5 Questions Chicago Cubs Must Answer During Spring Training
Five Questions Facing the Chicago Cubs During Spring Training
Despite entering the 2014 season with low expectations and few offseason moves, the Chicago Cubs have many interesting questions to answer as they mold their team for the future. The position players who are assured of a roster spot and a full season of starts are shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and catcher Welington Castillo. While the Cubs have a good idea who will play in the field surrounding the core players, everything is still up for grabs at third base, second base and in the outfield.
As far as the starting rotation is concerned, Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and recently signed Jason Hammel figure to make up the bulk of the rotation, with many prospective pitchers vying for the fifth spot. The bullpen is relatively settled after the Cubs signed Jose Veras to be their closer and picked up Wesley Wright to join James Russell as the two left-handed pitchers out of the pen. Pedro Strop and Blake Parker are the next two most established pitchers in the pen, and while it lacks name recognition, the Cubs' bullpen looks to be much improved over last season.
Most of the drama this spring will center around the Cubs' top prospects. As the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, third baseman Kris Bryant has spent very little time in the minors, but has thoroughly impressed scouts and fans alike with a line of .336/.390/.688 line in 146 plate appearances at three different minor league levels. The ascent of Javier Baez has been well documented and while he will need more seasoning at triple-A, his bat can play in the big leagues right now.
Then there are players obtained in trades such as pitcher Justin Grimm and third baseman Mike Olt, who have a shot at earning significant playing time in 2014 if they can prove themselves worthy over the course of the spring. Expectations for this Cubs team may be low, but who actually takes the field in 2014 is still largely a mystery, and we all know that anything is possible in baseball. Here is a list of five difficult questions that the Cubs must answer during Spring Training.
5. Is Arismendy Alcantara Ready To Play 2B for the Cubs?
It's clear that Darwin Barney is not the long-term answer for the Cubs at second base, but is top-100 prospect Arismendy Alcantara ready to take the job and run with it? The Cubs will get a first-hand glimpse of what the future could look like this spring as switch-hitting Alcantara brings his combination of power, speed and on-base skills to the Cubs' new Spring Training facility.
4. Will Mike Olt Start At 3B?
If Mike Olt's vision issues from 2013 are a thing of the past, the former top prospect has a good chance of winning the third base job for the Cubs during Spring Training. Olt's competition will come from Ryan Roberts and incumbents Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy, but last year's platoon duo should not stand in the way of Olt if he proves that he can be close to the force he was in the minor leagues heading into last season.
3. Who Will Be The Cubs' Fifth Outfielder?
The position of the Cubs' fifth outfielder will be filled by one of the non-roster invitees to Spring Training. This list includes top prospect Albert Almora, Chris Coghlan, Ryan Kalish and Aaron Cunningham, a player who Jed Hoyer traded for while with the San Diego Padres. In addition to these players, there are a few outfielders with more big league experience: Mitch Maier, Darnell McDonald, Casper Wells and super-utility man Ryan Roberts.
2. Who Will Be The Cubs' Fifth Starter?
Currently, the starting rotation of the Cubs consists of Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta/Carlos Villanueva/Justin Grimm/Chris Rusin/Tsuyoshi Wada. While Wada and Rusin look more like emergency options at triple-A Iowa, the other three pitchers each have a strong chance of laying claim to the final rotation slot.
1. What Position Will Javier Baez Play?
Javier Baez currently plays shortstop, but the Cubs will try him out at both second and third base this spring. Unless the Cubs trade Starlin Castro, Baez will make his Cubs debut at a position other than shortstop. Third base appears to be the most natural use of his skillset as Baez can employ his strong arm and he may eventually outgrow the shortstop position. His athleticism could also play well at second base, where his bat would be among the elite at the position. There are many variables at play and when the dust settles, the Cubs will need to know what position Baez should receive the most extra work at during his time in triple-A.