20 Cubs Rookies for 2013

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...

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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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  • john I'm excited about the pitching, I never seen the cubs have so many power arms in the bullpen. There are a few guys that can reach the mid to upper 90's.

  • In reply to seankl:

    They do. Unfortunately all of them are bullpen guys with the possible exception of McNutt, who could possibly return to starting the way Cabrera did.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    You forgot Vizcaino!

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    John, I wonder if McNutt is someone who might go back to starting if he shows signs he's figured it out.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I think it's possible. I used Cabrera as perhaps a path that McNutt can follow to the majors, and I meant that in every sense.

  • Excellent list as always John. It's nice to see the Cubs with good pitching prospects again ,which will only improve after next years draft.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Thanks...just wish there were more starters, though I think it's possible Vizcaino or Cabrera could help in that department by the end of the year.

  • How big would it be for the organization if Vizcaino and Jackson especially can take that step forward this year as Shark did last year. Those 2 are the key. IMO ,

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I think those are the two big names to look for this year. If Vizcaino can turn into the prospect people thought he was before the injuries, and Jackson can just hit 250, the Cubs core will take a huge step forward.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I think those two with Cabrera as the wildcard are guys you'd really like to see come into their own.

  • It reflects extremely poorly on Vitters that he's ranked below Lake on this list.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I wouldn't say that. Lake gets bashed partly as a reaction to all the over the top hype he was getting last year for excelling in the fall league, but everyone I've talked to -- even the very guys who have criticized him the most -- think he has a chance. Nobody I spoke to said he was going to be a star, but pretty much all of them said he could be a useful player.

    The reason why I put Vitters behind Lake (and I consistently do this) is that both Lake's ceiling and floor are higher, in my opinion. The ceiling part is obvious, but when you think about Lake's athletic ability and the potential to play 5-6 positions on the field, he has a much better chance of sticking even if he doesn't hit as much as you hope. Vitters, on the other hand, is reliant on his bat to make it. He has a better chance to be an everyday regular at 3B, but also won't be a star and if he doesn't hit and make it as a starter, his chances of staying in the bigs is much smaller.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I stand by my statement. Vitters is older and has already had a cup of coffee. Lake has not played above AA. The fact that you believe Lake is more likely to impact the big league club this season does reflect poorly on Vitters.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    True. It does say that. I really want to believe in Vitters but he has to show some real progress with pitch recognition, discipline, and defense to avoid becoming the Cubs version of Jeff Francoeur. He's too make or break with his bat for my comfort level right now. I think he'll get another chance this year so I hope I'm wrong and he runs with it.

  • It is a reflection on Lake. He appears to be becoming a baseball player rather than just tools guy.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed. I don't think he'll ever have the kind of approach you want, but he's so athletic and can get by on natural gifts that he has a chance to at least be a useful player, even if it's just off the bench.

  • I think Wellington Castillo, though technically not a rookie, has the potential to do what Shark did last year. That is to go from an average player to a core player on the team. If he could hit .240 to .260 and hit 15-20 HRs and control the running game with his strong arm, that would be huge. Defense up the middle is big.

    Also reading the impressive list of rookies gets me excited about next year.

  • In reply to John57:

    Agree on Castillo , I was just going off names on Jon's list. Side note Olney just had a couple blurbs on ESPN, First stated how many executives around the league are impressed with how the Cubs are proceeding with the ground up rebuild , also stated He doesnt think David Price gets traded till next winter and the Cubs are in a great position to land Him.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Nice, thanks for the heads up on the Olney article.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I can somehow invision Theo's office with a big board on the wall with Price's name circled on it. I can see this being the move Theo is waiting on. In the weeds coiled of course lol.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    we did bring in Vandy's pitching coach. Price could be a bigtime FA we are looking at. I really like David Price. As I live in SEC Country, Vandy is great school that has turned out some legit ace's the last couple of years.

  • In reply to John57:

    He would have been high on the list had he qualified. I thought about putting him on there anyway as I did with Dolis, but he didn't just miss the cutoff the way Dolis did.

  • Great list John. I'm really looking forward to seeing Lake, Watkins and possibly Zych this year. Along with a revamped Jackson of course. It should be another fun year in regards to seeing plenty of our kids play.

  • In reply to Zippy2212:

    I hope so. The guys you named are some of the most potentially exciting players on this list.

  • Anyone got "nicknames" yet for these Rookies?

    if not...here are some.....

    Junior "Fire" Lake
    Jaye "Chaps" Chapman
    Barret "Frenchy" Loux
    Hector The Flamer Thrower" Rondon
    Trey "Nutty" McNutt
    Tony "Z Factor" Zych
    Arodys "Hombre" Vizcaino
    Alberto "El Vaquero" Cabrera
    Logan "Doctor" Watkins
    Austin "Captain" Kirk
    "Hurricane" Sandy Rosario

    It would be interesting how the Cubs will be by end of July.......fan re-action....will be demands for Dale to be fired ?.......can the Rookies take the pressure ?.....will these Rookies "rock" the Baseball World having the Cubs be in 1st place?.......will there be more pigeons on the field than fans in the bleachers ?.....Will Soler or Baez be in the line up by Aug 1st?......can Theo swing major deals to get more rookies by trading Garza, Marmol and Soriano?

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Sveum isn't going to be fired even if they lose 100 again. Front office isn't going to fire a guy they like because fans need someone to blame.

    I think the Cubs will be happy if they find another core player or two and perhaps some role players among the rookies.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    right if you are looking at someone to blame ...blame hendry and the drafts of the pass...

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    " "Hurricane" Sandy Rosario " - Too soon man, too soon.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    Just an all around bad post (expect for Logan "Doc" Watkins, that one is good). Poor nicknames and a lot of questions that really don't make any sense.

  • The 2014 and 2015 versions of this list are going to be much more fun for you to make John.......with a Baez, Soler, Appel sprinkled in among others!

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Agreed. And just like last year, I think some could re-appear if they don't exhaust rookie status next year. Could be a very loaded list by next season.

  • Nice list, this is good indicator of rebuild progress to date. Where is organizational depth in the starting pitching? Only names on list recent adds/converts by theo/jed. There is depth in bullpen arms and some maybe position players but not a list for a contending team built on it's minor leagues. Still a lot of work to be done, when there are 6 to 7 SP prospects that are organisation guys not just late additions and fill ins, then the team will be back on track. Still a long ways to go.

  • In reply to eddie35:

    Thanks and that's a great observation on the starting pitching. The Cubs are still digging to find some impact starters and they've had to be creative about it. If some of the more advanced lower level guys like Paniagua or Johnson don't emerge, we may see some more converts in an effort to find guys with impact stuff. Perhaps they give McNutt another shot if he breaks through the way Cabrera did.

  • Nice work John.

    I think this is the first of many "Waves" of pitching talent. It includes Hendry hold-overs, Waiver/Rule 5 guys, and assets we traded for. This is how we will do it, and add in drafted players with future waves.

    We've got 4 or 5 candidates, so somewhere in there is our future closer. Within those power arms is 3 or 4 potential SP candidates that project as #2 or #3 guys. We should have at least 1 success out of them; possibly two. Not so much for 2013, but for 2014 & beyond.

    Not really feeling the love for Rusin/Raley, etc... I think they're just what we have for depth/emergency now. I don't see them around the Cubs or MLB for long. I could be wrong.

    This is especially exciting as our biggest weakness was Pitching depth throughout the organization. We've made a lot of strides and will continue to do. I just wish we had more #1 dominant types, but we'll get there.....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks. Guys like Raley and Rusin always have a tough road. There are so many guys with their kind of stuff around baseball and they have to separate themselves with plus to plus-plus command or get lost in the shuffle.

    Sometimes these guys bloom with their second or third team too, but until they show they can locate with more precision, they're probably just fill-ins/emergency starters.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think one of the crafty lefty starters you mention above or including Jokisch and Kirk will find a place in the Cubs rotation within the next couple years. Too many top rotations include a pitcher of this type toward the bottom as an effective 4th through 6th starters.

  • Andres Torres going back to SF..bummer. He was my fallback guy for CF, though Crisp remains my favorite.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    And he'll probably be a 4th OF there. Maybe this means the Cubs just weren't very interested. Otherwise, I don't see why he'd prefer a bench role with the Giants.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Probably. Unless Cubs told him he'd have a part time role here too (i.e. platoon with DeJesus), in which case he'd likely prefer the Giants.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Do you see any chance Jackson could win it with a solid spring, or did the call-up fiasco guarantee that new swing has to work in Iowa for a couple months before he gets another shot?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'd say he has a small shot but I think it's more likely he takes the Rizzo route.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Like Torres - but I think that our OF options to start the season are going to be decent heading into Spring ball anyway.

    Some combination of
    Soriano/Campana in LF
    DeJesus/Jackson/Sappelt in CF
    Sappelt/Schierholtz in RF

    That's far better a set of options with a better long-term cieling than we started last seaon off with.

    Not as much power projection as you would typically like from your OF,.... but Schierholtz could do better than expected, and if Jackson has gotten his Ks under control, and if Soriano can stay happy & healthy,... might not actually be that bad even on that front.

    Am betting by end of season,... at least Soriano and DeJesus have been moved though and we'll see some more 'kids' in the mix.

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    Who do you think has the most potential as a leadoff guy? Lets say the long-term Cubs core offensively is Castro, Rizzo, Baez and Jackson. I just wonder, out of the guys on this list, who has the best OBP and speed to bat first in front of those guys.

  • In reply to Mike Mayberry:

    From the list above (and including current Cubs) it's Logan Watkins. Hands down. Good speed, excellent OBP skills. I don't think he's up until mid 2013 at the earliest, though. Matt Szczur would be next but he's a 2014 guy.

    As for the guys you list, I don't see any as a leadoff guy. Jackson is the closest but probably won't hit enough to supplement walks for a high OBP.

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    I like the list, a lot. It's also nice to see some guys close to the majors who can contribute, since we tend to hear so much about the big 3 and the Boise team.

    For me, Jackson and Lake are the two huge wild cards on that list. If they put it together this season and can contribute to the major league team (Jackson as CF, Lake as supersub), we could surprise a lot of people.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks. The thing I like about both Jackson and Lake is that they can help you in so many different ways -- as long as they can hit .250 or .260, they can still be a big asset with everything else they can do on the field.

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    I'm really hoping Jackson can take a big step forward this year and grab the CF spot. I know he retooled his swing and I hope it does him wonders but I'm also wondering what type of impact the swing adjustments are going to have on his plate discipline. Can changes in your swing help you layoff the breaking ball in the dirt?

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    Would like to see him come back by June.

    Jackson has had very good discipline in the minors and showed flashes of it in the big leagues with one of the best walk rates on the team. You can probably chalk up some of the bad pitch selection to a period of adjustment to MLB pitching and perhaps some nerves and frustration. But if you look at Jackson's career as a whole, even his time with the Cubs, it's pretty clear that pitch selection isn't a problem with him. The contact rate is the issue.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Looking back you are right, he does have pretty good pitch selection. I think he just took his eye off the ball before it got to the plate which resulted a lot of the swing and misses. I think I remember Brenly mentioning it once while he was at bat. And in that case a new swing might be just what the doctor ordered.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    I think that it depends on how big a change was necessary. If it was small Jackson can fix his swing quick, but if he had to break it down he will need more reps.

  • Is there an actual time frame for the Cubs to put players on their 40-Man Roster or can they drag it out as long as they want?

  • They can drag it out as we saw with Concepcion last year, but things usually become officially official after about a a week to 10 days.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks, John. I know it affects all teams equally, but MLB should really have a hard and fast rule for signings and roster moves, etc.

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    Extrapolating from this list and the Olney article. Let's assume Garza is extended instead of traded, too. This could be next year's team:

    2B: Watkins
    CF: Jackson
    1B: Rizzo
    LF: Soriano
    SS: Castro
    RF: Free Agent
    3B: Stewart/Lake/Vitters (pretty much in order of likelihood)
    C: Castillo


    That's a pretty good team. You can actually start to see it coming together.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    If - big if - we land Price. But if we do that's a playoff-caliber top three and some intriguing offensive options - especially if we can land a decent right fielder.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Soriano won't be here next season.

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    In reply to waitingOn2015:

    I'll believe that when there's a trade. I just don't see a market for him right now. If he's gone, it's another hole to fill, obviously.

  • Looks like we're going from having almost no prospects at Iowa to having a field full of 'em.

  • In reply to TheFiveYearPlan:

    It is nice. Remember too that last year the Cubs started drawing players from Iowa. Guys like Rizzo, Cabrera, Jackson, and Castillo have a pretty good shot at being long term fixtures here.

  • I have to admit I'm not really excited about this list for a team that is in a rebuilding mode. They need some big years out of guys in order to either trade them (for a guy like Price) or turn them into big league regulars. I think when you look at players who could hold down starting jobs in the pros on a playoff caliber team, there aren't many on that list. I'm hoping more work out, I really am, but as far as big league regulars I see that list as three deep (bullpen guys not withstanding.) Also hoping for some good years out of the lower level guys so we don't take a step backwards this year. I get as excited as everyone else about minor leaguers and rookies, but the fact is banking the success of the Cubs' season on young guys is very risky; and I use the word success with a broader definition than just wins for the big league club. I like the direction we're headed, but there is definitely still a lot of risk involved.

  • In reply to jimmy mac1:

    Cub history would say you are correct.

  • In reply to jimmy mac1:

    The way you want to look at this is that you hope that one or two become core players and that you can find a few role players from the rest of the list. In that light, I think there is some reason for optimism. But if you're looking for a list of potential superstars, this isn't it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agree there. Hopefully those superstars are in the lower levels. I do like how the new front office is building so much depth. You can't count on every prospect hitting it big. The reality is there has to be some expectation of failure, although that can hopefully be minimized by good coaching and player development along with quality scouting.

  • In reply to jimmy mac1:

    Agreed. You absolutely have to take attrition into account.
    The harsh reality of major league baseball is that most of these guys won't make it (or at least make it big) and that goes for most teams top rookies list. What you have to do is to keep improving the overall quality and depth of the list to give yourself the most room for error possible.

  • I think Beliveau could really benefit from some more time in AAA. You look at his 2011 numbers, he was cruising at A+ and AA (WHIP: 1.096, .877, respectively; BB/9: 3.1, 2.1; H/9: 6.8, 5.8) but then when he moved up to AAA in 2012 he had a bit of a setback: (WHIP: 1.409; BB/9: 3.8; H/9: 9.0). I know he's valuable as a second left-handed RP, but I'd love if we picked up someone else for that and gave him time to work on what he needs to work on at AAA. Seems like a promising reliever if we don't rush him.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    For Beliveau, I think it's simply being consistent with control/command and that takes time. He has the natural athletic ability to develop it as long as he's coached well and works at it. From what we know of Beliveau, I don't see either of those two things being an issue.

  • Will Vizcaino be ready to pitch for spring training?

  • Most excellent list, John, and love all of the details. My Q is who is most likely to "Mather" his way onto the team via a strong ST effort? I'm rooting for Rohan. Do you think he gets an invite? I don't know a lot about, just that he rocketed through the Cubs system last year (too old to be in low A), and played very impressively to do that. Is there anyone else who comes to mind?

  • John

    Your articles keep raising the bar! And I bet it was easier to come up with 20 top rookie candidates this year than it was last year.

    Rather than put him in the bullpen, any chance the Cubs might try a "tag-team" approach with the rehabbing Vizcaino? Put him in the starting rotation with a designated reliever to take over after 5 innings. I believe you wrote about some of our minor league teams doing that last summer.

    Looking forward to your next column...

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