Just spitballing a little here, but there were some subtle but interesting little trends that continued in today’s exhibition game vs. the Giants. It wasn’t a game that featured many likely Opening Day starters but the presence of three players may signal a desire to gradually shift to a younger more athletic team.
We all know that the Cubs are eventually going to get younger and more athletic anyway, probably by 2015, but the process could start sooner.
We’ve talked about Mike Olt playing well and getting closer to playing 3B. The word out of Arizona has been that the Cubs would like to see him win that 3B job.
We’ve also seen Emilio Bonifacio consistently bat in the leadoff spot while playing multiple positions. It’s doubtful he’ll secure a starting spot, but I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll get a good share of ABs as a supersub while giving the Cubs a speedy leadoff hitter who is willing to take pitches — or maybe even start if the Cubs decide to move Barney, though I find that unlikely at this point.
The latest news comes from Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, who suggests that Nate Scheirholtz may be made available with Ryan Kalish impressing this camp.
There is something of a trend with all 3 of those players. They are all more athletic than the guys they’d potentially replace. They’re all capable of taking walks at about the major league average or better, and two of them (Olt, Kalish) would make the team a little younger.
Those changes may not happen by Opening Day, but they could be the first group to shake up the lineup and inject some much needed speed, OBP, while also maintaining a solid defense.
If those three players continue to make progress, could we see an all under 30 lineup like the following sometime early in the season?
- Emilio Bonifacio, 2B (29)
- Ryan Kalish, LF (25)
- Starlin Castro, SS (24)
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B (24)
- Mike Olt, 3B (25)
- Ryan Sweeney, RF (29)
- Welington Castillo, C (26)
- Junior Lake, CF (24)
You’d also have Justin Ruggiano filling in against LHP to add some power an as insurance in case any of the outfielders get hurt or struggle. The Cubs also have Valbuena, who would be the more likely starter with Bonifacio as a supersub if the Cubs move Barney.
You may lose a little power by moving Schierholtz, but if you don’t think he’s part of the long term solution, it may be best to get a player such as Kalish in the lineup who is still young enough to be the LH hitting long term piece the team lacks.
The team may regain some of that power with Olt replacing Valbuena and while losing Darwin Barney’s defense would hurt, Bonifacio is a solid defender at 2B.
The moves could be a potential slight upgrade in speed, athleticism, and OBP while retaining the power and defense from last season.
It isn’t likely to happen to open the season but if the Cubs can find a way to add some depth/youth in other areas by moving Schierholtz and Barney, perhaps it’s something the Cubs should consider if they don’t get off to a strong start this year. Potentially, it’s an overall upgrade and the Cubs may even find a long term piece or two as we wait for the prospects to come in.
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