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.
#Cubs position players: Castillo, Baker, Rizzo, Barney, Castro, Valbuena, Olt, Schierholtz, Sweeney, Lake, Ruggiano, Kalish, Bonifacio
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 27, 2014
- 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.
Filed under: Cubs