This represents the final scheduled off day for the Cubs in the Cactus League until the one right before Opening day, and by this time we’re expecting the starting rotation guys to be able to comfortably go five innings, and hoping that the hitters have better performances for the most part, small sample size be damned. There’s also the World Baseball Classic winding down, with the United States vs Cuba and Japan vs Mexico in the semifinal games before the championship is decided on Tuesday. We did talk a bit about the clock in the previous post and the nice thing was that Sunday’s game (on David Ross’ birthday) was done in a comparatively brisk two hours and 41 minutes, while I doubt any of the remaining WBC games clock in under 3.5 hours, although they have been mostly entertaining when plays were happening. And by all accounts, the WBC has been wildly popular and is likely to persist despite some bad injuries to star players, who themselves are accepting of the risks to play meaningful baseball for their national pride.
With less than two weeks to go until the games start to count, the roster picture is starting to clear up, and while it doesn’t look much different than the last time I thought about it, I think we can do a couple tweaks.
I don’t think this will change much up top even if Justin Steele might be a tad behind the others in terms of stretching out, but I also think Hayden Wesneski has done enough to make this decision easy for the Cubs.
- Marcus Stroman
- Jameson Taillon
- Justin Steele
- Drew Smyly
- Hayden Wesneski
Despite throwing a baseball at someone’s face in the game on Sunday (oops), I think the Cubs will likely have Michael Fulmer close games, at least to start the season. I guess Fulmer also reminded us that injuries can happen in games far more meaningless than a hotly contested WBC match, whether you’re playing or just celebrating (oy). Here are the locks again:
- Adbert Alzolay
- Brad Boxberger
- Michael Fulmer
That leaves five spots, and you’ll note I have fewer locks than last time, because a couple guys have been faltering and certain others I’m just not sure what the Cubs will do with. Given his superb performance in the WBC for Team Mexico and in Cactus League play while he was still in camp, I think we can add another lock (since he’s been squeezed out of the rotation):
- Javier Assad
And since he’s on the roster already and he’s not doing anything to dissuade us the fans or the team, here’s another lock:
- Julian Merryweather
There are all the usual suspects to fill out the remaining three spots available in the bullpen per rule, and I think I’ll list them in order of how likely I think they’ll get the spot:
- Keegan Thompson
- Michael Rucker
- Brandon Hughes
- Rowan Wick
- Adrian Sampson (mostly because Saturday was the first time he hasn’t completely sucked all spring)
- Jeremiah Estrada
- Mark Leiter Jr
- Anthony Kay
Obviously some of these guys will have to go to Iowa to be taxi squad guys for spot starts and random doubleheaders or whenever an arm hits the injured list, as some of them could be stretched out or just get more regular work.
We got 13 spots here, so let’s do this.
- Yan Gomes
- Tucker Barnhart
The praise is mostly about their defense and game calling, so that tells you a lot.
- 1B – Eric Hosmer (to start the season until he sucks so much they have to just cut bait, I have more thoughts below)
- 2B – Nico Hoerner
- SS – Dansby Swanson (the spring strikeouts are kind of displeasing but also it’s spring I guess)
- 3B – see below
- LF – Ian Happ
- CF – Cody Bellinger
- RF – Trey Mancini
The above takes care of eight spots, now we need five for the bench and for matchup purposes.
Bench (includes the 3B roulette)
- Nick Madrigal – he has played second base in the past, and his noodle arm really made me question whether the third base experiment was wise, but he has been surprisingly competent there so far and it seems the arm will play. He’s also been making good contact even if the luck hasn’t been the best, so it makes sense to give Madrigal a little leash to see if he can stick in the majors.
- Patrick Wisdom – he is probably the most logical choice to start at third base, and can spell Hosmer at first as part of a platoon or be in the outfield as well. Obviously still strikes out a lot but that power works if he can keep the strikeout rate down.
- Edwin Rios – since the Cubs seem to always be hunting for those lefty power bats, this makes sense to carry
- Mike Tauchman – keeping with the lefty bat theme, he plays good outfield defense and can probably be considered expendable for whenever Seiya Suzuki returns, but of course they’d have to open up a spot for him in the first place, which I won’t even try to figure out until another set of cuts is made and we figure out who else sucks more, or maybe they just DFA Sampson again just for the yuks, who knows.
- Zach McKinstry – again staying with the lefty bat here, he’s pretty versatile on defense though obviously not the same caliber of defender as the starting middle infielders, but those guys have to rest every now and then too.
I just think they probably have guys like Christopher Morel or Nelson Velázquez get regular starts in Iowa because that might do them more good than being benchwarmers, but to paraphrase an idiom, I can’t tell the Cubs what to do, so we will take a wait and see approach. Not that Nelson is making this any easier:
So maybe Nelly makes it after all to shut me right up.