#30—Justin Steele

The Cubs fifth round pick last June out of Mississippi, the left-hander turned down a scholarship to Southern Mississippi to join the Cubs organization. Steele was impressive in his debut season in the Arizona Rookie League with 25 strikeouts in 18.2 innings.

Name: Justin Steele, P
Age: 19 (7/11/1995)
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 180 pounds
How acquired: —Drafted in 5th round 2014, # 139 overall, out of George County High School, MS. Scouted by J.P. Davis.

2014 Team:
Mesa Cubs, Arizona Rookie League (9 G, 0-0, 2.89 ERA, 18.2 IP, 8 BB, 25 K, 1.23 WHIP)

Prior to Cubs
The Mississippi native prepped at George County High School in Lucedale and drew the attention of scouts as a junior, going 7-3 with a 1.94 ERA and 98 strikeouts over 61.1 innings. Coaches at Southern Mississippi were impressed enough to offer a scholarship. His numbers were even more impressive as a senior, recording 92 K in 43 IP with a pair of no-hitters and Class 5A Player of the Year honors.

2014 Season
After falling out of the big money rounds, the Cubs were still able to lure Steele away from his commitment to play for the Golden Eagles, signing the left-hander to a $.1.1 million bonus, far exceeding the $359,000 slot limit. Steele was sent to Mesa, started a throwing program, and made his pro debut July 14, striking out all three Giants hitters he faced. In nine Arizona Rookie League games (four starts), the youngster was impressive with 12.3 K/9 and a 1.23 WHIP in 18.1 innings. He averaged four walks per nine but that’s nothing to be worried about from a high school arm who just turned pro. Steele’s fastball was consistently clocked in the low 90s and his slow breaking ball also caught the eyes of observers.

2015 Outlook
If the Cubs follow the pattern of how they’ve handled high school arms the past three years, Steele will stay in Mesa for extended spring training and head to the Northwest League as part of the rotation. The stereotypical projection for Steele is as a future bullpen arm due to his height and frame, but the Cubs will give the lefty every chance to make it as a starter. He already commands a plus fastball that sits in the low 90s and has a slow breaking curve in his arsenal. Before long, one of these high school arms is going to break the mold and make a quick rise through the system. Steele could be that guy and is definitely someone to keep an eye on during 2015 and the following years.

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