Back when I was a kid, in the days before Ryne Sandberg, the Cubs often struggled deciding who their 2B would be: Mike Tyson, Joe Strain, Ted Sizemore, Davey Rosello, Tom Veryzer...
They've got the same issue now, only this time it's a matter of having an embarrassment of riches rather than just plain embarrassment.
The Cubs have incumbent Darwin Barney, who at least provides stellar defense, but it's not going to be enough to stave off the competition for much longer. Emilio Bonifacio has added a new dimension this spring, Arismendy Alcantara's bat finally woke up yesterday and showed that he can be a dynamic offensive weapon in time.
Today, top prospect Javier Baez gets the call at 2B. While Baez is just getting his first look this spring and will return to Iowa as the team's starting SS, this isn't his first go-round at 2B. In fact, that he initially preferred he position over SS in high school.
It certainly didn't take Arismendy Alcantara long to adapt and make the switch after Baez displaced him at Tennessee last year. It should be equally smooth for Baez now that he is the one being shifted due to the presence of starter Starlin Castro. The Cubs budding young star isn't worried about the transition,
"It's pretty much the same thing," he said.
Whatever gets him to the big leagues faster.
Right now, however, Barney is the starter until Baez is ready to take over the position full-time. But it may not be long until we start to see some movement around the keystone. Barney has been getting work at 2B, in part to help decide who fills the short term backup SS role and perhaps in part to prepare him for a change of roles -- or a change in uniform. The Detroit Tigers have lost their own slick fielding SS in Jose Iglesias, possibly for the whole season. While reports have them looking at Seattle's Nick Franklin, there is a question as to whether they have the depth to make a deal for a more talented, cost-controlled player. The Tigers showed some interest in Barney in the past before acquiring Omar Infante. Might they re-engage the Cubs again? With Ian Kinsler at 2B, the Tigers would have to be convinced Barney could play SS full-time, something he hasn't done since he was at AAA Iowa in 2010.
As for Alcantara, he'll man 2B at Iowa and will probably be in a holding pattern to see how things develop with Castro and Baez over the course of the season. He certainly has the athleticism to move to another position if necessary. Or perhaps it'll be Baez who moves yet again...
"Then our shortstop went away, so I moved to short, and I didn't really like it, so I started playing center field, and then I came back to short," Baez said Sunday. "I used to like playing center field. I would do diving catches and stuff like that."
But then there's the problem of Albert Almora looking like a pretty solid bet to be the Cubs long term CF.
Nice "problems" to have for a change.
- Brett Jackson looks to be making a late run for the 5th outfielder spot as he appears to be getting his stroke back. He starts in LF today.
- Another player making a late push is Chris Rusin. After a slow start to the spring, Rusin has gotten into a rhythm and may have taken the lead for the 5th spot if Jake Arrieta isn't ready to start the season, which seems rather likely at this point. Arrieta has made progress but with 2 weeks left in the spring, it's doubtful he'll be ready to take on enough innings early in the season.
- Barney gets another start at SS, is it a showcase?
- Mike Olt continues his bid to make the team. CSN's Patrick Mooney wrote on the possibility today. Olt has yet to play 3B, however, and is not in either starting lineup today.
- Kyle Hendricks was optioned to Iowa as expected.
- Jen-Ho Tseng is a player we've talked about here often of late and now he's making the rounds nationally. Both Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus and Ben Badler of Baseball America had good things to say about the Cubs IFA signing. We ranked him at an admittedly conservative 31 on our top 35 list but Tseng has a chance to shoot up that list this year. Here's what I said about him on our own list a few weeks back,
"Tseng is a sleeper in the Cubs huge IFA haul from last season and some scouts I talked to might think I have him a little low here. Several teams quietly pursued Tseng but the Cubs put in the biggest bid at $1.625M. Unlike many 19 year olds, Tseng is already physically mature. That is a double-edged sword because it limits his projection, but Tseng can already reach 95 mph, so that abates much of the concern. He is also considered to be mentally mature, showing impressive poise for his age and there is some polish to his game already. Along with the good fastball, Tseng also throws a good curve and an average slider. One scout who has seen him often likes his change-up and thinks it's a potential plus pitch for him. The command is still developing but it shows promise and it will be the key to his progress in 2014. Like many pitchers from the Pacific Rim, his delivery has a slight hesitation that can disrupt a hitters timing, especially so since Tseng has the live arm to make it work, exploding on the hitter from that hesitation with quick arm action. Despite the unorthodox delivery, Tseng maintains good balance, keeps his head still, and maintains a good line toward home plate. Tseng profiles as a mid-rotation starter though at least one scout I spoke to thinks he can be more than that. While we keep an eye on some of the big name prospects and IFA signings, Tseng is a prospect to watch this season. He could be the steal of the 2013 IFA signing period."
- Bonifacio SS
- Roberts 2B
- Rizzo 1B
- Ruggiano CF
- Schierholtz RF
- Castillo C
- Sweeney DH
- McDonald LF
- Valbuena 3B
SP: Edwin Jackson SP
- Lake CF
- Barney SS
- Kalish RF
- Valaika 1B
- Baez 2B
- Villanueva 3B
- Vitters DH
- Jackson LF
- Whiteside C
James McDonald SP
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