Spring Training 2011 is over, and barring an unfortunate update on the status of Marlon Byrd's back, the Cubs appear to have achieved goal number one for any offseason: stay healthy.
Other teams in the division have not been so lucky. If you think of Johnny Cueto as a potential staff ace, then you could say the Reds, Cardinals, and Brewers have each lost a number-one starter to injury for the first few turns through the rotation (the Cards are obviously worst off of the bunch, with Adam Wainwright out for the entire 2011 season and probably part of 2012).
Miraculously, most folks on the Cubs' roster have gotten through March scot-free. Unfortunately, no team in the history of Major League Baseball has ever gone 162 games without a few bumps and bruises. Which begs the question:
Which injuries would most hurt the Cubs' chances to surprise the masses and win the division this year?
I realize this post is a 100% jinx just waiting to happen. Frankly, I might just have to delete it once the season actually gets started. But for now, let's all freak ourselves out -- after the jump.
There's two sides to the coin of how painful an injury can be. Of course it sucks to lose a talented player, but what's also important to ask is, how good is his replacement? For example, the Yankees probably won't care that much if Mark Teixeira tweaks his ankle next year, because then they'll just put Albert Pujols at first base, move Jeter to DH, and get someone who can play decent defense to man the six-hole for a while.
Along these lines, perhaps the most easily stomach-able place for the Cubs to suffer from a ding or a nick is in the outfield. Marlon Byrd is far and away the best defender of the bunch, but Tyler Colvin's CF defense is at least passable, and his bat is as-good-if-not-better than any Cub starter. And Reed Johnson isn't terrible. Plus, four-star prospect Brett Jackson could use some major league exposure at some point. In short, very few worries there.
How about the infield? I think there's some decent depth here too. Behind starters Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, you have Jeff Baker and Tyler Colvin respectively (plus Baker can play first, too). In the minors you've got Pacific Coast (rather than International) League Man of Mystery Marquez Smith who could occupy some time at third. So again, some non-sucky options -- better than Mike Fontenot at third. Good God, how do you let Casey MacGahee go when Mike Fontenot is your backup third baseman? Whatever.
I don't really want to even talk about what could happen up the middle, but it suffices to say that Blake DeWitt and Darwin Barney are each passable options at second base, and Barney's defensive skills project well at short, too.
Over to pitching. Do we have rotation depth? Sort of. Casey Coleman is the number six option at this point I guess. Then maybe Jay Jackson? And then Austin Bibens-Dirkx and/or Thomas Diamond? Hey, I trust all those guys more than I do Carlos Silva.
And then the 'pen. There's really only one guy to be worried about here, and that's Carlos "Throw That Slider Again" Marmol. Losing him would probably make Kerry Wood the closer, which would be fine, I guess. But then we'd have to call up Jeff Stevens from Iowa, and he's not very good.
So that's the overview; what's the conclusion? To summarize, I think we're most deep at outfield, and then the corner infield spots. Losing A Certain Shortstop's bat for any length of time would probably be the most painful thing that could happen to our offense, but Darwin Barney's glove and throwing accuracy would at least help assuage that. On the pitching side, we could probably deal with a 15-day DL stint or two with Coleman and Jackson, but Marmol would be a big hit.
I will delete this post, either tomorrow night or after enough people say to do so in the comments, to eliminate the persistent threat of a jinx.
Also: JONX JONX JONX (that's supposed to counter the jinx) JONX