Cubs plan to promote pitching prospect Caleb Kilian to make his major league debut tomorrow against the Cardinals, manager David Ross told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian). The right-hander isn’t on the 40-man roster yet, so Chicago will have to officially select his contract tomorrow. All 40 men for the Cubs are complete, which means there will be a corresponding move ahead.
Chicago acquired Kilian last summer, adding him alongside the outfield prospect Alexander Canary Giants for Kris Bryant minutes before the trading deadline. San Francisco had selected Kilian in the eighth round of the 2019 draft from Texas Tech, and he raised his stock with a strong minor league showing. The right-hander had a stellar 2.43 ERA in 63 Double-A innings at the time of the trade, and he’s continued to thrive since switching organizations.
Kilian made four starts with Cubs affiliate Double-A in stride, then started this season at Triple-A Iowa. He worked nine starts and threw 39 1/3 innings, throwing to a 2.06 ERA with strong strikeout and walk rates (24.8% and 9.1% respectively). Kilian induced grounders on nearly 60% of the balls hit against him – well north of the MLB average of 43.1%.
Baseball America recently ranked Kilian fifth among Chicago system prospects, writing that he has improved his raw material since entering pro ball. According to BA, the 6’4″ pitcher is working in the low-mid 90s on his fastball and has a trio of average or better secondary deals (curveball, cutter and changeup). The outlet credits Kilian with plus control, while FanGraphs wrote this offseason that he could end up with a plus-plus command (a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale) at the top. Both posts suggest he’s likely to be a long-range starting pitcher – likely a midfielder or rotational arm guard.
The Cubs should have added Kilian to the 40-man roster after this season to keep him from getting caught in the Rule 5 draft, and they will bring him on board a few months earlier. It remains to be seen if the first call will be more than a starting point, as the Cubs and Cards are set for a doubleheader. Whether immediate or at some point a little later, the retooling club plans to install Kilian as a regular member of the rotation fairly soon.
Even though Kilian is now in the majors, he won’t reach a full year of service this season. He won’t be eligible for free agency until the end of the 2028 campaign at the earliest. Kilian would be in a strong position to qualify for early arbitration after 2025 as a Super Two player, but optional assignments in Iowa could change that trajectory.