This is not the first Cubs blog to speculate on the 25-man roster for Opening Day 2012. This entry will probably be far from the most accurate, and will hardly be the last guess anyone makes before the first official regular season game of the year. But it's fun to guess who will make the team, so I'm doing it.
Known hitters: Soto, LaHair, Barney, Stewart, Castro, Soriano, Byrd, DeJesus, Baker, Johnson.
Unknown hitters: Backup C, 5th OF, 6th IF
I have pretty good guesses for each of these spots. At catcher, I think it'll be Steve Clevenger, with Wellington Castillo getting to play every day in Iowa. In the outfield, I think it's Tony Campana; his speed is a useful tool at MLB, and I'm not sure there's much bat left to develop anyway? Maybe some more hit? Whatever. Both of these guys hit lefty, too, although neither is really much of a slugger.
As for the sixth infield/25th man spot, it's probably Blake DeWitt. There are a few other interesting players that could beat him out this spring (Tolbert, Cardenas, maybe even Edgar Gonzalez?) but he seems to be getting work with the regulars so far this spring. And he actually has some — not a lot, but some — power in his bat, probably more than any other bench player besides Baker I'd say.
Pitchers with known roles: Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Volstad, Marmol, K. Wood, Russell
Pitchers with unknown roles: Samardzija, Wells
The rest: Beliveau, Castillo, Maine, Mateo, Weathers, T. Wood, Lopez, Miller, Parker
You can really group these guys into three age categories: young (Castillo, Beliveau, T. Wood), not quite as young (Maine, Mateo, Parker, Weathers), and "seasoned" (Lopez, Miller).
To come up with an optimal output, let's start with an arbitrary baseline and see what sort of improvements we might make.
SP: Garza, Demp, Maholm, Wells, Volstad
RP: Marmol, K. Wood, Russell, Samardzija, Castillo, Miller, Mateo
In Iowa: Beliveau, Maine, Parker, Weathers, T. Wood, Lopez
This allocation protects the players that couldn't be sent to the minors without being offered to other teams (Castillo, Mateo, Samardzija); allows young developing relief arms to work on control (Beliveau, Maine, Parker, Weathers); and keeps our best starting pitching candidates all stretched out (Wells, Volstad, T. Wood, Lopez).
The number one objection to this outlay would probably be putting Travis Wood in the minors. Some people think he's better than Randy Wells (I'm not sure?), and most agree he's better than Volstad. But Volstad can't be sent to AAA without being offered to other teams, and I just can't see any logical argument for putting Wells — a guy with 82 career major league starts and a 4.01 ERA to his name — back in the minors.
Maybe one of Beliveau, Maine, Parker, Weathers is appreciably better than Mateo? That'll be parsed out over the next few weeks.
Otherwise I think this is it for the 25-man.
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