Cubs right-hander Adrian Sampson, who is set to start against the host Miami Marlins on Tuesday night, is hoping to earn a spot in Chicago's 2023 rotation.
Sampson (2-5, 3.48 ERA), who turns 31 next month, projects more as a depth starter.
In fact, Sampson has almost always been undervalued. The Washington state native had no scholarship offers out of high school, went to a junior college and was drafted -- ironically -- by the Marlins in the 16th round in 2011. In 2012, he signed with the Pirates after being drafted in the fifth round.
He was traded to Seattle in 2015, and he signed to play in South Korea in 2020. In 2021, he signed a minor league deal with the Cubs. He made his Cubs debut in August of 2021 and was taken off the 40-man roster in November before returning again in 2022.
In other words, Sampson -- who has a 9-19 career record to go with a 4.65 ERA in 68 games, including 40 starts -- continues to defy odds.
He has faced the Marlins just once, getting a quality start earlier this year on Aug. 7 by allowing just three runs in six innings. However, he got no run support and took a 3-0 loss.
Cubs manager David Ross has given Sampson no assurances regarding 2023.
"Justin Steele has put himself in position to be in the rotation, and Marcus Stroman has done a nice job," Ross said. "We need to get Keegan Thompson back (from the injured list). I don't know if anybody can talk with certainty after that."
Sampson, though, has a 1.59 ERA in three September starts, giving the Cubs something to think about.
Miami will counter Sampson with right-hander Pablo Lopez (9-10, 3.99 ERA).
Lopez's nine wins are a career high, but his ERA is substantially higher than last year's 3.07 mark.
On the positive side, Lopez, 26, has been healthy this year, and he is set to make his 30th start of the season on Tuesday, which will tie ace Sandy Alcantara for the team high.
Lopez should slot second in the rotation next year behind Alcantara. Edward Cabrera is likely third, and Jesus Luzardo is fourth. The fifth spot could be a battle between lefties Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers, who are both on the injured list.
More depth will come from three elite prospects, Sixto Sanchez and Max Meyer -- both injured at the moment -- and Eury Perez.
That's a lot of competition for rotation spots, which helps explain why Lopez's name was mentioned in trade rumors this year, just before the deadline.
The focus on the future is key because both the Marlins (61-87) and the Cubs (58-90) are out of playoff contention for this year.
Besides looking ahead, there are also individual awards to shoot for as with Alcantara's well-publicized chase for Cy Young honors.
Less known has been Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas' bid for a Gold Glove.
"It's hard to find someone who's a better defensive shortstop than Miggy," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "If they're not talking about him for Gold Glove, they should be."
--Field Level Media