Cubs finalize roster, Arrieta tops A's, and more notes, photos from the backfield

It turned out to be quite an eventful day as the Cubs played their next to last 2016 Spring Training game here in Sloan Park.  Jake Arrieta managed to quell some fears -- for the time being, at least -- as he threw 5 innings of 2 hit, one run ball.  He walked two and struck out 5.  Arrieta is saying the blister is already gone and that it will not be a concern.

The Cubs continued to mash on offense, hitting 5 HRs.  Addison Russell hit his team leading 5th, Kyle Schwarber his first, and David Ross hit his 2nd.  A couple of players who factored in the Cubs final roster maneuvers, also HR'd.  Munenori Kawasaki surprised everyone with his first HR of the spring and Matt Szczur  hit his second in as many days. Szczur went 3 for 3, with a double, single, run scored, and 2 RBI overall.

The Cubs won 9-5 and you can read the box score here.

It was a celebration of sorts for Szczur, who essentially made the Opening Day roster when the Cubs placed Javier Baez on the DL with a thumb contusion.  Tommy La Stella also made the team as a backup infielder and valuable bat off the bench.  On the pitching side, Neil Ramirez, as expected, made the final cut.  The RP was out of options and had begun to pitch  well again of late.

The Cubs also got some good news from 3 non-roster players who just missed the cut.  Munenori Kawasaki, Manny Parra, and Shane Victorino were all re-signed to minor league deals and, along with Spencer Patton, are likely to be among the first call-ups during the season.

Notes from the backfields

  • LHP Carson Sands turned in a solid start, pitching 4 scoreless innings.  The fastball was 88-90 mph, down a bit from last spring, but the curveball was better today.  He's still not clicking on all cylinders, but he took a step closer today.
  • Eric Leal worked 5 quick innings and allowed just one run.  He was 89-91 mph FB and also had his good curve working.
  • Pitching in relief for South Bend were Junior Marte, who was 90-92 and mixed in a slider, Jose Paulino, a lefty who was at 91-95 mph, and Pedro Silverio, who pitched in the 90-92 range with a solid curve.
  • On the Myrtle Beach side it was Dillon Maples, who was in the 93-94 mph range and once again used his curve as an out pitch when ahead on the count.  He had a quick first inning and then ran into a bit of trouble in his second frame, when he lost his feel for the strike zone, walked a batter, then allowed a soft single -- but what was really impressive was that Maples, who  sometimes allows those kinds of things to snowball, worked out of it by getting the next hitter to ground into a double play.
  • Ryan McNeil was at 93-94 on his 4 seamer, high 80s on his 2 seamer, and also threw in an occasional slider/cutter.
  • In the South Bend game, Eloy Jimenez tied the game in the bottom of the 9th with a long solo HR that I lost in the cloudy white sky.  Judging from the OFers reaction, it probably landed on the roof again.
  • PJ Higgins showed he has one of the  quickest releases of any catcher in the organization, popping a 1.91 sec time on a steal attempt.  The runner was safe, but that was no fault of Higgins, who got rid of the ball quickly and uncorked a perfectly placed throw to 2B.
  • Gleyber Torres had pair of doubles in the Myrtle Beach game and Ian Happ ripped a triple down the LF as a RH hitter.
  • Also of interest, Donnie Dewees (South Bend) and Shawon Dunston, Jr. (Myrtle Beach) both played CF and played well,  Dewees, in fact, made a diving catch coming in and to his right, then ran down a ball in the gap in the opposite direction.
  • AZ Phil has the recap from the AA/AAA games and we have some pics from the A ball games below.

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  • Great stuff, John. It's starting to look like Eloy is going to have his breakout season. Any chance he lands on mid season top 100 lists? And does Gleyber look like he's adding muscle?
    It seems like players from all levels are being given the tools they need from the organization to reach their potential. From Eloy to Andreoli, guys seem to be taking the next step.

  • In reply to ericccs:

    I'm absolutely expecting Eloy to take a big jump this season or maybe next at the latest. In my looks at him he is a smart hitter with excellent physical skills and he carries himself very well. John has mentioned several times how often he has taken on a leadership role.

  • In reply to ericccs:

    Thanks. He definitely has a shot. He's got the best raw power in a pretty strong organization and is a better hitter than he's given credit for. He has shown signs of improving his approach, though he does waver as many young power hitters do. If he can continue to improve his approach at the plate, it could be a big year for him -- though South Bend and the MWL in general is a tough year to hit, as is Myrtle Beach and the Carolina League. You almost have to wait until AA to see any of these guys put up big numbers.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    @ Michael & John.. How would you guys compare Eloy to Soler in terms of having a higher ceiling? They seem pretty similar in size, position and being power hitters.

  • In reply to Ozzie24:

    They're similar, Soler's tools across the board may be a little louder and he had a more mature approach entering his pro career, but he was also older. Jimenez is getting started in pro ball here a lot sooner, will get more development time, and more time to the Cubs/MLB style of play and culture. Both aren't very good defenders. They're going to have to get on base and hit for power to be impact starters.

  • In reply to Ozzie24:

    Soler is the more explosive. Better straight line speed, better bat speed, better arm.

    Eloy really intrigues me though. I haven't seen him near as much as John, and he is undoubtedly still inconsistent, but my impressions are that understands what he needs to do as a hitter, understands how to use the whole field, he just needs experience to put it into practice regularly. I will be focusing a lot of time on watching him this season in SB and will provide regular updates. The pitching staff and the OF for that team should be really fun to track.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thanks for the quick reply guys! Love to hear you guys talk about Cubs prospects.

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  • John, it's common knowledge that minor leaguers make minuscule salaries and per diem in season, which leads to a lot of fast food and poor nutrition in many organizations. The Cubs' farm hands look really fit/muscular. Is the organization doing something to augment the players' diets, providing meals, supplements? It seems like it would be a pennies on the dollar investment to get the best out of their minor leaguers.

  • In reply to ericccs:

    During the season the teams provide meals to the players after the games. It can be catered or something prepared at the field. After the game there are not a lot of restaurants open other than fast food places.

    The Cub's offer a lot of camps that some of the players can take advantage of. While attending the players are paid their salary and a per diem. The Cub minor league player I know was home for a week at the end of the season. He was around for about a month around Christmas and for a week or so at the end of January. The rest of the time he was in Arizona for various Cub things. By contrast, a Pirate player I know worked at his fathers place of employ all aff season, and passed on camps he was invited to because he couldn't afford to go because he wouldn't be paid for his time. I recall reading an article about a team with facilities in Florida (Mets?) who were charging players to attend camps.

    The players I know are given a list of approved supplements and they are on their own for purchasing them. The players residences I have been in are usually well stocked with energy bars and the like they bring home from the club house.

    Off the topic I heard that T. Masek, C. Hieffner, J. Rakkar, T. Scott. F. Cruz, J. Rogers were all released. On the bright side I also heard that M. Brazis was picked up by somebody.

  • In reply to ericccs:

    When the Cub player I know was playing short season he was put up by a family that fed him. Actually they treated him better than I treated my own kids, going as far as letting him use their vehicles while he was there.

    While he was in the Midwest league he stayed with a host who had converted their basement into 4 or five bedrooms and a good portion of the batting order stayed there. The one bright side of this residence was with that many players there somebody has wheels. I believe he was charged $200 a month for meals there.

    Since that time he and a group of other players have been able to get rentals left empty by college students for the summer. The overlap is covered by hotels and timely road trips.

    One of the bigger headaches is vehicles. You drive to Mesa for spring training. At the end of spring training they hand you an airplane ticket Myrtle Beach. After finally getting settled in Myrtle, and shipping your car you go on an extended road trip. While on the road trip, you get your big break and your shipped to Tennessee, and your starting tonight.

    A Rangers farmhand I know says the Rangers pay for vehicle transport, but the Cub's and Pirates don't.

  • In reply to LOB8591:

    LOB, awesome info, thanks

  • In reply to ericccs:

    Yes, they help them a lot with the nutrition, diet, exercise, etc. both here in AZ and the Dominican facility. A lot of these guys have shown up in treat shape.

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  • Before I even finished reading your comment, I was thinking the same thing: nutritional info and supplementation would be a wise investment. I have no idea how it works, but you would this healthy food would be provided at least while at team training facilities, games, etc. Young kids and no money does not do a body good. I'm sure the organization knows this, but it would be interesting to know how it all works.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    You would think that organizations would do this because these players are the commodities of the future. The better nutrition, the healthier they are the better they perform. It's common sense, but I used to read all the time how players would be in restaurants and the Latin players (or any who didn't speak English) would constantly order the one or two things they knew the words too (hamburgers e.g.).
    I hope things have changed, but don't know. Good question.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Your comment about the Latin players ordering hamburgers reminds me of an interview I saw back in the 80's with a retired football player. He said he was motivated to learn how to read in his 50's after purchasing a large bucket of what he thought was fried chicken based on the picture on the label, only to be disappointed to learn it was a tub of Crisco shortening.

    It's amazing to realize that Billy Hamilton (6'0,170) and Juan Pierre (5'10,180) are the same size as Hank Aaron (6'0,180) and Willie Mays (5'10,170). Nutrition and modern medicine have done more to improve the quuality and performance of baseball, and every sport, than anything else I can think of.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Wow, comparing those players physical sizes in making the case for modern medicine and nutrition kind of backfired on me. I was trying to point out how much bigger and more fit athletes have become. Based upon those comps, maybe we should go back to hot dogs and fried everything.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I was once on a flight with the Mays/McCovey Giants, and those guys were built. Close up Mays, although not tall, looked like a barrel with tree trunks growing out of it, and McCovey was just plain huge. I'm not a small person (6', wt. undisclosed), but I felt like a midget among giants (pun intended). I often speculated what would have happened had that plane had gone down, but then again, I would never have known (:-).

  • Arrietta didn't get a blister on his little finger.
    Didn't get a blister on his thumb.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    I want my (WS) MVP!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Well done.

  • fb_avatar

    So what's the backup plan if Rondon doesn't start pitching better? And I'm just not sold on the cubs starting 5 right now. Outside of Lester and Arrieta the cubs starting staff has some big question marks. Will Lackey finally start pitching like a near 40 year old and is Hammel going to die in the second half again,and Hendricks,well he has to be nearly perfect with every pitch or otherwise he's going to get hammered. Not picking up another legit tor starter is going to come back and haunt this team. I'd still take the cardinals starting 5 over ours,and they also have much better minor league depth if something happens to one of their starters. If one of their starters go down they have Gonzales,Cooney,Lyons and Reyes who might just be the top pitching prospect in the game.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Adam Warren is waiting in the wings. Not to mention Cahill as well. Personally I think they'll be fine in the rotation.

    If Rondon is blowing leads or worse, like giving the lead to the other team, then that will be harder to overcome. Any closer struggling is hard to overcome because he's in at the end of the game so it's not like they can bounce back that game unless he only allows a tie before getting the 3rd out. With Ramirez making the team, they could go w/Grimm if Rondon struggles.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    All pitching staffs have concerns, but the Cards starting rotation has the same type concerns as the Cubs don't they? Wacha, their #3 has had shoulder issues and hasn't been pitching well since the AS game last year and has gotten knocked around in ST. Garcia has a long track record of injury and he is their #4. And Leake gets hit hard too and has a lower K rate than Hendricks, but they are both crafty and know how to pitch to contact and that is what makes them really good #5 starters. And in regards to pitching depth the Cards have a lot of upside in those pitchers you mentioned, but the Cubs have more proven MLB experience in their guys with Cahill and Warren. But there is also some upside in Johnson and Williams as well. I think they match up well and it should be fun to see how it goes.

  • In reply to couch:

    Everyone but Reyes for the Cards is a BOR type. Those guys aren't scaring anyone...except Reyes of course. And his career could go up in smoke if he can't learn to lay off the weed

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Don't fret over Rondon. This is classic Hector. Last season he struck out 42 against 5 walks in high leverage situations with an OPS against of .548. In low leverage situations, like yesterday, he only struck out 13 against 6 walks allowing an OPS of 653. I'm sure plan was to give him the work in a save situation but teammates screwed that up with big eighth inning.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    Rondons last 2 seasons his 2nd half ERA and WHIP have been sub 1. 2 ER in his last 30IP last year. As long as hes healthy, hes gotten better as the season progressed.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Every year since Bosio's arrival, hasn't the Cubs pitching been better than anyone thought it would be going into the season? Seems like it to me. I'm not worried.

  • This year will be the first edition of a roster construction based on executing the entire plan with Maddon as the field commander. The versatility regarding bats playing multiple defensive positions as well as places in the lineup offer Maddon dreamed about tactical in game maneuvering. Epstein is on record saying he can't imagine any player logging more than 155 games this year, (that includes Bryant, Heyward [and Rizzo]) more apt is not GP but innings logged or starts. This is where Baez is slated to be a 9th position starter as a starting utility player. In Mid-May we shall see if it is a regular pattern that Baez is starting at least five games, while Schwarber is starting five games and Soler at least four. How good will the team perform with every starter getting a rest day each week? More importantly the Cubs by definition could have the strongest bench in the league with by definition that Baez is a starter, that at least one starter is on the bench each game.

    As for pitching this recognition of the long term return of managing IP I can see the plan to have four middle inning designated pitchers to be given the ball for one rotation through a batting order, (Cahill, Richard and Warren plus possibly Grimm(?) or Ramirez(?),) something radically different, when a hand over to the late inning squad is made redefining high leverage situations. If starters are given the expressed duty to get a dominant quality start twice through a lineup through the 5th inning, where a hand off is made to one of the above four.

    In this midst is the capability to overcome a couple of injuries both in the pitching corps and on the field as we see with Baez's minor cut. On the margins we shall see if Szczur can pass through waivers or be traded. My guess is that FO is taking the bet that the first/second week of April where decisions were made and want not to disrupt too much of the developing respective locker rooms. We shall see, but the Cubs seem to be developing capable back up with Andreoli.

    Overall I think the Cubs will look for two major acquisitions as the year goes by and it is in the pitching corps. Another late inning closer type to team up with Rondon who has an ID'd problem of three consecutive outings. The second is acquiring another top starter for the playoffs. This is the best Cubs roster breaking camp since 1932. It is going to be an interesting year!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to rnemanich:

    I wouldn't be surprised if Maddon did a "piggy-back" strategy with Hendricks and maybe Hammel.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    To me, the construction of the bullpen over the offseason has been intriguing. It's not as if they just said "these are the best arms available to us" and threw them all together, it is definitely leaning toward pitching theory. I'm sure it has been a topic of deep discussion between Theo, Joe, and the "geeks".

    Another lock-down arm at the end of the pen, in my view, is the area of greatest improvement this roster could use, and I have full confidence that will be monitored and addressed when/if needed. The Cubs are absolutely in the market for a top-tier SP, but I've come to the conclusion that acquisition comes down completely to availability and value. We have the currency in players and cash to make any deal yesterday. I suspect we'll all be happy, in hindsight, when that deal finally goes down.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    You are correct at least seeing what I also perceive is a deviation from the conventional norm regarding the pen and various bullet points through the off season stating that Arrieta (and Lester) were fatigued near the end of the season. Maddon is someone who really looks inside and out of the box and understands that Wrigley, and the Cubs in general pose a different set of circumstances than other clubs where fatigue is a factor to be managed.

    Trading for more impact players the Cubs indeed have resources that are not part of the core.

    Soler
    La Stella
    Szczur
    Hendricks (or Hammel but doubt that if they really building the best WS roster)
    Edwards
    Ramirez
    McKinney
    Johnson
    Maples

    then there are many other more prospecty pieces

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    The pitching rotation you speculated about is actually not "radically different", at least on paper. See Earnshaw Cook, Percentage Baseball: http://www.amazon.com/Percentage-Baseball-Press-Earnshaw-Cook/dp/0262532158?ie=UTF8&psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=ox_sc_sfl_title_13&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER, originally published in 1964. Some teams have used modest approximations of Cook's ideas from time to time, but never with full commitment. Maybe it's time for Joe's modified version.

  • I wonder if there is any worry that Sands has lost a tick. If the pitchability is there, then I guess its not an issue. The margin for error decreases as you see with Hendricks. I hope he develops. His brother Cole was roughed up a bit by the Gators last night in 1/3 of an inning. I hope AJ Puk somehow falls to the Cubs in the Draft. That is wishful thinking

  • John, at one point I thought you said Maples ditched his curve for a slider, but maybe I am wrong. Is his future in the bullpen? A mid 90s heater and a plus breaking pitch sounds like a MLB bullpen arm if he can throw them for strikes.

  • In reply to couch:

    Maples is absolutely a bullpen only arm. If he can learn to throw strikes consistently he has a chance. Maybe he becomes a Tony Zych type that doesn't figure it out until he is 27-28 or whatever. You don't like to give up on arms like that until you have exhausted opportunities.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Zych was 24 when he made his major league debut last year. So the cubs have up on a big arm like his when he was only 23? Did we get something back in return?

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    You're right. Wow, as a college guy that seemed to be in the minors with the Cubs forever I just assumed he was older. That actually makes me upset they gave up on him so early.

    They received $1 for him. Seriously. That is apparently what they received according to an article on ESPN.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    To be clear though, I was fine with the Cubs getting rid of him at the time. He had stalled here. When you watched him it was surprising that he was having as little success as he was because the stuff was there, but the command wavered and he gave up way more hard hit balls than would be expected. I don't know if Seattle fixed something he was doing wrong or if just a little more experience allowed him to straighten himself out. Just kind of the way it is with relievers nowadays. Guys like him get passed around the league all the time, some years they find it, some never do.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Was that $1 actually paid, or is it accruing interest somewhere?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Greg Simmons:

    I believe he had to be added to the 40 man which they weren't going to do.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Zych was injured for a couple of years, and was not improving while in the Cubs system. He is a good example of the danger of giving up on someone with great potential but constant health problems.

    They are currently facing the same thing with Ramirez.

  • In reply to couch:

    That was from a tweet by another prospect writer who watched him, but personally I have yet to see him throw anything except a fastball or a curve.

  • The Kawasaki HR was just an awesome thing to watch. The guy gets cut, then resigned. A section of the stands is heartily chanting Ka-Wa-Sa-Ki over and over so loudly that the cameras and announcers are all over it. Then this little guy with minimal power pops on real good over the RF wall! Not only that, he smoothly adds on a bat flip as if this were just a common every-day thing for him. I was really impressed and entertained laughing and shaking my head for about a minute. Just beautiful.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    That was a great moment and that bat flip was top shelf. I have to say I've kind of been rooting against him making this team just because I think we have enough character and characters already, and I worry that all the silliness could start to grate on some of the veterans after awhile.
    But the little guy has won me over. His videos on YouTube are hilarious. I think he would fit in well.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I saw that bat flip too! It was a thing if beauty, esp considering what really seemed to be a bothersome chant. Nothing choreographed about it, the bat came around, and up it went really without a fuss or skipping a beat. Bravo Kawasaki!

  • I'm kind of surprised not to hear much about Kwang-min Kwon this spring. In the fall he sounded promising. Has he been pretty pedestrian so far?

  • In reply to Swissconsin:

    He is just really young. He will be playing in rookie ball this year. He surprised me with how good of an athlete he is. Good speed for a big guy, so hopefully that will give him the option of playing OF in the future and not limiting him to 1B. Definitely very intriguing. But very far away too.

  • In reply to Swissconsin:

    He hasn't done anything to stand out. He is probably headed to Ext ST and then the Rookie League here. so you'll hear more about him then.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Saw Kwon take a swing (and a miss) vs De la Cruz (courtesy of the Twitter feed of one of JAs guys) and Kwon was nowhere near full extension. He would've had to have been timed up perfectly to make contact.
    This is just an observation off of one swing btw

  • First love just about everything Madden does but still don't like a four man bench and when the using the DH against the Angels, then the bench = 3. Do any of the other relievers have minor league options left because when Baez comes off the DL the eight man BP should be reduced to 7.

  • In reply to willycat:

    Richard has an option left, but he can refuse that option. Plus that would leave Wood as the only lefty in the pen.
    It seems to me that Szczur's fate is tied to Baez, especialy if Maddon/FO is comfortable with Baez in the OF. Et tu Baez?

  • In reply to willycat:

    Agree with your observation about the 4-man bench.

    I don't like it either.

    I would like to see MLB maybe go with a 26 man roster and limit amount of pitchers to 12 or 13. Nowadays, with pitcher fragility being what it is, this would still give the teams a good amount of bullpen pitching while allowing for that extra bench guy for pinch-hitting or whatever.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to willycat:

    The only thing I don't like about the "short bench" is that is leaves us kind of exposed at SS. La Stella and Zobrist aren't much more than "emergency" guys defensively there from what I understand. But, overall, I think that in a game with a DH a pinch hitter is LESS likely to be needed than in a game without a DH. I would wager that most PH are pinch hitting for the pitcher. Since he isn't batting we don't have to worry about that. In some ways having a short bench can be a benefit as it will allow more bench players to get ABs.

    Let's go with a starting line-up of
    Montero (C)
    Rizzo (1B)
    Zobrist (2B)
    Russell (SS)
    Bryant (3B)
    Schwarber (LF)
    Fowler (CF)
    Heyward (RF)

    If we have a 13 man staff that means 4 other guys on the roster. Let's assume that it is Soler (DH?), Ross (back up Catcher), La Stella (LH, pinch hitter/middle infielder), Szczur (pinch runner/defensive OF replacement?). Most batters tend to get better with use, most bullpen arms tend to get worse with use (fatigue). So having a short bench means if we need a PH then La Stella can come in. If we need a defensive replacement we can use Szczur. Ross is Ross. In short having fewer guys on the bench will mean that we could be better than having more guys just sitting on the bench. In games without a DH we would have 2 threats for PH off the bench, La Stella for "just get a baserunner" and Soler/Schwarber for "let's supply some thunder."

    I would feel better if we had Baez available as a back up SS and able to back up 3B and OF, but that doesn't really change how many guys we have on the bench. If Maddon wants to go to the 'pen early and often like he did last year then having another arm down there to potentially give a tired reliever time to rest and recuperate could be FAR more valuable in the short and long run over having an extra guy sitting on the bench and reasonably likely not playing.

  • A good break for Szczur - and not a bad thing for Baez in all likelihood - to start out the season. I like the guy - and while in the long-term he's not likely going to be a factor for the Cubs - he's going to be able to be somebody's 4th OF or part-time CF somewhere in the league. Hope he makes the most of his chances in early April.

    Offense is starting to click at the right time,.... pitching has generally stayed healthy and gotten their work in,.... they're just about as ready as they are ever going to be to get the 2016 season rolling.

    Figure that with the Cold weather in Chicago - the offense and power are going to take a hit at first, but opening up in California should be fun to watch.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I'm happy for Szczur as he does seem like a genuinely good guy. He has definitely worked hard to develop his offensive game since the end of the 2014 season. His swing still isn't a thing of beauty but it is nothing like the complete liability it used to be. The amount of change he has been able to make is unusual and speaks to his work ethic and ability to adapt. He now has a chance to be a decent contributor on the offensive side and take advantage of his plus athleticism.

  • The current roster and pending roster crunch is going to be interesting. Without baez, you almost can't pinch hit lastella too early because there are only 4 guys on the roster to man 3 spots (3b, SS, 2b). Therefore, Baez will be useful ASAP and szczur should face the waiver wire. The fifth outfielder on this team is redundant with zobrist and Bryant more than capable of playing the outfield. Further, I still don't get maddon talking about Baez as needing more time in the outfield. The outfield experiment should have been kicked down the road another year after the fowler signing. Heyward needs to play center when fowler sits, and if Joe thinks Baez should be stealing at bats from soler on those days, then Baez should play 2b or 3b and push Bryant or zobrist to a corner. I think there is such a thing as being too versatile. Baez should spend all his time being a great defender at 3b, ss, 2b. Don't worry about the outfield trial until fowler leaves.

    Related to lineup construction, I don't think maddon will do this, but I would love to see this as the regular starting lineup:
    1 heyward cf
    2 Bryant 3b
    3 rizzo 1b
    4 zobrist 2b
    5 soler rf
    6 schwarber lf
    7 Russell ss
    8 Montero C
    9 pitcher

    The keys to this lineup are soler and schwarber back to back and zobrist as a buffer between those guys and rizzo / Bryant. The idea is that with the lead around the 6th inning, you would double switch out schwarber or soler w with fowler entering in the 9th spot. So either soler or schwarber comes out, fowler goes to center and heyward to right. Then, you would try to get 2 innings out of one of the cubs 4 long guys before that double switch spot comes up in the order again. The important part is that zobrist is protection between the boppers and the double switch spot. Too many times late last year, maddon would sub out both corner outfielders for defense, but denorfia and Jackson would be taking critical at bats late in games around rizzo and Bryant, which made it much easier to pitch around those guys. Also, zobrist patient approach should make him a fine candidate to hit in front of the pitcher after the double switch.

    In my opinion that lineup (against rhp) maximizes the roster flexibility, especially when someone like Hendricks pitches who doesn't work deep into games.

  • I'm a fan of Szcuzr. I was at an Iowa game last season and witnessed him on his way out to the batting cages in left field before a game. He stopped to talk to a kid then walked all the way back to the dugout grabbed a bat and brought it to the kid. One of the nicest guys in baseball. On that note, with this talented of a team I can't see him on the roster the whole year.

    Is he worthy of a trade for a competitive balance draft pick?

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    I fully expected more chatter about the lack of IF depth to open the season. There's no Coghlan to be an emergency infielder. I know it's not long term, but seriously, what happens if a 6th IF is needed?

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    Ross probably. Maybe Travis Wood. Really only an issue in extra innings. The first couple of games are interleague with DH so PH (La Stella specifically) really isn't needed and can be saved as purely extra IF.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    Strop was an IF before becoming a pitcher. He would be an option. Wood is a better athlete, but being a lefty makes him problematic. Wood would definitely be the emergency OF I would think.

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    I see you point, but I like La Stella as the best PH bat. The only backup IF is probably the best PH bat?

  • Travis Wood as an emergency ph 3hr 2013 and 2014 with a reasonable sss iso of .159 and .197 dontchaknow.

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