The Cubs saved enough money by drafting Kyle Schwarber fourth overall in 2014 to afford seven-figure bonuses for three high school pitchers in the middle rounds. Only Steele ($1 million, fifth round) remains after Dylan Cease ($1.5 million, sixth) went to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade in 2017 and Carson Sands ($1.1 million, fourth) was released in 2018. Steele had Tommy John surgery in August 2017 and made an impressive comeback 11 months later, but he battled his control and command in Double-A last year before an oblique injury ended his season in June.
Even during a lost year, Steele still showed flashes of two plus pitches. His four-seam fastball sits at 92-95 mph and touches 97 with high spin rates and good life up in the strike zone. He possesses one of the best curveballs in the system, combining power and true downer action when it's on.
Injuries limited Steele to just 320 2/3 innings in his first six years as pro, and he needs better health and more experience to add some polish. He has some feel for his changeup but needs to use it more often, and he's still learning how to repeat his delivery in order to provide consistent strikes. He still offers the upside of a mid-rotation starter, but he'll also open 2020 as a 24-year-old who hasn't had much success above Class A Advanced.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
The Cubs gave seven-figure bonuses to three prep pitchers in 2014, but only Steele ($1 million, fifth round) remains in the organization after they included Dylan Cease ($1.5 million, sixth) in the Jose Quintana trade in 2017 and released Carson Sands ($1.1 million, fourth) in 2018. Steele ranked second in the Class A Advanced Carolina League with a 2.92 ERA when he blew out his elbow in August 2017. He returned from Tommy John surgery quicker than expected last July and looked more polished than ever.
Steele regained his previous fastball velocity, sitting in the low 90s and reaching 97 mph with some sink, though he didn't generate as many ground balls as he had previously and tired by the time he got to the Arizona Fall League. His upper-70s curveball has good depth and can be a plus offering at its best. His changeup still needs work but he's committed to using the pitch.
Steele averaged 3.7 walks per nine innings in his first four pro seasons but just 2.5 in his first year back after having his elbow reconstructed. He has simplified his delivery, allowing him to repeat it more easily and improve the frequency and quality of his strikes, though his control has regressed a bit in 2019. If he can prove he can handle a full-season workload, he could help the Cubs as a mid-rotation starter.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50
The Cubs gave seven-figure bonuses to three high school pitchers in the 2014 Draft: $1.1 million to Carson Sands in the fourth round, $1 million to Steele in the fifth and $1.5 million to since-traded Dylan Cease in the sixth. All three have had elbow surgery since turning pro, with Steele succumbing to Tommy John surgery last August. He had been enjoying his best pro season, ranking second in the Carolina League with a 2.92 ERA when he blew out his elbow.
Steele began to make the transition from thrower to pitcher in 2017. He did a better job of commanding his fastball, which ranges from 91-97 mph with groundout-inducing sink. He got more consistent depth and missed more bats with his curveball, and he also showed more trust in his changeup.
Steele also made progress with his control and command, though both need further improvement. More athletic than physical, he has started to create hope that he could become a mid-rotation starter. He returned to the mound earlier than expected in mid-2018, showing the same stuff that began to get Chicago excited before he got hurt.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
One of three high school pitchers the Cubs paid seven-figure bonuses in the middle rounds of the 2014 Draft, Steele signed for $1 million as a fifth-rounder. As the 139th overall selection, he was the earliest Mississippi prep arm drafted since the Braves made Matt Butler a second-rounder in 1999. He made the jump to full-season ball for the first time in 2016, but he had mechanical issues that affected his stuff and control.
Steele attacks hitters with three pitches that grade as solid or better when at their best. He sits at 91-92 mph and reaches 95 with his fastball, which generates groundballs with its sink and run. He can miss bats with his curveball, which has good depth and is getting more consistent, and also has a deceptive change with fade.
Steele isn't the most physical pitcher, and his control and command are still works in progress, so there's some thought that he'll wind up as a reliever. But as an athletic lefty with a three-pitch arsenal and a strong competitive streak, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter.
The Cubs paid seven-figure bonuses to three high school arms in the middle rounds of the 2014 Draft, including $1 million for Steele in the fifth round. The earliest Mississippi prep pitcher drafted since Matt Butler (Braves, second round) in 1999, he didn't reach full-season ball until his third year as a pro and struggled with his mechanics when he got there in 2016. He has cleaned up his delivery and looked much better while making the jump to high Class A at age 21 in 2017.
Steele's best pitch is his fastball, which resides at 91-92 mph, tops out at 95 and creates groundouts thanks to its sink and run. He's gaining more consistency with his curveball, which has good depth and misses bats when at its best. His fading changeup has its moments as well.
Steele is beginning to make the transition from thrower to pitcher. He still needs to improve his control and command but he's making progress in both areas. He's not very physical but he's athletic, giving hope that he eventually can develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
Another of the mid-round high school pitchers the Cubs paid over-slot bonuses in 2014, Steele got the highest fifth-round bonus in the Draft at $1,000,000. The 139th overall selection, he was the earliest Mississippi prep pitcher taken since the Braves made Matt Butler a second-rounder in 1999.
Steele's stuff fluctuated wildly on the summer showcase circuit in 2013, but he solidified it as a high school senior and maintained it during his pro debut. He's capable of reaching back for 95 mph on his fastball, but he gets more life and is often more effective when he pitches at 88-92 mph.
Steele is adding more power to his curveball, which already featured good depth and could give him a second plus pitch. He has some fade to his changeup but sometimes tips it off by slowing his arm speed, a correctable flaw. He's athletic but lacks size and true command, so some scouts believe he'll wind up in the bullpen.