvish. The right-hander left the Los Angeles Dodgers last winter and inked a massive contract to land on the North Side. While he was spotty in some starts, Darvish gave this starting rotation a boost.

However, once Darvish fell, the season was not lost. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer managed to reel in his former teammate from the Texas Rangers, Cole Hamels –  another veteran with postseason experience that matched Jon Lester.

If the Cubs bring back Hamels, these two seasoned arms will lead this promising pitching staff into the future and pave the way for Chicago’s growing talent.

When looking at the Cubs 2018 Top 30 list, exactly 19 out of the 30 are pitchers with three of them ranking in the top five. Of course, you have righties Adbert Alzolay, Alex Lange and lefty Brailyn Marquez making up three of the top five.

All three men are expected to make a serious impact whenever they make it to the show. Whether it’s in a Cubs uniform or not remains to be seen. Hopefully, they’ll all find themselves pitching at home wearing Cubbie blue, in front of the greatest fans on the planet.

That is when they’re not losing. We could work on a few things, fans. Continuing on, one name who hasn’t cracked Chicago’s top prospect list, yet, is making some noise during the Arizona Fall League.

Under the radar

Mentioning the likes of Alzolay, Lange, and Marquez is enough to match any other prospect list in the league. While the Cubs keep a close eye on the three, Erick Leal is out hoping to catch their attention as well.

Leal, 23, is a Venezuelan-born right-hander who has been in the minor league system since he was 17 years old. And his numbers since that time have been outstanding.

In a combined 105 appearances, the young hurler wields a 37-19 record, 3.04 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and a 371:109 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 471 1/3 frames. On Thursday, Leal picked up a start in Mesa, pitching four scoreless innings in a 4-3 Solar Sox loss to Peoria Javelinas.

He did not receive a decision and extended his scoreless inning streak to 9 1/3 frames in three starts for the Solar Sox.

Keep pushing

Standing at 6’3″, Leal will turn 24 on March 17. If he continues to dominate the way he has, he could very well end up finding himself with a higher affiliate soon. His stats are promising but surely, there are some things that could be worked on. Per usual.

Next: Were the Cubs optimistic?

Who knows, his performance in Mesa may place him in the same boat as the other 31 pitchers sitting at the top of the food chain. Position players are going to need to step it up if they don’t want this farm to be overrun by arms.

Either way, it’s a great “problem” for the Chicago Cubs to have with all these valuable bats hitting the market this winter.

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