Last year we saw the Cubs shuttle wear out a trail between Iowa and Chicago. This year promises to be no different.
There should be plenty of player movement as the Cubs try to find the right mix of players. As we've mentioned many times, this is a team that promises to provide plenty of opportunity.
Here are 20 players who may wear Chicago uniforms in 2013 in order of likelihood to make an impact in 2013...
- Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP: Technically he's a rookie and he's the most likely to make an impact this season. He was a dominant closer in the NPB but he's likely to be something less than that here. His fastball is good, but not good enough to blow MLB hitters away. He'll have to make up for it with great command and more consistency with a sometimes devastating split. He has the stuff and makeup to take over at closer if the Cubs deal Marmol.
- Arodys Vizcaino, RHP: Vizcaino is the Cubs top pitching prospect and has an excellent chance to make an impact as either a starter or a closer. His fastball-curveball combination is one of the best in the organization. His command is good as well and it will depend on Vizcaino's progress as he returns from TJ surgery. It may be more likely the Cubs use him out of the bullpen this year but he could get a shot at the rotation in 2014. If healthy, he's basically MLB ready and should be able to make an impact in a bullpen role in 2013.
- Brett Jackson, CF: Jackson showed he could run, defend, grind out ABs, and hit with some power. He also showed that making contact is an issue. The Cubs are excited as Jackson has revamped his swing and if he can cut down on the Ks, the Cubs will have themselves a player with solid tools across the board. Still some work to do, but he has a chance to fill a huge need for the Cubs.
- Alberto Cabrera, RHP: Cabrera was a reliever last year but he'll return to Iowa to see if he can make it as a starter. It's a low risk move for the Cubs as they know he has the fastball-slider combo to relieve, but he also showed a surprisingly good change-up. With the Cubs lacking impact rotation arms, Cabrera will get a shot to crack the rotation late in the season.
- Junior Lake, SS-3B-OF: Lake continues to carve up winter league pitching, leading the league in average and putting up a .336/.401/496 line. Lake has shown a power/speed combination that the Cubs currently lack. In 2012, Lake has played 141 games between AA and the DWL, and has hit .293 with 14 HRs and 30 SBs. He's even closing in on 50 walks (47). Lake may come up by midseason and either help out at 3B or play a multi-position role off the bench. Manager Sveum is a fan, and that helps his cause.
- Josh Vitters, 3B: Vitters had a breakthrough year at AAA but wasn't able to translate that success at the major league level. He'll return to Iowa and try to build on his success and shore up his weaknesses at the plate and in the field. The Cubs haven't blocked 3B to this point, so if Vitters performs and the Cubs current 3B don't, then the road is clear.
- Logan Watkins, 2B: Watkins hasn't yet played AAA, something the Cubs like to see all their hitting prospects do, so if he makes it, it will be later in the year unless an injury or trade opens an opportunity earlier. Watkins can do a lot of things to help this team: get on base, run, and play solid D at multiple positions. It may be a race between Watkins, Lake, and Vitters to the majors this year, but Watkins main position is the one that's most blocked right now.
- Tony Zych, RP: The hard throwing RHP has really improved his secondary stuff and questions about his delivery have all but disappeared. He has managed to stay healthy and throw strikes, two qualities that will endear him to this front office. He has the kind of stuff and makeup to profile as a closer down the road.
- Trey McNutt, RP: I believe it's going to click soon for McNutt and once it does, he's going to be the kind of guy no hitter wants to face. He has a two pitch combo that is as good as any in the organization and once he learns to command them better, he'll get better results. Like Zych, he has the stuff and makeup to profile as a closer. He's on the roster, so he'll be quick to get the call if he's throwing strikes. Path could be similar to Alberto Cabrera's last year.
- Hector Rondon, RP: He has two big advantages when it comes to trying to grab one of the last couple spots on the roster. One is that he throws strikes and two is that as a Rule 5 guy, he only needs to show enough promise to make the Cubs believe he's worth keeping long term. The stuff is there and the velocity is back in the mid to upper 90s, so if he can command it, he'll have a place on the roster.
- Rafael Dolis, RP: Technically has used up rookie status but I'm giving him a mulligan. Dolis had to be one of the more frustrating pitchers on the Cubs in 2012. How does a guy with a 97 mph fastball with good movement get hit so much? How does an athletic guy with a simple delivery have so much trouble throwing strikes? Why does a guy with such a good slider seemingly throw fastball after fastball? Dolis may have been a little overwhelmed his first time around but I think he'll have more success this year -- but he's no longer the clear choice to replace Marmol as the long term closer.
- Jeff Beliveau, RP: As a LHP, Beliveau may have the upper hand for one of the last two bullpen spots. Only James Russell throws lefty and Beliveau would give the Cubs some flexibility. Using solid stuff and a deceptive delivery, Beliveau can miss bats at any level, but he has to trust his stuff and throw strikes to be effective.
- Barret Loux, SP: He's a 4 pitch type who commands his average to above average fastball extremely well and that gives him a chance to pass up some starting pitchers who are already on the roster. He may not get there first, but he's more likely to stay once he gets there. Upside is as a mid-rotation starter.
- Brooks Raley, SP-RP: Raley is most likely to provide starting pitching depth with a chance to make the opening day staff if Scott Baker starts the season on the DL. It helps that he's lefty and he has the athleticism to develop plus command, something he'll need to play up his average stuff. If he doesn't develop at least plus command, his long term role may be out of the bullpen.
- Chris Rusin, SP-RP: Rusin is similar to Raley in terms of stuff and command but I think his upside is a tick below. He has a similar opportunity to Raley as a LHP with a shot to make the rotation early as Baker recovers. Like Raley, I think his long term role may be as a reliever but he may get another crack at starting before the Cubs make that decision.
- Sandy Rosario, RP: The waiver wire pickup has great stuff and surprisingly good control but he'll need to show better command. He's what you call wild in the strike zone and ends up giving up way more hits than a guy with his kind of stuff should. If he can refine his command and perhaps add some movement to his fastball, he has a great shot at making this team out of spring training.
- Jaye Chapman, RP: The change-up specialist surprised everyone by becoming a trusted reliever down the stretch and then we were surprised again when the Cubs had to bump him from the roster to make room for new additions. Chapman has middle relief stuff and average command, so the Cubs gambled that a short sample size of success wouldn't cause teams to snatch him off the waiver wire. They have yet to re-sign him, but if they do, he'll be among the first to get the call if the Cubs need a reliever Sveum can trust.
- Nick Struck, RHP: As far as traditional stats go, Struck was the most successful SP in the Cubs system last year but an unimpressive fall league showing allowed the Cubs to sneak him through the Rule 5 draft unprotected. He'll go to AAA and provide rotation depth. His average stuff and command is played up by plus makeup and an aggressive approach on the mound, but Struck will have to prove that will be enough at the MLB level.
- Matt Szczur, OF: He's near the bottom of this list simply because he's the furthest away, it's not a reflection on his overall status as a prospect. Szczur is a long shot to see Wrigley in 2013 even if he plays well. It will also take some injuries and some disappointing years for him to make a jump. What you'd like to see Szczur do is continue to make adjustments to his swing and position himself to fight for a job in 2014.
- Kevin Rhoderick, RP: Rhoderick has done one thing pretty consistently throughout his career -- he misses bats. What he does not do consistently is throw strikes. He showed improved control in the fall league as the Cubs seemingly had him working off his low 90s fastball a bit more. It's an approach that has some risks. It will likely help him throw more strikes, but he has to locate it well. It's not good enough for him to get away with mistakes in the strike zone. If he can get ahead of hitters, however, his slider is a legit MLB out pitch that will put hitters away.
Others in no particular order...
- Dallas Beeler, RHP:
- Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP
- Eric Jokisch, LHP
- Austin Kirk, LHP
- Jae-Hoon Ha, CF
- Marcus Hatley, RHP
- Chang-yong Lim, RHP
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