Even though pitchers and catchers only reported two days ago for your Chicago Cubs, and position players have yet to officially report (though a few early birds have arrived) you can make a few educated guesses as to who will likely be heading north with the team when they leave Spring Training. While many things can happen before opening day, such as injuries and trades, looking at the 40 man roster for the Cubs, as well as player invites, you can make a pretty good assumption as to just who will be making the squad.
While nothing is official, I believe the Cubs will be carrying 13 position players and 12 total pitchers, at least to start the 2014 campaign. As I said, injuries can really change the way a roster is built, so the Cubs carrying this many pitchers and position players the whole season is not likely.
We will start with the pitching staff, as that one seems to be more likely set than not. You have your no brainers, the ones you know will make the team no matter how poorly their Spring Training goes.
Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson are locks to make the starting rotation. Despite personal feelings some may have about each of these, you can bet the house that barring injury or trade, these three men will be in the starting rotation. Pitchers who are also likely to make the five man starting staff are newly acquired Jason Hammel and youngster Jake Arrieta.
The problem with Arrieta, is he is slightly behind with an arm injury. Despite his belief that he will be ready to go when the Cubs break camp, the Cubs are stretching out Carlos Villanueva to possibly be a place holder until Arrieta is ready, and leaving the door wide open for James McDonald to make the team.
I am an optimist by nature, so I believe Arrieta when he says he is fine and just a little behind schedule. So in my opinion, your five man starting rotation will be (in no particular order: Samardzija, Jackson, Wood, Hammel and Arrieta. Again, that is barring injury and trades.
The bullpen leaves more wiggle room. You have your obvious choices who likely make the team no matter what. Villanueva will be there, as will James Russell, Wesley Wright and Jose Veras. That leaves three spots for guys like Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Alberto Cabrera, Blake Parker, Hector Rondon and Arodys Vizcaino. All six have a legitimate chance to make the bullpen, but only three will. What is interesting, is Cabrera is out of options, and you likely lose him if he does not make the team, someone will claim him on waivers. If I had to pick between them, I would say that Strop earned his spot last year so he makes the team putting the bullpen at five. Because he is out of options, and has pitched well in limited time, Cabrera like does as well, making the bullpen six men deep. With one spot left you have to chose between Parker, Grimm, Vizcaino and Rondon to finish things off.
Grimm likely goes down to Iowa to be depth for the starting pitching staff, with Rondon and Vizcaino filling out the bullpen in the minors as depth and insurance. Much like with the starting rotation, injury or trade can easily and quickly change things. But with the roster as things stand, my bullpen is filled with these seven players: Veras, Strop, Cabrera, Villanueva, Wright, Russell and Parker. Not a bad bullpen if you ask me. Not great or dominant, but pretty damn good on paper.
The every day player roster might also be set, as well as the bench. Obviously, you have your players set in stone. Welington Castillo, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Nate Schierholtz. I do not think that I am going out on a limb too much to say that they will be joined by Mike Olt, Junior Lake, Darwin Barney and Ryan Sweeney. Those eight men are likely in your starting lineup.
Obviously, Castillo will be at catcher, Rizzo at first, Barney at second, Castro at short stop, Olt at third, Sweeney in left, Lake in center and Schierholtz in right. This may not be the most attractive starting eight around baseball, but you could do worse.
The bench is where things can get a little interesting; especially with the signing of Emilio Bonifacio to a minor league contract today. While not part of the 40 man roster, I think that he will be an easy add to the team when the break camp. You likely also will see Luis Valbuena, Donnie Murphy and with an outside chance Logan Watkins making the bench as well if he can beat out Murphy, which I am not sure he can. You also have George Kottaras who the Cubs traded for to be Castillo's backup at catcher. With the final bench roster spot, the obvious choice is Justin Ruggiano who the Cubs traded for to be the right handed platoon for Schierholtz who cannot hit left handed pitching to save his life.
I bet you noticed that I only have one back up outfielder. That is because Bonifacio can play just about anywhere on the field. Using his versatility the Cubs will be able to move players around all over the place on both the infield and outfield.
All four outfielders can shift around as needed, as most of them can play just about anywhere, as can Bonifacio. Five outfielders who can pretty much play every position is a very solid outfield platoon to have, one that will allow you to mix and match to find the perfect combination every game.
With the infield bench, much like the outfield, just about everyone on the bench can play more than one position. This will allow Rick Renteria to move players around, and pinch hit for guys without worry as to who will play where if player X is taken out of the game. The combinations are plentiful, though not really enticing to the fan base.
To recap, your bench is Bonifacio, Valbuenba, Murphie, Ruggiano and Kottaras.
These are all just predictions, and I could be very very wrong in all aspects. Especially since camp has just started, and a lot can happen between now and opening day.
Filed under: Chicago Cubs
Tags: Alberto Cabrera, Anthony Rizzo, Arodys Vizcaino, Blake Parker, Carlos Villanueva, Darwin Barney, Donnie Murphy, Edwin Jackson, emilio bonifacio, George Kottaras, Hector Rondon, Jake Arrieta, James McDonald, James Russell, Jason Hammel, Jeff Samardzija, Jose Veras, Junior Lake, Justin Grimm, Justin Ruggiano, Logan Watkins, Luis Valbuena, Mike Olt, Nate Scheirholtz, Pedro Strop, Ryan Sweeney, Starlin Castro, Travis Wood, Welington Castillo, Wesley Wright