Cubs announce 50 (of possible 60) players to restart season

Brennen Davis (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Brennen Davis (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Chicago (39)

SP (5): Darvish, Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood

RHRP (13): Kimbrel, Jeffress, Wick, Sadler, Mills, Megill, Underwood Jr., Winkler, Tepera, Cotton, Maples, Rea, Norwood

LHRP (4): Ryan, Wieck, Brothers, Hultzen

C (4): Contreras, Caratini, Phegley, Higgins

IF (7): Rizzo, Hoerner, Bryant, Baez, Bote, Descalso, Kipnis

OF (6): Schwarber, Happ, Heyward, Souza Jr., Almora Jr., I. Miller

South Bend (11)

RHP (5): Alzolay, Rucker, Mekkes, Gamez, Adam 

LHP (1): Marquez

C (1): Amaya

IF (2): Garcia, C. Morel

OF (2): B. Davis, Zagunis

*bold denotes players on 40-man roster, italics are non-roster players

The surprises mostly came in the form of omissions rather than inclusion. The only player I did not include in my preview is 26-year old sinker baller Juan Gamez. Signed out of the Mexican League during the offseason, the 5-11 247 pound reliever got into just two games this spring before the shutdown. Gamez retired all five batters he faced.

I can’t say I am familiar with Gamez given his limited time, but he apparently features a heavy mid-90s sinker which drew the attention of their scouts and his stuff has apparently remained intriguing enough that their development staff wants to continue working with him.

Jason Adam flashed a little as a non-roster invite this spring, punching out 11 in 5.2 IP, but he also walked 8 batters. He’s got a similar repertoire to Rowan Wick, so they must hope they can harness him the same way, but at 28 years old and with so many right-handed relievers already on the 40-man roster ahead of him I must admit to mild surprise at his inclusion. At least with Gamez, Rucker and Mekkes they are still young enough where you can envision them in the Cubs plans for 2021.

It was never easy for Mark Zagunis to carve out ABs at the MLB level even when he was an ascending prospect. Maybe the DH changes that, but frankly he was already pushed off the 40-man (and cleared waivers) last year and that was before the Cubs added Steven Souza Jr. as an additional right-handed corner outfielder. Include fellow non-roster outfielder Ian Miller, who made a nice impression this spring with his combo of speed and defense, and there are so many bodies ahead of Zagunis at this point that I can’t envision a scenario barring a catastrophic string of injuries where he factors into Chicago.

I am happy to see Christopher Morel included. He is one of my favorite prospects to watch in the system and is one of a handful with good offensive upside. He made my initial 60 player projection, but eventually bumped him off after I realized I hadn’t accounted for Daniel Descalso needing to count initially as one of the 60, even if it seems inevitable he loses his spot to Jason Kipnis. I figured Morel would need to wait until that transaction occurred. The Cubs clearly did not want to wait.

Interestingly, the Cubs have only included 36 of the players on their 40-man roster. Missing are RHRP Manuel Rodriguez, RHP Tyson Miller, LHP Justin Steele, and SS Zack Short. Rodriguez was expected to open the season in AA, and suffered an injury this spring, so his omission makes some sense to me, although I have since learned he is fully recovered. The other three are a shock. Given the Cubs still have 10 open slots, I expect all four to eventually receive invitations to South Bend.

The Cubs are clearly favoring flexibility early on. Because a player cannot be removed from the 60 man list without being traded, released or put through waivers the team clearly wants to be able to adapt to any early season injuries/struggles or perhaps be able to add talent still on the free agent market without having to lose a player to make room. For instance, the team wasn’t expecting to have access to the DH this season. Might there be a bat (Puig, Gennett, etc.) they can now find a use for, or perhaps there’s a reliever who was not healthy this spring that that they now would like to pursue in an effort to shore up the bullpen (Vizcaino, Salazar, etc.).

We may see the Cubs add a few more names this week, even if they are just players from within their organization already. Once the three week training session is over and the Cubs can assess their depth and make sure they have coverage in case of early season injury, I expect you will see the Cubs fill out any remaining vacancies with prospects.

Filed under: Roster decisions

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  • Morel is certainly fun to watch. If that bat continues to progress we could be developing our own version of Matt Chapman. I know, I know, but a boy can dream.

    Gamez seems to have a plus sinker, and his ground-ball rates in the minors and Mexican league bear that out. The Cubs obviously like what they see, and at the very least he's the type to have on hand when you need to induce a double-play. One thing that confuses me, however, is him being listed at 5'11, 247 lbs. I see that everywhere. He has a sturdy build, but doesn't look that heavy to me. I saw him this spring and thought maybe he lost weight and the info was old, but then watched video going all the way back to when he was drafted by the Twins in 2016. I don't know where that 247 lbs. comes from.

    Or maybe I'm wrong.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    Or Josh Donaldson?

    Does Morel project to have that kind of power? Thought he was more athletic than powerful.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I'm going more off of his defense with the Chapman comp. He's fun to watch, a natural athlete with fluid movement and the occasional "wow!" factor. He makes plays.

    He's still young (just turned 21), so there's the possibility he adds some bulk to his slender 6', 140 lb. frame. Despite his size, most consider him to have above-average power potential. I don't know that I'd bank on 30 HR's, but with some swing adjustments and a little more physical maturity, I think it's possible.

    More than anything, he's just fun to watch. Got a little Javy in him.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    Muscle is heavy. Maybe he has a lot of muscle.

  • In reply to John57:

    He looks like a stout dude. Certainly not lanky, but not what I picture as 5'11/247.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    The Packers drafted A J Dillon who is 6’ 247 lbs and is said to have 5% body fat. Different sports with usually different body types, but still.

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    I just know what I see. Where does 247 lbs. come from? I didn't mean this as any controversial argument, just curious. Here are a couple free videos, one from this Spring, and one a hype piece from 2016. Where does he look 247 lbs.?

    https://youtu.be/JlYGH2jbaWs

    And a promotional video from 2016:

    https://youtu.be/PvzRjuvb1Mc

    I have no dog in this fight, except to say I've never seen Juan Gamez ar 247 lbs.

    I could add that you can't believe everything you see on the internet.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    I hope my post didn’t come off as snarky; it certainly wasn’t meant to be. When I heard the Pack drafted Dillon with his measurements I immediately thought of Eddie Lacy, and then his BC coach said he had 5% body fat.

    I haven’t seen the videos yet but will a little bit later.

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    Saw the videos and he does not look like he’s carrying 247 lbs. Maybe they factored in the proverbial 15 lbs shelter in place weight gain!

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    No offense taken. I wasn't directing that at you, I was trying backpedal myself a little bit. It's not an issue, I just don't know where those figures originated from. I've never seen Gamez looking like he weighed 247 lbs., and every bio lists that number.

    I'd be happy if he can carry that ERA.

  • At first, my knee jerk reaction to 50 instead of 60 was Ricketts was being cheap again based upon the perceived stance when it comes to the last 2 offseasons.

    But I can see the advantage of not going a full 60 yet to maintainflexibility.

  • Above the 50 or 60 can they bring other players into camp that can be added later?

    Could there be free agents out there (especially with the DH) that might makes sense for the Cubs? Is that why they stopped at 50?

    Lastly, no Carraway? Could he be added later (refer to question above)?

    Let's get this season going!

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    They can add anyone up to 60. They can subtract from 60 & that person will be done for the year in big leagues, at least with the team that cuts him from the 60. Not sure if it’s the same as releasing that player or just subbing him off the taxi squad but he still remains under contract. Pretty sure it’s the latter.

    Carraway can still be added. But I think they definitely need to squeeze the brakes a little. Let them see the guy live & in current practices under team developmental guys & the pitching coaches. Yeah he throws big league heat, but he needs big league command & control. If he shows that, then by all means, get him to taxi. Then if a guy like Wieck, Ryan or Hultzen falters, he’s there.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    3 players have opted out. im sure more to follow. why risk it for 3 months of pay/play especially if you have millions in your bank account or millions to be made next year. rudy goebert still cant smell.

  • I always hoped Mark Zagunis would break through like D. Bote.

    Looks like flexibility-
    A few of the 50, like Zagunis, Descalso, Almora, and a couple pitchers might be easy to cut,and replace if they need roster spots.

    Cubs minor league system at the upper levels, is it that mediocre? Healthy 40 man roster players, don't even make the initial 60 man taxi squad. Yikes!

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    I think we'll need Ian Miller on our final roster. With each game at a premium, and a runner at 2nd starting extra innings, he might be the difference maker in many situations. Everyone who reads Cubs Den know I like speed, but this is one of the times that it will really make a difference. We know that Joe Madden liked a speedster on his playoff roster and this is basically a playoff 60 game run.
    I would love to see Marquez on the roster but he might need a bit more seasoning, but possibly at the latter part of the season and boy will that be fun. I am quite impressed with the pitchers we've signed and drafted in the last few years.

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    I wonder why Ryan Jensen was left off the 60 man roster. At the least he could be a bullpen pitcher, and we talked about how pitchers used to be introduced to the big leagues.
    Now that I looked at his stats from 2019, he pitched 12 innings at EUG and had 14 BB and 19 SO, with a WHIP of 1.75. Maybe he has to work on his control, but he has at least 1 plus pitch.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    The Cubs last offseason said they were looking to trade/be sellers. They just didn't get offers they liked?

    I don't see the Cubs bringing up Carraway, or any other prospects that doesn't have to be added to the 40 man this offseason. Unless they are in the hunt. How do you judge players relatively new to the organization without minor league games?

    I still believe the Cubs will trade multiple big name players from the core over the next year.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I can't speak to the merits of any individual prospect, but it looks like nearly every organization is withholding the full 60-man selection for now. There are many reasons for that, and honestly, I'm not even sure they have all the answers yet. So much is uncertain, and I don't know that all the fine print is finalized.

    I do know the rules for the 60-man list are pretty well set, and once a player is listed it's tough to remove them without a trade or passing through waivers. That's the reason some like Short and Carraway aren't yet accounted for. Like everything else at the moment, we're kind of playing it be ear.

    I just don't have the motivation to dig into the details. They change so often it's not worth it to me, and my fear is we're not going to see "regular" rules and real baseball until 2022, at the earliest. It breaks my heart, and I'm about at my lowest point of faith in the game I love as I have been my entire life.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    I have moved past my low point. Fans will start talking with entertainment dollars. I personally know scores of people who use to be baseball fans. The added DH to the NL will leave many empty seats and low tv viewers. Baseball needs a baseball commissioner, not a money one. A strong leader who puts the game first and ignores greedy owners and the greedy players union. Protect the sport and the fans will follow.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Mike : I was always told as a Player ( and as a SP easy to become big headed !) " THE GAME IS BIGGER THAN YOU " . Sounds like you think, rightfully so, it should include ever one connected with the game .

  • With the new minor league restructuring, could South Bend become the Cubs new AAA afiliate?

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I don't think that is in the cards. Des Moines is bigger, has nice facilities (with larger capacity) too, and has the long standing relationship with not only the Cubs but the PCL.

    South Bend is definitely in the top 3 facilities in the MWL, maybe even the best after the reno this winter. But geographically it is a tough fit in the PCL, and I'm not sure the attendance would be good enough.

    Iowa averaged ~7500 fans per game last year, South Bend only ~4800, or ~170,000 difference over the course of the season. South Bend's attendance actually dropped from 2018 while Iowa's attendance increased last year.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I agree, Iowa attendance is close to 500,000 fans a year. If the Cubs left Iowa. Twins would be racing to make Des Moines their AAA team.

    Michael, with the elimination of minor league teams. Will that hurt the Cubs front office development strategy? I thought part of Cubs
    strategy was to field more team and see what happens.

    MLB was talking about eliminating the short season leagues?
    Is MLB trying to make all minor league teams equal for each club?
    Do they want team like the Cubs to also eliminate one of their Arizona squads?

  • In reply to Naujack:

    It sounds mostly like the league wants to get rid of the NWL (and its equivalents), but keep the more successful clubs (and better facilities from those leagues, essentially "promote" those clubs to full season and use them to replace some of the struggling full season locations.

    I think the AZ/FL complexes would remain relatively stable, maybe the Cubs would have to go back to one club, but the league itself would be strengthened as some players that would go to NWL would stay behind.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Michael,

    What kind of prospect is Jack Patterson? I read he was added to the SB roster. In 2021 will the Cubs have some home-grown pitchers, actually pitch some some decent amount of MLB inning?

  • In reply to Naujack:

    I'm not Michael I think he is missing. But my understanding is Patterson has a mid 90's fastball and knows how to pitch. He obviously gets people out. So I think there is a future there.

    I like Patterson, Marquez and Abbott. I think they have a chance to give some serious homegrown starting pitching. Which we will need after this year. I believe only Hendricks and Darvish are signed for 2021.

    I see the Cubs adding a veteran starter but a couple of these guys are gonna have to play an important part in 2021.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    But if South Bend had AAA talent wouldn’t that help the attendance?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Perhaps a little, but not enough to catch up to Iowa. Des Moines is much larger, has a more established fan base. I know folks like to point to the proximity to Chicago, but that really doesn't help attendance, especially when traffic is considered, because nobody is driving over to South Bend from Chicago on a weeknight for a game. At best it helps weekend attendance.

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