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The legend of Mike Olt + More

The positional lineup is set and we finally have some answers to the questions we had about the roster coming into the season. There are a few surprise here but for the most part the starters are a collection of familiar faces.

  • Mike Olt was a pleasant surprise, and now the dominoes are in motion on the infield. Luis Valbuena will earn some plate apperances at a position, it's just unclear where his playing time will come from for the time being. I think Valbuena finds some at bats at third.
  • You'll notice that Olt is the only name on the roster that is likely to spell Rizzo at first when he needs a rest. I think that's where infield musical chairs gains an opening. Olt can shift from corner to corner and allow Valbuena some playing time at third when Olt is manning the cold corner.
  • Mike Olt was the deserving headline but the Cubs' second base situation just got interesting as hell. Darwin Barney's glove will earn him starter's time at second base and he's technically Starlin Castro's backup at short. Emilio Bonifacio will reprise a super utility role that encompasses the infield dirt and outfield grass but I think he should see at least some time at second base as well. And then there's Luis Valbuena who will be ping ponging between third and second. All three second base candidates have positional flexibility which will greatly help each in earning playing time across the board. Just have to see how the at bats fill out.
  • While we're on Darwin Barney there's always the chance that Barney ends up being traded to a team that's in need of a competent starting 2B. Texas is a popular name right now since they essentially lost their middle infield to start the season. Wherever Barney goes it will clear up a lot of roster issues that will arise if and when the Cubs decide to call up some minor league infield prospects.
  • Ryan Kalish adds an interesting wrinkle to the outfield set up as well. I think we can safely assume that Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz will be the starters but Bonifacio can play some centerfield and Ryan Kalish has flexibility in the outfield as well. Add in the potential Schierholtz/Justin Ruggiano platoon in right and there's going to be a lot of mixing and matching in the outfield as well.
  • I thought John Baker was an interesting addition to the roster. I honestly believed that George Kottaras would make the team as a competent backup catcher but that proved to be wrong. Baker provides good defense but not much with the bat. Considering Welington Castillo's development behind the plate I think Baker is just mortar for the bricks at this point.

All that remains is for the Cubs to set their rotation and that competition is down to Chris Rusin and Carlos Villanueva. Personally I do think that Villanueva makes the most sense as the 5th starter in that he's played this part just last year. For the Cubs, the fifth starter is a swing man and will likely be replaced by someone like Kyle Hendricks pretty early in the season. Villanueva was the placeholder starter while Matt Garza was hurt last year and I think he could hold the same role again this year.

There are only a few more days before Opening Day. Jed and Theo have assembled an interesting roster. I doubt it's a contender but it can be fun to watch at least.

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  • I'd bet the 5th spot in the rotation goes to Carlos V. as well but as a place holder until Jake Arrieta is ready to come off the DL. IMO, Rusin goes to Iowa & will be the 1st call when needed.

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    Yeah, Arrieta will be the 5th when he is ready. Hendricks (or any other minor leaguer that proves himself ready) will have to wait for a long term injury or until Hammel and/or Shark, Jackson get dealt near the deadline.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Agreed about Arietta - he's too potentially good to not at leat give him a legit shot at the starting rotation before moving him to the bullpen long-term.

  • I really think either Kalish or Bonafacio will be in the lineup everyday to man the leadoff spot. There really is no one else.
    Its not great but I do like: Bonafacio & Kalish at the top in front of Castro,Rizzo,Olt,Schierholtz,Lake & Castillo. That would give us the most solid (not great) lineup we have had in quite sometime.

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    In reply to bleachercreature:

    Bonifacio and Kalish are leadoff types, and will bat there when they play, which should be fairly often. But I don't think it will be everyday. It comes down to philosophy with leadoff batters; I prefer OBP over speed any day. And Bonifacio in his career doesn't get on base enough to be a solid leadoff guy; otherwise, he wouldn't have been available for free.

    To me, Sweeney is fine leading off; he doesn't steal bases, but he'll work the count and get walks.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Agreed. Speed and, by extension, stolen bases are nice to have but I'd rather have someone who gets on base at a high clip and maybe not steal as many bases like a Sweeney.

    A lead off hitters job should be to get on base as much as possible first and steal bases second.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I agree, but only against right handers. Bonifacio can lead off against lefties

  • I wonder if Barney will see some time early at short. Cubs might not want Castro going full bore in the April cold with that hamstring.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Good point. Especially if it's been raining. The wet surface poses an additional threat.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Good thinking. I would not mind to see him there until it gets warm. Valbuena could play second while Starling heals fully.

  • In reply to race:

    According to Starlin, he is 100% now.

  • I have to confess, I have been a cubs fan since I can remember which probably starts with the 1969 season. I really enjoy this sight, I am self-employed and don't get much work done from my home office this time of year (thanks to Cubs den). Great, I feel better getting that off my chest.

    Lets get this season started and see what happens, you never know.

  • I really hope barney and shierholtz are traded by the end of april. It would not only help us by freeing up roster space for prospects or surprises aka ryan kalish, but it would also help barney and shierholtz by giving them a chance to win a ring with a competitive team. I think both players are class act ball players, but they are clearly just fill ins until the prospects are ready.

  • In reply to JLynch2247:

    If Barney and especially Schierholtz are traded, it makes us grossly less competitive, Schierholtz with Rizzo are the only two players who drove in at least 60 runs last year. Our big problem is lack of run producers; why should we trade our second best one. Neither Kalish nor Boni are rbi guys; they are table setters. Kalish has little power for a corner and doesn't have the plus speed for a center fielder. Infield defense is our strength; why weaken it for a marginal offensive gain if there is one at all.

  • In reply to krn99:

    I agree with the loss of Sheirholtz hurting the team. Barney, not so much.

  • In reply to CubsBuck22:

    We agree. I've always appreciated his attitude and effort, but. Barney is not going to be the starter at second or a #2 hitter on a contending team. This to me is the most urgent problem that this club faces for being competitive in the NLC..

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    I think Sweeney will be on the bench and Ruggiano will start in center. If they trade Schierholtz, they'll free up about $4m-the diff between Schierholtz and Sweeney's contracts.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    I am still bullish on Sweeney. He can surprise in my view.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Baseball Reference says Swingle's comparable is Joe Orsulak.
    Don't know if you remember him... but yuck.

    I'm bullish on him being a servicable bench guy.

  • It is nice to see that we are not stuck with Barney at 2nd. We have two option behind him now to give him a break. You do have to like Barney's spring. 7 walks and 5 K's.

    Can he hit 250/340/400? With his glove does that make him a valuable guy to keep.

    Will be interesting to see if he can carry over his approach from Spring into the regular season.

  • Barney probably will be with the Cubs all of this year. He hasn't yet priced himself out of his value even as a back up. Darwin would a great guy to have on the roster if Baez is brought up midseason and generally should be little tougher out in 2014.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Of course the FO could see it different.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    I would like to keep Barney. He's a better hitter than last year (.222 BABIP), but ultimately his value is veteran leadership. Barney prepares well and works harder than anybody, and is a good example.

    Darwin Barney is overexposed as a full-time starter, but as a bench guy, he's quite good. I would be surprised if he doesn't have a 10-year ML career.

    The only X factor is cost; he may get too pricey for a bench player through Arbitration

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    Northsiders Report ‏@NSidersReport: Cubs have released minor league OF Reggie Golden, 2nd round pick in 2010

    Not a surprise, sadly.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yeah, he was pretty bad at KC last year. I saw absolutely nothing from him that made me think he could ever play above AA.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    Agreed.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Just shows the magnitude of our depth now. Missing 2012 with that knee injury really hurt his development. With the warp speed Epstoyer is stockpiling talent, there's just no room for him in this organization. He's got all those tools and athleticism, he's just very raw for a 22yo.

    Someone will pick him up.

    just another case of this organization doing the right thing for the player.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It also reminds us again how appalling our 2010 draft was. We're down basically to Matt Szczur, Jokisch, Ben Wells, Dallas Beeler, and Dustin Geiger. Hardly any impact; a disaster we're still paying for.

    2009 not much better; DJ Lemahieu, Chris Rusin....that's pretty much it

    This is also why we have graduated hardly any talent the last couple years. In fact, from 2011-2013, we have not graduated a drafted player to the majors that received regular playing time and spent a full year on a ML roster. Darwin Barney was the last drafted player we graduated. (Castillo and Lake were IFAs)

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Wow,.... when you look at it like that - it is really amazing how empty the larder was, and how poorly the last few years of drafting, or at least development post-drafting under the Pre-Theo managmenet made out.

    No wonder Theo & Hoyer had to do a complete rebuild. There was absolutely nothing left in the Farm system to work with. Sometimes I look around at the relative abundance of prospect talent the Cubs have now and forget how different it looked even just a couple of years ago.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I don't think we need to re hash how putrid the Cubs player development has been. But under the old regime, it was viewed entirely differently. It's hard to say they failed at something that they really didn't even attempt to do...

    But its way too early to judge the 2011-2013 drafts. 2011 was the last one under Hendry, when they knew he would be leaving and a new CBA coming in. Ricketts gave him money to sign high up side players and the 2011 draft netted us Baez, VogelBOMB, and a handful of legit prospects from Kane county to AAA. I suspect we'll be harvesting some impact talent from that haul.

    But so far as Golden, it's hard to fault them for taking a shot on drafting a HS kid with 5 tools. It's a shame it didn't work out. But most of them don't for a multitude of reasons.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Think this is one of those wonderful times where what was best for the player was also what was best for the organization. It is going to be extremely difficult to get all the outfielders playing time so taking him out of the rotation eases the situation a bit.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thank you again Tim Wilken.

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    In reply to Rock:

    You like the look of Javier Baez? Tim Wilken pick.

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    In reply to Rock:

    Another reason Wilken got "promoted".

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    Am I the only one who is nervous about Olt? It's seems like we're just throwing out 2013 and attributing all his problems to the vision issue. I want to believe that, but this is spring training. Are we sure he's "fixed."

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Not sure what there is to be nervious about. If he stinks he goes down to AAA. Its not like giving him a chance is disrupting the development of any other prospects. He is 25 years old and the Cubs have a long list of potential 3B prospects behind him. At this point I'm not sure there is really anything else he can learn from the minors. He needs to learn how to contribute in the majors.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    No, but we will be 100% before his 3rd MLB season? Look what happened to Castro... Coghlan was 09 NL Rooking of the year and can't make a MLB squad now, etc...

    But he's not infringing on the development of others. Do we really care if Valbuena loses playing time to someone who "might" be part of the future? If he sucks, they'll send him back down. He's got option for 2 more years.

    Having said that, I do think that he does something to prove still. As does Kalish. I like them both, but since neither is a super-two concern, they're up with the MLB team. Whereas Baez is in AAA. In other words, there's no downside to bringing either of them up to the MLB team now, except their performance and we wont know that part for certain until they're given a chance...

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    I agree, want to see him a few months in the bigs before I feel comfortable. I hope I am wrong, but not 100% sold yet.

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    In reply to DoubleM:

    This is what I meant. I'm not worried about him preventing others from developing. I agree with the points made by MJVC and HoosierDaddy on that. I was commenting from the perspective that is it too good to be true that the Cubs may have their third baseman of the future? Of course, I also get that if Olt doesn't pan out, there is some depth at this position in the system. But wow, if this is the Olt everybody was expecting a couple years ago then what a start to the wave of prospects expected over the next couple years!

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    I don't think "nervous" is the right word. When we got Olt, I expected that we were getting absolutely nothing. It turns out that we might have gotten a very good player. I would still rate it at about 50 - 50, but those were odds I would have jumped at last July.

  • Renteria said that Olt & Valbuena "will share 3B". And with 5 OFers already, 3 LHed, I don't see Bonifacio playing much out there. I see Bonifacio & Barney as the two 2Bmen. So doubt Valbuena sees any significant time there. As Bonifacio shows how good he is at leadoff, I see Barney's playing time diminishing as well. Spot starting & late inning defense at 2B & back up insurance at SS. Just my take on what I see them doing at least until trades are made.

    And as I said yesterday, if Olt doesn't take 3B by storm, watch them put Baez there when they finally call him up. When, or if, Schierholtz gets traded Olt could become corner OF regular & corner IF sub. Remember Milk Stout told you so & Milk Stout is rarely ever wroo, uh wrooon. I can't even type that word & my name in the same sentence.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    If Olt is playing well enough to warrant staying in the majors, I believe he will stay at third base. That seems to be his best defensive position, whereas Baez could probably play right field much better than Olt.

  • I am thinking Castro starts the year on the DL at this point. Don't we have 1 to many OF on our roster?

  • In reply to waitingOn2015:

    Renteria says he's ready & 100%. He's supposed to play SS tonight against the DBacks as well. So doubt they DL him.

    No, there is not too many OF. There are 5 not counting Bonifacio. Bonifacio will probably get the bulk of his PT at 2B. Schierholtz could be traded & that would open some PT for Bonifacio in the OF, but probably not until/if that happens.

  • In reply to waitingOn2015:

    If they were going to do that, they would have done it the other day before playing in the MiLB game. They could have back dated it then to minimize the games he'd be out. Now he'd spend the first two weeks of the season on the DL. So they're planning to open with him.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Since his playing time has been in minor league games he actually would be able to have his DL stint backdated to the last MLB ST game he played in (I believe that's March 2nd). Castro has been playing with the minor league team specifically for that purpose.

    If Castro played in one of the next 2 games against the Diamondbacks they would not be able to backdate putting him on the DL. Everyone says he's fine, but he isn't in the lineup tonight which could indicate they are still on the fence about him starting the season on the DL.

  • I would still like to see Sweeney traded. He will definitely not be in the future and is expendable.

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    In reply to CubsBuck22:

    Why not trade Schierholtz instead and save $4m?

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Exactly. Sweeney makes backup money and fills the role adequately.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Because Nate is better offensively and doesn't hurt you defensively. We need runs. Makes sense to me.

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    I think the whole "Olt and Valbuena will share 3b" is a bit misconstrued. I believe Olt is the full-time starter but because of the shoulder issues he'll probably sit a few day a week until he's fully healthy. Upon which he will be the everyday 3B.

    In other words I don't believe this is a platoon situation. Otherwise Olt, being right-handed, will waste away on the bench.

  • I think that if Valbuena plays in a strict platoon, it will be at second base. As Marcel says, no sense in putting Olt on the bench is 75 % of the games.

  • Let's not lose sight of the fact that Olt, Valbuena, Barney, Bonifacio, Schierholtz, Sweeney, Kalish, & Ruggiano are all allowed to play in the same ballgame. As a matter of fact, with double switches, pinch hitters, and late inning defensive replacements, that'll probably happen just about every day.

    ...Olt goes 1-3 with a double and an RBI through the first seven innings, Valbuena comes in as part of a double switch in the top of the eighth and then takes the AB against the big right handed reliever in the bottom of the inning. After hooking a slider into the corner and giving the Cubs the lead he then proceeds to make a nice pick to start a game ending double play in the ninth.

    ...Bonifacio starts at 2B but then moves to CF, shifting Sweeney over to left after the 0-3 (3 K's) Junior Lake is taken down as part of a double switch. Darwin Barney now comes into the game to play second base.

    Stuff like that. Everyone is going to have a really good chance to be involved and get the appropriate amount of PT.

    Six right handed hitters. Six lefties. One switch hitter. Athletic players. Everyone but Rizzo (who needs to be a block of granite and play every single inning a la Prince Fielder for us to have any chance) Wely and Bake are capable of playing multiple positions (Starlin could play second or third if he had to, obviously). Its been a while since I've liked our roster so much. It's a really nice National League roster all things considered!

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    In reply to Ben20:

    Rizzo can take days off vs tough LHP's. Olt can rest the shoulder for a day at 1B, the switch hitting bonifacio can play 3B to give them an all RH infield on those days.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Eh, theoretically I guess they could but I don't like the idea of sitting your best hitter if he's healthy, ever. I can't think of any team that sits their 3 hole/4 hole/best hitter/franchise-ish player just because there's a tough lefty on the hill, especially given the fact that he's 24 and a plus defender. I'd hate to consistently sit him against Liriano, Cingrani, Kershaw, Lee, etc. Ideally he lays off the breaking stuff in the dirt, sees some pitches, hangs with em, and picks three or four throws out of the dirt while doing the splits. I can see sitting Olt, Lake, or Castillo against a Wainwirght or a Latos once in a while but I think Rizzo should stay out there.

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    In reply to Ben20:

    I can certainly see your point. I do think everyone needs some rest now and then, especially with the larger amount of day games. Instead of using their allotted night games wisely and concentrating them in the summer, they know attendance is greater at night during the school year and use a good many in april and may.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Yeah, I see what you're saying from a day/night rest perspective but I don't really think attendance plays any role at all. I don't think there are that many people who look for that day's line up and say, "That's it, Honey! So and so's not playing so we're not going!". In fact I'd be willing to bet that at least a third or more of the fans that come through the turnstiles on any given day would have no clue if you tried to get them to recite that day's probable line up. Then there are guys like you and me who would probably know everyone's lifetime slash line against that day's opposing pitcher, lol. The real fans.

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    In reply to Ben20:

    I think I must not have made my self clear about the attendance. What I meant was, it makes more sense to use your jight games in the summer to spare your players from the hot sun of July/August day games.
    But the team knows that daytime attendance is lower than nighttime during the school months, so they use some of their allotted night games in April/May.
    I realize that the line up of a particular day has little to do with the number of butts in the seats.

  • No Castro in the lineup tonight. Have to think he will start the year on the DL as that gives him time to recover as well as lets Bonafacia and Barney play some short, Valbuena and Barney some 2B and Olt and Valbuena some 3B.

    Evaluate in mid-april and go from there.

    Was hoping Castro could start the year with the Cubs, but they need to be cautious.

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    I am just like bleachercreature,not as much getting done at the office at home.

  • You know one of the sure fire ways to tell if someone is a die hard Cubs fan?

    If its Friday night and your'e sitting on the couch looking at Cubs Den, and waiting for a spring game to start just to see if Starlin's ok, knowing all the while that there's a (let's face it) better than average chance that Edwin Jackson is going to ruin your night.

    Cubs baseball. Hello, old friend.

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